Starting a Business – Get Friendly With Your Local SBDC

Are you aware of the Small Business Development Centers? They help people start small businesses with free advice and information. They also help businesses expand or curtail various growing pains. If you are not familiar with the SBDC, then I recommend that you do. Let me explain;

Indeed, I am familiar with the SBDC, as I spoke at their annual conference in 2002 in San Diego in a seminar on franchising, and I am also a co-author of Franchising 101, a project with the SBDC office out of Pittsburg and the AAFD. Not long ago, a gentleman at a local SBDC had a client come in for advice, the individual wanted to start an oil change business.

The SBDC analyst and advisor worked long hours into the night to acquaint himself with that sector, so he could give the very best advice. Me being in the mobile oil change business prior to retirement, he contacted me for additional information. Imagine an advisor like that for your business working for free going to that extreme. Can you see why the SBDC is so darn successful, and how that success can transfer into assisting your new business or your current business grow?

If you are worried about this recession and need assistance, advice or help, why not contact your local SBDC office. If you call your local chamber of commerce they can give you the phone number, or you may wish to look it up yourself in the phone book. You will not find a better service, and they also work with local economic development associations and the SCORE Counselors too. Please consider this.

Find What You Need at an Information Center

When we are in need of details or data, we turn to the web and begin our search for a one-stop information center. Depending on what exactly we’re looking for, these sites can contain different kinds of details.

For someone starting out with an idea for a business, finding a site that can offer guidance on how to be successful at such a venture would be invaluable. They can save so much time by being able to just stay at one site and find the information they need there instead of clicking on different sites all the time.

A website dedicated to helping someone with their business should include things like reviews on products or tools that are out there for businesses. They might include ideas and methods that have been around for a long time as well as new innovative approaches that are out there now. Having a chance to read through reviews and at the same on an information center will be a time saver.

There are many things that can be found at an information center, this might include the reviews on new products and services that have been tested and found to be worth passing on to readers that stop by. Again, being able to read about the experiences of others can guide you in what you purchase. Having the knowledge beforehand of what people have found to be good and bad about a product is a very useful thing.

In addition to readers providing input, some places may have guest bloggers who write about their opinions and experiences with different products, ideas, and services. Again, gathering more information on what you are considering is beneficial to the success of your venture. If the material is at your fingertips, all in one place, you will be able to make informed decisions quickly.

Information centers bring together all the details and data you may need, giving you quick and easy access. These places may also include links to relevant sites which will save you from having to wade through many sites to find what you need. They do the work for you and find sites they feel are tied up with what they are trying to do and present them in an organized manner. This assures about the sites that may be relevant according to what you are looking for.

Much time can be wasted surfing through site after site trying to find information that is relevant to you and your situation. If you can instead just find that one site that has all you need, organized, and well-presented, it will be a time saver. And often when it comes to business, time is money so the less time wasted on surfing through perhaps useless information, the better.

And as you are able to glean valuable data from users of the site, you in turn will be able to share your experiences and thoughts with others who visit the site. An information center can be a community of people who are helping and being helped in the best way possible.

Business Grants For Women

I started researching business grants for women when I decided to start a small home based business in late 2008. I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to create a steady income so I wanted to know what my options were.

I found that most government grants, as well as those funded by non-profits that are tagged as being for women, are often made available only as part of a need to reach an underserved population (like the disabled, minority serving institutions, etc.). For example, when “women” is used as the search term on grants.gov ( a great place to find a full list of government grants) the grant titles in the search results rarely have to do with women or business. If women are mentioned specifically, it’s usually for a study related to pregnancy.

Further digging revealed that different counties and cities may offer grants to locally owned businesses, without regard to ownership, that have some payback in terms of economic development. These funds become available fairly randomly, and usually carry some expectation about the improvement of “Main Street.”

I learned that the Small Business Administration hasn’t had any start up grant programs for women since the 1980’s.

It soon became apparent that “women business grants”  were usually specially packaged and marketed loans for “for profit” initiatives.

After just a few phone calls, I learned about several local resources for entrepreneurs that could not only help me make my way through all the funding options, but would also help me grow my business, provide me with a mentor, and connect me with other small businesses who might  need my services. Wow, I thought. Maybe all that would get me to a place where I could be self sufficient and wouldn’t need “free money,” much less borrow it. Here are some of the national and local resources I found that offer advice, resources and expertise, all for free:

The Government funded Small Businsess Administration (SBA), is not a funding source for grants, but does a tremendous amount of financial assistance through a variety of loan programs, including loan guarantees with participating lenders and micro loans. We have several locations in the Kansas City area.

The SBA created the Women’s Business Centers specifically for female entrepreneurs. They also are not a funding source, but do provide advice on business planning, financial needs assessment, and information on the different kinds of funding available in the local marketplace. In my town, we have two Centers.

SCORE – The Service Corps of Retired Executives is a national organization with many local offices that matches industry experts with startups. The mentors are matched with an entrepreneur in their area of expertise.

KCsourcelink.com is a local non-profit business resource center. It currently being used as a model for a number of national networking organizations.

The Business Information Center, also affiliated with the SBA, is another resource for people trying to build a business. They provide over 200 sample business plans and information on dispelling myths of funding.