They don’t have money to really market or advertise their existence, and most business owners and would-be entrereneurs have never heard of them. But America’s 1,100 Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) are a terrific resource for startups. Most SBDCs are hidden in out-of-the-way corners of local colleges and universities, chambers of commerce and vocational schools, but finding one is well worth the effort. If you’re looking to unleash your inner entrepreneur, one of the the best places for most people to start is at a local SBDC.
“We’re seeing more individuals interested in starting businesses, and I can’t say we’re surprised,” says Christian Conroy, State Director of the Pennsylvania SBDC, a network of 18 college-based centers providing help to new and existing businesses in PA. On-Site Heavy Equipment Repair in Clarence, PA is one example of a startup that forged ahead despite a dubious economy. Husband and wife team Don and Coleen Reese began their business just after the collapse of Bear Stearns in 2008. Working through the Penn State University SBDC, the couple got help developing a financial model and doing market research that helped them secure startup capital.
SBDCs offer counseling, training and tech help in all areas of business management, including finance, marketing, production, engineering, and feasibility studies. The program is run jointly by private enterprise and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
Despite cuts in funding, SBDCs are seeing a surge of interest in starting a business. Sharon and Frank Gundy of Hazleton, PA, looked at a new venture as a way to recoup lost income. Frank had been laid off, and Sharon, a real estate agent, was hard-pressed for sales. The couple sought help from the Wilkes University SBDC to launch their novelty gift business and build an online presence.
And Kelly Schick joined the entrepreneur ranks after being laid off from her job at Osram-Sylvania, the giant lighting manufacturer. The Gannon University SBDC helped Schick take over a former sports bar in downtown Warren, PA, after navigating her through the loan process. “I might have given up without help and encouragement from the SBDC,” says Schick, now the proud owner of Kelly’s Pub.
Free help from an SBDC is available to anyone interested in starting a small business for the first time or simply improving and expanding an existing small business, and who cannot afford the services of a private consultant. To locate a Small Business Development Center near you:
- Visit the SBA Office of Small Business Development Centers; or
- The Association of Small Business Development Centers (ASBDC).
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About the Author: Daniel Kehrer, Founder and Chief Content Officer of BizBest Media, is a senior-level leader in digital media, content development and online marketing with special expertise in startups, SMB, social media and generating traffic, engagement and leads. He holds an MBA from UCLA/Anderson and is a passionate entrepreneur (started 4 businesses), syndicated columnist, blogger, thought leader and author of 7 business and financial books.