Thursday, June 5, 2014

3 Resources for New Small Business Owners

One of the issues that I often encounter is that small business owners are not aware of the plethora of resources that exist or, if they have some inkling that these resources are out there, are not sure where to look. So today's post is dedicated to providing you with information about and links to some of those resources.

SCORE website screen capture
SCORE's website.
SCORE - I have written about the Service Corps of Retired Executives, otherwise known as SCORE, before. SCORE is staffed by volunteers, primarily comprised of individuals who have retired from small business or corporate America who now want to continue helping others by providing advice inside and outside their area of expertise. You could get a SCORE retiree with a background in marketing, logistics, sales, finance, or accounting, for example. Admittedly, all SCORE offices are not created equally. Some offices have a number of volunteers with general business experience and/or entrepreneurial experience. Others are solely staffed by those with expertise in one area who are great if that is the area you need help in, but not helpful if it is not.

As with all of these resources, you get the most from your consultations if you have already thought about the questions you have - and written them down - before meeting with an executive.

Go to http://www.score.org/ for general information. You can type in your zip code to find the SCORE office closest to you.
 
SBA website screen capture.
The SBA's main website.
 SBA - The U.S. Small Business Administration, better known as the SBA, provides a significant number of classes, webinars, speakers, and other resources at its regional locations. I have both presented at and attended presentations at the SBA regional office in Atlanta. I will be conducting two crowdfunding webinars for the SBA's Southeast region (Atlanta) - one  in July and one in August. (The SBA's Southeast region is handling all the marketing and sign-up, so check their sites for information. Once the information is live, I'll provide a link.)

The SBA also has resources available at its general, nationwide site online but, in my estimation, this pales to what you can gain access to by focusing on what the SBA offers in your region. Actually, let me restate that. For general and specific information about a broad array of subjects, from SBA loans to SBICs (small business investment companies), the main SBA website has no competitors. But when you need marketing, finance, legal, and other information that will help you in your business and you are not sure what you need and when, that is when the regional office offerings trump the main site. 

The SBA's regional website for Region X.
The SBA's main website is http://www.sba.gov (surprise!). The 10 regions within the SBA and their regional websites are as follows:
  1. Region I: New England, http://www.sba.gov/about-offices-content/3/3070
  2. Region II: Atlantic, http://www.sba.gov/about-offices-content/3/3071;
  3. Region III: Mid-Atlantic, http://www.sba.gov/about-offices-content/3/3072;
  4. Region IV: Southeast, http://www.sba.gov/about-offices-content/3/3073;
  5. Region V: Great Lakes, http://www.sba.gov/about-offices-content/3/3074
  6. Region VI: South Central, http://www.sba.gov/about-offices-content/3/3075
  7. Region VII: Great Plains, http://www.sba.gov/about-offices-content/3/3076;
  8. Region VIII: Rocky Mountains, http://www.sba.gov/about-offices-content/3/3077;
  9. Region IX: Pacific, http://www.sba.gov/about-offices-content/3/3078; and 
  10. Region X: Pacific Northwest, http://www.sba.gov/about-offices-content/3/3079.

"chamber of commerce" web search screen capture
"Chamber of commerce" Google search results in my area.
Local chamber of commerce - You may live in a major metropolitan area. If so, you may have a chamber of commerce that serves the metro area in addition to chambers that serve the surrounding counties. For example, the Atlanta area has the Greater Atlanta Metro Chamber of Commerce and, if you live in Gwinnett county, there's the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce. The same applies to DeKalb County and others. There's also local chambers for many of the cities and towns in the area.

Chambers offer training, networking events, committees to deepen your interaction and connections, business opportunities, and much more. Check out your local chamber(s) to determine which one is a great fit for you. All of the larger ones have an online presence, and all have brochures you can come by and pick up. Some allow you to attend a session or event for free as an introduction to what they offer. Larger small businesses often benefit more from the metro area chambers.

To find local chambers, just do a Google search on "chamber of commerce". In the screen capture above, you can see chambers of commerce in the area around Tallmadge, Ohio, which is where I was when I did this search!

Are you utilizing all of your local resources to their fullest potential?As a small business owner, the connections you  make through these organizations – and the free or low-cost seminars that will educate you about issues that may until now have been foreign – are essential to your success.


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