SBA, SCORE, and SBDCs Explained - 3 Essential Local Resources for Small Business Owners

Updated: Wednesday, April 2, 2014 - 09:34
Created: Thursday, July 29, 2010 - 04:43

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“When you’re the business owner, there’s no one behind you. You're the back-stop.” (Warren Brown, Washington, D.C. Small Business Person of the Year 2006).

How many days and nights has this reality kept you on your toes? From making sure your business stays on track to cheerleading your employees, day-to-day business ownership is about what you make it.

But what happens when you need help? Back-stop or not, you can't go it alone forever. Help is at hand, if you know where to find it.

The government, in particular, offers a great deal of resources that support small business owners, both online and locally. Take a look at this local assistance guide and you'll find a variety of option's local SBA offices, Small Business Development Centers, SCORE and more.

But just what does each of these provide? And where should you start? Here's an overview of the services and support offered, and not offered, by three essential government-sponsored small business support organizations.

1. Small Business Administration (SBA) District Offices

What They Do: The SBA is probably best known for the loan guarantee programs it provides to small business owners in partnership with banks and lending institutions. However, this federal agency also operates local district offices nationwide that provide free or low cost advice and counseling on a variety of small business issues.

SBA district offices can help guide you through available SBA loan options and the application process and steer you towards small business-friendly banks. SBA offices also provide regular in-person and online training and workshops on a variety of topics including government contracting opportunities; disaster preparedness; assistance for veterans and minorities; the SBA loan process; and more.

Local SBA disaster field offices also help small business owners with disaster loan assistance in the event of a federally declared disaster.

What They Don't Do: SBA local offices do not help you process your loan paperwork. You must work through your bank for an SBA loan. The SBA itself also doesn't provide direct loans; your lender will submit your loan package to the SBA for approval. SBA offices also don't provide grants for start-ups or for-profits. Read more about the SBA loan process here.

Find your local SBA Office and follow SBA on Twitter and Facebook.


2. SCORE – Counselors to America's Small Business

What They Do: SCORE (previously known as Service Corps of Retired Executives) is a network of retired business executives, leaders and volunteers who provide free and confidential counseling, mentoring and advice to small business owners nationwide.

Sponsored by the SBA, SCORE has over 11,000 volunteers in 320 chapters who share their expertise through in-person and online counseling. Be prepared to deal with several experts if you need end-to-end business advice. SCORE specialists are just that – they often have a specific area of expertise (HR, business planning, etc.) and while your primary counselor will be your main point of contact, they can help identify and introduce you to other specialists.

SCORE also operates a resource-rich website that includes how-to guides as well as a listing of its local branches which also operate in-person workshops.

You can also get free advice via email. Enter a keyword or area of expertise in the search box on the mentors page – or browse mentors’ profiles by skill or industry experience – and you’ll get results of available folks who you can email for help.

What They Don't Do: SCORE does not provide small business financing or legal advice. Depending on the nature of your business question, you may be better served by a lawyer.

Find SCORE locations near you and follow SCORE on Twitter and Facebook.


3. Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs)

What They Do: Small Business Development Centers are also sponsored by the SBA and provide management assistance to small business owners in the form of one-on-one counseling, training seminars, assistance with SBA loans and technical assistance.

Local SBDC full-time employees and volunteers are incredibly active in promoting entrepreneurial success in local communities. In addition to free counseling and complimentary seminars, several SBDCs (funding permitting) also operate resource centers that provide free use of PCs, business software and access to advice from counselors and a library of business publications. Networking sessions also promote knowledge transfer and business opportunities.

Anyone who is interested in starting a small business or in expanding an already existing business is eligible to use the services of an SBDC. Each state has at least one SBDC, some operating at the county level.

What They Don't Do: As with SCORE counselors, SBDC offices do not provide financing or legal advice. However, many SBDCs often have local partnerships with legal service providers and law offices that may provide free consultations to SBDC referrals.

Local SBDCs maintain their own Web sites (find your nearest SBDC) and many are active on Facebook and Twitter.

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Type: Community Blog