With a Little Help from My Friends

So, you decided to take the leap into owning your own business. Once that monumental decision is made, the challenges to move forward can be daunting. For seasoned entrepreneurs as well as newly minted ones, one of the biggest questions is “who can I turn to” for unbiased, qualified advice? Here are some organizations that may soon become friends, as well as trusted advisors, as you begin your new business journey. These resources can help you become an independent business owner and sustain your freedom throughout the life of your business.

Since its founding in 1964, SCORE has 370 chapters throughout the United States manned by experienced active or retired executives and business owners who donate their time and expertise to entrepreneurs. Touted as “Counselors to America’s Small Business”, SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to education and the formation, growth and success of small business. SCORE is a resource partner with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

Local chapters provide free mentoring and low-cost workshops in their communities, covering such topics as writing a business plan to advice on financing options and marketing programs. They offer templates for a host of business situations, providing insight for the teenage entrepreneur to the 50+ seniorpreneur. To find a chapter near you and learn more about what SCORE may have to offer, here is a link to their website: http://www.score.org

The Small Business Administration, or SBA, is an independent agency of the federal government. Their mission is to help entrepreneurs start and build businesses. There are field offices located throughout the United States that are staffed with experts to offer you a full portfolio of assistance.

Their website, http://www.sba.gov, is the entry point to accessing programs, courses and information that are focused on the 4 key service areas of the SBA:
• Access to Capital (Business Financing)
• Entrepreneurial Development (Education, Information, Technical Assistance & Training)
• Government Contracting (Federal Procurement)
• Advocacy (Voice for Small Business)

The SBA, in its government contracting and advocacy roles, ensures transparency for small and disadvantaged businesses to achieve the stipulated goals for participation in government contracts.

Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) offer a plethora of services for small businesses and entrepreneurs. From training, workshops, seminars, one-on-one counseling, your local SBDC may become the best friend you didn’t know that you needed. The SBDCs function as a cooperative, bringing together representatives from the private sector, educational institutions and the government to assist small businesses with everything from feasibility studies to organizational structure. Most SBDCs are affiliated with a college or university and operate in all 50 states.

To learn more about how your local SBDC may be able to assist you, click on this link: http://www.sba.gov/content/small-business-development-centers-sbdcs.

Procurement Technical Assistance Centers
Procurement Technical Assistance Centers, or PTACs, are a resource for those businesses interested in selling products or services to government agencies, whether local, state or federal. They provide marketing and technical guidance on navigating through the various programs that are available and can provide helpful “how to” checklist on getting registered in the various databases.

They can help you develop profiles for the Subcontracting Match Programs (SMP), assist with filing applications for placement on bidders’ lists, help with bid preparation and assist with obtaining specification and standards data and technical packages for federal government work. PTACs offer seminars, workshops and procurement fairs to help you research historical cost data and suppliers, provide guidance and direction to points of contact for government contracting, conduct training to further your awareness and understanding of government contracting policies and procedures and facilitate face-to-face marketing opportunities with government and corporate purchasing agents.

Export Assistance Centers
The U.S. Department of Commerce, SBA and others support a network of export and industry specialists located in more than 100 U.S. cities and over 80 countries worldwide. These trade professionals provide counseling and a variety of products and services to assist small and midsized U.S. businesses export their products and services globally. They maintain Authorized Trade Representatives “in country”, so that you have feet on the ground even when you operating from your home base stateside. In some locales, they may be an affiliate organization to a PTAC, SBDC and/or the SBA. The link to learn more about this resource is: http://www.export.gov/eac/.

While starting, growing and building your business may seem daunting, we believe these resources and others in your local communities may just be the help you need to sparkle like the firework display over the 4th.