Low Cost Resources Small Business Owners and Entrepreneurs Can Access

Share Button

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.

Share Button

Author: Sherryl Perry

Welcome! If you're looking for help building an Internet presence that fits your needs and works for you, you're in the right place. I blog common sense articles about WordPress, social media and SEO. My goal is to help small business owners and entrepreneurs understand their core business. Together, we can develop and implement business strategies that make sense to you.

68 thoughts on “Low Cost Resources Small Business Owners and Entrepreneurs Can Access”

  1. That is right about asking for help. We always think we know it all, regarding a new business, but when we get in over our heads, it is time to call out for someone to help our business get up and running the way we see it on paper or in our heads.

  2. The Retail Owners Institute has how-to explanations and resources for managing and controlling profits, inventory, and cash flow in a retail business. Nice resources 🙂

  3. A lot of business owners do not do proper research before launching a new venture. Any resources that are provided whether through private or banking options are always valuable. a lot of people would like to think they can find funding through angel investors but they are few and far between.

    1. Kevin,
      It is unfortunate that some business owners don’t do more research. Some of the resources that I mentioned above can be invaluable for someone researching opportunities like angel investors and funding options. Even if you don’t think a particular tactic is right for you, just attending some of the free seminars to learn more about it may introduce you to an idea or a person that could end up being a turning point for you. There are a lot of opportunities available if we seek them out.
      Sherryl Perry recently posted..3 Steps to Develop a Branding Strategy for Social MediaMy Profile

  4. Hi Sherryl,

    Thanks for sharing this article with us. There are many free resources available on the web for small business owners. But to keep your business successful requires proper use of these resources. Resources for businesses are meant for increasing productivity and making the job easie. Here are some of best free resources I found for small business owners and entrepreneurs:

  5. Thanks for letting me know that you found my article valuable Kevin. Another source that I don’t personally recommend is SCORE. The reason that I don’t recommend them is because where I live (Massachusetts), the volunteers are primarily retirees with manufacturing experience. That doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t be a wonderful resource for someone else. Also, the SCORE office near you may have volunteers with totally different skill sets. I hope you find resources to fit your needs.
    Sherryl Perry recently posted..3 Ways to Build Awareness and Get Ideas for Your Website BlogMy Profile

  6. It is extremely important for small business owners and entrepreneurs to make use of resources described here. Each entrepreneur has to take some time to visit helpful resources and get helpful information. As an entrepreneur, who owns business you will manage to take advantage of such resourses. Especially if these resources are free you will manage to gain a lot of benefits and will have nothing to lose at all.

  7. It’s good to hear your endorsement of the SBA. It is a wonderful resource. As for interns, I paid my interns through the University and it worked extremely well. My interns submitted their time sheets online and I approved them. My interns were paid and I was invoiced by the University monthly. It was a very smooth process. Thanks for commenting.
    Sherryl Perry recently posted..3 Steps to Protect Your WordPress Blog from HackersMy Profile

  8. Hi Sherrly,

    Great post. I was just thinking the other day how I was going to start hitting local colleges to look for interns. They get free training and I get free labor… win – win! 🙂

    Thanks for the SBDC link. Oddly enough I recently came up with a physical product idea (yeah, my brain doesn’t turn off, online or offline, lol) and getting funding would really help. I will definitely look into that. I have forgot how useful the SBA is. I used to be a regular in their small office in the Manhattan library. 😉

    Cheers my dear!

    1. Your brain does not turn off does it Michele! Good luck with the SBA. The resources available do vary depending on where you are but our SBA is plugged into our local university and there’s a wealth of help available. There are some amazing monthly events offered at our university including funding opportunities. Sometimes, the connections that you can make at them turn out to be more valuable than the sessions themselves.
      Sherryl Perry recently posted..Treat Your Blog Like a NewspaperMy Profile

  9. Hi Sherryl,
    For launching a new business, stands a greater chance at success if it is responding to the need of a consumer. Customers will buy your products or service if they see that it provides some benefits to them.Customers buy on the basis of the benefits, and not the features of your products. This is what you are going to use as your main selling proposition.
    And secondly you must be prepared to publicize the business or its chance for success will be less. Unless you are a locally known name with built-in clientele, you need to promote customer awareness about your business. If you’re on the Web, you cannot expect to just sit in a corner and expect people to stumble on your site. Business must be promoted as mush as it can.

    1. Hi John,
      I agree with you on both counts. Customers absolutely make buying decisions based on the benefits of your product or service and not the features. My SBA consultant always said customers tune in to station WII FM (what’s in it for me.)

      As far as building awareness of your business, it is critical to your success whether you have a brick and mortar business, an online business or both. There is more competition today ever. We’re no longer competing just locally. Nowadays, we’re competing in a global market.

      Thanks for your input.
      Sherryl Perry recently posted..If Your Website Was a Wheel – Is Your Blog the Hub or a Spoke?My Profile

      1. Apart from the free resources you listed above, I also like to use various platforms like Fiverr.com to outsource all kinds of marketing tasks. On Fiverr.com you get all kinds of things for only $5 – banner design, link building, article writing…

  10. Hi Sherryl,

    Perhaps many more business owners should take advantage of these programs that you mention since it’s their tax dollars at work. I love how those organizations set you up with internship programs. I wish they have these kind of government service in my country.

  11. Hi, Sherryl. I think one of the most important things in starting or running a small business is realizing that you need help and doing something about it. Sometimes though people are too stubborn or proud to admit that they do need help and end up failing so greatly, they’d have to close up shop. That wouldn’t have been the case if they had swallowed their pride and asked for help.

    1. Hi Wes,
      I find it so sad when I watch that happen to someone. Just because someone knows how to do something (or can learn how) that doesn’t necessarily mean that they should be doing it. If it’s not the best use of their time, than they absolutely should seek help. That applies to not only professional skills that they don’t possess but also daily tasks that can be outsourced. Time is money and small business owners need to put a value on their time.

      Thanks for taking the time to drop by! It’s always good to hear from you.
      Sherryl Perry recently posted..Social Networking and Casting a Bigger NetMy Profile

  12. Hi Sherryl,

    I used interns often when on the corporate side and haven’t used them myself in my business yet but have recommended to others that this is a really good option. I was lucky enough to get a great set of interns each time I did utilize them. I use an informal bartering system now that works real well!
    Julie Weishaar recently posted..To List or Not to List, That is the Question!My Profile

  13. Hi Sheryl,

    I have to agree with the other Australian commenters about what is available here from government agencies. I like Patricia’s bartering idea. This is is why networking is so important. You just never know who you might meet where an exchange of skills can take place.


  14. I agree that we need to recognize when we need help. I think it’s also very important to put a value on our time. Sometimes, it’s not so much needing the help as it just makes financial sense to outsource some of the tasks we’ve been doing. Hiring an intern to do some of your daily tasks can make good financial sense if you can spend that time bringing in more money or growing your business in other ways.

  15. I guess we all believe in the saying, “no man is an island”. Everybody needs other people if they want to succeed on something. We cannot be professionals without our teachers. I have been to this business for like couple of months only and many people have helped me online. I am really lucky to have them as my friends now. Thanks for this post.

    1. Thanks for commenting Ira. I’m glad that you’re finding people to help you. There’s an amazing number of people who are really kindhearted and willing to help.

  16. I did pay my college interns but it was at a fraction of the cost of hiring someone. In addition, they had access to the college resources. Plus, the college students that I hired made it clear that if they didn’t know how to do something, they had friends that could help. Since the university handled payroll, we didn’t have to concern ourselves with that either.

    Good luck with the SBA. I hope you can benefit from them.

  17. Hi Sherryl,

    I might also wanna share something about our situations regarding merchants status in our industry. Small businesses has always been the back bone of US economy during the last recession. The government could have at least show their gratitude by maximizing their help towards small business owners.

    The small businesses are getting ignored in these issues, especially when looking for small business loans or financing.
    The big corporations don’t seem to have an issue raising money by selling bonds, big bank loans. Small business loans aren’t getting approved that’s why so many are looking to business cash advances to leverage their credit card receipts, pretty sad these things are still happening. Though, One of the remaining good options left for merchants are those you mentioned above.

    Best Regards,

      1. Thanks for your concern Sherryl.
        I’m very confused how to put my blog post below every time I do comments.
        Or do I have to install some ComLuv plugins?

        1. When you leave a comment here, there’s a little check box under the “Submit” button next to the CommentLuv icon (with the red heart). If you entered the URL for your blog when you leave your comment, it should pull your last 10 posts for you to pick from.

          To have CommentLuv on your blog, you need to install the plugin and register on their network. Andy Bailey just released the latest update 2.9. I’m about to install it now.

          BTW – if you’re on Twitter, enter your Twitter ID (without the @ sign) in the blue box under the CommentLuv checkbox to share your Twitter name too.

  18. Sherryl,

    This is a great post and when starting a business on a limited budget we have to work very hard to be creative. The internet has made things a lot easier to find resources for small businesses. I am sometimes amazes at the free or cheap resources available and I try to utilize as many as possible.


    1. Hi Jennifer,
      Thanks for dropping by. I agree. A limited budget can really make a person seek out low cost and free help. There is a lot available especially if your schedule is flexible. I find that a lot of seminars and workshops are offered during the day while a lot of people are working. Another great source to look at are local Chambers of Commerce. Sometimes local businessmen and women will offer training as a way of building awareness of their services.

  19. Hi Sherryl,

    In Italy, I am not sure if they have like the SBA here. I guess they do have some but because I am not fluent in Italian, it wouldn’t be the right avenue.

    I have managed to get help from the people I have met online who I am so thankful for. A free resource I use is my husband LOL. He deals with WP at work and when I can, I ask him to help. I know he’s spent the whole day dealing with WP and so I ask for his help sparingly.

    Glad to finally drop by your site and officially meet you here 🙂

    All the best,

    1. Hi Diana,
      Thanks for dropping by. It’s great to officially meet you too. You’re fortunate to have your husband as a WP resource. My husband serves as my resource for photography. It’s nice when you can compliment each other.

      As some of the other bloggers have mentioned in their comments, the resources that are available to us are usually not that strong when it comes to the Internet. I was fortunate that my consultant is very savvy on Internet marketing but as far as technical skills behind the scenes, I tend to seek help online.

  20. OMG, “Your Tax $$ At Work”, lol. That’s really great that you guys have such organizations that can actually help. Here in my side of the world, we do have such organizations too, but sadly they only work for “others”, if you know hat I mean 🙂 I have heard of SBA, but if I am not mistaken this was recently changed from “another” site which used to have a different name. I know it was also a .gov because they had a great forum and I even participated in it. Can’t remember, do you?
    DiTesco recently posted..How To Manage Multiple WordPress Sites And Increase Earning PotentialMy Profile

    1. Hi Francisco,
      I do look at it as my tax $ at work! Sometimes I find myself muttering to myself that all we seem to do is pay taxes and never get to take advantage of any of the “free” stuff. 🙂 I can tell you that I could not afford to hire the consultant who worked with us. I was very fortunate to be matched up with him. I didn’t mention it in my post but I originally was assigned to a different consultant. She was a very nice woman but I needed the tough no nonsense style from the person that I ended up with. Through networking, I learned about him and asked specifically to meet with him.

      I started going to SBA.gov about 8 years ago. I don’t remember it being changed from another site.

  21. The Federal Citizen Information Center, located in Pueblo, Colorado, puts out a catalog of consumer information. Not only is the catalog useful for the average layperson, it’s a valuable source for the business-minded…

    1. That is another excellent resource! I haven’t used them in years and had totally forgotten about them. Thanks for the reminder. I should check them out too and see what’s new.

  22. Hi Sherryl,
    I think it’s fantastic you found help where you needed it. I remember when I decided I wanted to start my own business (seven years ago) I tried both SCORE and the SBA in Kutztown. The SCORE reps had no internet experience and told me that I couldn’t create an internet business. (They were rather elderly….) The SBA assigned me to someone who simply wouldn’t get back to me. So, I gave up and winged it LOL. It’s been a few years now and your post inspired me to take another look at the SBA – I’m sure new hands are on the steering wheel around here.

    1. LOL Catherine. Patricia, Susan and I have agreed on the same thing. Honestly, I don’t recommend SCORE at all to people here in Massachusetts because the reps in this area would probably offer the same advice. The location I go to is an old mill town and all the SCORE reps I’ve met are old manufacturing guys. That’s pretty much their area of expertise. Hopefully you’ll find a consultant at your SBA that’s as good as mine. This man is amazing and we’ve actually become online friends too.

  23. I’ve been running an online business for a little over 5 years now and when I have found myself overwhelmed with work I hire some freelancers to get small things done for a low price. Websites like Freelancer and FreelanceSwitch have been great sources.

    1. That’s good that those sites have worked well for you Dennis. I network online so much that I try to hire other professionals that I’ve met through sites like LinkedIn. In turn, I’ve been hired that way too. For me, that has the added benefit of strengthening those relationships.

  24. Hi, Sherryl.

    I really can’t imagine what it takes to start small in business because I am fortunate to have my blogging as my day job, but with your post here I can understand what you must have went through. It is a good thing that we have the Internet now though because I do know that a lot of small businesses were launched and sustained successfully because of it.

    Thanks for sharing this post, Sherryl. This will be a great help to people hoping to start their own businesses. 🙂

  25. Hi Sherryl,
    Thanks for stopping by my site, otherwise I might not have found yours:) Your tips for finding small business resources are very encouraging for small business owners. I must confess I did attempt early on to look into SBA for information needed when I was hit with a small business certification fee before I could attempt to get the help I needed…

    So, I’m going back to take another look at those free resources/classes I might be able to use.

  26. Hi Sherryl,

    We have resources in Australia with the governments and associated agencies improving on the resources they provide and they have helped a number of businesses. I have presented at a few workshops for them.

    I also agree with Patricia about what they provide re the internet. They are getting there but at the moment I would say it is pretty basic.
    Susan Oakes recently posted..Simple Steps to Overcome Marketing ChallengesMy Profile

    1. I agree with both you and Patricia about some of the resources provided by government funded programs to not be at the forefront when it comes to the Internet. I’ve found that to be true here in the U.S. also. I attribute it to the fact that most of these consultants are somewhat older and they’ve been hired (or are volunteering) to focus on skills such as general management, marketing and finance. They seem to focus on core skills that most start-ups need.

      For technology, I found hiring an intern was the route to go. Even with an intern, it was a challenge to find the right individual. Of course, I was hiring an intern from our university and not a technical school. The university was not teaching the skills that we needed. Still, by finding him through the university, they managed the payroll, he received course credit and we ended up with the finished product that we needed.

  27. Hi Sherryl,

    Really fantastic ideas to find free resources. College’s for interns are by far one of the greatest assets. Not just because you’re getting free labor, but because you’re able to work with some of the greatest new minds out there. It’s a pleasure!

    Great post! Thanks for reminding me about the SBA, too. 🙂

  28. Sherryl, You have really hit the nail on the head in describing a problem common to many new business owners. Your list of suggestions is excellent. I had heard of government programs before but not the specific ones you mention. They definity seem woth looking at. I appreciate your story and how working with an intern was of benefit to you.

    1. It can be so overwhelming as a small start-up business that it’s difficult to know where to turn. I actually first learned about some of these resources by joining a Chamber of Commerce. Even before I joined, I attended a few networking events and learned a lot from some of the people there.

  29. True Sherryl, the first thing to do is admit you need help. Both outsourcing and getting help from governmental organisations is a good idea. You find them in most countries all over the world.

    In Sweden those organisations are good for getting investment from Angel investors and perfecting your business idea.

    1. Catarina, While in the midst of that project, I attended a few seminars on Angel investors. There’s a wealth of information available for free and there’s value to showing up and networking at these seminars too.

  30. Nice post, Sherryl!

    I like how you blended the resources you used with the personal narrative of the step-by-step process you included.

    You hit the nail right on the head here: “I was fortunate to find these resources by networking and researching.”

    It’s amazing how “fortunate” and “lucky” people find themselves when they put in so much hard work!


    1. Thanks Jana! It is true that I consider myself “fortunate” and “lucky” when it is the result of hard work. I do consider myself fortunate to live in a country with access to resources like this.

      When I blog, I like to share from my personal experience. I think it’s easier for people to relate to me and think about how they may be able to apply some of the ideas that I’ve implemented into their quest for success. 🙂

  31. Sherryl,

    Although I have always been in business for myself, when we started our property management business I attended some really great courses offered by the SBA. That business is still running strong.

    There is no need to re-invent the wheel and some times we don’t even know what wheel needs to be rolling until someone points it out.

    I have had an idea rolling around in my head…organize successful retired businessmen as mentors for young start-up companies. Both sides would benefit.

    1. Good for you for taking advantage of the SBA Sheila. The fact that your business is still running strong must be due (at least in part) to the foundation that your built when your were first getting started. I think that’s the true value of taking advantages of these resources when you’re first launching your business.

      Organizing retired businessmen as mentors sounds a lot like SCORE (which Jeannette mentioned in her comment). It would be great if someone here had a success story with SCORE that they could share.

  32. Sheryl — You make a good point: admit you need help. While I am quite skilled at maintaining my WordPress blog — inserting news posts and pages, etc. — I draw the line when I have a problem that I might be able to work out myself but it would not be a good use of my time. Instead, I turn it over to my IT consultant (who I met on LinkedIn). It is money well spent. I have considered getting an intern and I know many entrepreneurs who have tapped into local colleges for help and been very happy. Another source for free business counseling is Score http://www.score.org/. From its website, “SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to educating entrepreneurs and helping small businesses start, grow, and succeed nationwide. SCORE is a resource partner with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).” It has 364 chapters in the U.S. so there is probably one near practically everyone.

    1. Figuring out the best use of your time is so important Jeannette. Not everyone puts a value on their time and that’s unfortunate.

      I know there are people who rave about SCORE and I thought of including them here but honestly (and it may be because of the state that I live in) but the SCORE consultants in this area primarily have manufacturing experience that echoes back to the old mills that flourished here 20 years ago. We did meet once with a wonderful SCORE engineer who was very helpful but he was a 2-hour drive from here. (We took our prototype to him.) It’s definitely worth looking into. Thanks for mentioning them.

  33. Hi Sherryl

    Interesting post. I have found with a limited budget I had to learn to think outside the box and it is amazing how many free tools are out there.

    Everyone kept saying to outsource. That still costs money! So I did some bartering, wrote posts for a techie and they upgraded my site. Then I found through networking; people I could work with who didn’t charge too much to do other work that improved my site.

    Now I am setting up a new site with the help of a techie friend who I met online and she has been incredible. Helping me when I get stuck and continues to help me with techie things that are way beyond me!

    I just couldn’t work with someone I didn’t know or trust so I am so happy with how things are working out now. Took some time to find the right people to work with but it sure has been worth the wait.

    In Oz we do have some services that we can access but with internet businesses, have found that often the knowledge is a bit lacking unless I have a bigger budget than what I do have. So my solution is what I am comfortable with.

    Patricia Perth Australia

    1. Patricia, Bartering is a wonderful way for entrepreneurs and small business owners to help each other. I have found so many wonderful people online who are eager to help. I’m looking forward to seeing your new site!

      1. Hopefully be up in the next few weeks. And it will be very different to the lavender blog. I am enjoying writing and researching.

        Have a great weekend. Ours will be here in a couple of hours 🙂

        Patricia Perth australia

Comments are closed.