In March of 2014, I founded and became Chief Executive Officer of my own business, Veteran Writing Services, LLC. I was fortunate to attend a program for women veterans within Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management. The Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) program gave me the tools, training, and guidance to transform what I had been doing part-time into a full-time successful woman, veteran-owned small business.
Recently, several people have asked me advice about starting and managing a small business. So, I decided to share some resources I’ve used over the past year. I know there are many more out there, but I’ll stick to those with which I have personal experience. The biggest lesson I’ve learned in my first year in business is this: you are not alone, if you know where to look.
SBA covers the gamut from those first starting in business and developing business plans to those wishing to grow their businesses through loan programs and other initiatives. SBA’s vast resources including specialized training programs such as the “Encore Entrepreneurship for Women,” for women over 50 interested in starting their own businesses. I signed up to receive SBA e-mail updates (top right of site), and attended numerous free SBA-affiliated programs, a few of which led me to learn more about programs listed below.
SBDCs assist small businesses and entrepreneurs through free business consulting and low-cost training services. Hosted by universities and state economic development agencies, SBDCs are located throughout the U.S. I met a representative from the Maryland Small Business Development Center at a Small Business Resources Day event, followed up with a counseling appointment, and walked out of the office with an achievable Action Plan. Call it coincidence, but I also added brand new clients to my list that same week. Sometimes, it helps to get an advisor’s perspective – particularly when he or she understands and can relate to your small business challenges, as my counselor did. It doesn’t hurt to have a monthly appointment to keep check on progress, too.
There are over 100 Women’s Business Centers in the national network, overseen by the SBA. My experience has been with the Maryland Women’s Business Center which provides workshops, business counseling, resources, and small group sessions. For example, I attended a certifications workshop which included presentations from the Women Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), SBA, and the State of Maryland’s Office of Minority Business Enterprise. I learned more in that three-hour workshop than I had in more than 20 hours researching on my own how to obtain small business certifications.
PTAP exists to help small businesses compete in the government marketplace. If you hope to sell your product or service to the government, this group can help you understand the requirements of contracting with federal, state, and local governments. With more than 300 free training events available (both live and via webinar) and over 200 educational articles and documents – PTAP is a great place to shop for answers. My fantastic PTAP business counselor shares her 20+ years of government contacting experience to help me navigate my small business through bureaucratic waters.
So, good luck to those considering starting your own businesses. And don’t forget to share what you learn to help those starting behind you!