Starting and running a business can be a lonely endeavor, particularly if you don’t know other businesspeople to discuss issues with or help you find solutions to problems. Sure, you can sit there hunched over your laptop and search online for solutions, and you can gather a lot of information from the articles and reviews you read. But online research is impersonal. It doesn’t provide the feedback, motivation, and mentorship that that can help get a business launched, overcome challenges and move the business to the next level.
Fortunately, there a number of organizations in or near most communities in the US that do offer personalized help as well as informative seminars and workshops. Because these organizations are funded fully or in part through federal, state, city, or local governments, the programs are usually offered for free or a very nominal cost. Here are just a few to investigate:
Small Business Development Centers
Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) a terrific resource for startups and existing small businesses. Administered by the US Small Business Administration, SBDCs offer are located in every state, often on college or university campuses. The SBDCs are staffed with experts who provide counseling and education, helping small businesses understand and deal with a wide range of issues. The help they offer covers everything from guidance on starting and marketing business to help applying for SBA loans, and more. Here’s where to find the nearest SBDC to you.
SCORE is another SBA partner that does outstanding work for small businesses. The program is a cooperative effort of the private sector, the educational community, and federal, state, and local governments. They offer mentoring, educational webinars, courses, and in-person workshops and ongoing help and support for small businesses through their more than 250 local chapters in the US. They also have an online library of resources. Here’s where to find the nearest SCORE chapter to you.
Your Public Library
Haven’t stepped foot inside your local public library since you were in high school? It’s time to take a new look. Local libraries provide a lot of resources to help small businesses. For example, The Miller Business Resource Center (@MillerCtr)at the Centereach Library on Long Island, not only provides access and help with reference materials businesses need, they also host educational and networking events for businesses, run a popular small business trade show and a women’s business expo and help the business community in many other ways.
The American Library Association reports that “Libraries constitute one of the largest platforms in the U.S. for empowering aspiring entrepreneurs. Nearly half of the nearly 17,000 public libraries in the U.S. provide free services for entrepreneurs, from offering access to critical but costly information to hosting business coaching classes and, in some cases, providing seed capital through business plan competitions.”
Local Chamber of Commerce, Business, and Industry Groups
Most small business owners will tell you that word of mouth is one of the most important sources of business for them. That’s because people like to buy from people they know, or who have been recommended to them. One of the best ways to get known and get people to recommend you is by participating in your local small business groups and any industry trade groups. Besides getting referrals, these groups often have educational talks, may run their own trade shows, and are just a good place to meet other businesses owners to discuss business issues with. Finally, they are a great way for you to find the resources and get recommendations for service providers you may need for your own business.