“Small business owners need to do their due dili gence,” says Lauren R. Beard, president of Valens Marketing & Consulting Group L.L.C., a Silver Spring, Maryland-based consulting and marketing firm with services that include helping small businesses secure financing. Beard adds that resources abound to help small businesses grow, if business owners take the time to look for them. Here are some government-sponsored entities that can help you take your firm to the next level.
Small Business Administration
One of the first stops business owners should make is the SBA. The Website is full of information and online courses on topics ranging from financing to business plan writing. Entrepreneurs can also receive counseling and training at any of the SBA district offices, which are in every state and Puerto Rico. Although the SBA does not offer small business grants, its various loan programs such as the 7(a), 504, and Microloan make low-cost loans of all sizes.
Another source of aid for African American-owned businesses is the SBA’s certification programs, which helps companies win contracts from the federal government. The 8(a) Small Disadvantaged Business program, for example, helps minority- and women-owned businesses secure procurement opportunities. While the 8(a) program does not guarantee federal contracts, it does provide counseling, management, and technical assistance as it helps entrepreneurs identify business opportunities. For more information on SBA programs, visit SBA.gov.
Small Business Development Centers
The Office of Small Business Development Centers and Entrepreneurial Development is a collaboration between government and educational institutions and the private sector. With funding from the SBA, Small Business Development Centers across the country provide business counseling, training, and can direct owners in selling products and services to local and federal government agencies. To locate a Small Business Development Center in your area, visit the center’s Website.