The small business sector continues to grow at a staggering pace. In a Small Business Administration (SBA) report issued in mid-2016, since 1982, the number of small businesses in America has risen 49 percent. And although big businesses have cut jobs steadily since 1990 by four million, small businesses have created a whopping eight million new jobs. In fact, the SBA reports that since the 1970’s, small businesses have produced 66 percent of all net new jobs for Americans.
Many people are prompted to enter entrepreneurship due to job loss, while others wake up with a brilliant idea they feel compelled to pursue. Whatever your reason is for starting your own small business, here are the tools and resources you’ll need to get started.
Before You Begin: Things to Think About When Starting a Business
There are many things to think about before starting a business, and in fact, they can be overwhelming. If you have many questions about beginning to run your own business, here are some resources to help:
● SBA Office of Advocacy FAQ Sheet – Released in mid-2016 and updated frequently, this sheet covers most aspects of small business by answering the top 21 questions people ask.
● 20 Questions Before Starting – The SBA provides a list of 20 key questions to ask when thinking about starting a small business.
● Choose Your Business Structure – Are you a sole proprietorship or a corporation? Your tax status and other regulations depend on your business structure, so this page will help you decide on the right structure.
● Business 2 Community – This busy website offers up-to-the-minute small business news and current trends. With a team of over 10,000 contributors, they cover a large variety of topics including marketing, world news, finance, technology, and arts and entertainment. Finding business advice and information is easy, because their main page is divided into three categories: Trending Now, News Articles and Popular Today.
In the Beginning: Business Planning Basics
Once you’ve decided to go for it, there are certain steps you have to take to make your business legal and ready to go. Here are some resources to help guide you along the way:
● 10 Steps to Starting a Business – The SBA lists 10 steps to take when starting a business, each with links for finding lots more information.
● Write Your Business Plan – This page provided by the SBA provides each party of your plan, from the executive summary to marketing and sales, and even an optional appendix.
● SmallBusiness.com – Offers many resources for starting a small business, including business advice for food trucks and craft breweries, as well as trademark information and copyrights – and much more.
● Business Plan Resources – This page provides information on writing a business plan, completing financial and cash flow statements and much more, including workshops to attend.
● 50 Free Resources to Help Grow Your Business – This webpage is the kitchen sink of small business lists, including everything from networking, operations and funding to marketing, development and branding resources.
Location: At Home, Leasing or Buying
According to the SBA, small businesses take up 30 to 50 percent of all commercial properties, which is approximately 20 to 34 billion square feet. While many businesses begin at home, with growth, many expand to commercial spaces. Here are some resources for helping you decide where to run your business from:
● Tips for Choosing Your Business Location – This SBA page describes how to decide where you will run your business based on factors like brand image, the local labor market and finances.
● Leasing Commercial Space – If you plan to rent a space, here’s what the SBA wants you to know.
● Home-Based Business Zoning Laws – The SBA provides this page for home-based business owners who want to comply with regulations.
Financing Your Business: Loans, Crowdfunding and Investors
Financing is another topic small business owners must address from the beginning. Here are some helpful resources to clear the currency confusion:
● Estimating Startup Costs – This SBA page can help you figure out how much you’ll need to get started right.
● SBA Small Business Finance FAQs – A 19-question sheet that covers many current aspects of small business financing.
● Ultimate List of Crowdfunding and Fundraising Websites – Posted on Crowd101.com, this up-to-date webpage provides the information required to make an intelligent startup funding decision.
● National Credit Union Administration – Partnered with the SBA, this page contains information on a number of initiatives, loans and grants to help small businesses gain better access to financial help.
● Seven Seed-Stage Funding Sources – This page by Entrepreneur.com provides seven modern options for funding a startup, including crowdfunding, super angels, VCs and seed funds.
Business Legalese: Regulations, Laws, Licensing and Taxes
As a small business owner, it is your responsibility to stay informed of all your legal responsibilities, including getting the proper licensing and paying your taxes. These resources can help:
● Federal Licenses and Permits – A page from the SBA that helps you decide if you need any federal permits.
● State Licenses and Permits – Most states have specific licensing requirements, so the SBA provided this page for small business owners that lists them by state.
● Filing and Paying Taxes – Does your business need a state tax ID? This SBA page explains what your tax responsibilities are and how to meet them.
● IRS Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center – This page provides links to all kinds of information on taxes, ID numbers, forms and publications for small business owners.
● Learn About Business Laws – There are many laws surrounding small business, so this SBA page explains them, including privacy, finance, online business and intellectual property laws.
More Help: Additional Small Business Assistance
● SBA Blogs – Stay on top of the latest small business news and developments, broken up into several categories, including Industry Word, Health Care, Starting a Business, Financing, Managing a Business and Contracting.
● EPA Small Business Resources Information Sheet – All small business owners need to know about federal and state environmental laws, so this page is a valuable resource to help them learn inexpensive, yet effective ways to comply.
● SCORE – The name stands for the Service Corps of Retired Executives, which is a non-profit association supported by the SBA that provides free and confidential business advice and expertise on a variety of topics, in the form of webinars, mentors, workshops, blogs and more.
● NFIB – National Federation of Independent Business – With 325,000 members and growing, the National Federation of Independent Business is for small businesses who want to network, get support and find opportunities for growth. The site offers many resources, advocacy, news and frequently-updated information, as well.
● ChamberofCommerce.com – With over 100,000 members and operating since 1998, this site offers valuable information and resources for small business owners. Finding your local chamber of commerce and attending real-time meetings is a valuable resource for networking, finding a mentor and getting business support.
These are only some of the resources available today for small business owners, but they are the most widely-used and reputable ones out there. In addition to these, be sure to check your local area for business associations, chambers of commerce and clubs for even more information, advice and networking opportunities.