Running a business is always worth it, but it’s never easy. Get free, expert support to grow, fund, and manage your business by visiting a local Small Business Development Center.
No matter what point you’re at on your journey of small business ownership, it never hurts to get a little help. Something many successful small business owners have in common is knowing their strengths and knowing when to ask for support. Fortunately, there is free, professional, in-person assistance available for entrepreneurs across the country at Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs). Here’s a closer look at what SBDCs are, what assistance is offered, and where to find a center near you.
What are Small Business Development Centers?
Small Business Development Centers are physical offices located across the country designed to support entrepreneurs and small business owners with opening or purchasing a business or grow their existing operations. Sponsored by the Small Business Administration (SBA), SBDCs are managed, operated, and receive funding from higher education institutions, private sector foundations, state and local chambers of commerce, and economic development cooperations.
SBDCs offer the unique benefit of free in-person support from seasoned professionals. Small Business Development Centers are generally tailored to running a small business in a specific region since state programs and universities often run SBDCs. However, SBDCs also have national resources available thanks to partnerships with the SBA.
Services Offered by Small Business Development Centers
The services offered by SBDCs are nothing short of expansive, and the result of the guidance provided is truly impactful. For example, the SBDC program in Wisconsin recently celebrated helping businesses in the state exceed $100 million in capital investments as a result of their assistance last year. The same statewide program provided consulting which lead to 256 new businesses opening in 2018. With tangible impact and successes like these, SBDCs are one of the most valuable resources available for small business owners of all backgrounds. Here’s an overview of some of the services you can expect from a SBDC.
Whether you’re creating a new business plan to get investors excited or if you feel like your current business plan needs revamping, SBDCs are a great place to turn to for help. SBDC business advisors have a wide variety of business knowledge and expertise and can help you with analyzing cash flow, marketing, hiring and even some legal concerns like trademarks and intellectual property.
Small Business Development Centers don’t provide funding directly to small businesses, but they do help entrepreneurs understand all their small business financing options. Whether you’re seeking an SBA loan, credit card financing, equity financing, or want help attracting investors, you can get guidance and application help.
Becoming a manager and leader in business is often one of the most difficult transitions for new small business owners. Successfully running a team requires skills that haven’t been taught to everyone. Fortunately, SBDCs offer classes, coaching and networking to address this gap in experience and education.
If you’re running a lean team, you may personally still be in charge of keeping track of your financials and filing your taxes. Utilizing Intuit’s QuickBooks makes this easier, but there can still be a learning curve. SBDCs offer small business software training on helpful platforms like QuickBooks so you can easily manage your books yourself.
Franchising is a great way to get on the fast track to successful business ownership, but all the options and information can seem overwhelming. SBDC consultants can help you better understand your options when it comes to buying a franchise and continue the process with funding assistance.
This is just a high-level overview of a few of the many services provided. SBDCs have experts on staff from a wide variety of business experiences and can assist in addressing a multitude of needs. To get a better understanding of the full range of services available, contact your local SBDC office or visit their website. Chances are, whatever it is you need help with, they can offer both in-person assistance and point you to helpful resources.
Where to Find a Small Business Development Center
There are over 1000 SBDC locations across the country, and they’re in all 50 states. The most popular location for SBDC offices is on or near college and university campuses, which they also likely partner with for funding. To find an office near you, you can perform a search with your zip code on the SBA site here. If you prefer, you can also call the SBA Answer Desk at 1-800-8-ASK-SBA. For the hearing impaired the TDD number is 202-205-7333.
How are SBDCs Connected to the SBA?
If you’ve previously come across information about SBCDs, it may have been while you were researching SBA loan funding. And while SBDCs do offer assistance with SBA funding, as well as other types of small business funding, the SBA does not directly manage each development center. However, the SBA provides up to 50 percent of funding for each SBDC office. Because SBDCs across the country have varying needs and audiences, the SBA regional offices partner with each SBDC to ensure coordination of resources, tailored to meet the needs of the local audience.
Small Business Development Centers are an extremely valuable resource for both new and seasons small business owners. If you feel like there’s an area of your business you’d like to see grow or a skill you could improve on as a small business owner, take advantage of the free expert resources widely available at SBDCs across the country.