COVID-19 relief options and additional resources
LEARN MORE Close

Starting

SBA Small Business Learning Center: Training, Tools and Answers via Your Desktop

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: February 25, 2013 Updated: August 27, 2015

Starting or growing a business? Owning a small business can be a fulfilling endeavor, but as you probably already know or are just finding out – it requires that you wear many hats. This of course leaves you with little time to take a deep dive into the many aspects of starting and growing a business. Instead, many business owners turn to search engines for answers when questions come up.Learning Center

But what if you had access to a small business classroom that provided informed, accurate and always-available access to the advice and guidance you need?

Welcome to the SBA Small Business Learning Center.

Online Training and Tools for Small Business Owners

Launched in late 2012, the SBA Small Business Learning Center is an online portal that hosts a variety of self-paced online training courses, quick videos, web chats and more to help small business owners explore and learn about the many aspects of business ownership.

Content is filtered by topic, so no matter the stage of your business, or the kind of insight you need, you can quickly get answers.

For example, if you’re wondering how SBA loan programs work or just need a primer in accounting or small business taxes, check out these self-paced online financing courses and short videos. Or explore tips from the pros in these archived SBA Web Chats.

Other topics covered include starting a business as a young entrepreneur, an introduction to franchising, taking your business global with exporting, marketing 101, selling to the U.S. government, and much more. 

Get More Help Offline

And if you can’t find the training or advice that you need, use the “Get Local Assistance” interactive map to find one of many small business counseling, assistance and mentoring organizations in your community.

Browse around, and let us know what you think about the SBA Small Business Learning Center!

Learning Center

A Guide to SBA Loan Programs - Just one of the self-paced online courses available in the new SBA Learning Center

About the Author:

Caron_Beesley
Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

How a Virtual Office Creates a Professional Corporate Image

By Marco Carbajo, Guest Blogger
Published: February 14, 2013

During the initial stages of the business credit building process, I’m sure you have heard about the importance of setting up a commercial office location. A physical location that is zoned for business speaks volumes for your company and its operation.

If you decide to use your home address for your company’s business address, keep in mind that some lenders may not extend credit to a “home-based” business. However, you still have many credit opportunities with a home-based business; so don’t let that stop you.

If you do decide to use your home address, make sure you designate a specific area in your home where you can run your business in order to allow for the proper home office tax deductions.

But, if you’re adamant about having a commercial address but renting office space is out of the question, then you may want to consider a virtual office address.

Some companies offer a turnkey corporate image with all the tools you need to not only run a business, but to meet the business credit building requirements.

For a flat monthly fee, you get a business phone number, a live receptionist answering phone calls, a corporate business address for all your mailing and packages, personalized voice mail box that converts to email, and even a fax number that will convert to email.

It is an excellent solution for start-ups and small businesses looking to keep costs low while gaining all the resources of a professional corporate image.

If you are searching for a virtual office, consider one that includes the following:

  • Dedicated business phone number
  • Professional live receptionist answering calls in your business name
  • Corporate mailing address
  • Business fax number
  • Fax forwarding to email
  • Voice mail forwarding to email
  • Corporate voice mail boxes
  • Call forwarding to multiple phone numbers

While there are many companies offering virtual office services that can accommodate your business, it’s important to utilize the most cost effective solution as a startup company. There are companies that offer this type of service at an affordable price so you can establish a corporate image with all the resources already in place.

Keep in mind if you decide to set up a virtual office, make sure that all of the information you supply is identical to the information you have on your corporate documents. This includes things like the spelling of your company name to the description of your business operation.

Remember, there should be no differences in your company information across all business documents, registrations and listings.

Give your business the professional image you require to get ahead of the competition while you meet the compliance demands from creditors, suppliers and lenders.

About the Author:

Marco Carbajo
Marco Carbajo

Guest Blogger

Marco Carbajo is a business credit expert, author, speaker, and founder of the Business Credit Insiders Circle. He is a business credit blogger for Dun and Bradstreet Credibility Corp, the SBA.gov Community, About.com and All Business.com. His articles and blog; Business Credit Blogger.com, have been featured in 'Fox Small Business','American Express Small Business', 'Business Week', 'The Washington Post', 'The New York Times', 'The San Francisco Tribune',‘Alltop’, and ‘Entrepreneur Connect’.

Restrictions in Franchising

By FranchiseKing, Guest Blogger
Published: February 6, 2013

If you’re thinking of becoming the owner of a franchise-type of business, there’s something you need to know about franchising…and you may not like it.

Now, what I’m about to share probably won’t be a game-changer if you’re really bent on buying a franchise, but you need to have as much factual information on this business model before you invest in one.

Here goes:

You’re going to have certain restrictions placed on you.

And according to “Buying a Franchise: A Consumer Guide” published by The Federal Trade Commission, “These kinds of restrictions may limit your ability to exercise your own business judgment in operating your outlet. That said, if the franchisor does not limit the territory where each franchisee can sell, the franchisor and other franchisees may compete with you for the same customers, either by establishing their own outlets, or by selling to customers in your area through the Internet, catalogs, telemarketing, and the like.”

Please read it again.

Surprises Not Included

One of the best parts of franchising today has to do with transparency.

Years ago, you would have to drive, walk or ride your bicycle down to your local library, and spend hours just searching for information on franchising. I’m not even talking about information on specific franchise opportunities…just basic information on a franchise business works!

Things are vastly different now, obviously. Within minutes, you can get information on the franchise business model* just by using the search engine of your choice. There are even vast amounts of information readily available about the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD).

As a matter of fact, Item #8 (there are 23 items contained in the FDD) deals with the subject of this guest blog post: restrictions.

Item #8

Restrictions on Sources of Products and Services

This section tells whether the franchisor limits:

1.      Suppliers from whom you may purchase goods

2.      Goods or services you may offer for sale

3.      Where you can sell goods or services

4.      Use of the internet to sell goods or services to customers in and out of your territory and the right of the franchisor (or other franchisees) to use the Internet to solicit customers or to sell in your territory

According to the FTC, these kinds of restrictions may limit your ability to exercise your own business judgment in operating your outlet. That said, if the franchisor does not limit the territory* where each franchisee can sell, the franchisor and other franchisees may compete with you for the same customers, either by establishing their own outlets, or by selling to customers in your area through the Internet, catalogs, telemarketing and the like.

The FDD contains very specific things that have to do with the four items listed above. Make sure you understand what, where and how you can and cannot sell your products and services.

If you engage the services of a competent franchise attorney like I’ve been suggesting over the years, you’ll be able to have a complete understanding of any restrictions that will be placed on you as you move towards becoming your own boss.

* Non-US Government links

 

About the Author:

FranchiseKing
Joel Libava

Guest Blogger

The Franchise King®, Joel Libava, is the author of Become a Franchise Owner! and recently launched Franchise Business University.

Selling into the U.S. as a Foreign Business: Should You Incorporate Your Business Here?

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: February 6, 2013 Updated: August 18, 2015

Do you run an overseas business? Thinking of expanding and selling into the U.S. market?

Because U.S. residency or citizenship is not required, non-U.S. citizens can readily sell into the U.S. However, many overseas business owners aren’t clear on whether they are required to incorporate in the U.S. and the associated tax implications.

Here’s what you need to know:

Should I Incorporate My Business in the U.S.?

Essentially, if your intent is to sell goods into the U.S.—whether online or through U.S. partners such as a wholesaler—you may not have to file for incorporation in the U.S. However, if you plan to have a physical presence in the U.S. (such as an office or employees), then incorporation, whether as a corporation or limited liability corporation (LLC), is worth considering. Likewise, for online businesses in particular, remember that many U.S. consumers feel more confident buying from a registered U.S. business, so that’s another important factor to weigh up.

Each business is different and it’s important to look at incorporation in the context of your overall business goals, state incorporation laws, taxation considerations, as well as your ability to scale and manage that legal entity from overseas.

To understand the factors that might impact your decision, book some time with a good U.S. business attorney who understands both international and U.S. law.

How to Incorporate a Foreign Business in the U.S.

Once you’ve made the decision to incorporate, you’ll need to understand the process.

In the U.S., business incorporation occurs at the state level for all business owners, regardless of whether you are a citizen or a foreign national.

The process will vary from state-to-state, but generally involves two steps: applying to register in that particular state, and establishing a registered agent with a valid address in that state (no P.O. Box numbers). A registered agent can be either the business owner or another person who is authorized to receive legal papers on behalf of the business, such as an attorney or secretary.

What Business Structure Should I Choose?

The most popular choice of business structure for non-U.S. citizens is to form an LLC, although you can also legally form and own shares in a C corporation. Non-U.S. citizens cannot retain shares in an S corporation because business income is reported on personal U.S. income tax returns.

To learn more about choosing the right business structure and how to file for incorporation, check out SBA’s Choose your Business Structure guide. This blog offers more insight: Top 10 Questions About Small Business Incorporation Answered.

Which State Should I Incorporate In?

If most of your clients are concentrated in a specific state or you have an office or physical presence in a state, it may make sense to incorporate there. If you don’t plan on having a physical presence in the U.S., you can form a corporation or LLC in states such as Nevada and Delaware, both of which are considered friendly to foreign companies.

If you operate in more than one state, you can elect to incorporate in any of these states. However, you are required to register your business in the other states in which you operate; this process is called foreign qualification and you can apply for it with the help of a lawyer or online incorporation service. Again, for the best advice, consult a U.S. business attorney who has expertise in both U.S. and international law.

Do I Need to Pay U.S. Taxes?

If you are a non-resident business owner, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will tax you on income that is sourced in the U.S. If your business is incorporated in the U.S., you may also be required to pay an annual fee to the state where your business is incorporated.

The IRS offers a guide specifically on International Business, but if you are still left with more questions, it is always good to check with a qualified attorney or accountant.

U.S. citizens will likely need an Employment Identification Number to start up, a process that requires their social security number (SSN). In the case of foreign businesses, an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) will suffice. The IRS issues these 9-digit tax processing numbers to individuals who are required to pay US taxes but who are ineligible for a SSN, including resident and non-resident aliens and foreign nationals.

 

About the Author:

Caron_Beesley
Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

10 Tips for Veteran-Owned Businesses Seeking to Sell to the U.S. Federal Government

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: January 31, 2013 Updated: August 31, 2016

Are you a veteran-owned small business and thinking of selling to your former boss – the U.S. federal government?

Part of the mission of the SBA is to provide assistance to veterans and service-disabled veterans who return home to start, resume or grow their businesses. In addition to supporting veteran business owners through entrepreneurial training, and providing access to capital, the SBA also provides resources, tools and support to help veterans start and grow businesses through government contracting.

If you are a veteran-owned small business, check out these 10 tips for getting started selling to the U.S government and winning a government contract.

1) Boots to Business – Get Help Starting Your Business - Boots to Business is a public-private partnership program that gives service members support to help them learn the nuts and bolts of how to start and grow a business and access SBA tools and resources available to them.

2) Find a Veterans Business Outreach Center – The SBA’s Office of Veterans Business Development oversees multiple Veterans Business Outreach Centers across the country. In addition to helping veterans build a business plan and start a business, these centers can help veterans land government contracts, get access to mentoring services, and find training.

3) Review your Financing Options – In addition to a range of other loan programs, SBA’s Patriot Express Program is specifically designed for small businesses that are more than 51 percent owned or controlled by veterans or members of the military community and are available up to $500,000.

4) Familiarize Yourself with Small Business Incentives for Government Contracting – The law mandates that government agencies establish contracting goals that require them to reach out and consider small businesses and service-disabled veteran-owned businesses for procurement opportunities. Currently, 23 percent of contracts must be awarded to small businesses and three percent to service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses. These opportunities will help open doors, but you must still be able to sell your business on performance, price and ability. Contact your Veterans Business Outreach Center to learn more about these and other incentive opportunities.

5) Learn About How the Government Buys – The government applies standardized procedures to buy products and services it needs from suppliers that meet certain qualifications. The primary contracting methods used by the government include micro-purchases, simplified procedures, sealed bidding, contract negotiations and consolidated purchasing. Learn more about these in another SBA online training course, Government Contracting 101: How the Government Buys, or read a quick overview of the process in my earlier blog: Government Contracting – Learn how the Government Buys from Small Businesses.

6) Understand the Rules – Understanding the government’s procurement rules is critical to your success as a government contractor.  The FAR, or Federal Acquisitions Regulations, is the roadmap for doing business with the government. Check out these resources on SBA.gov to help you become familiar with the regulations that apply to most federal contractors.

7) Size Does Matter – As a small business, certain government programs may apply to you. The question then becomes: What is a small business, or, more specifically, is your firm a small business? Over the years, SBA has established and revised numerical definitions for all for-profit industries, and this numerical definition is called a "size standard."  Use SBA’s Size Standards Tool to help determine if your business is truly “small” and qualifies for government contracts.

8) Learn the Process of Selling to the Government and Find Opportunities – Selling to the government is not as big of a mystery as you might think. There are several fundamental steps you should follow:

For a deeper dive into this process, read Selling to the Government – Get Started with These 5 Steps or check out SBA’s information about Registering for Government Contracting, which explains the easy steps you need to follow to being bidding on government proposals.

9) Find Subcontracting Opportunities – An alternative to seeking prime contracts is to explore subcontracting opportunities. Subcontracting with a prime contractor can be a profitable experience as well as a growth opportunity for a business. To help small businesses find opportunities, SBA maintains SUB-Net, a searchable database of available subcontract opportunities.

10) Have a Question? – If you have questions about the federal marketplace, government contracting methods, contract opportunities or winning recovery and other federal contracts, check out the following resources:

  • SBA’s Government Contracting Guide – Explore the process of government contracting with easy how-to guides and resources.
  • Government Contracting Classroom – Available via SBA’s Learning Center, these self-paced, free online courses cover the fundamentals of selling to the government as a small business owner.
  • Get In-Person Assistance and Training – SBA and its resource partners can answer your questions about the federal market place, government contracting methods, and finding contract opportunities. Find your local SBA office, Veterans Business Outreach Center and more with this interactive map

About the Author:

Caron_Beesley
Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

How to Take on Venture Capital Without Losing Control of Your Start-Up

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: January 28, 2013 Updated: August 4, 2016

Considering options for funding your start-up? Wondering if now is the right time to seek venture capital, but worried about losing control of your business?

Here are some tips for weighing your funding options, finding the right venture capital firm for your needs, and working with them once you’ve received your first injection of seed money.

Is Venture Capital Right for Your Small Business?

If you are looking for funding under $200,000, smaller angel investors (this could include borrowing from family and friends) or peer-to-peer lending or crowdfunding might be better options than a larger VC firm. Other alternatives include SBA loans. SBA doesn’t provide the loan; instead, they provide a repayment guarantee to banks, removing much of the risk of lending to small businesses. If your business is engaged in a high-tech industry or R&D, another option is a Small Business Innovation Research Grant. These federal funds support the critical start-up and development stages of small businesses.

Finding the Right VC Firm

If you have a proof of concept and are ready for a significant investment to fund your next stage of growth, then venture capital (VC) might be for you. But how do you find the right VC firm with which to align your business?

Given that a VC firm is going to be involved in your business’ funding and management, choosing one that provides a good match for your business is critical. Look for companies that have experience with businesses and industries like yours. Since a VC is going to be actively involved in your business, other factors such as its personality and core values are also important. A VC that is located close by might also be important.

So where can you find potential VC investors? If you have a good network then there’s a strong likelihood you can pinpoint potential investors via this route. Start locally and extend your search from there. Here are some tips and resources that can help:

  • Start in your Community – If you are involved in a local Chamber of Commerce or other small business group, start your search here. Talk to experts and business peers alike. Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) and Women’s Business Centers may also be able to help introduce you to local investors. Find a center here.
  • Talk to Your State Economic Development Agency – At the state level, State and Local Economic Development Agencies may be able to help refer you to investors in your region.
  • Consider Trade Associations – Most industries are represented by a trade association, this is another great place to expand your search and meet potential investors. You can also look into national and local investing and venture capital groups like the National Venture Capital Association and the Angel Capital Association.

Your next step is to present any potential investor with a business plan.  SBA’s online Build a Business Plan tool can help you create one.

How to Maintain Leadership Control of Your Company

Many small business owners are reticent to invite VC funding because they’re concerned about losing control of their business. While it’s true that a VC firm will insist on controlling more than 50 percent of an early-stage entrepreneurial enterprise—does this mean you actually relinquish control of your business? Not necessarily. VC deals are structured around mutual incentives and milestones that are beneficial for all, and are rarely about one-sided control. VCs want business founders to aspire to grow and succeed, and they structure the financing deals to ensure this. For example, the terms of typical VC financing dictate that the investors don’t realize a profit until management does (assuming that they’ve already seen a return in capital invested) and vice versa.

Another emerging trend, as reported by the New York Times, is that VCs are increasingly putting a premium on young, visionary entrepreneurs who grew up with the Internet, social media and mobile technologies. With this clout behind them, these young founders are becoming more assertive in funding rounds, securing better terms and even cashing out their investors before an initial public offering.

That’s not to say your VC can’t move to replace you if your business isn’t performing or hitting key milestones. Some other things you can do to ensure you retain some level of control include the following:

  • Insist on an Employment Contract – This can minimize the risk of founders getting fired by their board of directors. Negotiate this before any seed money has exchanged hands.
  • Hire Stellar Employees – Poor staff will compromise the success of your business and jeopardize your position on the management team. By hiring right, you’ll ensure key milestones are understood and met, and profits are realized.
  • Collaborate with your Investors – In addition to funding, investors bring a wealth of experience. Capitalize on this and treat your VC as a partner—not as a threat.

For other tips, read Surprising Ways to Maintain Control of Your Business with Investor Approval from Yahoo Small Business Advisor.

Has your business sought VC financing? What best practices can you share for working with VCs? Leave a comment below.

About the Author:

Caron_Beesley
Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Starting