Just graduated from college and looking to start your own business? With the economy still in recovery mode, many students are actively seeking an alternative to traditional post-college career paths.
According to Kauffman Foundation, young entrepreneurship in the U.S. is on the rise, with the 20-34 age group comprising 29 percent of the total new entrepreneurship activity in 2011.
Starting a business isn’t easy, and clearly for many young people it’s a risky path to take. Concerns range from worrying about being able to get a loan or line of credit; not having the skills or knowledge to start; and not knowing how to run a business (source: iHonest.com).
But for those with great ideas and a desire to be their own boss (and employment generator), support is at hand. Both online and in small business assistance centers throughout the country, SBA and its partners offer a variety of tools, programs and resources to help young entrepreneurs plan, start and grow their businesses.
Here are just a few tools that can help make the difference between success and failure as you plan your post-college entrepreneurial dream:
Free Online Training for Young Entrepreneurs
For a useful overview of the steps you need to take to get started, as well as some considerations that can help you understand if running a business is for you, take a look at this Free Online Course – Young Entrepreneurs: An Essential Guide to Starting your Own Business. This self-paced training course walks you through the steps of turning a business idea into reality. It includes tips on doing your research, deciding on a business model, understanding financing options for young entrepreneurs and six “must-do’s” for getting started.
Get Help and Mentorship
As mentioned above, not knowing how to start or manage a business is a huge concern for young entrepreneurs. But did you know you can get the services of a mentor – someone who has walked in your shoes – for free? SCORE is one such organization that can pair you with a mentor for general business guidance, or help in specific areas such as finance or marketing. Local Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers and other organizations also offer counseling, training and assistance. Find one near you here. You can also use SBA’s Events Calendar to find and sign up for training in your area.
Online Tools That Help at Every Stage
Wondering how to create a business plan? Need help determining how your business stacks up against the competition? Unclear of the steps involved in starting your business?
The SBA.gov website has developed numerous online tools and guides to help small businesses get information and answers they need quickly and efficiently. For example, these 10 Steps to Starting a Business and these 10 Steps to Hiring your First Employee guides are essential reading. Did you know you need a business license or permit to operate legally? This Licenses and Permits Search Tool can point you to what you need.
Other tools that business owners are finding extremely valuable include:
- Build a Business Plan Tool – Many of us put business planning off, thinking we’ll come back to it when we need to put something official in front of a potential investor. But it’s vital that young entrepreneurs plan their businesses, set goals and define plans for achieving them. To help create your plan, check out SBA’s interactive “Build a Business Plan” tool, which guides you through the process of creating a basic, downloadable business plan. The great thing about it is you can build a plan in smaller chunks of time, save your progress and return at your leisure.
- “SizeUp” Your Competition – How does your business stack up against the completion? Where are your competitors located? What are the best places to market your business? Use SBA’s “SizeUp” tool to crunch millions of data points and get customizable reports and statistics about your business and its competition. Just enter your industry, city, state and other details. SizeUp then runs various reports and provides maps and data related to your competition, suppliers and customers. It also highlights potential advertising opportunities.
- Want to Sell to Uncle Sam? To help you determine if your new business might qualify with the largest buyer in the world – the U.S. federal government – use SBA’s Size Standards Tool to see if you qualify for special set-aside contracts for small businesses.
- 8 Things you Can Do to Be Taken Seriously as a Young Entrepreneur
- Defer your Student Loan - Don’t let your student loan repayments hold you back from starting your own business. The Student Startup Plan (through the White House-led Startup America initiative) enables college graduates, including those looking to start a business, to lower student loan repayments.
- Young Entrepreneur Guide - SBA also hosts a one-stop portal for young entrepreneurs that brings together these resources and more.
Image courtesy of Steven Depolo via Flickr