If you’re on your first entrepreneurial venture, you’ve probably got a lot of questions - and the more you learn, the more questions you’ll have. Fortunately there’s a resource that exists to help first-timers navigate the ever-changing business world.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) was created in 1953 through an act of Congress as an independent agency of the federal government. Its core mission is to support the development and growth of small business in the United States through a range of services including financing, technical assistance, education and training, procurement, and advocacy. SBA offers a myriad of related resources for business owners through the Small Business Development Centers and SCORE.
The SBA's Office of Women's Business Ownership (OWBO) was established in 1979 and advocates for opportunities for woman-owned businesses as well as assists women entrepreneurs as they turn their ideas into viable, profitable businesses. The OWBO offers assistance finding and preparing applications for loans and grants. They can help your business secure government contracts through a range of services.
According to the data from the U.S. Census in a 2014 report from American Express OPEN, there are more than 9.1 million woman-owned businesses in the United States. The OWBO oversees a network of nearly 100 Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) with locations in every US state and most territories to help support these women business owners as well as women who aspire to start their own businesses. SBA partners with many organizations focused on women and business including the National Women's Business Council and the Association of Women’s Business Centers.
WBCs are intended to help you navigate the sometimes confusing and often challenging landscape of small business ownership. These centers are staffed by experienced counselors who act like mentors to small business owners and can help you find answers to your small business questions, from getting a loan to hiring to purchasing equipment.
Specific offerings vary from center to center but are likely to include workshops in business essentials like writing a business plan, developing a budget, marketing your product or service, and important human resources and legal issues related to running your business. In addition, you may find networking opportunities and social events, mentoring programs, technology centers, and business incubation.
Take a smart first step toward building a mentoring relationship to grow your business. By reaching out to your regional WBC or connecting with the OWBO online, you can potentially find the business mentor you need or even connect with another business owner to mentor.
Here are some other mentoring resources for women business owners:
- SCORE Mentoring Portal: Find a mentor to meet in person, get answers to questions by email.
- MicroMentor: A free, web-based service that connects entrepreneurs with volunteer mentors.
- National Association of Women Business Owners: NAWBO represents over 8 million women-owned businesses with both a national presence and 70 local chapters. Formal mentoring programs can be found at some chapter while any chapter offers networking opportunities that could lead you to a mentor.
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