As an entrepreneur, small business resources are often critical in helping you make the most of your venture.
We get it. That’s why we’re sharing some of the best resources for small business owners, most of which are free.
Head to edX, where you can browse hundreds of free college-level business classes from renowned postsecondary educational institutions, such as Harvard University, University of California Berkeley, University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, among others.
Search for your topic of interest, whether business strategy, computer science, business planning, communications and more. If you’d like, you can earn recognition for your training by paying for a course completion certificate.
2. Open Education Consortium
Along the same note, the nonprofit Open Education Consortium offers the public free access to global repositories, open courses, open textbooks, open access journals and copyright-free digital media.
Some of the organization’s sustaining members in the U.S. alone include the City University of New York, Tufts University, University of Michigan, University of California, Irvine, and John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
3. College Professors
Going back to school can be a good thing, though that doesn’t necessarily mean signing up for classes. See if your local community college offers resources for small business owners.
Even though you’re likely not a student, check out the school’s business department online, which often lists professors’ contact information.
Feel free to ask a business professor questions. They may be happy to help and might even use the real-world situations you pose to them as case studies in their curriculum.
Find a college near you by visiting the National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator site. Filter by ZIP code and 2- or 4-year institution. You also narrow your search to focus on those schools offering general or specific business programs.
While your local chamber of commerce can connect you to business owners who have successfully operated in your area for decades, nonprofit organization SCORE, which initially stood for Service Corps of Retired Executives in its founding in 1964, can pair you with a mentor who’s best suited for your organization’s needs.
With hundreds of chapters across the country, SCORE provides a range of counseling services and workshops operated by volunteers with significant experience and expertise in a variety of disciplines. You also can find free small business information online, such as helpful document templates, webinars and articles.
5. Small Business Administration
Beyond basic business resources, you can find information on ways to protect your company from cybersecurity threats, get tips for buying assets and equipment, learn how to sell your business and more.
6. Small Business Development Center
Sponsored in part by the SBA, Small Business Development Centers are located throughout the country. Get assistance securing small business loans or find help with topics such as business planning and business taxes, or take part in a training event in a topic of interest, such as marketing, COVID-19 recovery and website development, among others. Online learning also is available through digital resource libraries.
7. Chamber of Commerce
Chambers of commerce focus on helping local businesses grow. Being involved with your local chamber of commerce means you’re connected to some of the most active entrepreneurs in your community, some of whom may have been doing business in the area for decades.
For a small fee, you can become a member of your local chamber. Also, you’ll get access to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce website, which offers free helpful resources for small business owners.
8. Industry Associations
Much like your local chamber of commerce, an industry association can help you advance your business. The advantage of connecting with peers in your sector is that you’re able to learn about how they’re adapting to certain industry trends and even plan future collaborations.
When you’re looking to start a business or get organized, templates can help. Bplans provides free downloads of commonly used business documents.
Some of these include the following:
- Startup checklist
- Cost estimating
- SWOT analysis
- Cash-flow forecast
- Lean business plan template
You also can find business planning guides and examples as well as industry-specific guides. Browse their library of articles for additional advice you can put to use in your company.
10. Small Business Grants
When you’re looking to keep business running smoothly or you’re seeking to expand, sometimes you need capital to get to where you want to be. If that’s the case, consider applying for small business grants. Grants are essentially free money you apply for, similar to an entry in a contest.
You can search for federal or state government grants or private grants in the following categories as well as in general business:
- Niche business
If you don’t qualify for grants, consider if small business financing can help you access the funds you need to grow your company.
Which Small Business Resource Will You Turn To?
Now that you know what resources are available for entrepreneurs and small businesses, which ones will you take advantage of?
Whether you own the corner shop on Main Street or you run a business out of your home, there are plenty of options. From education to mentoring to networking opportunities, don’t wait to start accessing free small business resources today.