Speaking about his own incredible path to business success, Microsoft’s Bill Gates once said: “We were young, but we had good advice and good ideas and lots of enthusiasm.”
There’s no doubt that good ideas and enthusiasm are among the vital traits for successful entrepreneurs, but, as Gates says, getting “good advice” is also essential.
But who should you turn to if you need advice or have questions about starting and running a business? Here’s an overview of invaluable online and face-to-face resources that provide free or low-cost counseling and training to new and aspiring business owners.
Have Questions? Need Answers Now? Try the SBA.gov Community and Discussion Boards
If you’re planning or running a business and need quick answers, then hop over to the SBA.gov Community and post your questions on one of the busy discussion boards. The community has more than 28,000 members, many of whom have either started their own business or helped others through the process. Discussion threads cover a variety of topics, including getting started, business law, taxes, and operating a home business.
Get Free Mentoring and Counseling Services from the Business Pros at SCORE
If you are looking for the advice of an expert walked the same path you’re exploring, consider SCORE. With a network of 13,000-plus volunteers and local chapters across the country, SCORE provides free and confidential counseling, mentoring, and advice to startups and small business owners nationwide. SCORE’s volunteers have business experience across 62 industries. SCORE also offers low cost seminars at its local chapters and online training.
SCORE has helped legions of business owners get started and grow. For example, when Jan Seale and Bob Brandenburger had to put retirement on hold, they set up a photographic note card business. Neither had any business ownership or sales experience, so they turned to their local SCORE chapter, where they were paired with counselor Steve Cooper. Steve provided free business advice and guidance in sales and marketing.
Small Business Development Centers – Training, Consulting, Networking, and More!
Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) serve more than one million small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs each year through free face-to-face business consulting, and low-cost training covering business planning, accessing capital, marketing, complying with regulations, and exporting. Many SBDCs also offer access to PCs, business software, and excellent networking opportunities and events so you can meet and learn from peers.
Funded in part by SBA, SBDCs represent the most comprehensive small business assistance network in the nation. Each state has multiple SBDC locations, some operating at the county level. Find an SBDC and learn more about what SBDCs can do for you here.
Learn About SBA Loan Programs and More from Your Local SBA Office
While SBA sponsors a variety of small business organizations like SCORE and SBDCs, SBA also has its own network of more than 50 district offices. These offices can be a useful starting point for pinpointing the support resources available to meet your specific business needs.
If you need capital to start or grow your business, local SBA offices can also provide information on SBA loan programs, the application process and participating lenders. Local offices also hold regular training workshops.
Women’s Business Centers – Helping Women Succeed in Entrepreneurship
Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) are part of a nationwide network that provides business training, counseling, and other resources to help women start and grow successful businesses. With funding from SBA, WBCs can also advise women about business financing such as SBA loan programs. If you are interested in government contracting, WBCs can also provide guidance and training resources to help you get started and navigate the process. Find your local WBC.
Are You a Veteran? Start a Business with the Help of a Veterans Business Outreach Center
If you are a veteran or service-disabled veteran, Veterans Business Outreach Centers provide a full menu of services, including training, advice, mentoring, and business planning assistance. Funded by SBA, there are 16 centers across the U.S. ready to help.