The U.S. Small Business Administration might be one of the best partners you didn’t know you had
It can be scary to jump into the unknown and risk the comfort of a steady day-to-day career to venture out on your own. Having a valuable network to turn to for expertise, support and mentorship is key to finding success in the business world. Fortunately, there are countless resources available to help aspiring business owners along their journey and set them up for the future.
One resource that was instrumental in helping me to launch my company is the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA offers a variety of resources, tools and events that are designed to help those looking to start and grow their own company. The SBA offers a myriad of content on its website and has physical hubs located throughout the country where business owners (both current and up-and-coming) can meet face to face with small business experts. The best part? Most of the resources are free to access!
Below are a few of the ways the SBA can help you put your best foot forward to launch a business of your own.
Taking the First Steps
You might be surprised to find that there are several steps to take before even putting your business name out into the world, such as obtaining licenses, permits and insurance. The SBA’s “Launch your Business” page can be a tremendous asset in helping to dissect some of these starter topics and offers valuable tips on necessities such as choosing a business structure, registering your business and opening a business bank account.
Another area of expertise for the SBA is small business certifications and designations. Certifying your small business from the onset can be a big help in getting your company off the ground. For example, the SBA can provide guidance on registering as a Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB), an 8(a) Small Disadvantaged Business, Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) and as a HUBZone business: those businesses located in Historically Underutilized Business Zones.
So, why are these programs important? They help you stand out to buyers in both the public and private sectors. Consider how the government purchases: did you know that that government has a goal to purchase 23% of goods and services from small businesses? These “small business set-aside contracts” are only available to small businesses with specific certifications. Likewise, in the private sector, many large corporations look at certifications and designations when making purchasing decisions in order to ensure diversity among their suppliers. In other words, these programs can open a lot of doors for a small business.
Sourcing Local Assistance
Localized resources can be a big help to your company. The SBA’s district offices help carry out programs and services throughout the country to help counsel and mentor business owners.
- Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs): SBDC advisors provide business owners with a variety of free business consulting and low-cost training services including business plan development, financial packaging and lending assistance, market research help and healthcare guidance. You can find a SBDC near you here.
- Local Events: The SBA organizes local seminars, workshops and networking events to help business owners connect with other entrepreneurs and learn useful lessons along the way. Consider attending a ChallengeHER event, a joint initiative between American Express OPEN, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) that teaches small business owners about doing business with the federal government.
- Additional resources: The SBA also works with local partners that are equipped to help specific companies grow. For instance, there are Women’s Business Centers designed to assist women in starting and growing small businesses and Veterans Business Outreach Center which aid veterans and military spouses looking to start a business.
Elevating your Business Plan
When the time comes to double down on growth, there are countless ways to take your business to new heights. From government contracting to expanding to new locations, the SBA is available to provide tips and insight on how to scale your company.
- Government Contracting: Selling to the government, at the local or federal level, can be a lucrative opportunity for any business. The U.S. government is the world’s largest customer and buys all types of products and services. You can learn about contracting and how the SBA can help you as you sell to government buyers here. Other helpful resources include the Association of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) and the American Express Government Contracting program.
- Sell to International Customers: According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 95% of consumers live outside the U.S., so exporting goods and services is a smart consideration. The SBA offers resources and partners to help businesses sell internationally. You can couple this with resources from the private sector, including Getting to Global and the American Express Grow Global program.
- Grow your Footprint: Once you’ve established your company in one market, you may feel that it’s time to expand. You can learn more about local laws, how to obtain licenses and permits in new locations and foreign qualification here. The U.S. Department of Commerce also has a wealth of information on global expansion.
While it’s true that establishing your own business is no easy task, there is no reason to go in alone. By taking advantage of the many resources at your disposal, you can launch your business with a sense of security and create valuable relationships that can have long-lasting benefits.
Lourdes Martin-Rosa is the president of Government Business Solutions (GBS) and the American Express OPEN Advisor on Government Contracting.