Information and small business resources
Looking for help to start or improve your business? Find it with these resources.
Each person who wants to start a business, or who already has one, needs different resources and tools. Let's review some of those that can be useful at different stages of your business.
Federal government resources
The Small Business Administration (SBA), a federal government agency, has various programs to help business owners and entrepreneurs. Here are two such examples:
Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), which have more than 900 offices for business owners in need of resources offering the experience of other entrepreneurs
Women's Business Centers (WBCs), of which there are nearly 100 centers serving women business owners
These agencies offer advice and seminars on various topics, either at no cost or reasonable prices. The IRS also offers help for filing small business taxes.
Through these agencies, you can learn about certification programs for small business owners, including women and ethnic minorities as well as sources of financing designed especially for small businesses. If you need help in your native language, some of these agencies have bilingual consultants who can help you.
Outside the government, there are national groups dedicated to helping small businesses. The Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) has local offices to help what they call "micro-enterprises." Find the office nearest you. The Minority Business Development Agency (MDBA) is dedicated to aiding business owners who are members of an ethnic minority. The National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) provides access to a network of suppliers for businesses that have a specific certification. Opportunity Finance Network has created Venturize, which includes a directory of mission-driven lenders for small business owners.
Cities or states may also have chambers of commerce and other agencies that offer seminars and business consulting to help entrepreneurs, and they often are associated with government agencies. These organizations also have materials that may help at different stages in the growth of your business. In California, you'll find the Employment Development Department (EDD), Board of Equalization (BOE), and the California Association for Micro Enterprise Opportunity (CAMEO). Look for similar organizations in your town or state.
There are also industry-specific associations that will work with you. In addition, there are associations for small businesses of all types, such as the National Small Business Association. Many of these associations hold industry-related seminars, trade shows, and conferences you can attend. Generally, there is a cost associated with these events.
Product and service suppliers can also be a source of information. On occasion, they may hold seminars about their products and the industry, which may help you. For example, Microsoft and FedEx.
Bankers specializing in business can be very useful. Some of these bankers have experience in certain industries or have learned very practical lessons over the years, and they can possibly guide you in order to get the information you need.