While most small business owners know that the Small Business Administration (SBA) deals with loans, you may not fully appreciate all the information it has to offer for growing your business. In addition to facilitating the loan process, the SBA can help you with expanding your business, training you to handle many business challenges and jumping into government contracting. In fact, here’s a broader overview of what the SBA offers:
- Conducts frequent educational webinars
- Holds seminars and events around the nation
- Partners with local agencies to promote small business
- Is a prime resource for small businesses looking to export
- Helps small businesses get into government contracting, and much more
1. Loans, Financing and Application Help
This one may be obvious, but it’s worth mentioning the wide range of loans that it administers through lenders across the nation. What you might not realize, however, is that it also provides information online that will walk you through the steps of filling out applications to get those loans. It’s not every day that an agency not only guarantees millions of dollars of small business loans each year, but also provides you help in getting it.
Additionally, the SBA also provides information about non-traditional funding opportunities, such as venture capital and angel investing. In many respects, the SBA is a “one-stop shop” finance reference desk for your small business.
2. Training Courses and Videos
Similarly, the SBA has hundreds of online articles and blog posts written by business experts and thought leaders covering virtually every topic related to starting and managing a small business. There is even a section that provides a template and gives guidance for writing a business plan.
If you do a topical search on the SBA website, your search results will include pages of training choices. Courses are self-paced, and you can choose based on content type and topic. I’m a big fan of the SBA’s video collection as a training tool. If you’re just starting your small business or committed to growing your business, you’ll find plenty of topics worth exploring, including pricing, market research, growing an established business, entrepreneurship and dozens more.
3. Local Offices Are Everywhere
While the SBA’s primary office is located in Washington, DC, there are district offices in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. These offices serve as a bridge between the federal agency itself, other local agencies and private groups that support and assist small businesses.
In addition to providing forms and services, these district offices also regularly host seminars, bringing in top experts. They also provide a way for small business owners to connect with SCORE, a nonprofit association supported by the SBA.
SCORE’s mission is to help small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. There are more than 11,000 volunteers across the country that primarily deliver services to small businesses for free. Yes, I said free.
4. Export to Grow With the SBA
The SBA’s U.S. Export Assistance Centers are another local resource. There’s one or more office located in every state, except for Delaware, New Mexico and Wyoming. Growing your small business via exports is one of the best strategies for growth in today’s global marketplace.
Over 95% of consumers live outside the borders of the U.S., so significant opportunities exist. Plus, according to a study published by the Institute for International Economics, companies that export not only grow faster, but they are nearly 8.5% less likely to go out of business.
So why isn’t everyone exporting? Getting a start in global exports is challenging, and can seem overwhelming to a small business owner unfamiliar with global trade. That’s where the SBA’s U.S. Export Assistance Centers can help out in a big way. Many are staffed with professionals who can help you with your export financing needs. They understand how the SBA, Department of Commerce, Export-Import Bank and other agencies can be leveraged for growing your business.
5. Growth with Government Contracting
Another major opportunity for growth is government contracting. Getting yourself positioned to do business with the federal government, however, can seem like an impossible task with many hurdles to overcome. The SBA can help you determine whether government contracting is a good fit for your small business.
If so, the SBA’s Office of Government Contracting is available to assist you in maximizing your opportunities. The government spends billions of dollars every year buying items ranging from defense technology to paperclips.
In fact, the federal government sets aside billions of dollars that has to be spent with small businesses and businesses that fall into other categories, such as veteran- women- or minority-owned firms. If there’s a match between the government and your product or services, you will be able to significantly boost your revenues. That prospect alone should make meeting any initial application requirements worth your time.
If you’re like all the other small business owners I know, you’re always on the lookout for a free, yet trustworthy resource. That’s what you’ll find in the SBA.
Take a deeper look into how the SBA can help you get small business loans by going to our article here.