You’re a small business. The U.S. federal government is interested in helping small businesses.
So why haven’t you met the SBA yet?
The Small Business Administration can be a major boost to small businesses—especially for first-time business owners—that want to navigate the world of business with a helping hand. And it’s not a toothless organization, either: the SBA can provide genuine help to small business owners at a wide variety of points in your business, from helping you flesh out your ideas and your business plan to providing disaster relief after hurricanes.
How might the SBA help you? Have a look at some of the little-known resources you might not have yet considered:
1. Free Business Counseling
Ever feel like you need a mentor—or simply a voice to turn to? The SBA offers free business counseling in some cases. Click to their Local Assistance Section to enter your specific location and find out where to find these SBA offices might be.
Once you go through this map, you’ll find all sorts of local resources ranging from veteran’s business outreach centers to disaster field offices.
2. A Start-up Costs Worksheet
Before you decide to dive headfirst into a new business, you should have a concept of what the costs might be. The SBA offers an online startup cost calculator to help you through the following details:
- Regular employee expenses: How much will you estimate you pay for payroll, payroll taxes, and benefits like health insurance?
- Miscellaneous expenses: “Miscellaneous” expenses are the ones you’ll have trouble predicting. Expenses such as liability insurance, repairs, license fees, and even dues for organizations can eat into your monthly budget.
- Inventory: Do you know what your inventory might cost at the start—and what it might include?
The online PDF at SBA.gov allows you to enter your estimates, then adds them up for you at the bottom of the spreadsheet automatically. Although you might want to poke around with some additional research before you’re sure about your own costs, having a ballpark idea of your start-up costs can be invaluable.
3. Emergency Preparedness Checklists
While you might imagine this would be the territory of Ready.gov—and it is—the SBA doesn’t ignore the businesses affected by earthquakes, tornadoes, wildfires, and more. Even businesses in stable areas have to worry about cybersecurity issues, for example. The SBA offers plenty of readiness checklists for businesses who don’t know if they’re up to snuff.
Perhaps most intriguing is the cybersecurity guide. The SBA allows you to enter your company information and generate a unique cybersecurity planning guide for handling issues as far-ranging as privacy and data security to the way you manage your payment cards. At the SBA website, you can enter which specific concerns you have to generate a completely customized planning guide.
4. Help with Applying for Licenses and Permits
When you sell something that requires government oversight, you have to get all of the details right from the get-go. The SBA provides assistance with applying for licenses and permits across a wide variety of business types, from selling alcoholic beverages to handling transportation and logistics. If you’re still in the idea phase of a new business, it’s worth checking with the SBA to get a sense of what kinds of licenses you’ll need before you open up your doors.
5. Connecting with Business Insurance
Business insurance can mean the difference between a catastrophic financial disaster and a small blip on the radar. The SBA helps you find out what kind of business insurance you need—such as general liability insurance, commercial property insurance, and the like—before referring you to a network of licensed insurance agents who can recommend the appropriate levels for your company.
6. Funding Programs
The SBA funds small business in several ways, including:
- Loans. In certain circumstances, the SBA may work with lenders for the provision of capital in what are known as SBA-guaranteed loans. Because the SBA works with these lenders, it can reduce the overall risk for the lender, making them capable of offering you the kind of money you might need to start your business.
- Investment capital. The SBA regulates companies known as SBICs and offers them funding to allow them to make investments in small businesses like yours—in this way, the SBA doesn’t directly invest in startups, but does make it more possible for startups to find investors.
- Disaster assistance. The SBA’s disaster assistance generally comes after hurricanes in the form of low-interest loans to qualifying businesses.
- Surety bonds and grants. In creating a surety bond, the SBA might help a company feel more confident that you’ll complete the work agreed upon. For grants, you’ll generally have to run a business focused on research and development.
7. Balance Sheet Templates
Maintaining your balance sheet is at the core of how you manage your business. Do you know what your budget looks like? Whether you’re in the black or the red? Do you know where your money goes each month?
The SBA helps by pointing you in the direction of a balance sheet template that simplifies the process of figuring out what’s happening with your business. Think of the balance sheet as your small business’s own map—and the numbers don’t lie.
8. Getting Your Federal and State Tax ID Numbers
This is one of the most underappreciated areas of starting a new business: you’re going to need tax IDs! To make sure that you go about it the right way, see the SBA’s guide to Federal and state tax ID numbers so they can point you in the right direction.
Building a Better Business with the SBA
The SBA provides plenty of resources for any business—whether that comes through online guidance or more personally by connecting you to local offices. If it’s possible your business could use a helping hand, consider browsing SBA.gov and connecting with the Small Business Administration for guidance in your own company.
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