5 Free Resources for the Aspiring Business Owner
Business Solutions Since 2008, for the first time in our nation’s history, the net number of new businesses is declining. Whether you own a barber shop or a dive bar, keeping your business afloat will require more than a snip of research.
Small and medium-sized businesses employ over 100 million Americans and represent much of our economic tax base. Now, more than ever, it’s critical we rally behind the individuals brave enough to take the plunge into entrepreneurship. Individually we can all do a small part to reverse this trend by remembering to shop local, encourage students to start businesses, and beginning to explore encore careers and side hustles in the small business sector. Here are five resources to help you along your entrepreneurial journey.
1. Small business development centers (SBDCs)
Funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration, the SBDC network aims to “to help new entrepreneurs realize the dream of business ownership, and to assist existing businesses to remain competitive in the complex marketplace of an ever-changing global economy.” Servicing the entire U.S., there are over 1,000 SBDC service centers spanning the nation providing free business consulting and low-cost training programs on a variety of entrepreneurial topics. Need to know how to set up your bookkeeping system, what local occupational licenses are required or how to get started? SBDC can help.
2. 1 Million Cups
1 Million Cups is a free program designed to “educate, engage and connect entrepreneurs.” Each Wednesday morning at 9:00 a.m., in over 80 cities and 35 states, entrepreneurs gather to share a cup of coffee, network and watch two local entrepreneurs pitch their businesses.
3. Your local library
Modern day libraries have evolved, with many now housing a plethora of resources to help aspiring entrepreneurs. In addition to providing you access to leading industry and market research databases, many libraries now offer free co-working space, software training content, prototyping equipment such as 3-D printers and even green screens and video production studios.
The Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) is a nonprofit network of over 11,000 volunteers who provide free confidential mentoring as well as template resources to help aspiring entrepreneurs. Annually, SCORE volunteers donate over 1 million hours to their time mentoring in communities across the nation.
5. Online training programs
Multiple organizations provide free, high-quality online learning modules. Here are three I’ve personally found useful when working with entrepreneurs:
Hewlett Packard’s Learning Initiative for Entrepreneurs is a great collection of over 20 training modules on social entrepreneurship, cash flow, hiring staff, e-commerce and sales forecasting.
Hubspot Academy offers a free online inbound marketing certification program covering search engine optimization, email marketing and key success metrics.
Don’t limit your thinking to the resources above. Check with your local economic development organizations, as well as city, county and state government, to identify other regionally specific resources. Also, check with local universities and community colleges in your area, as many offer support services for entrepreneurs, including incubator and accelerator space, professional development courses and mentoring.
Lastly, explore meetup.com for startup events in your area; a quick look in my hometown shows there are no shortage of opportunities to engage and meet likeminded individuals ranging from Startup Veterans groups to Coding Clubs to Startup Weekends. Opportunities exist everywhere, but you’ll only recognize them if you are looking for them — and they’ll only manifest if you put in the work.