Posted: July 24, 2012
Small business: It takes a village
There's no need to go it aloneBy Teri Karjala
You have an incredible idea which mighty even prove to be profitable — but you haven’t a clue how or where to start. You never took that business degree; you lack formal business training; and your experience out in the field remains pretty thin.
Sound familiar? It’s a theme I have encountered repeatedly when meeting small business owners who are just starting out, especially if you are like me and spring from a completely different background, like mental health.
Here’s what I’ve learned about all this: None of that matters, with good reason. As with any great endeavor, owning and managing a small business takes vision, courage and hard work, but it also takes a village. Anyone and everyone who ventures down this path — no matter their background — deserves championing and support. There’s no need go it alone, especially since there are loads of free resources out there that are designed to help the business-minded to not just get off the ground and running, but to grow and succeed in startling fashion.
Resources, guidance and support are a click or a phone call away. Check out these examples. Some may surprise you.
Denver Score Office. From Score’s website: “Score is a nonprofit association dedicated to entrepreneur education and the formation, growth and success of small business in the U.S. We are also known as the SCORE Association.”
Colleges/Universities. Most business programs require a business consulting class. In this class, small businesses and nonprofits may receive complimentary business consultations from students. Students are required to complete these consultations for class credit. I recently received this service from the Metropolitan College of Denver. There are many other colleges that require this consulting class in their business program.
Meet-up groups. If you have never checked out this resource, it is a must-do. Find your location area, type in topic/interest, and voila! After registering your account you will have access to hundreds of groups meeting regularly about your topic. Identify the groups that you are you most interested in attending. Then attend 2-3 times to make sure it is a good fit for you, and make a commitment to become a regular member.
Office Depot. Office Depot has a wonderful program called Web Café that (from their site), “was launched in 2002 as part of the company's online Business Resource Center. These free web-based seminars provide small business owners and other professionals with the opportunity to learn from industry experts on a variety of topics ranging from marketing, and sales tools to finance and technology trends.”
Denver Small Business Development Center. “We offer low cost seminars and classes to help you learn skills in business management, accounting and financial growth, sales and marketing tactics. These courses and seminars provide you with valuable networking opportunities and learning how to make your business grow,” reads their web site.
Local Libraries. Libraries still are one of the world’s greatest resources. They are one of the best places to go for free business seminars and information from industry experts. They also have online systems that allow the small business owner to order specific items in advance (thereby saving valuable time).
Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA offers free resources on building a business, trainings, business loans and more. The SBA says that its mission is “… to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation….”
Mentors. Others in your field who are doing what you are doing and are where you want to be can be an invaluable resource. Believe in the power of mentorships. Some of my most valuable advice and support have come from mentors. When you find inspiring people, ask if they would be willing to mentor certain aspects of your business. Most people are honored and they can provide great resources.
Heck, ColoradoBiz is a fountain of fresh content and “those who’ve been there” voices.
And all that’s just the start and that’s also a key: Get started!
Teri Karjala is a licensed professional counselor and marriage and family therapist. She can be reached directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org.