By: Renee C. Quinn
Have you ever started a business of your own? Have you been faced with the difficulties it takes in getting a start-up business off the ground? Well if you or someone you know has ever… I sound like a rather familiar commercial don’t I? I thought a little commercial humor would be fun, but in all seriousness, if you are in the process of starting a small business, you’ve already started a one or are contemplating starting one then you know that taking on such an endeavor can be quite a daunting task. In fact there is so much involved in the process that you just simply cannot do it alone and can be disheartening at times, especially if you feel you’re alone in the world. But you are not alone. The federal government knows that small businesses are critical to the economic strength and recovery of our country, especially as the economy stands today. For this very reason, programs have been put into place to assist entrepreneurs in starting their own businesses.
Previously I wrote an article titled Available Business Resources, which was intended to provide some information for small businesses. I included resources such as the Economic Development Administration and the US Chamber of Commerce Small Business Center. There are other resources that are prominent and easily accessible resources to the small business owner as well. Two of the more prominent programs that come to mind are the US Small Business Administration or SBA and SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives). Today I’d like to talk about the US Small Business Administration, or SBA for short, and how this organization can be of help to you and your small business, with a future article exploring SCORE.
So let’s start with a little bit of history, shall we. The SBA was created in 1953 as an independent agency of the federal government. This organization was put into place to “to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation.” The SBA was created as part of the Small Business Act of July 30, 1953 which stipulated that the SBA would ensure small businesses receive a “fair proportion” of government contracts and sales of surplus property. Many of today’s programs such as The Investment Company Act of 1958 which established the Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) Program, under which SBA licensed, regulated and helped provide funds for privately owned and operated venture capital investment firms and the 1964 Equal Opportunity Loan (EOL) Program which relaxed the credit and collateral requirements for applicants living below the poverty level in an effort to encourage new businesses that had been unable to attract financial backing.
But what types of services are provided by the SBA? For one thing, given that there is so much to do in the start up of a business, the SBA offers specialized training in many areas to help you get started. You can take self-paced online courses and publications in the following areas: Starting a Business, Business Planning, Finance & Accounting, Marketing & Advertising, Business Management, Government Contracting and Surviving a Slow Economy. These courses do require registration to take but take only about 30 minutes in time to complete. Besides training on these topics there are other services that fall within these same categories also offered for free to the Small Business Owner.
With the economy as it is today, it is extremely difficult for small business owners to acquire any type of funding on their own. However, the SBA’s programs now include financial and federal contract procurement assistance and also provide loans to victims of natural disasters. While SBA itself does not make loans, it does guarantee loans made to small businesses by private and other institutions. As a result of this guarantee, banks and other lending institutions offer a number of loan programs to those who qualify to assist them in their small business endeavors.
The SBA additionally offers contractual opportunities to the small business that they might not otherwise have access too. Given that the Federal Government is the world’s largest buyer of goods and services, they try to empower small businesses by giving them the opportunity to bid on contracts for some of these purchases with the end goal being at least 23 percent of all government buying targeted to small firms.
The SBA provides information that can arm the small business owner, helping them to position a company for contracting opportunities by helping the small business owner understand the basics of selling to the government, how to get started and pursue opportunities, and provides the resources “For Small Business Owners” to accomplish these goals.
In addition, the SBA features information on its site that targets Special Audiences such as women, veterans, Native Americans and 50+ Entrepreneurs. Furthermore, the SBA features a law library on their site that provides the small business owner with access to SBA reports, statistics, records, studies, and information on the latest laws and regulations regarding topics such as Small Business Advocacy, National Ombudsman, Law Library and Hearings & Appeals.
Finally, the SBA has a variety of programs and resource partners, located strategically around the country, to provide small business counseling and training to small business owners. These programs include the SCORE Association (Service Corps of Retired Executives), the Office of Small Business Development Centers (SBDC, U.S. Export Assistance Centers, Women’s Business Centers and full service SBA District Offices in every state of the country.
In summary… if you or someone you know is starting their own business have no fear, the SBA is here. The SBA is a fantastic resource for information and, if nothing else, they provide a guide to getting things started. So whether you are starting a business, thinking about starting a business or just sick and tired of not having control over your own professional destiny, let the Small Business Administration guide you and give you ideas, inspiration and resources to help you get to where you want to go.