By Matt Bertram

By Matt Bertram

Matt Bertram, is the lead digital strategist at EWR Digital. He is the co-host of the Best SEO Podcast: Unknown Secrets of Internet Marketing. Currently writes for Search Engine Journal, Forbes and Entrepreneur.

If only there was a one-stop-shop to help your small business.

It would assist entrepreneurs to research and expand their business idea. Start-ups could seek essential advice and qualified training. Existing businesses could consult on expansion and managing their expenses.

Well, there’s great news! The service already exists.

It’s called the Small Business Development Center and they have an office near you. 

If you live or trade in the US then the SBDC can assist you today. Covering all business areas like planning, finance, and marketing, you can partner with the country’s best-kept secret.

This essential guide outlines how the SBDC Program can benefit you. It explains exactly what the SBDC Program is, how it works, the areas it can support, and how to get started.

Development centers also offer free business assistance and consultancy so there’s not a moment to lose.

Small Business Development Center Definition

There are over 30 million small businesses in the US. SMBs (Small to Medium-sized Businesses) make up 47.3% of all the country’s employees. Last year, 1.8 million net new jobs were created by SMBs alone.

The US Government recognizes how essential the small business sector is to the economy. That’s why the SBDC Program was developed 40 years ago – to help businesses like yours.

Federal, state and local governments have joined together to link their resources. Partnerships with the private sector and educational community provide a wealth of experience to tap into.

This Small Business Administration (SBA) funded venture offers training, information, business counseling, and other services to new and existing SMBs.

You can visit the official American’s SBDC website but first, read on to see if they can support you.

Who Can SBDC Benefit?

There are three main target groups:

  1. Aspiring entrepreneurs
  2. Start-ups
  3. Existing businesses

If you have an idea for a business but need assistance to take it forward, the SBDC can help. Be it seed funding or regulatory compliance, your local center can give you free advice.

For those in the start-up phase, help with marketing or the best use of technology is essential. SBDC offers free consultancy on these matters.

Businesses who are more established may want to expand. The program can guide you through international trading and employment law and give great advice on company growth.

How Is It Funded and Is It Free?

Fifty percent of the funding comes from the US Small Business Administration. Sixty-three recipient organizations then filter the money to Lead Centers in each state. Lead Centers are responsible for nearly one thousand Service Centres across the country and they will be your point of contact.

SBA > SBDC Programme > Recipient Organization > Lead Center > Service Centres

The rest of the funding comes from one or more sponsors. Sponsors include private sector foundations, chambers of commerce, universities, and colleges. Basically anyone involved with small businesses who want them to succeed.

Many parts of the SBDC Program are free like one-to-one counseling. Training and technical support may incur a fee but this is minimized to assist you to grow.

What Does a Small Business Development Center Mean for Me?

It’s impossible to be good at everything.

Bookkeeping can be a chore but you aren’t sure how to make it easier. Never used social media before? You’ll need guidance to market yourself online.

For some, specialized help is required. Few businesses have expertise in development in procurement, for example. Thinking of opening a franchise? Where do you begin?

Whatever your needs, the SBDC has them covered. American business centers offer a full range of services including:

1. Business Planning

A business plan sets out your business idea. It includes your marketing and sales strategy, financial background, and projected profit and loss.

Your local Small Business Development Center can guide you when creating your business plan. Spreadsheet templates for profit/loss accounts make this much easier. Free resources like these are available from the SBDC.

Case Study: Upcycle Hawaii LLC

Mattie Mae Larson wanted to create products from recycled trash. She contacted her nearby SBDC in Hawaii for advice.

They worked with her for over a year to develop her business plan. She now sells to gift shops and via her website and recently won a contract to make zipper pouches.

2. Financial Assistance

Grants, loans, and financial advice are part-and-parcel of an SBDC’s repertoire.

You can read the SBA’s grant eligibility page or for details on award programs but your local SBDC will offer expert consultancy.

Before contacting your bank for a loan, are you aware of all finance options available? In the case study below SBDC advice literally saved their business.

Case Study: Cheeseburger Baby

Cheeseburger Baby has served the Miami Beach area for twenty years. When  Hurricane Irma hit in 2017, essentials like equipment and power were hit severely.

The SBDC in Florida helped the business apply for an interest-free bridging loan. Repairs were made and the full level of staff returned. The company was awarded the 2019 Phoenix Award for Outstanding Small Business Disaster Recovery.

3. Marketing

To help your customers discover your business you will need a marketing plan.

Brand identity makes you stand out from the crowd and establishes your name in the marketplace. Traditional advertising now works in tandem with online marketing. You’ll need advice on social media and a web presence including the right domain name.

Your local development center offers free marketing consultation. They can hook you up with relevant local business listings and partners such as colleges for e.g. video marketing.

Case Study: Amazing Glaze Donuts

Katie Giesbrecht and her husband bought over their local donut business. Idaho SBDC provided free consultancy before the sale. They now work together on implementing a marketing strategy to sell to local customers and wholesale clients. 

4. Technology Development

Technology isn’t about buying a computer to send emails. It can help run, promote, sell, and grow your business into new markets.

For example, podcasting is our lifeblood and we encourage small businesses to embrace this modern medium. Our step-by-step guide offers insight into how podcasts can help promote your business. Especially to Millennials.

Your local SBDC can identify IT help for your needs, including security and Cloud storage.

Case Study: EuroCabinet

Arkansas manufacturing company EuroCabinet attended a seminar by Arkansas State University. The SBDC and its partners helped secure $1 million in expansion financing. The company invested in high-end CNC tech and sales jumped 65%.

5. Company Growth

If you’re an established business you may be considering expanding to new markets.

Whether this is local to regional, regional to state, or countrywide to worldwide, an SBDC offers the expertise you’ll need.

Case Study: Independence Coffee Co.

Independence Coffee Co. received an offer from a packaging company for partial ownership in exchange for investment. Before signing, they needed advice – but who to trust?

Blinn College SBDC based in East Texas helped them make the right decision. As a result, they went out on their own and are now a major regional coffee roaster for the retail and wholesale markets

6. Regulatory Compliance

How well do you know policies, standards, and laws about your business?  Government regulations evolve constantly so you’ll need expert on-going advice.

Your local development center has links to professionals who specialize in your field. Consultancy is often free so why wouldn’t you use it?

Case Study: Michael J. Burns Architects, Ltd.

Minnesota-based architect Michael Burns visited SBDC-run workshop State Tax Withholding and Unemployment. It was essential he stayed up to date with best practices and regulations.

He was then given one-on-one consulting with SBDC consultants to help with his marketing plan and analyze financial data.

Helpful Resources

The Small Business Development Center Programme offers a range of useful resources for SMBs including: 

Sponsor Offers

There are many special discounts and freebies for registered small businesses. Currently, there are over 30 exclusive deals available including free guides and toolboxes.

Workplace Wellness Programs

Effective workplace wellness programs can reduce health risks and improve the quality of life for all workers.

Work@Health is a training program run by employers. The aim is to improve organizational health with an emphasis on reducing chronic disease and injury risk.

COVID 19 Advice

Bookmark the SBA’s official website for the latest information and advice on the Corona Virus/COVID 19.

Details include financial disaster assistance and preventing worker exposure.

More Case Studies

You can read more real-life case studies relating to your business by downloading America’s SBDC Annual Report.

Contact Your Local Small Business Development Center Today

By now you should be itching to contact your local SBDC.

Visit America’s SBDC directory and enter your zip code or state. This interactive map shows your nearest center. You can visit their website or email or phone the center director to discuss your requirements.

The goal of a business development center is to help you and your business. Make them your partner to help you throughout your business life.

Remember, for the latest trends in marketing your business online subscribe to our podcast. We can also assist you in improving your Google search results so schedule your Profit Plan today.

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