With unemployment reaching record levels in the United States, many people are going into business for themselves for the first time. If you are thinking about starting a small business you don’t have to go it alone. Government assistance for businesses, federal business grants, and other services designed to help startup a business are available to give you a strong head start and increase your likelihood of success. By learning what kind of resources are available to you and making the most of them, you can make sure your new business starts off on the right foot.
Government help for small business owners is available if you know where to look. The following resources should help to get you started:
Business.gov is a central website set up by the U.S. government that provides basic information on how to start a small business, how to register a small business and find out which permits and licenses might be required for it, how to handle business finances and business taxes, how to expand your business when the time is right, how to stay compliant with various business laws, how to understand federal business categories for industry, and how to access state and local resources for starting, running, and growing your business.
Find Out Which Loans and Grants Are Available to You
So many different loans and grants are available to help small businesses get on their feet it’s impossible to list them all in a small space, but you can find out which ones apply to you quickly and easily by filling out a brief search questionnaire at business.gov. A thorough business loan application checklist is also provided so you can gather everything you will need together before you start.
Check Out the Small Business Administration Website
The Small Business Administration is a federal agency set up to help small business owners find financing and grants and access information they need to succeed. The Small Business Administration website provides a wealth of useful information for anyone thinking of starting a small business, including an online business planner, free training and education, tips on marketing and outreach, a list of local resources and business mentors in your specific area whom you can contact to ask questions or get advice, free newsletters, regular online business chats and events, and a list of disaster relief programs for small businesses as well as loans and grants available through the SBA for small business owners.
Test Your Readiness
The vast majority of small businesses that fail, do so because they were started prematurely. Lots of groundwork and research goes into the start of any small business, and most people who fail had good intentions and lots of stamina but not enough good information. To find out if you are fully prepared for lasting success, the Small Business Administration provided a five-minute tool that will tell you exactly what you are lacking and where you are strong. You can access this tool here.
Check Out State Resources
USA.gov provides a list of hot links to state resources for small business owners and small business start-ups. You can also go to your state’s government website and look for the page on labor and/or economic growth. There you will find state and local agencies and commissions set up for small businesses, regulatory agencies, and any special programs available for finance or assistance.
Another way to locate state and local programs set up to help small businesses is to check out the local resources page on the Small Business Administration website. There you will find lots of hot links to governmental resource in your specific part of the U.S. Some states have entire web pages devoted solely to helping small businesses get off the ground.
Check Out the Federal Citizen Information Center
The U.S. government offers a wealth of free and inexpensive pamphlets and information available upon request at Pueblo.gsa.gov or by calling 1-888-8-PUEBLO. The website features a special section for small business information, including the “Guide to Business Credit for Women, Minorities, and Small Businesses” which lists all the loans available and what you need to do to be approved for one (cost $1.50 per pamphlet), and a pamphlet on “Advance Fee Business Scams” which lists some of the most common types of advance fee scams, how to recognize them, and what to do if you become a victim of such a scam.
Check Out Your Local Library for Speakers and Free Events
Most public libraries hold free speaking events on a regular basis on the theme of how to start a small business. Not only can you learn a lot by attending such events, you can also start to build a local network of business professionals and mentors that you can tap for advice and leads.
Check Out the Resource Library at the Better Business Bureau
Better Business Bureau maintains a list on online resources for small businesses and consumers alike that can be enormously helpful for anyone thinking of going into business for the first time. You’ll find a video library, links to the IRS tax center for small businesses, advice on how to protect your customers’ personal information, training and assistance links, and the most recent Trade commission articles. You can also keep abreast of the latest fraudulent small business scams to better protect yourself against spammers and con artists.