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If you're a small business, you're in good company. Nearly all businesses (99.7%) in the U.S. have fewer than 500 workers. In fact, if you have fewer than 20 workers, you have something in common with 89% of businesses.
Revenue-wise, we all know the breakdown is quite different — the big firms take a big chunk of the pie despite making up such a small percentage of total businesses. It's tough to be a small business because you've got to compete with the big dogs despite having limited resources.
As a small business owner, you've got to be savvy with what you have and figure out creative ways to get more. This handy guide of top small business resources will help you find new funding, assistance, and information to give you an edge.
SCORE, a nonprofit organization that calls itself "the nation's largest network of volunteer business experts," is one of the best resources for small businesses, with more than 10,000 volunteers and 300 chapters to help business owners with counseling, business tools, and training.
SCORE offers templates for business plans, financial projections, startup expenses, and marketing budgets, among others. For entrepreneurs who are feeling overwhelmed and seeking help, this is an excellent resource.
2. U.S. Small Business Administration
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is a government agency that provides startup assistance, resources, training, and even funding to small businesses. The mission of SBA is "to maintain and strengthen the nation's economy by enabling the establishment and viability of small businesses and by assisting in the economic recovery of communities after disasters."
SBA loans can help a small business get the capital it needs to get its business off the ground or to the next level. There’s simply no better place for business startup help.
3. IRS Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center
For any owner, small business taxes can be overwhelming. The Internal Revenue Service's Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center is one of the key online business resources that can assist you here. Here, you'll find everything you need to file your taxes, such as forms and instructions.
The IRS even offers a video portal that will educate you on the tax law and any other information you must know as a small business owner. Educational products, virtual workshops, e-newsletters, and webinars are also available.
4. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is a government agency that serves as a critical informational tool for small businesses. The BLS provides detailed information on the health of specific markets and industries, the average pay for certain professions — something you should be familiar with during the hiring process — and other things you must know about the market.
It releases publications with even more detailed information so you'll always have your finger on the pulse of your industry and can make more educated decisions for your business as a result.
5. Minority Business Development Agency
The Minority Business Development Agency — which operates within the U.S. Department of Commerce — seeks to support businesses in minority communities. It provides information on loans and grants, as well as other business resources.
The agency states that it is the only agency dedicated to the "growth and global competitiveness of minority business enterprises." The agency estimates that nearly 11 million businesses in the U.S. are minority-owned; they employ more than 6.3 million people and generate $1.8 trillion in revenue annually.
6. National Women’s Business Council
The National Women's Business Council is a lobbying organization that advances the interests of women entrepreneurs. The organization offers monthly webinars to provide a platform to women business owners, roundtables to connect them to policymakers, annual reports and policy recommendations, and public meetings to share study areas and gather input.
If you want to learn more about business but lack the financial resources to pay for expensive courses, Alison offers free online courses to help you improve in management, leadership, and entrepreneurship. Alison offers courses in human resources, basic accounting, entrepreneurship, project management, resource management, sales, operations, and many other areas relevant to running a business.
For business owners who feel like they have a knowledge gap that's holding them back, Alison can help them get to the next level.
8. MIT OpenCourseWare
MIT OpenCourseWare is another option for business owners seeking knowledge, offering free courses that allow you to learn at your own pace. And some of them include graduate-level courses to really advance your learning. You can sort courses by topic and subtopic. It offers video lectures, audio lectures, notes, assessments, student projects, and more.
9. Small Business Development Centers
Small Business Development Centers are state-specific startup resources provided by the SBA which help small business owners and entrepreneurs. You can view the SBA's list of small business development centers by state on its website. Get in contact with your local office if you want to connect with a local expert who can guide you in creating a business plan or finding funding for your company.
Formnet is a collaboration between Entrepreneur Magazine and SeamlessDocs that provides customizable form templates for entrepreneurs. That includes everything from business plans to general contracts.
This is a godsend for business owners who don't want to reinvent the wheel and waste a lot of time creating their own documents for these purposes. The service is free at the basic level, but if you want assistance with document creation and premium content, you'll have to pay a monthly fee.
11. Industry trade groups
Entrepreneurs often overlook Industry trade groups, but they can give you a huge advantage. These trade groups not only advocate for you on the legislative front but also conduct research and forecasting in your market and industry. So, find out what yours is and ask to join. They'll also provide access to exclusive events that are great for networking.
12. Other entrepreneurs
If you're struggling, why not reach out to someone you admire in the business world? Ideally, this is somebody you already know but you should also overcome your shyness and ask a successful owner some of your burning questions. Most will be happy to share their expertise, as long as you're not a competitor.
Make a habit of buying coffee for people you want to learn from on a semi-regular basis. Absorb their firsthand knowledge like a sponge, and you'll grow in your business as well.