To shed light on the under-appreciated resources that small business owners should be aware of, we've gathered twelve insightful responses from business owners, founders, and other business leaders. From leveraging SCORE for free mentoring to using local libraries for networking and learning, these experts share their top resources that deserve more attention.
Leverage SCORE for Free Mentoring
A good business owner is always learning and always growing. There are a number of under-appreciated, under-recognized resources designed to help small business owners, but my favorite is SCORE.
SCORE is a network of mentors and entrepreneurs that help other business owners grow. It's a mentorship that spans across the US, and the best part is it's free to all small business owners.
You can access free mentoring and resources, as well as educational courses. There are options for small business owners to take classes in a brick-and-mortar setting, and that is dependent on location.
You can also opt for webinars and online on-demand courses, which fit right into an entrepreneur's busy schedule.
If the resources are there, then you should try them! There's no shame in needing a boost, and if it's a free one, then all the better.
Stefan Campbell, Owner, The Small Business Blog
Explore Micro-loans for Business Growth
What's often overlooked is the potential of micro-loans. When I was just starting out, a micro-loan made all the difference for me. It provided that crucial boost needed to scale my services without the intimidating bureaucracy of larger financial institutions.
For budding entrepreneurs, micro-loans can be a lifeline, bridging gaps in cash flow and enabling pivotal investments. I genuinely believe more small business owners should explore this underrated avenue for funding.
Harness Your Local Chamber of Commerce
If I had to pick one under-the-radar treasure that small business owners often overlook, it's the local Chamber of Commerce. Seriously, this isn't your grandma's networking club; it's a goldmine of opportunities and connections.
Think of it like a local business Facebook group, but with real-life interactions, workshops, and even grants. Your local Chamber can connect you with potential clients, collaborators, and mentors. They often offer training sessions on everything from social media marketing to tax planning. Some even have partnership programs that can result in your business getting more visibility in the community.
Why is this so valuable? Because local networking can deliver ROI that digital marketing can't touch. A trusted recommendation from a community member can hold way more weight than an online review from a stranger.
Engage the Community for Feedback
One often-overlooked resource that small business owners, especially in SaaS spaces, should focus on is the power of community engagement and feedback loops.
Think of it like this: If you have a garden and you want the best yield, you'd water the plants and constantly check the soil health. In the same vein, businesses should nurture their community—their clients and customers.
Leveraging tools that foster real-time feedback can provide invaluable insights. In our company, for instance, we've seen a 30% increase in customer retention when we actively engage with our community and respond to their feedback. It's not just about selling a product or service, but about building a relationship and trust. It's akin to having your finger on the pulse of your business's heart and ensuring it beats healthily and steadily.
Join Business Incubators for Support
I discovered the goldmine that is business incubators. Many overlook them, but for me, joining one was pivotal. In the early days, we had a vision and drive, but were somewhat lost in execution.
The incubator provided us with valuable mentorship, resources, and even a space to work. It wasn't just about the tangible benefits; it was the community. Being surrounded by other budding entrepreneurs, sharing challenges, and celebrating small victories together, gave us a boost that's hard to put into words. I genuinely believe every small business owner should consider leveraging such a resource.
Tap into Niche Social Media Groups
For me, a resource that's often overlooked by small-business owners is niche-group discussions on social media platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn. They're a goldmine of under-the-radar strategies that are not yet widely talked about online. These groups provide a unique opportunity to observe A/B testing conducted by others and to learn from their results. It's like having a backstage pass to innovative strategies and ideas that can help drive a small business forward.
Utilize Government Surplus Auctions
One often-overlooked resource for small business owners, especially in our niche of tiny home design, is government surplus auctions. I remember stumbling upon one such auction early in our journey. We found quality hardwood flooring and fixtures at nearly half the price we'd usually pay. It not only reduced our costs, but added a unique touch to some of our designs. These auctions can offer unexpected treasures, perfect for innovative businesses like ours.
Benefit from Government Grants and Schemes
One underappreciated resource that small business owners often neglect is government grants and schemes specifically for small businesses. Governments of different countries regularly come up with lucrative government schemes that promote small businesses and help them with funding, marketing, goods transportation, etc.
For instance, many small businesses in the US can take advantage of SBA 7(a) loan programs, which provide business loans for shorter periods and interest rates that are more affordable than those of local banks. Whenever brainstorming a separate production unit or a sister entity for a main business, consulting a financial/government advisor who can help get assistance from these government programs is beneficial.
Small business owners often put more effort into getting funding from personal banks and lenders, but learning more and using government schemes effectively can grow their business more.
Boost Local SEO with Citations
One resource consistently stands out, often overlooked by small-business owners: local citations. These are mentions of your business name, address, and phone number on other websites. They're not just directory listings; they're powerful tools for local SEO. When your business information is consistent across various platforms, it boosts your credibility in the eyes of search engines.
Some platforms really help speed up the process, such as Whitespark. It streamlines acquiring and managing these citations. Instead of manually scouring the web, Whitespark does the heavy lifting, ensuring your business is listed accurately across the board. This enhances your local SEO and drives local traffic to your doorstep.
In a world where every click counts, leveraging such tools can be the difference between being a local favorite and getting lost in the digital shuffle. For swift, free traffic, it's an avenue worth exploring.
Seek Guidance from SBDCs
I often notice how many small business owners overlook the invaluable resources provided by Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs). Early in our company's journey, we turned to our local SBDC for guidance on scaling our operations. The insights and mentorship we received there were instrumental in our growth. It's a treasure trove of knowledge and support that I genuinely believe more business owners should tap into. Their expertise can be the difference between mere survival and real success.
Outsource Tasks to Freelancers
Freelancers can help you scale your business without extensive overhead or ongoing commitments. Whether you need an assistant for one-off tasks, a marketer, a bookkeeper, or any other type of professional service, small businesses can save money by outsourcing their needs to freelancers.
This way, you can get budget-friendly help without the complexities of a full-time or part-time employee. Plus, business owners get access to highly qualified talent in those disciplines.
Use Local Libraries for Networking and Learning
Your local library can prove to be a very valuable resource if you are the owner of a small business. Especially if you are just starting out in your business venture, a library itself can provide you with a space to work and conduct independent business affairs online. Most libraries have Wi-Fi and are equipped with resources for you to use. Many also have access to e-learning platforms, which can help you improve skills or freshen up on certain materials.
Your local librarian might also have insight into networking events happening at the library, which you can attend - often for free or at a low cost. This can help to expand your connections and meet other local small business owners.
Learn more about how Maricopa Corporate College can support HR professionals in administering career training and professional development programs.