Small business owners and entrepreneurs may oftentimes feel overwhelmed with the numerous tasks associated with operating a business. While the need for assistance may be apparent in just one or many areas, you may be unsure of where to look for help. The Small Business Administration (SBA) is a U.S. government agency that focuses on assisting small businesses and entrepreneurs with a variety of helpful resources. According to the SBA’s mission statement, “The SBA helps Americans start, build and grow businesses.”
The SBA has been in operation since 1953 and was formed in recognition of the importance small businesses have as a part of the American economy. The organization maintains field offices throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It also works in partnership with many public and private organizations.
It is important to familiarize yourself with the core functions of the SBA so you can utilize and leverage their quality resources as a guide to success.
The Small Business Administration offers help for small business owners and entrepreneurs in everything from planning a business to getting loans, and even helping businesses recover from natural disasters. Below are some of the key programs and services available from the SBA.
Counseling Services and Development Programs
The SBA offers counseling services and development resources for financial and business planning for small businesses, guiding owners through the process and providing them with the necessary tools to set up successful plans. There are online courses and training in a variety of topics, such as customer service, cyber security and crowdfunding. These low-cost training courses are available at SBA’s Learning Center.
The SBA also offers free online counseling and provides help concerning starting a business, managing a business, implementing healthcare plans, filling out tax forms and more. There is also at least one physical office per state, which provides in-person counseling services for small business owners or entrepreneurs.
They also have Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers and other support and mentoring programs for specific areas of interest. Check out the Local Assistance page to learn more. Lastly, businesses that are owned or controlled by at last 51% of socially and economically disadvantaged people can also apply for the 8(a) Mentor-Protégé Program and enjoy benefits on top of those previously discussed.
SBA loans are offered through partner lenders and banks. These loans are usually used for commercial mortgages on buildings for small business operation. There are numerous loan programs that offer help, so it’s best to check their Loans and Grants page to see if there’s a program that fits your needs. Keep in mind that the SBA isn’t the one loaning the money; they’re simply guiding you through the process to obtain the capital.
About a quarter of government contracts go to small businesses in the U.S. The SBA offers opportunities for small businesses to obtain these government contracts or subcontracts. The organization also offers relevant training to those interested in pursuing this path.
The SBA offers specific programs and loans to help small businesses recover in the case of a disaster. Their Disaster Field Offices are located across the country and are prepared to help small businesses bounce back when faced with catastrophic obstacles.
Other Types of Assistance and Resources
The SBA also has an advocacy program, meaning their team will review legislation and testify on behalf of small businesses, including doing necessary research regarding legal issues and helping you plead your case.
In addition, the SBA offers many resources beyond those mentioned here. Check out their website for specific categories related to your needs, or check with local development centers in your area. The annual resource guide from the SBA offers a more in-depth look at their many programs available for small businesses.