I originally planned to cover another Syracuse Institute for Veterans and Families (IVMF) and Small Business Administration (SBA) initiative called Boots to Business: From Service to Startup today. However, after researching it further, I realized that the program would fit better in a different category and decided to delay posting about it. Along the way, however, I discovered another resource that can help veterans looking to start or grow a business, the Small Business Development Center, or SBDC.
SBDCs are small business resources that combine federal Small Business Administration resources with those of state and local as well as corporate resources to provide free business counseling, free and low cost training, access to loan and other business related information, and other business programs and services. Because they are handled at the state level, the specific resources available may vary, though the categories will remain generally the same. In order to give you a good cross-section of what is offered, I reviewed 18 state SBDC sites, choosing a sample from across the country.
Almost all of them have a veteran specific part of their webpage, though the actual name can be anything from Veterans Portal (Texas) to VetBizCentral (Michigan). These vet specific areas can include information on the Patriot Express Loan, franchising opportunities, state and local veterans programs, information on potential tax exemptions and the government Procurement & Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) contracting program. Some, such as Virginia’s SBDC, also have vet-to-vet entrepreneur roundtables.
Their general services include local workshops on topics such as: How to Use QuickBooks, What You Should Know About Credit Card Services, OSHA Updates, and more. Many are free but some can cost between $10 and $375 (prices are generally listed in the workshop description). Many also have online learning components, such as SmallBizU™, education for entrepreneurs; Money Training Academy™, training focused on the financial aspects of business; and EntreSkills for Veterans™, an interactive educational program that helps veterans learn how to convert military skills into useful business skills. Additionally, since they are local, they can also help provide information about strong markets in that area, such as the wine (Oregon) or boating (North Carolina) industry, as well as local business summits and conferences that can help you make local connections. Others provide CEO roundtable opportunities, loads of downloadable tips, checklists, and articles, and other useful information such as local demographics, links to free services for businesses and other resources.
To find more information on what is offered in your area, type in your state’s name + SBDC into your favorite search engine or go to http://www.sba.gov/tools/local-assistance/districtoffices and choose your state.
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