Technical Advice Available For Minority Small Businesses

There are numerous components to starting and growing a small business, it can become overwhelming. Fortunately, there is free expert advice available for minority business owners (or aspiring owners). Plus, there is specialized advice for minority business owners also.

SCORE
The formerly named Service Corps of Retired Executives is now formally known simply as SCORE. This is an organization of retired business executives who provide free advice to small business owners. This could be working through problem issues in business to developing a business plan. There are offices nationwide to approach for help.

SBA SBDC
The US Small Business Administration (SBA) has Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) throughout the United States. They help businesses with technical help and with securing financing. The SBDC’s are very good help for developing documentation for SBA loans. They also have good primer information for government contracting.

MBDA MBEC
The Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) has a number of minority business development centers throughout the US. Renamed Minority Business Enterprise Centers (MBEC) the centers are very good on working with minority preference programs for government contracts. The centers are a strong contact for networking opportunities among minority businesses. There are also Native American specific centers.

P-TAC
The United States Department Of Defense (DoD) funds a number of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC) to assist small businesses with DoD contracts. A PTAC will be very good in assessing a business’s potential as a DoD vendor. However, they can also assist a business with standard government procurement (civil purchases) too.

With all this technical assistance freely available, there should be no need to hire consultants for a beginning business. Also, the centers are very good in helping a small business get a grasp on minority preferences for government contracts.

How to Put Your Business in Google Maps

Marketing is an important part of business. The broader audience you can reach the better. There is basically a number of ways to do so, but not all of them are as effective as you thought they would be. For both online and offline businesses, marketing is fairly a challenge and it all comes down to what is being delivered, to who it is being delivered and how it is delivered.

People have become more dependent on the internet to find what they need.This applies on almost anything : from products, services, information, people, everything and anything. This would pretty much include finding companies and what they offer. And through the internet, marketing has reached levels and market niche that seemed to be impossible years back.

Different search engines and websites have developed and are now applying different methods to better serve both entrepreneurs and customers. Different online applications have made these methods of marketing and searching a very effective way of attracting new clients and returning customers.

One of the best and free options available is Google Maps. There are more people searching for businesses online than anywhere else and through Google Maps your business will be able to reach millions of Google Maps users, quickly and for free, specifically with Local Business Center. So it’s important to make sure your business listing can be easily found on Google and Google Maps. With the use of Local Business Center, it is easy to create a great listing; all it takes is just a few minutes and it doesn’t cost a thing.

With Local Business Center, you can control your listing and speak for yourself. If you already have a website, your business probably already appears on Google, but even if it does, you should still claim your listing and check to make sure its details are accurate and thorough. Your improvements will start appearing as soon as you verify them through the Local Business Center.

By doing so you can be sure that your business is properly represented and at the same time extends to markets which used to be beyond your reach. This article will help you in broadening your marketing with the use of Google Maps.

First, go to google.com. Then key in the type of business you are under or would want to be classified in. Sample would be typing in carpet cleaning St. Marys Georgia. The Google Maps Listing for this search will come up. And you can see that there are several businesses under this type listed ranked from one to 10 for the first page. This is where your business information will appear after getting it listed in Google Maps.  Note that the Google Maps listing comes up on the first page, often as the #1 LOCAL listing in Google.  This is like getting on the first page of your local yellow pages, for free!

Getting started, you can either go to the search area of Google and key in local business center. Click on the link that appears for this. Or you could go directly to the URL space and type in http://www.google.com/localbusinesscenter.

You can sign in with your Google Account if you already have one. If you don’t have a Google Account yet, start by creating your personal Google Account. Once you have provided your email and password and logged in click on Add new listing or business. From here a form should be filled up with your basic business details as you would like them to appear in the listing.

Upon doing so the map on the left will zoom into your location as you type in your address. You can move the marker if you like if Google’s best guess isn’t quite spot-on or not exactly where you think it should be.

After filling in the location details make sure to fill in your main phone number. Google will contact you through this number for verification. If you have a website address, key it in with http:// at the beginning. Then you should write a business description that emphasizes what your business is all about making your business unique or better than your competitors. This is a means by which you could be distinguished from the others and easily be found through specific keywords. Details of what your company provides, where the service area is and where it is close to or any landmarks that they could take note of would be very could inputs for the description. Then click next. On the following step select the listing or category that you want to claim (make sure it’s the most similar to your business). When done, click on the category of your choice. You can also add another category if you think that it could be part of another.

If your business is not on the listing or doesn’t match any listings, click the Add Category button at the bottom to create a new listing. Note: In the list of close matches, if the business name on a given listing is wrong but the address is right, click the Claim Listing or Category button and Google Maps will use your preferred name. However, if the address is wrong and you can’t receive mail sent to that address, you will not be able to verify your claim. In that case, you should click Add Category at the bottom of the list to create a new listing for your business.

Next step, include your hours of operation and payment options. This information is useful for both repeat and potential customers. Then you should add more details to make your business stand out. You can also add relevant information that doesn’t fit anywhere else. Information such as delivery zone, house specialties, return policy, or anything else that you would like to share. In marketing, you would want to catch the attention of as many potential customers as you can.

You can also add an image to help your listings stand out in Google Maps search results. You can use snapshots, logos and images. If you have videos on YouTube, you can place them directly in your listing as well.

Finally, verify your listing, if possible do it by phone. If you have easy access to the phone number on your listing, choose phone verification. You can either choose to be called now or in 5 minutes. Google will call you, and once you enter a Personal Identification Number (PIN), your listing will be immediately verified. A Thank You notice will appear in the window

If you are not near the phone or have a voicemail system, you should choose postcard verification. Google will send you a card with a PIN for you to enter before mailing it back. But it will take a coupe of weeks to complete.

You’ve successfully completed your Google Maps listing.

The Truth About Government Grants for Your Business

Free money! Receive up to $25,000 that never has to be paid back — Guaranteed! Get a grant to start your own business today!

If you’re a small business owner, or you’ve always dreamed of starting your own business, you’ve probably run across ads like these. Companies that “guarantee” you’ll get a grant to start your own business that never has to be paid back. Purchase their product, and they’ll give you the “secrets” to making all your money troubles go away.

Have you ever wondered if all the hype is true? Can you really get free cash to start or expand your business? Before you spend your hard-earned money on what could turn out to be nothing more than a list of names and addresses (that you can actually get for free in the Internet by the way), keep reading to learn the truth about grants for individuals and business start-ups.

First of all, what is a grant?

A grant is a sum of money that is used for a specific purpose. Grants are given away by charitable organizations called foundations, and their sole purpose is to give away that money.

In addition, the U.S. Federal government also gives away billions of dollars of grant money every year for many reasons — including to support and encourage economic development and small business growth, which is where you come in.

So what’s the catch? (You knew there had to be a catch, right? I mean, if it was that easy, every new business out there would be starting out in the black!)

Most corporations, foundations and government agencies ONLY give grant money to nonprofit organizations that have a 501(c)(3) designation from the IRS.

The most common grants given to individuals are in the form of scholarships.

So, are there any grants available to you as a small business owner? Yes. Is somebody just waiting to hand you a check for $25,000? No. In fact, you may never actually see the cash. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of all the programs that are out there — and that could add up to a lot more than $25,000. You just have to know where to look and what to ask for.

Here’s how it works. First of all, be prepared. Finding a grant is going to take some work on your part. You’ll want to set up a system for keeping the information organized. You can create a paper system with files and a calendar, of do it on your computer. You’re going to want to separate your research into classifications that make sense for your business, plus you’ll need to keep track of who’s giving what away and the corresponding deadlines.

Next, you’ll have to do some research to find what programs are available in your area, and what the guidelines are. Then you’ll have to do some deeper research, to eliminate the ones you don’t qualify for. (Most grants have some type of restrictions — some are geographic, some are targeted towards specific groups, some are for specific types of businesses, etc.)

And the third and final step will be to apply for the grants you qualify for and need. (For a small business grant, what’s required is usually a well written business plan).

So how do you get started? Before you start looking for grant money, you need to figure out exactly what you’re looking for. What exactly do you need to take your business to the next level. This will not only help you to be more focused on your business goals, but it will give you a better idea of where to start looking and save you time in the long run.

For example, do you need training? Maybe you’ve realized you need to learn how to use a computer, learn to build your own Web site, or master a specific program such as word or excel.

What about technical assistance? Are you trying to learn a new process or need to learn how to use specific equipment?

Do you need assistive technology because of a disability?

Do you need cash to purchase equipment and supplies?

Make a list of exactly what it is you need, and prioritize it. Figure out a schedule of when you need to have it. Create a basic budget based on how much what you need would cost if you had to pay for it out of pocket. Also note down where, in your local area, you can find what you need.

Now it’s time to start looking for your grant. A good place to start is the Small Business Administration. They’ve got a great Website that has lots of information to get you started. You can even take free online classes to learn how to write — or tweak — your business plan.

After that, start locally. Check with your own Small Business Development Center, Chamber of Commerce or, if you’re in a rural area, Association of Government office. If there are small business grants available in your area, these are the experts who will know about them.

Don’t forget about your local library. The librarian in charge of the research section is very knowledgeable, and can provide you with a wealth of materials.

It’s important to keep an open mind and think outside the box when you’re looking for grants. Not all grants come in the form of cold, hard cash. You might be able to find funding that will pay for the training you need, business classes or get a scholarship to go to your local community college.

Your local Small Business Development Center may operate a “small business incubation center” and can provide you with low-cost office space that includes telephone lines, use of office equipment, meeting rooms and someone to answer calls and take messages.

If you need help with advertising or marketing your products or services, look to larger corporations, your local chamber of commerce or your city’s economic development office. They may offer co-op advertising programs, reduced printing costs on specific advertising campaigns, and other resources for getting your name out to your target market. If you sell products for nationwide companies, check to see if there are advertising incentives where they’ll help to pay for your advertising costs.

If you’re a member of a professional or trade organization, see if they offer programs. Check the Internet. You can find grant information from the federal government online. The foundation center is another great resource with an interactive database. Women should utilize women’s organizations and the women’s business centers.

You can check the foundation center online for a very comprehensive listing of foundations and the grants they offer. Again…remember that most foundations DON’T give grants to individuals, so don’t waste a lot of time looking at the foundations themselves. Instead, LOOK FOR THE NONPROFIT organizations they have give grants to! You’re looking specifically for economic or community development grants.

That’s you’ll actually be able to access whatever grants, services and resources are available, because the nonprofit organizations are the ones who work with indidivuals and provide “service delivery.”

To find out who is getting the money, check the foundations 990 tax forms, which are usually available online. That will tell you which nonprofit organizations to contact.

Keep a file of all the possibilities, and hone your research to the sources that provide the best fit for your needs.

There are resources out there, if you’re willing to spend the time looking for them. Keep an open mind, be willing to think outside the box, and never give up!