Starting and running a small business is no easy task. From getting your head around local regulations, to securing the financing you need to get started, each step along the way is full of challenges. The early stages of seeing your vision through can be particularly lonely. Luckily, there are many local resources available to help.
The Small Business Administration (SBA)
The SBA is much more than a financing resource for small business owners. Whether you’re just getting started, or you’re looking for an extra tip along the way, the SBA is an association you should not miss out on leveraging. They have a wide variety of online courses in their learning center that will provide you with the keys you need to take your small business to the next level. A particularly noteworthy course is Cyber Security for Small Businesses, which will ensure that you are equipped to take the steps you need to protect the business you poured countless hours into. The SBA also hosts many local workshops and events that you should not miss out on. Find your nearby SBA chapter, here.
SCORE, which stands for the Service Corps of Retired Executives, is a nationwide network of over 12,000 mentors. These retired executives, leaders and volunteers provide businesses like yours with free counseling and advice. Sponsored by the SBA, SCORE has many specialists that are experts in their specific fields. You will have a primary counselor, who can help you navigate their online and in-person services. If you’re a bit shy to be paired up with a mentor early on, feel free to visit their website and look through their wide variety of guides and online training courses. Find your local chapter to get started.
Small Business Development Centers (SBDC)
Would your small business be interested in increasing their annual sales by 13.6%? That’s exactly what business owners who make use of their local SBDC chapter average. These development centers are focused on providing management and technical assistance to small business owners. With nearly 1,000 locations across the country, the SBDC offers free business consulting and at-cost training programs. Their initiatives are applicable for both budding entrepreneurs and seasoned business owners. They host many networking sessions, which play an important role in fostering knowledge transfer and community building. Each state has at least one SBDC, with some operating at the county level. Here is a handy list of local chapters.
Local Chambers of Commerce
The US Chamber of Commerce is among the premier supporters of small businesses across the country. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Chamber supports the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions. Some Chambers have membership dues, but don’t let those deter you as they offer a great opportunity for your business to learn and access resources. Don’t underestimate the value of being able to potentially find customers at your local chamber, either. As an added bonus, the national chapter hosts the Dream Big Awards, where the Small Business of the Year award winner will receive national recognition and a $25,000 cash prize!
If you’re looking for more specialized help, industry trade groups are for you. Nearly every industry has an association that advocates for businesses just like yours. They are a great resource for you to stay on top of industry trends and opportunities. Trade groups can supply you with critical industry research and forecasts, keeping you one step ahead of all of your competitors. Check out a list of industry and trade associations near you to see if any match up with your small business needs.
The resources listed above just begin to scratch the surface of the countless outlets available to help your business. By exploring some of these, however, you’re likely to gain exposure to some of the many ways you could improve your business. Don’t miss out on these great opportunities, and check out your local chapters soon!