As a small business owner, it may be tough to compete with established businesses controlled by families with millions of dollars. But if you meet certain criteria, you may be able to get some additional support in growing your business through a variety of free programs. Here’s a look at a few of your options.
1) 8(a) Business Development Program – This government program offers a broad range of resources to businesses that are at least 51 percent owned by socially and economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs including African Americans, Native Americans, and Latino Americans with a personal net worth below $250,000. If your business is deemed eligible to participate, you’ll be able to enroll in free training programs and receive business assistance from financial and technical professionals for a total of nine years. You’ll also be given priority for government contracting opportunities, and will be provided with advice for seeking government contracts.
2) National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) – If one or more of your principals are members of a minority ethnic group, you’re eligible to market your business through the NMSDC’s site. After becoming certified by the association, you’ll be listed on a national online database, which more than 460 large corporations use for selecting vendors for a variety of services.
3) Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) – This government agency provides free training and support to minority-owned businesses through on-site help at Minority Business Centers around the country, online tools that can provide you with sales leads and resources, and a tool to find other minority-owned vendors to partner with.
4) Office of Women’s Business Ownership - If you’re a female business owner, you can take advantage of free training and business development resources from your local Women’s Business Center. For information on other business and networking opportunities specifically for female business owners, visit womenowned.com.
5) Office of Veterans Business Development - Business owners who’ve served in the military are eligible to take advantage of a range of free business assistance options, including business plan development, training, and referrals. Check out your regional branch for more details, and learn more about other opportunities for veteran entrepreneurs here.
6) SME Toolkit – This online resource center developed by IBM and the International Finance Corporation provides a wealth of articles and online tools dedicated to business strategies and information to help grow your company, including resources specific to various minority groups.