The SBA Provides Various Free Services for Small Businesses
Starting a business is difficult, but it is only half the battle. If you’re intimidated by the time, money, and strategy it takes to run a profitable company, then consider turning to the Small Business Administration (SBA) for support. The U.S. Small Business Administration offers a variety of services to help your business grow and succeed, from counseling centers to investment and loan options. Whether you just opened your doors or are looking to expand your business, the SBA can support you.
If you have not used any of the resources the SBA has to offer, understanding the breadth of their services is the first step. Here are the three main categories in which the SBA can help your small business:
Access to Capital
Financing your business is a concern that doesn’t easily disappear. The SBA offers an array of loan programs that meet a variety of financial needs. Although the SBA does not directly administer loans, it creates guidelines and regulates the loans that lenders make to small businesses. This enables you to apply for and access commercial loans tailored to your small business needs.
If you are unable to obtain a surety bond through traditional commercial ways, the SBA’s Surety Bond Guarantee can help you secure bonds for contracts up to $5 million. The SBA motivates sureties to provide bonds for contractors by assuming a percentage of the loss if the contractor fails to follow the terms of the contract. Thus, small businesses are enabled greater contracting opportunities.
Through a public-private investment partnership called the Small Business Investment Company (SBIC), the SBA offers venture capital in the form of debt or equity to small businesses. Like most venture capital, SB
ICs are expected to generate large returns for the investor, but unlike those funds, SBICs are limited to small businesses and regulated by the SBA.
The SBA can help you obtain the appropriate certifications and regulations necessary for small business contract work, in addition to helping you find contracting opportunities. It provides resources for sub-contracting if you are beginning contract work, such as a mentoring program and online sub-contractors directory.
For businesses ready to take the step to federal contracts, you can create a business profile with the Central Contractor Registration database that is used federal agencies to browse different vendors. There is also a multitude of information on doing contract work with the Department of Defense, the Armed Forces, and other intelligent agencies.
If you aren’t looking for capital or contracting assistance and just want some advice or professional support, the SBA’s counseling services are a great resource. Or, if you are interested in understanding and using the financing and contracting services that the SBA provides, it is worth looking into their different forms of counseling and training.
Local Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) offer all the benefits of a private consultant for free. They provide support in financial, marketing, production, organization, and technical issues, to name a few.
If no SBDCs are located near you, or to have more personalized assistance, consider connecting with a SCORE business counselor. SCORE is a nonprofit organization that pairs volunteer counselors and mentors with business owners. Whether you need advice on basic issues of running a company, or are looking to tap into a new market, working one-on-one with an advisor is invaluable.
Additionally, if applicable, you can go to any of the SBA’s Women’s or Veterans Business Outreach Centers.
Whether you are looking for a viable loan, exploring contract opportunities, or need advice and support to strategically maximize and grow your business, the SBAs wealth of services can help you.
For additional information on the services that the SBA offers, or to learn more about small business related issues, visit www.sba.gov
To learn more about SCORE business counselors, visit www.score.org