The SBA doesn't actually loan any money, they just give the lending institution a guarantee that they will get paid back if you happen to default. In some cases, it is the only way to get any bank financing. The SBA also has interest rate levels the bank must abide by, so you don't get raped by the bank on interest.
We just bought a building fully stocked with equipment that was part of a failed restaurant from the SBA loan guarantee program, the last purchaser paid $380K for the building, and then got another $170K in financing for start up!
We got the whole flippin deal for $140K including the land, (lakefront property) all equipment, furnishings, and smallwares. The place is almost turnkey!
See what you can do without SBA assistance, but be prepared to go the route of an SBA program if it comes down to it. My local rep was ecstatic that we qualified for such a huge percentage, and was also flabbergasted that no bank would do financing for us. We were already in business, profitable, was hiring lots of people, everything they like to see. Yet no bank would do anything for us. Since the time we opened, I saw one bank finance 5 different start-ups in excess of $500K each that all failed within their first 24 months. They refused to finance us, yet we are still here and expanding. I was only seeking $110K, and no debt of any kind going into it. We are still debt free and expanding now.
So don't get all freaked out if you get declined financing, I am starting to wonder if the banks are only financing the guaranteed losers in the industry after what I saw. Its going to be tough in our current economic times, just push forward and try harder.