As a new business owner, your local Small Business Development Center may be the most valuable resource at your disposal. An outreach organization that combines the efforts of local educational institutions, federal and state governments, local businesses, Chambers of Commerce and business organizations, Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) offer a wide range of services, including educational opportunities, advice and counseling.
The best way to start discovering the resources available through your local SBDC is to contact them directly. You can find the one nearest you by visiting the SBA’s web site (www.sba.gov) and looking under the “local resources” section. There you will be able to locate SBDC’s all over the country. Their services are almost always free.
Services frequently offered by SBDCs include assisting small businesses with:
- Solving financial, marketing, production, organization, engineering and technical problems
- International trade assistance
- Technical assistance
- Procurement assistance
- Venture capital formation
- Rural development
SBDCs also make special efforts to reach minority members of socially and economically disadvantaged groups, veterans, women and the disabled.
Assistance is provided to both current or potential small business owners. The organization also can help with perhaps the most important part of starting a new business: acquiring funding . Specifically, they can help you apply for Small Business Innovation and Research (SBIR) grants from federal agencies as well as help you locate other sources of funding.
“Small business development centers are a very valuable resource,” said Luanne Mayorga, Manager of the Illinois International Trade Center at the College of DuPage in Lisle, Ill. “They are usually located on college campuses and not only are their services free, but they are all confidential.”
The centers are especially helpful in keeping business owners up to date on legislation and regulatory changes affecting businesses, Mayorga told BusinessNewsDaily.
Another valuable service offered through the SBDC is SCORE, which stands for Service Corps of Retired Executives. SCORE is a group of retired business people with expertise in every aspect of business operations who are available to mentor you for free. You can meet with them in person or chat with them on-line.