The US Small Business Administration has loads of free content on their web site. In addition, they have Small Business Development Centers located in many colleges and universities throughout the country and they have many Women’s Business Centers, which focus specifically on helping women start and succeed in business. You can find information on government contracting, writing a business plan and many more topics through them.
The Senior Corps of Retired Executives are individuals who have owned a business and are willing to mentor business owners. You will have to have a fairly clear idea what you want to do, so they can match you with someone who has business experience that is relevant to helping you achieve your goals. You are getting the benefit of one-on-one guidance, which could make a huge difference in getting you over some of the early obstacles and pitfalls of establishing your business.
An often overlooked resource is your local library. You are more likely to find a small business database in a central regional library, but you should ask your librarian. It is truly amazing how helpful librarians can be, and how much information is readily available if you just take the time to ask them.
A Small Price
For a reasonable membership fee you can find a local business association in your area, or perhaps in your field of interest, or even your local Chamber of Commerce. These groups may have networking events you can attend prior to joining, to get a feel for whether it would make a good fit for your needs as you establish your business. In this case you will want to be prepared for how you wish to present yourself. Are you a community member who is considering starting a business in a particular field, or have you launched and now you are looking for clients?
Guinea Pig, Anyone?
Still another avenue for obtaining assistance with starting or growing your business is to approach a local Business School, College or University. Perhaps the marketing class needs a project to work on, why not your business’s marketing plan? You can always take or leave their input, but chances are you will learn something you would not have otherwise, and you are helping the students get a handle on real world challenges. This could be a win-win situation with long term advantages. You may even find some future employees or business partners.