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SBA 7(a) loans are a powerful tool for small businesses looking to grow and succeed. With more than 47,500 small businesses borrowing from the program each year, 7(a) is the SBA’s most popular loan option due to the lower rates, longer terms, and lower down payments it offers.

In this article, our experienced lenders break down everything you need to know about applying for a 7(a) loan, from required documents to what to expect when working with your lender.

What not to expect when applying for an SBA 7(a) loan

When it comes to applying for an SBA 7(a) loan, you may have some ideas about the process. However, many business owners hold misconceptions about what to expect. So, let’s take a moment to clarify some of the most common misunderstandings. By knowing what not to expect, you’ll be better prepared to apply and and turn your business dreams into reality.

  • 7(a) loans are only for startups or struggling businesses. In reality, these loans are available to all types of businesses, and chances are, you’ve encountered successful businesses in your community that have used a 7(a) loan to expand.
  • A complicated and time-consuming process. The time it takes to process your loan typically depends on how organized your business finances are and generally requires the same level of effort as applying for other types of long-term financing. In fact, at Grow America, conditional loan approvals (approvals that depend on verification of important information) can be provided within approximately 10 days of receiving your initial documents (we list those below).
  • High interest rates. Interest rates for 7(a) loans are competitive and most commonly set on the prime rate and the level of risk a lender is taking. Typically, 7(a) loans provide the most flexibility for loan use and best mix of rate and term that a business owner will qualify for.

Steps to apply for a 7(a) loan

Step 1: Locate a lender that offers SBA 7(a) loans in your area. Check with your local bank or a community lender like Grow America. If you speak with a lender and are not a good fit for a program, ask for a referral to another lender who may have more flexible criteria. 

Step 2: Meet with a lender. While the application process will vary at different lenders, at Grow America, you’ll start by meeting one-on-one with a lender by video to discuss your opportunity, share your background and goals, and ask questions about the loan process. You’ll need to be prepared to answer some basic questions about your business goals and finances.

Step 3: Submit initial loan application documents. At Grow America, these documents include: 

  • Last 3 years of business tax returns
  • Last 3 years of personal tax returns
  • Interim  profit and loss statement
  • Interim balance sheet
  • Debt schedule itemizing all debt carried through your business. 
  • Personal financial statement (we’ll provide you with a template to fill out)
  • Credit release (this is a form you’ll sign and provide to us)

Step 4: Lender analysis. About 10 days after receiving your documents your lender will provide a conditional approval, or a referral to another organization who may be able to help if you don’t currently qualify. Your lender will review the loan details they’ve created for your business, including the amount, term, rates, and required collateral.

Step 5: Underwriting analysis. Next, your loan application and documents will be sent to and  reviewed by a credit analyst, a professional who assesses the risk of lending money to a borrower in detail. You may need to meet with the credit analyst, or provide additional documents that they’ll request to verify additional details of your business and finances. Their goal is to ask questions and best tell the story of your business—where it’s been and where it is heading—with its potential 7(a) loan approval.

Step 6: Approval and closing. After the underwriting process is completed, your lending team will let you know the final outcome of your loan request and if you are approved, send you a formal commitment and then begin the process to close your loan. That process will end with a virtual loan closing “appointment.” Then, your loan is funded electronically and you’ll quickly have your funds in-hand.

What makes Grow America’s process unique

At Grow America, we take a personalized approach to the loan process. The Grow America advantage is our local focus–your loan will be handled by someone who understands your industry and the unique challenges and opportunities in your area. This means you’ll receive a tailored experience from a lender who knows what it takes to succeed in your market. 


An SBA 7(a) loan could be the key to fully unlocking your company’s growth potential. And, now that you are familiar with the application process, you’re better prepared for success.

Choosing to borrow with a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) like Grow America can provide you with a personalized process that can make all the difference in your experience with SBA 7(a). Contact us today to start the process—we’re looking forward to partnering with you!