As an entrepreneur, you’re used to going about it on your own. And that independent, go-getter mentality is a part of what makes you a great small business owner.
But another equally important quality of an effective small business owner is the ability to get help for their business when you need it.
Whether you’re trying to find a business accountant to help out with your small business taxes, confused about the economics behind the business you want to run, don’t know where to look for a business loan, or just want to learn how to be a better manager, there are many small business resources out there that you can use when you need help.
One of the best resources to check out is your local Small Business Development Center. If you’re new to Small Business Development Centers, then this guide is for you.
Here’s everything you need to know about your Small Business Development Center—including where to find the closest one for your small business.
First off, let’s run through the basics of a Small Business Development Center.
The United States has a large network of almost 1,000 Small Business Development Centers, hosted by top universities, colleges, and state economic development agencies. But the whole effort is funded by the U.S. Congress through a partnership with the Small Business Administration—the government agency that guarantees SBA loans for small businesses.
There are now 63 “Lead” Small Business Development Centers across the country. So in every state, you’ll find a Small Business Development Center “headquarter” that coordinates services offered to small businesses in every state. If you happen to be located close to a Lead Center, then you’ll find the most resources at that center.
But if you’re not close to a headquarter location, don’t worry—you’re bound to find a Small Business Development Center close to you. To find a convenient location, use the SBA’s Small Business Development Center locator tool.
A Small Business Development Center has a lot to offer small business owners.
Your Small Business Development Center should be your go-to resource for when you need to…
When it comes down to it, a Small Business Development Center is a one-stop shop for advice for both experienced business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs.
One of the best aspects of Small Business Development Centers is that they’re tailored to your location. General business advice can be valuable for any business, but you might find that the information and assistance you get at your local Small Business Development Center is more useful for your specific industry, your local customers, and your neighboring competitors.
If you’re using your local Small Business Development Center, the advice and resources you’ll get will have a big impact on the day-to-day of running your business.
And when you take a big-picture look at how the program affects the economy and America’s small businesses as a whole, you’ll realize just how important Small Business Development Centers are.
Take a look at the numbers from last year. Small Business Development Centers…
And that’s just to name a few of the program’s accomplishments in 2016 alone. Year after year, Small Business Development Centers empower small business owners to help their businesses reach new heights.
Don’t get us wrong—every resource offered at a Small Business Development Center can be valuable for a small business owner, so there’s no reason not to make the most out of what the center has to offer.
But if you’re wondering what resources you absolutely shouldn’t miss out on during your next trip to your Small Business Development Center, here’s what we think you should check out.
While a Small Business Development Center doesn’t directly lend or offer grants to small businesses itself, it can be an invaluable resource for small business owners on the hunt for financing.
Your Small Business Development Center can connect you to local small business grants that you might be eligible for and help you prepare your grant proposal. Or, if you’re gearing up to apply for a small business loan, you can use your Small Business Development Center to help you prepare everything you need for your application. One of their many business counselors can help you write a business plan or organize the business financials and legal documents you’ll need for your business loan application.
Financing a business can be tough work. So if you work with a Small Business Development Center representative through every step of getting a business loan, you’ll be much more likely to do the process right.
One of the best ways to grow your own small business is to check out what other similar businesses are doing well. And to get those nuggets of advice and wisdom from like-minded small business owners, you’ll need to go out and meet those people.
One of the best places to network for your small business is at conferences and events held in your local area.
How do you find these events? Easy—your local Small Business Development Center.
The Network of Small Business Development Centers hosts their own SBDC Conference each year with a variety of small business speakers that you can learn from. But because the center focuses on all things small business in your area, they’ll also compile a list of small business events and conferences that you can attend in your local area.
Use these events to learn from other small business owners, build a network of similar small businesses, or even reach new customers for your business.
A Small Business Development Center’s free business consulting is arguably one of the best programs that you can find at your local center. Small Business Development Centers offer no-cost, one-on-one, long-term business advising with professionals in your field.
A business consultant at a Small Business Development Center can advise you on a variety of business needs—like developing your business plan, finding a business loan, navigating your manufacturing, recovering from a disaster, learning more about imports and exports for your business, aiding in market research, choosing a small business health insurance… the list goes on and on.
Plus, this professional business advising program is tailored to all types of small business owners—including veterans, women, and minorities. They also advise current business owners or aspiring entrepreneurs who are disabled, young, or operating in low and moderate-income urban and rural communities. So no matter the type of business you run, and where you run it, you’re sure to find a long-term business mentor that can advise you throughout your career as a small business owner.
As a busy small business owner, you might not have time to visit your Small Business Development Center in person each week.
If this is the case, don’t worry—the Small Business Development Center website has a great eLearning portal.
The eLearning resource allows you to filter all your applicable resources by your business’s state. So if you operate your business in New York, you’ll find an eLearning site with resources for business planning, financing, and taxes that are tailored to businesses in New York and target industries specific to New York.
If you use the eLearning portal, you’ll get most of the specific resources you’d find at your local Small Business Development Center without having to take time out of your day to visit the actual location.
Any wannabe entrepreneur or experienced business owner can become a member of their local Small Business Development Center.
If you are a member, you’ll have exclusive access to special offers, discounts, and opportunities from your Small Business Development Center’s sponsors and exhibitors.
Member-only offers are updated and rotate throughout the year, but you can usually expect to get discounts and free trials on small business software and advising services, free guides from small business resources, and access to invite-only small business conferences and events.
For instance, if you were a member of your Small Business Development Center right now, you could take advantage of a 30% discount on QuickBooks Pro, Premier, or Online, a free business acquisition guide from BizBuySell, and a Constant Contact client discount.
The access to discounts and offers as a Small Business Development Center is a reason in and of itself to sign up as a member at your local Small Business Development Center.
When it comes down to it, we can’t think of a reason why a small business owner shouldn’t use a Small Business Development Center. If one is in your local area, then you’ll have easy access to free small business resources to grow your business.
And if visiting your local Small Business Development Center is what moves the needle for your business, you’ll be happy you took advantage of this invaluable resource.