Finance Your Business

Borrowing Money

Borrowing money (or debt financing) requires repaying the loaned sum over a period of time, usually with interest. You might choose to go through traditional or nontraditional lenders – or some mix of both – to finance your business. Traditional lenders are banks and have strict rules about who can and cannot obtain a loan. Non-traditional lenders may be nonprofit or community lenders or city loan funds, which the city offers at low interest to many businesses. 

City Loan Programs

The San Francisco Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) and Emerging Business Loan Fund (EBLF) are lending programs created by the City to provide low-interest loans to small businesses. Both funds are managed by local nonprofits who provide financing in addition to training and other resources.

SF Revolving Loan Fund (RLF)

Organization: Main Street Launch
Description: Main Street Launch offers loans from $10,000 to $50,000 to new and existing small businesses.
Eligible uses:

  • Start-up expenses
  • Furniture, fixtures, and equipment
  • Tenant improvements
  • Working capital
  • Marketing

SF Emerging Business Loan Fund Program (EBLF)

Organization: Main Street Launch
Description: Main Street Launch offers loans from $50,000 to $250,000 to qualifying commercial projects. The purpose of the Emerging Business Loan Fund is to originate commercial loans that support high impact businesses and projects with the potential to increase economic activity in San Francisco as well as create jobs for low to moderate income individuals.
Eligible uses:

  • Working capital
  • Equipment
  • Real Estate
  • Tenant Improvements

Kiva Microloans

Organization: Kiva
Description: Kiva  is a local non-profit that provides 0% interest loans up to $10,000 for small businesses and start-ups in the Bay Area. These loans are crowdfunded on their website and can be used for any business purpose. Kiva's crowdfunding model and unique approach to underwriting allows those with poor financial history or limited business experience the opportunity to raise capital.
Eligible Uses:

  • No Restrictions

Nonprofit & Community Lenders

Loans from nonprofit and community lenders have fewer restrictions than loans from traditional banks. These lenders often target disadvantaged groups like minority or low-income business founders who are less likely to receive loans from regular banks. 

These loans are usually smaller or have fixed interest rates so that borrowers are less likely to default (fail to repay their loan). In addition to capital, many provide services like training or technical assistance.


Bank loans are one of the most traditional and conservative ways to finance a business. Unfortunately, they’re also some of the hardest loans to get. When banks lend to new businesses, they usually only offer short-term loans, seasonal lines of credit, and single-purpose loans for machinery and equipment. Most banks also require a business plan as part of the application.

Last modified date: Sat, 08/15/2020 - 23:03