There are many free, or relatively low cost, resources available to small businesses and entrepreneurs. Knowing where to look sometimes is half the battle. Here are some resources, by no means exhaustive, that can serve as a valuable reference. Please book mark this page to use as a small business reference and resource guide, as more information will be added over time.
The free resources for small businesses listed in this article are based in the USA and Territories. I encourage entrepreneurs outside of the US to still avail themselves to these online resources but to also seek out equivalent opportunities in the country where they live or do business.
Small Business Administration (SBA) – The SBA is THE federal agency in the USA charged with the mission of helping small businesses to succeed at various levels. The SBA offers several free resources for small businesses. It is worthy of note that the definition of “small business” varies based on different criteria. The focus is to provide business assistance in the following areas: 1) Business Consulting and Counseling at no cost (already paid for by your tax dollars!) via SCORE and the SBDC; 2) Loan Guarantees – business loans guaranteed by the SBA that are accessed via SBA lenders; 3) Direct Disaster Loans from the SBA for both residential and commercial entities; and 4) Federal Contracting Assistance Programs, such as the 8(a) business development program and Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) certification, and access to consulting via PTAC.
Small Business Development Center (SBDC) – Professional Consultants that assist small businesses in multiple areas of expertise. Services include assistance with general business needs from accounting to marketing to specialized expertise in international trade and government contracting. There is a service center network of over 900 SBDCs throughout the USA, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands. In addition there is a growing network of entities internationally that use the SBDC model. According to the SBA, “the SBDC Program is designed to deliver up-to-date counseling, training, and technical assistance in all aspects of small business management.” Find an SBDC location near you.
Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC) – Funded by the Department of Defense, PTACs offers guidance to small businesses seeking help with the government contracting process. This assistance can prove invaluable in navigating the landscape of government contracting from the municipal to the federal level. PTAC specialists can assist in setting up the SAMs account, the database system that all businesses need to be registered in in order to do business with the American federal government. Some PTACs can be co-located with SBDCs, but are sometimes separate. If you are considering government contracting on any level, it would be highly advisable to contact your local PTAC specialist for support and best practices.
Veteran’s Business Outreach Centers (VBOC) – the VBOC program is designed to provide entrepreneurial development services such as business training, counseling, and resource partner referrals to transitioning service members, veterans, National Guard & Reserve members and military spouses interested in starting or growing a small business. For additional resources and programs available to support veteran small businesses click here.
SCORE (formerly known as Service Corps of Retired Executives) – SCORE is the largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors in the USA that has helped more than 11 million entrepreneurs since 1964. SCORE counselors are located in all fifty states and area available to offer support, guidance, and mentorship in almost every area of business specialty. SCORE counselors regularly provide workshops on a plethora of business topics that range from how to start your business to how to market your business. In addition, many resources and trainings are available on their library on their website which offers the opportunity to also locate a mentor.
Hello Alice – Hello Alice is an innovative resource portal that was originally focused on assisting women in business by providing access to information and capital. Small businesses can apply for business grants and mentorship to support business growth. In conjunction with national partners, Hello Alice continues to expand its reach and impact to offer free resources to small businesses.
Nav.com – Nav is a financial services organization that helps businesses build a stronger business credit profile. Just like individuals have credit reports, so do businesses. Your business credit report helps to determine what lending you may eligible for if you are seeking capital.
Stay tuned for additional resources which may be added to this from time to time.
In addition to the resources shared above, there are also low cost and high value opportunities to seek guidance, accountability, and support for your entrepreneurial journey. For a supportive entrepreneurship community join The Super Charge Club and read “The Little Girl’s Guide for Entrepreneurship.“