Government Resources for Small Business Owners

As a business owner, there are a variety of resources out there that most people are not aware of.  You don’t have to pay money for all those “consultants” that advertise via email spams and television.  This article will go over what the Small Business Administration agency provides.  The topics have direct links so use your mouse to hover over.   We will continue our SBA series in upcoming articles with types of SBA loans, how they are used, and challenges for the SBA based on current and anticipated loan losses.

star by Ken Schwarz

Our taxpayer dollars support the US Small Business Administration and all its related agencies.   Use it to the fullest capacity.  You’re paying for it already.  The different organizations are listed below with explanations of how they can be best used.

Small Business Administration (SBA)

This is the main SBA portal.  From here you will be able to access tools, SBA chapters throughout the country, SCORE, notices, explanations about their loan programs, etc.   Navigation to find the correct information is a bit difficult as the site does circular referral back to the same information.  It seems user friendly but it’s not really intuitively geared for a user.  It’s designed from the perspective of the writer or an employee.   You will need to click around a lot to find the links, check the sidebars as well.

A virtual campus housing free training courses, workshops and knowledge resources to help business owners. These business management resources are available 24/7. The sessions are self help courses about 30 minutes each on topics such as finance, accounting, marketing and government contracting.

This section walks you through from birth to death of a business cycle and addresses issues such as bankruptcy.   The topics and writing are basic but it gives a starting point for business owners such as the different components of a business plan.   Lending is not really covered well as all it gives are links to the various programs.  Business owners must educate themselves about what lending regulations are if they plan to borrow money.

  • The ABC of Borrowing Money

Part of the new entrepreneurship education effort, this PDF gives some basic about what business owners need to understand about borrowing money.   However, it’s still very vague and does not address critical points of what you need to have numbers wise to qualify.

This is a key area that business owners have to educate themselves on.  Banks are regulated by multiple types of regulators, from state to federal.  They have to abide by those regulations about lending criteria or they get shut down.  SBA saying that banks must lend isn’t going to change that fact.   Talk to a lender, not a banker, about exactly what that bank’s requirements are for a loan.

Various PDF giving basic information such as venture capital sources, lending, etc.

Lenders live and die by the SBA operating procedures.  It tells them forms needed, criteria for lending, etc.   Read through the lending SOP if you want the real scoop.

SBA administration and lending is process by regional offices throughout the US.  This link will allow you to find the office that services your geographic location.  For example, in California, Orange County, San Bernadino and Riverside are all serviced by one office in Santa Ana.   However, the actual lending processing has now been moved to Fresno and the Santa Ana office handles mostly outreach.

For enquiring minds, you can also subscribe to various newsletters put out by the different agencies within the Small Business Administration such as the Advocacy Group.   Some SBA districts (not all) have their own newsletter about their region and are listed there.   You can subscribe to a maximum of 10 newsletters but this being a government website, you will get an error message when you do so:  “You have subscribed to 10 newsletter and this exceeds your maximum of 10.“   It’s best to just go 9 and request the rest via another email or identity.

The SBA can mail out a PDF to you giving information about programs in your regions, the district offices and the lenders who participate in the various programs.

This is the link that provides the latest bulletin regarding anything on the Small Business Administration.   It covers federal, local, regional, and disaster relief.

Created under the Recovery Act, the temporary ARC program offers interest-free loans to viable small businesses, which carry a 100 percent guaranty from the SBA to the lender and require no fees paid to SBA. Loan proceeds are provided over a six-month period and repayment of the ARC loan principal is deferred for 12 months after the last disbursement of the proceeds. Repayment can extend up to five years.

This program can provide up to $35,000 in short-term loan for qualified small businesses facing immediate financial hardship.  Each small business is limited to one ARC loan.

Borrowers who are not profitable, don’t have cash flow, whose loans are already severely delinquent or whose past performance or future cash flow indicates that the business is not viable are not good candidates for an ARC loan.   Don’t waste your time.

RELATED SBA AGENCIES

Look for our upcoming series on these agencies with detailed instructions on how to maximize their resources.  The basic information is listed below.

Business.gov

This is a wonderful collaboration between the SBA, private companies, and business owners.   The site has a tremendous amount of information for business owners at many levels of revenue.  I highly recommend checking this site out including the forum where you can post questions.   We have an upcoming article that will go into details about some of the site’s resource.

Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs)

These centers provide management assistance to current and prospective small business owners.  SBDCs offer one-stop assistance to individuals and small businesses out of branch offices located in the communities.  The offices provide a variety of information and guidance.  The program is a funded by a cooperative effort of the private sector, the educational community and federal, state and local governments.  Remember that the SBDC is run independently of the SBA.   Programs and support are going to differ from SBDC location to location.

SCORE

Score is a nationwide network of small business counselors composed of a cadre of nearly 10,500 volunteer business men and women in 389 chapters nationwide.   SCORE utilizes volunteers, both working and retired, with expertise to advise small businesses, lead business seminars, and coach entrepreneurs online.  Score counselors will provide free advice and counseling at any stage of a business.  To use a counselor’s service, you need to contact the local chapter and request appointments.  The SCORE site also has business articles and resources separately from the SBA site that you can use.   SCORE also partners with the American Express OPEN Forum for various events.

Remember that you have the options of choosing a counselor who you feel comfortable with.  This person will be your mentor so you need to have a degree of comfort at sharing financial details.  Keep in mind that even though SCORE tries its best to screen volunteers for experience, not every SCORE counselors will have the same level of expertise.   Use the SCORE resources as a starting point for your research.  Double check the advice that you get.   There are always errors and mistakes because people are human and they can only help you up to the level of their experience.  See an example of incomplete information here.

Each SCORE chapters runs their own business seminars and they range from basic to medium level information.  These seminars range from free to $100.  The cost is quite reasonable for the value.   I would recommend checking the schedule for your local SCORE chapter and checking them out.

Veteran’s Business Development

The Office of Veterans Business Development is to tasked to help Veterans, Service-Disabled Veterans, Reserve Component Members, and their Dependents or Survivors to navigate through the various programs provided by the Small Business Administration.

Women’s Business Centers

Represent a national network of nearly 100 educational centers providing business assistance, counseling, mentoring, training in finance, management, marketing, procurement and the Internet, as well as access to the SBA’s programs and services. They also offer specialized assistance in topics such as home-based businesses, corporate executive downsizing and welfare-to-work.  Here is a link for the list of resources associated with WBCs.

The National Women’s Business Council (NWBC)

This is a bi-partisan federal advisory council created to serve as an independent source of advice and policy recommendations to the President, Congress and the SBA on economic issues of importance to women business owners.  The council’s mission is to promote bold initiatives, policies and programs designed to support woman business enterprises at all stages of development in the public and private sector.  There are independent women organization working closely with the NWBC to support women’s issues.

Youth Entrepreneurship

To the credit of the SBA, they are focusing on building young entrepreneurs.  I was not aware of this service until I dug through the entire SBA site.  The site teaches kids money matters and business concepts.  The colors and designs are geared towards teens.  It’s not “hot” for teens (yep, checked with the teens.  Boring and not cool were the consensus but it is making an effort.)  The site features the fundamentals of starting a small business.

The SBA also has a joint site with Junior Achievement.  I highly recommend having your children get involved with Junior Achievement.  The program and details including the business plan breakout are excellent and actually is a better roadmap than what I see adult consultants provide out there.   There is nothing to beat hands on experience and it’s a wonderful opportunity for the children to learn business networking and teamwork.

U.S. Export Assistance Centers (USEACs)

Provide export information and development assistance to help small businesses take advantage of export markets, including trade counseling, training, legal assistance and publications.

Government Grants

This is a very detailed topic that we will go into detail in upcoming articles.  The link for searches on the government grant site is above.  The SBA also has a tool to do searches on Business.gov site.

White House

The Government’s Official Web Portal

U.S. Department of Energy

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

U.S. Internal Revenue Service

International Trade Administration

U.S. Department of Commerce

U.S. Department of Labor

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Learn About Government Contracting Opportunities

Selling products and/or services to the federal government is a powerful way to expand business opportunities. Learn about contracting opportunities with the government. Take SBA’s free online course: Business Opportunities: A Guide to Winning Federal Contracts.

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photo credit: Ken Schwarz