Every entrepreneur can use an extra bit of help and guidance when it comes to starting or maintain a small business. However, not everyone knows where to turn for assistance. We did the legwork for you and rounded up the best free resources available to help you grow your business.
1. United States Small Business Administration (SBA)
The SBA is the federal government agency devoted to small business owners, and its website is a great starting place for small business information and guidance. You can learn more about business financing and find business loan sources in your area, or the nearest SBA District Office for in-person assistance. The SBA also works with a variety of local partners, including Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) to help women business owners, Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOCs) to assist current and former members of the military, and Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) that help small businesses learn how to compete for federal, state and local government contracts.
The business section of USA.gov offers a variety of government resources, including information on importing and exporting, an introduction to federal government contracting, and information about small business financing. You can also use the State and Territory Business Resources tool to find information about regulations, business resources and small business financing opportunities in your area.
I know it’s hard to think of the IRS as a helpful resource, but as a small business owner, you’ll need to stay on the right side of tax law, and there’s no better place to go for tax information than directly to the source. At the IRS’s Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center, you can find all kinds of information to guide you through your tax responsibilities. Take a virtual workshop on small business taxes that explains the basics of federal tax obligations, or attend one of their live tax workshops or events held by the IRS across the country. Check in with the IRS Tax Calendar too. Subscribe to reminders or import it into your own online calendar so you never miss a tax payment.
The nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors, SCORE has more than 10,000 mentors in more than 300 chapters nationwide who volunteer their time and experience to provide free advice and consulting for small business owners. SCORE mentors are current or former business owners themselves, so they bring a wealth of insight and experience to helping your business grow. Just go online to get matched with a mentor with the particular expertise you need, from online marketing to accounting. You can meet with your mentor in person at your local SCORE office, or if your ideal mentor isn’t located nearby, talk to them via video chat or email. In addition to mentoring, SCORE has a vast library of free small business resources like templates, eBooks and checklists, live webinars, interactive online training courses, and in-person local workshops on a variety of small business topics.
5. Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs)
There are about 1,000 SBDCs nationwide, providing free business consulting and low-cost training to startups and existing business owners. SBDCs are typically located on college campuses or hosted by state economic development agencies and private sector partners. At the SBDC in your community, you can get help with everything from legal and employee management issues to online marketing and finding financing. Similar to SCORE, you’ll be assisted by current or former business owners and professionals, such as attorneys and accountants, who know small business concerns from the inside out.
There are so many great resources available to help your business grow! Take advantage of them and who knows: You might just be one of the entrepreneurs receiving honors at next year’s National Small Business Week.
Rieva Lesonsky is president and CEO of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. She’s a nationally-known speaker, best-selling author, and authority on entrepreneurship and has covered the industry for more than 30 years. Prior to starting GrowBiz Media, she was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur magazine. Her newest book is Small Business Hacks: 100 Shortcuts to Success.