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Small Business Administration: A U.S. Entrepreneur's Best Friend

by Yank Elliott, MBA & IAHBE Staff Writer

NOTE: This free article is being provided as a courtesy from the IAHBE. To sign up today for a 30-day, no-hassle trial membership AND business-building IntroPak bonuses valued at over $1,000, click here for details.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is the federal government agency whose sole responsibility is helping you succeed with your small business. Many entrepreneurs have heard about their loan packages, but are you taking advantage of the additional free information, resources, and even personal assistance they have to offer? These people are paid to provide assistance in every area of your business. They are knowledgeable, and they are glad to help. All you need to do is ask.

Every politician in the entire country wants the U.S. economy to thrive. What better way than to support the engine that drives this economy: small business?

Small businesses provide 75% of net new jobs added to our economy, and they represent 99.7% of all employers. To see just how important we small entrepreneurs are, just look at this page: http://www.sbaonline.sba.gov/aboutsba/sbastats.html.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), though always ready to help, used to be considered too complex for the average small business. For many years, only those businesses with legal and accounting advisors took advantage of most programs.

The U.S. government is like any other lender: it wants to be repaid. So any loan program will have questions and procedures some will consider difficult and inhibiting, but in just the last few years, the SBA has become about as friendly as any lender can be. They not only provide the money to operate your business but they also offer counseling on a variety of problems from start-up through selling your business.

SBA Online

Other services can help you find customers or even products to sell. And the SBA Website is very user friendly. Just look at http://www.sbaonline.sba.gov/.

Perhaps the first thing to strike you is the top center flash block calling attention to “Success Stories”. The first one I caught was about Premier Pet Products http://www.sbaonline.sba.gov/ss/ss11.html. This business was inspired by the rescue of a former racing greyhound about to be destroyed. The business flourished on a $5,000 loan and was housed in the owner’s home.

Now Premier Pet Products is a $2.4 million company with 40 employees.

For ideas and inspiration everyone, would do well to go through this section and read how successful entrepreneurs have used SBA services to help them grow thriving businesses.

The left sidebar has some powerful help for the small entrepreneur.

Among the “Hot Items” are these:

Worried about preparing a plan for you business? See Business Plan Basics and study the four core questions to ask yourself http://www.sba.gov/starting_business/planning/basic.html.

The SBA is basically a lender but under the Grants section they provide lists of Federal and State grant URLs (http://www.sbaonline.sba.gov/expanding/grants.html). You may qualify for money you don’t have to repay!

Because 97% of U.S. exporters are small businesses, the SBA provides a lot of aid in this sector. The SBA Office of International Trade (http://www.sbaonline.sba.gov/oit/) shows where you can find regional and local offices for personal assistance.

For a complete export course look at this: http://www.sbaonline.sba.gov/oit/info/Guide-To-Exporting/index.html.

To locate new business connections, see PRO-Net (http://pro-net.sba.gov/). This site provides many sources of opportunity and help to obtain customers or clients for your business.

Startup Guide (http://www.sba.gov/starting_business/startup/guide.html) shows you exactly how to start, finance, operate, and find customers for your small business. It includes a list of all kinds of support services you may need. Here is all the information you need to succeed.

Another area on the left sidebar is “SBA Programs”. Here you will find everything the SBA does including a special Website for women in business http://www.sbaonline.sba.gov/financing/special/women.html.

The “Startup Kit” we discussed above covers every aspect of running your business. But wait!

The SBA has this material organized in a much more useful manner at the top of the right sidebar. The elements are “Starting Your Business,” “Financing Your Business,” “Managing Your Business,” “Business Opportunities,” and “Disaster Recovery.”

How this arrangement helps is to group all the information into related areas. For example, under “Business Opportunities,” there are sections dealing with the basics, rules, finding opportunities, size standards, marketing, proposals, small business programs, and special interests. Each section contains links to everything you might need to clear up issues in the group.

The Disaster Recovery section is one every entrepreneur should study right now and hope you never need it. The writer has lived in North Carolina’s Hurricane Alley for many years. Recent disasters have included Bertha, Fran, Bonnie, Dennis, Floyd, and Isabel (the center went directly over our house). We have been most impressed by the rapid response of the SBA and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency).

After the latest Isabel disaster, those who applied quickly received aid quickly, often in two or three days. Study this section before you need it so you can deal with disaster to avoid greater loss.

Small business is so important politically and economically that all government will continue to push the SBA into more areas of aid to entrepreneurs. Visit http://www.sbaonline.sba.gov/ as soon as you can and see how this agency can help you.

Be sure to peruse the information on Small Business Person of the Year awards throughout the U.S. to get ideas about what you can do.

If they did it so can you!

Local Small Business Counseling

The SBA’s Small Business Development Program works through centers scattered throughout the country. From their Website (http://www.sba.gov/sbdc/), there is a link for locating a Small Business Development Center near you; they are almost always affiliated with a state college or university.

Not only do the staff of these centers offer free business counseling, but they usually offer many mini-courses and a well-stocked library on everything from business entities and business plans to taxes and technology for your small business. As your business grows, there may be a small fee charged, but initially the use of the center’s staff and facilities are free except for very reasonable costs for the courses (well under $100).

The advantage of using your closest local Small Business Development Center is that their staff will be the most knowledgeable about local business trends, marketing, laws, and taxes that might affect your business. They will also know about local funding, financing, or other assistance. They will guide you through the process of writing a business plan and work with you as your business grows.

A visit to your closest Small Business Development Center should be a top priority for any home-based business owner, even if all you do is familiarize yourself with what they have to offer.

The SBA is charged with stimulating the national economy by promoting small business, so take advantage of their offerings and make your tax dollars work for YOU for a change!

RESOURCES
Small business statistics, http://www.sbaonline.sba.gov/aboutsba/sbastats.html
Small Business Administration home, http://www.sbaonline.sba.gov/
Success Stories, http://www.sbaonline.sba.gov/ss/ss11.html
Business Plan Basics, http://www.sba.gov/starting_business/planning/basic.html
Grants list, http://www.sbaonline.sba.gov/expanding/grants.html
International Trade, http://www.sbaonline.sba.gov/oit/
Export course, http://www.sbaonline.sba.gov/oit/info/Guide-To-Exporting/index.html
Business Opportunities, http://pro-net.sba.gov/
Startup guide, http://www.sba.gov/starting_business/startup/guide.html
Women’s website, http://www.sbaonline.sba.gov/financing/special/women.html
Small Business Development Centers, http://www.sba.gov/sbdc/

© Yank Elliott. All rights reserved worldwide.


Yank Elliott is a home-based entrepreneur and freelance business writer in Hurricane Alley, North Carolina, USA. His Website is http://www.furriwhalesworld.com. He is currently a staff writer for IAHBE.


Disclaimer: The information presented and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of Work-at-Home-Business.com and/or its partners.
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