How to Use the SBA Startup Resources to Your Advantage
Startups have a lot of challenges, ranging from finding their niche, getting investors, and surviving the first couple of years of business. Many entrep eneurs believe that they have to go it alone and are not aware of the many organizations that exist to help startups during these difficult phases. One very valuable source of support for the small business owner is the Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA offers a variety of resources, ranging from education to actual loans to help small businesses and startups launch, grow and thrive.
The SBA offers an extensive library of educational resources to help with all the startup phases, including financing, marketing and hiring employees and contractors. Essential resources include:
- Financing a Startup: The SBA has several resources specifically dedicated to helping businesses finance their startup, including providing information on
- Preparing finances
- Obtaining loans, grants and funding
- Finding and attracting investors
- Financing growth
- Intellectual Property: Startups need to protect their business ‘property’ which can ranges from business concept to ideas, concepts, plans, drawings, and beyond. This section will help businesses protect ideas and products, and set up patents, trademarks and copyrights.
- Marketing and Social Media: Marketing can be difficult for new businesses, especially navigating online marketing. SBA offers resources on both standard and “green” marketing.
- Mentor & Training: It’s been proven that obtaining a mentor can help a startup and entrepreneurs succeed. The SBA provides several articles on finding a mentor.
- Hiring Employees & Independent Contractors: Startup founders can’t go it alone for long. They need to hire both employees and independent contractors. The SBA has resources on:
- Steps to Hiring New Employees
- Employment & Labor Law
- Human Resources
Microloans can be obtained from established businesses, other startups and non-profit organizations. Microloans are generally provided to businesses that only need small loan amounts, usually less than $50,000. The SBA also offers these types of loans as part of its Microloan Program.
The SBA Microloans are generally provided for startup capital or expansion. Loan amounts are available up to $50,000, but the average loan is about $13,000. These loans can be used for:
- Working capital
- Buying inventory/supplies
- Purchasing furniture/fixtures
- Buying machinery/equipment
Loans must be repaid within six years of receiving it. Entrepreneurs looking to obtain a microloan must have a written business plan.
Small Business Readiness Assessment
The Small Business Readiness Assessment helps those interested in becoming an entrepreneur determine whether or not they are ready to start their own business. This online 25-question assessment evaluates personal characteristics, personal conditions and skills, and experience. Once completed, the assessment will provide users with a result as to whether or not they should start their own business.
While this is intended to be simply a guide, it’s useful for the potential entrepreneur to assess their overall dedication and preparation.
The SBA has many more resources for small businesses and startups. Explore the site and its resources, and use it when launching and running of the business.