This fall, Robert Gallo plans to open a Saladworks franchise, a made-to-order salad eatery, in Ridgewood, N.J., with a $430,000 loan he received by using BoeFly. He secured a loan with Conestoga Bank in Pennsylvania. "Without BoeFly and without that support system, I never would have been in touch with the bank in Pennsylvania," said Gallo, a lawyer and real estate investor.
Launched in March 2010, the online service's name stands for "business opportunity exchange," or BOE, combined with "fly," indicating how quickly deals get made on the platform. To date, $2.7 billion worth of loan activity has flowed through its site, and it has forged an alliance with the International Franchise Association. More than 100 franchises work with BoeFly.
BoeFly, which sees credit loosening up for small businesses such as franchises, is the brainchild of Chief Executive Robert Tannenhauser and co-president Michael Rozman. It uses its proprietary SmartForm technology to connect small-business borrowers with lenders from among its more than 2,200 participating banks, based on the lending profiles provided by borrowers and banks. Loans that are granted are Small Business Administration- approved.
BoeFly's "decision to not be a broker, to not price like a broker, allows us to have an array of vendors that we wouldn't have otherwise," Rozman said.
While a broker would charge a brokerage fee, 1 percent or more, based on the amount of the loan, BoeFly has a different model. It charges a borrower a one-time fee that ranges from $99 to $499, while banks pay a monthly subscription fee of $55, said Rozman.
Through BoeFly, according to Rozman, banks don't have to waste their time meeting with loan candidates who don't meet their lending criteria. And would-be franchisees don't have to trek from lender to lender, a process Gallo started but abandoned after Saladworks recommended he seek a loan through BoeFly.
In March, Gallo put his business' financial profile on BoeFly. In about two weeks, he had 11 inquiries from lenders. He ultimately got two loan offers, picking Conestoga's. Gallo is expecting to open his Saladworks in November.
Lending to franchises is on the rise, according to BoeFly's data analysis. Franchise loans are projected to rise 50.2 percent this year, to an expected 3,441 from 2,291 last year.
"We think in comparison to a year ago, the lenders are further along in granting credit than they were a year ago. But it's still below the historical average, so we're still in a tight credit environment," Rozman said.