As the U.S. Government has a vested interest in the health of small businesses, the SBA offers a variety of resources, articles and tools designed specifically to help you start and grow yours. Let’s review its most useful tools.
Starting a Business
Start with the SBA’s ‘Starting a Business’ landing page, which has a large amount of articles available. If you’re still undecided on whether to start a business, peruse Is Entrepreneurship For You? If you know you’re ready, move on to the list of 20 Questions Before Starting a Business. Both of these resources will help to get you in the right mindset for this new endeavor you wish to undertake.
- Business and data statistics: Research will become a second hobby as you plan your business. The SBA provides access to all kinds of research and statistics, using data from the U.S Census Bureau, Federal Trade Commission and Bureau of Labor Statistics. While you can visit each of these sites individually, starting with the SBA might help to focus your queries.
- Business type definitions and funding special funding opportunities: Since there are a variety of ways to classify a business, there are different government programs that support each type. The SBA also offers support for applicants of certain groups. For example, a senior citizen might qualify for different subsidies or support than a veteran. It’s important to understand these different categories as it can greatly affect how you pursue funding.
- Find a mentor: Partnering with a mentor that has business experience is an invaluable resource when you’re just starting out. The SBA offers links to different professional and trade organizations that offer mentorship opportunities. They also have a separate list of resources specifically for women business owners.
- Write your business plan: Your business plan will determine your ability to secure financing for your business, so you need to take it seriously. The SBA’s website outlines the business plan process and the necessary sections so your plan will be solid.
- License and permit database search: Every business needs at least one license or permit, and oftentimes more than one. The SBA’s easy-to-use database allows you to search based on a variety of parameters so you can be sure to find details on everything you need.
- Legal research: Owning your own business brings with it a new set of legal requirements and rules that you’ll need to follow. While the SBA website cannot offer legal advice, it can give you an overview of some of the most common legal issues facing entrepreneurs as well as laws and statutes specific to small business.
- Grants and loans database search: Similar to searching for licenses and permits, the SBA has a database full of available grants and loans that small business owners can apply for. While focused solely on government resources, this is still a good place to start to finding funding.
- Tax resource: Paying your taxes will be more complicated now that you own a business. Fortunately, there are resources on both federal and state taxes and their implications for business. There’s also a forum where you can ask questions to get specific answers to your situation.
Growing Your Business
Even experienced business people have times when they need help or insight. The SBA has many resources that are useful for established entrepreneurs as well.
- Learning Center: Here you will find over 100 free courses with videos that outline different business topics ranging from management to finance to marketing.
- Local SBA offices and other resources: Here you can search by zip code to find your local SBA office, women’s business center and other similar resources in your area. This is a great way to find a local network of business owners and like-minded individuals.
- Marketing plan development: An integral part of growing your business involves marketing. But it can also be as confusing as it is important. To alleviate that confusion, you’ll find information on how to develop a marketing plan as well as learning center courses that provide more insight.
- Email updates: The SBA sends out emails that include upcoming local business events and business tips that can be very useful for small business owners. Signing up for them is free. The link to sign up can be found on the SBA’s homepage.
- The “Analyze Your Business” tool: This is one of the SBA’s greatest features. By inputting your industry and location, you can gather valuable data regarding industry benchmarks, your competitors and where to advertise. You can also customize the results more by entering information specific to your business, such as revenue and address.
- SBA LINC: Throughout your business’ lifecycle, you’ll probably need more funding. Even the most successful businesses look for loans to help grow their business in order to keep up with the competition and market demands. An online referral tool, SBA LINC requires small business owners to fill out a brief questionnaire about their business. The answers are then reviewed by nearby SBA-approved lenders who then reach out to the businesses they may be interested in working with. It is up to the business if they wish to respond. It is not a loan application system, but rather a way for businesses and lenders to find each other.
By taking advantage of all the resources available, you can start and grow a successful business.
If you don’t know which type of loan is appropriate for your business’ size, stage or industry, look no further than our list of different types of business loans.
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