Small Business Resources Every Start-Up Should Know About
As a solopreneur and SCORE mentor, I meet and interact with small business owners from a wide variety of industries. Although their business types have their own individual nuances, many commonalities exist when it comes to starting and operating their businesses. And many of their information and development needs are the same as well.
Here’s a list of small business resources that EVERY solopreneur and entrepreneur should know about:
- SCORE – With over 360 chapters nation-wide, this non-profit, volunteer-operated organization provides free mentoring (face-to-face and online) to start-up entrepreneurs and small business owners. SCORE’s 13,000+ volunteers have experience in all aspects of starting and running a business. The organization also offers low-cost workshops and business roundtable opportunities at the local chapter level. Plus, they’ve got a nice library of online resources including articles, webinars and templates.
- Small Business Administration (SBA) – The SBA provides a wealth of online information related to launching and managing a business. Through their loan and grant programs, they also help facilitate small business loans with a third party lenders, guarantee bonds, or help find venture capital. In addition, their website includes a section devoted specifically to Women’s Business Resources where female entrepreneurs can find information and link to other organizations focused on helping women business owners succeed.
- Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) – There are nearly 1,000 SBDC service centers across the U.S. SBDC’s are partnerships between the government and learning institutions. Administered by the SBA, they provide educational services for start-ups and existing small business owners. Like SCORE, most services are free and low-cost training opportunities are also available. Plus, their list of online resources includes links to companies, business groups and organizations that provide services and products relevant to starting and managing a business.
- Freelancers Union –Freelancers Union supports the interests of independent workers through a variety of services, advocacy and education. Membership is free and gives solopreneurs access to group health and life insurance options, a retirement investment plan, and discounts on business goods and services from participating companies (Staples is on the list!).
- Business Centers at local libraries – For example, in Lancaster, PA, our local library’s Duke Street Business Center provides a vast amount of online, video, audio and hard copy resources to our business community. Check with your local library to find a business center closest to you. There’s no better place to embark upon industry and competitive research – a must if you’re considering starting a business.
- Chambers of Commerce and Industry – At the national, state and local levels, these organizations provide access to online resources, face-to-face networking opportunities with other business owners, professional development programs and updates on legislation that could impact your small business. Chambers charge a membership fee and costs vary across organizations. Many services are available to non-members as well, typically at an additional cost.
- Main Street organizations – If your business resides in or near a small town, check to see if there’s a Main Street organization that serves your area. These non-profit economic development organizations offer a variety of programs, services and incentives to support downtown businesses by giving them the tools they need to sustain and grow.
Got a business-related question? One of the above resources will either have the answer – or will be able to direct you to someone who does. Also remember that most of these organizations have blogs, Facebook pages, LinkedIn pages, Twitter accounts and newsletters that you can follow to stay in the know about the latest entrepreneurial news and small business best practices.
What small business resources have helped you most? Please comment and share your experience!