What started as a campus experiment at the California State Polytechnic University in Pomona in 1976 has become a successful national program. Small Business Development Centers, established through the Small Business Administration, give companies valuable resources to launch and thrive.
There are nearly 1,000 Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) across the United States and its territories that can help a company grow by offering small business advice and resources.
Success of SBDC clients
In 2014 research by the Small Business Administration found SBDC clients started 17,207 businesses and created 98,660 new jobs that year. They generated $7.1 billion in new sales and posted annual growth of 16.8% – about four times the national average for small businesses. The program received $112.1 million in federal funds and generated $259 million in federal revenue and another $355 million in state revenue.
This is a government program that more than pays for itself.
Services SBDCs provide
Most SBDCs offer consulting services and a series of seminars on topics that can help your business. Small business advising may be offered by appointment or at drop-in clinic hours. It’s simple: You come in and talk about your concerns and receive advice on what to do next. These services are free, so it’s a good way to get started. As with any meeting, the more preparation you do in advance, the better information you’ll receive.
In addition, each SBDC has a schedule of training programs covering management topics in depth. These are usually free (sometimes there’s a nominal fee to cover costs). Common topics include: how to hire employees, how to do social media marketing and how to research a franchise opportunity. These seminars are networking opportunities, too; you’ll be able to meet other small business owners in your community to share ideas.
Not just for start-ups
A SBDC will work with you at almost any stage of your business. Maybe you have an idea for a business and aren’t sure how to proceed. A SBDC can help direct your research and offer resources for writing a business plan. Maybe you have a thriving company and are curious about entering new markets. SBDCs can help you learn about researching markets, approaching potential partners and managing payment terms. If your business is facing a crisis, the staff at your local SBDC can help give you appropriate guidance.
Online small business resources
Many SBDCs also offer online training. If you’re interested in a topic but your local SBDC doesn’t have a training program on it, you can do a web search (make sure to put “SBDC” in your query) and find a webinar that can help you.
Check local SBDC resources
All SBDCs offer counseling and training services, and some have additional programs. In some communities, local attorneys and accountants hold free advising sessions at the SBDC. Others hold business plan competitions for student entrepreneurs, put on regional trade conferences, administer economic development grant programs, and help match student interns to local companies. So, if there are a few SBDCs in your area, you should look at what each offers.
In short, SBDCs are great resources for small business owners. They can give you information and ideas to make your business stronger for little more than an investment of your time.
"America's small businesses are truly the engine of economic growth," said Charles "Tee" Rowe, president of America's SBDC. "America's SBDCs have been like spark plugs helping to keep that engine going. SBDCs are driving small business growth by helping to create a new business every 31 minutes and a new job every five minutes."
Finding one is easy. America’s SBDC, the national association of SBDCs, has a directory you can search.