Feeling stressed out? Overwhelmed with everything you have to do? As a small business owner or entrepreneur, you may reach a point where you need help juggling all those balls. Sometimes the decision is easy – simply outsource the task to a professional. However, if you find yourself strapped for cash, an option that you may want to consider is researching to see if there are any government funded resources available to you. Here in the United States, the government has resources available to businesses including free consulting and other services to assist small businesses. (I always refer to them as my tax dollars at work.)
Launching a New Business
Several years ago, my husband and I launched a home based business that involved designing and manufacturing a specialized piece of photography equipment. We were packaging this equipment with a book (that we were writing) and customized websites (based on website templates that we were designing). It was an ambitious project that we were undertaking together.
Like many aspiring entrepreneurs, we quickly found ourselves in need of extra help. After prioritizing what needed to be done, we searched for resources that were available for startup companies like ours who were operating on a limited budget.
U.S. Small Business Administration Resources
Having been down-sized myself a couple of years prior, I was already taking advantage of free consulting that is offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). (Actually, I may have found my consultant through the MA office of the Small Business Development Centers (SBDC).) The SBDC is funded through the SBA and operates offices in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Territories. These two organizations work hand-in-hand and there’s an amazing amount of free resources through these programs.
Taking Advantage of Free Resources
When we met with our consultant, we would bring in our business plan and our marketing materials and he would advise us how to proceed. When we needed advice on patents, he put us in touch with a patent lawyer who explained the advantages of provisional patents. (This individual provided us with his advice for free only because he chose to. This person was not associated in any way with the SBDC or the SBA. He was simply someone who offered to help us.)
In addition to consulting, we were also introduced to the internship program at the local university. Through this program, we were able to hire interns who assisted us with our programming needs for our websites. Although the university that we approached did not offer graphic design or development in Adobe Flash, we did find a student who had acquired those skills on his own. This became a win-win situation for both us and our student. We included him in many of our discussions and he worked alongside us. We acted as mentors on the business side and he brought his creativity to our fledgling business. (Hiring an intern may not work well for everyone but it certainly worked well for us.)
I was fortunate to find these resources by networking and researching. (The first step was to admit that we needed help.) Even if you don’t need the level of consulting that we sought, an internship may work well for you. There’s also a wealth of low-cost and free classes available. It’s a matter of finding them and taking advantage of what’s out there.
Have you ever worked with someone from the SBA or SBDC? Have you ever used interns? What sort of resources have you taken advantage of? I’d love to hear what other resources you’re aware of as well as what is available in other countries too.