You know better than anyone that running a small business is challenging. The great news is that you don’t need to do it alone: there’s a wide range of small business support organizations available to help you strengthen and grow your business! They offer various services, most of which are free or low-cost.
You’ll find staff and volunteers with expertise in business coaching and mentoring, financial management, marketing, and more within each organization. No matter what stage your business is in, you’ll fine assistance, from pre-launch planning through expansion.
In this overview, you’ll learn what small business support organizations are available throughout the U.S., along with tips on where to look for additional help specific to your small business or industry.
Small business support organizations throughout the U.S.
Numerous small business support services have local and regional offices throughout the country. If you need assistance, you’ve got options! And, if you don’t find exactly what you need at one organization, you can easily try another. These organizations are here for you and you can access any and all that you need.
The most well-known small business support organization is the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) – the federal agency that supports small businesses through affordable financing and educational resources. State and local government agencies also offer support through funding and programming, and corporate, foundation, and individual donors often make these programs possible.
- Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs): SBDCs are a national network that provides free counseling and advisement for small businesses. SBDC staff and volunteers can help you find lenders, strengthen your business plan and financial-management skills, provide insight on human resources challenges, and much more. You’ll often find them on college campuses in your community or region.
- SCORE: The national network of SCORE volunteers provide free mentoring and coaching services for small businesses, from one-time meetings to ongoing advisement. Their services can be accessed online and through local offices.
- Minority and/or Women’s Business Centers and help for Veteran-Owned Businesses: Business centers that focus on targeted assistance for minority-owned businesses, veteran-owned businesses, and/or women entrepreneurs provide the same types of services as SBDCs and often have additional resources available. You don’t need to be a certified Veteran-Owned Business (VOB) or Minority-and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) to access them, but the staff and volunteers in these specialized centers can help you with the certification process if that’s one of your business goals.
- Chambers of Commerce: Chambers of Commerce are found in communities throughout the U.S. They support businesses of all sizes in building professional and industry networks and often offer a variety of low-cost resources. They also represent business interests to local, state, and national agencies. In addition, some Chambers of Commerce offer special services to members, such as health insurance pools that may help your small business secure lower rates.
- Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI): CDFIs are non-profit lenders that offer affordable financing for small businesses. CDFIs make it easier for you to get loans with favorable terms that strengthen your business and build your credit. They also offer free information and resources in local communities and can connect you with experts in marketing, financial management, and human resources.
Additional small business support organizations that may be available in your area
If you need help with specific challenges related to your industry, you may need to look for additional services. It can take a bit of time to research where they are but once you find the help you need, the assistance will be invaluable. Here are some ideas:
- Research and development assistance: Some colleges and universities have research and development or manufacturing programs that can provide free or low-cost assistance with issues related to manufacturing. This includes the development of product prototypes or locating industry-specific suppliers or equipment. An example is OriginLab at Penn State University. With some research, you may find similar services in your area.
- Scaling challenges: In addition to research and development, some colleges and universities offer help with industry-specific challenges like how to scale up food or beverage production, safety or nutrition information, and labeling requirements. For example, the Food Venture Center at Cornell University provides entrepreneurs in the food and beverage industries with a range of services and information.
- Support for import/export challenges: While many SBDC, SCORE staff, and volunteers have knowledge about imports/exports, if you have specific questions, look to your state or local economic development agencies. Even other businesses in your field can be a great resource – some industries treat competitors as colleagues, recognizing that an industry’s strength depends on having many thriving small businesses within it. Craft brewers, for example, are known for sharing ideas and resources.
Pursuit is a resource for small business financing and much more
If you’re overwhelmed by the challenges of owning and running a small business, remember this: Being a successful entrepreneur doesn’t require expertise in every aspect of business management. There are valuable resources and guidance available to help.
Pursuit is a small business lender that offers financing and other assistance for small businesses in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. We encourage you to take a look at our available resources, as well as our financing options, to learn more. When you’re ready, reach out to learn how we can work together to keep your business growing!