3 Ways to Get Free Advice for Small Business

Many aspiring entrepreneurs have a great idea yet lack the knowledge they need to start and run a business.  Even longtime business owners can enter unfamiliar territory when they expand their company or move it in a new direction.

Here are 3 ways to get good, free advice for small business owners.

Tap Government Resources

There are many local, state, and federal agencies dedicated to helping small businesses start, grow, and create jobs.

For example, businesses in Petaluma can ask for help from the City’s Economic Development Division, the County Economic Development Board, the State Business office, as well as the federal Small Business Administration.

Work with a Mentor

According to a 2014 survey by The UPS Store, 70 percent of small businesses that receive mentoring survive more than five years – double the survival rate of non-mentored businesses. The same survey found that 88 percent of business owners with a mentor say that having one is invaluable.

Two national organizations that offer free mentoring are Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) and SCORE.

SBDCs exist across the United States and its territories and are funded in part by the Small Business Administration. SBDCs offer business training (in the form of classes and workshops) as well as one-on-one, no-cost business advising (aka, mentoring) to existing businesses and entrepreneurs.

SCORE offers the nation’s largest network of free, expert business mentors. SCORE mentors help aspiring business owners develop a practical plan to get the doors open and establish a customer base. They also help existing owners tackle challenges associated with growing a business, like how to increase profit, manage employees/customers, and achieve work/life balance when you’re the boss.  SCORE also provides online and in-person workshops and a newsletter offering business advice. SCORE services are free thanks to corporate sponsorships and the generous donation of time from its volunteer mentors.

Join a Coworking Space or Business Incubator

Especially if you’re a people person, starting your own business can feel a bit lonely.  There’s no water cooler (or foosball tables) to congregate around, no team brainstorming sessions, no work buddy to celebrate your success or poke holes in your latest ideas.

Joining a coworking space or business incubator might help alleviate the loneliness while providing access to another source of valuable information—your peers.

True, coworking spaces and business incubators typically charge a fee, but the advice you get is often free. Plus, done right, a coworking/incubation space offers a lot of value for the cost. You not only get desk space, wi-fi, and copy machine access—you also get intangibles like social interaction, cross-industry knowledge, and emotional support from people who also are going it alone.

Two local co-working spaces/incubation spaces are WORK Petaluma and the SoCo Nexus.



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