Free Resources for Aspiring and New Entrepreneurs
Free Resources: Training, Mentors, and Help with Financials
There are dozens of free programs at the federal, state, and local levels designed to help small businesses. These organizations are often, but not always, focused on serving specific groups, e.g., residents in specific zip codes, women, Black, Latino, Asian, women-in-technology, or formerly incarcerated. You will certainly find at least one or two organizations with mentors or “technical programming” designed to help new entrepreneurs in your area. Here are some examples of excellent free resources (these examples are all in New England, so look for similar programs in your geography):
Funding: Loans and Grants
- Start with the US Small Business Administration
- Investigate funding options at https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs and look at their microlenders if you need <$100,000. The SBA microlenders will often offer “technical assistance” and help you fill out the required forms for a loan application. The SBA offers a lender match service.
- Find your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC), which is funded by the SBA and provides counseling and training. The SBDC can connect you to banks in your area.
- Look for regional, non-profit economic development corporations that can offer loans from $5,000 to $5 Million as SBA-intermediaries or in partnership with your local bank. Examples in Massachusetts include: CommonCapital, South Eastern Economic Development (SEED) Corporation and the Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation
- Find quasi-state, non-profit organizations like the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC), who provide access to loans and grants to small businesses in Massachusetts. The Maine Technology Institute (MTI) and the Maine Entrepreneurial Resource Corps (MERC) offer grants or matching grants for Maine-based entrepreneurs building businesses in eligible industries. Look for similar organizations in your state.
Education and Mentorship
- Consider getting a SCORE mentor at www.score.org or technical assistance from the Center for Women & Enterprise (CWE), which has offices throughout New England.
- Take a free entrepreneurship program offered by a community nonprofit such as EforAll, Maine Center for Entrepreneurs, or Mill Cities Community Investment
- Find foundations with a mission to help local community businesses, such as Asian Business Empowerment Council (ABEC), which is part of The Boston Foundation.
- Consider looking at grant-funded training opportunities via the Massachusetts Workforce Training Fund programs
If you need more specialized help building your business, or want your own business sounding board with unlimited feedback, check out the Zenagos CEO Trek or the Zenagos Innovation Trek.
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