they will learn a new skill. Many will work for college credit while others require a small paycheck. Call the career office at colleges in your area to begin tracking down low-cost helpers or check out www.utexas.edu/world/univ/state for a state-by-state list of universities.
Minority Business Development Centers (MBDCs). More than 50 MBDCs nationwide provide free and low-cost help with financing, marketing, and contracting issues for African American business owners. Find the center nearest you by visiting www.mbda.gov or by calling 888-324-1551.
Networking groups. If you feel like you need to get more involved with the local small business community, consider joining a networking organization such as BNI or Le Tip, which are groups established for the sole purpose of generating more business for members. There is a cost to join, which varies by group. Find a local BNI group at www.bni.com or by calling 800-825-8286, or a Le Tip club at www.letip.com or 800-255-3847.
Patent protection. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Website is an excellent starting point for inventors or anyone with a design they want to protect. Check out their database of patents at www.uspto.gov or call 800-786-9199 for technical support. The Inventor Resources section of the site is especially helpful.
Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs). Your first stop in learning more about doing business with the U.S. government should be your nearest PTAC (pronounced PEE-tak). Enroll in free training or set up a one-on-one appointment with a counselor to track down contracts you could bid on. Call 409-886-0125 to find your closest center, or check out www.dla.mil/db/ procurem.htm.
Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE). Though available to help both startups and existing companies, SCORE’s strength is its cadre of industry experts, who volunteer to help small businesses tackle growth issues. Find the office closest to you by calling 800-634-0245 or visiting www.score.org.
Startup financing. “Every major bank in the country has someone whose job it is to try and get money into the minority community,” asserts Little, who strongly encourages African American entrepreneurs to start their money search at a local bank.