Just as you may need to hire employees to perform certain jobs for you, you may also need to use external resources and experts in starting your business. Many of the services available to you are free, others may be fee-based.
California Small Business Development Center Network
The California SBDC Network is a network of more than 40 counseling and service centers located throughout the state for the purpose of providing no charge management and technical assistance to California's present and future small business owners. The SBDC program links resources of federal, state and local governments with those of colleges, universities and the private sector to produce practical solutions to business problems. Specifically, the SBDC network is designed to:
- Provide practical one-to-one counseling to small businesses
- Provide other educational programs tailored to the needs and interests of entrepreneurs
- Conduct conferences and workshops on topics of value to small business owners for a nominal fee
- Provide special assistance for businesses interested in exporting, acquiring marketable technologies, receiving research and development funds, and determining the market feasibility of inventions
- Help women, minorities, veterans, people with disabilities, and others with special needs transcend obstacles and build successful businesses
Funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration and other public and private sector sponsors, the centers provide a broad range of specialized services, including help with:
- Business Plans
- Problem Solving
- Access to financing
- Marketing strategies
- Accounting and bookkeeping
- Human resource issues
- Inventory control
Any small business owner or person interested in starting a business in California may request assistance from a SBDC counselor. For the location of the California SBDC nearest you consult the Northern California SBDC Network.
Chambers of Commerce and Communities
Your local chamber of commerce can be a valuable source of sales leads, information concerning local ordinances, demographics and other data helpful in the operation of your business.
Communities are dedicated to promote, enhance, and strengthen general business interests. Businesses are provided with many networks of support through chambers events and community development projects. Contact your local chamber of commerce. Below are organization that offer assistance in the Silicon Valley area.
Silicon Valley Community Ventures (SVCV) is a results-driven organization that applies venture capital and business techniques to generate substantial economic benefits in low-income communities in the San Francisco Bay Area. SVCV offers business advising, resources, loans and equity financing to early-stage companies in the target communities of East and South San Jose, East Palo Alto, San Francisco and Oakland. The SVCV web site is http://www.svcv.org.
Bay Area Microloan Program assists women, low-income individuals, minority entrepreneurs, and other small businesses requring financial assistance. Teh program focuses on the start-up of new businesses, the expansion of existing businesses, and the creation and retention of jobs. On-line applications are available at http://www.obdc.com .
San Jose's Office of Economic Development offers three programs designed to serve start ups and non-traditional businesses which may find it difficult to obtain traditional financing. You can contact them at (408) 277-5880.
Public and University Libraries
Your public library can be a wealth of information as well. The reference section of most libraries includes specialized periodicals concerning various industries, textbooks concerning marketing and financial statements, industry overviews, demographics and other useful material.
Some types of services can only be performed by a professional, whether by law (only a licensed insurance agent can sell insurance) or by definition (only a CPA can prepare an audited financial statement). Fees paid to a professional frequently pay for themselves in the long run, whether because of the liability, which is reduced or avoided, or because the quality of the service provided measurable increases the success of the business. The professional most commonly used by small business owners are CPA's, attorneys and insurance agents.
Trade associations are frequently an excellent source of information concerning what's happening in your industry and what special challenges you may face. If you're not aware of a trade association for your particular industry, check the "Encyclopedia of Associations," available in the reference section of most public libraries.
Bankers can provide you with a great deal of information on topics ranging from general statistics relating to small businesses to financial services and techniques which can assist you in the management of your business. There are many specialized financial services which can help you manage your business with which you may not be familiar. A good banker can help you analyze your financial needs and identify services and resources (both within the bank and outside it) which can fill those needs.