Helpful, Low-Cost Resources for Startups
There are countless free or low-cost resources available to help entrepreneurs just starting out. It’s so important to start out on the right foot, with the proper legal, accounting and business plan guidance. In the interest of narrowing down my list to a helpful, low-cost few, here are some of my favorites:
General. The Administration (SBA) offers a number of resources on their website at www.sba.gov. I’m a big believer in the value of writing a business plan, so the specific link for business plans is: www.sba.gov/smallbusinessplanner/plan/writeabusinessplan/index.html.
Business Plan Book. My favorite book that explains what a business plan is and how to write one is The Business Planning Guide by David H. Bangs, Jr. (www.amazon.com/Business-Planning-Guide-David-Bangs/dp/079315409X) It explains each part of a business plan in clear, concise language without too much jargon. Examples can be found throughout. Another reliable choice is How to Write a Business Plan by Mike McKeever (published by Nolo Press, www.nolo.com/products/how-to-write-a-business-plan-sbs.html)
In-Person Assistance. These wonderful organizations offer literature, seminars, workshops and consulting services at little or no cost:
• SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives): www.score.org
• SBDCs ( Development Centers): www.sba.gov/sbdc
Legal Issues. Nolo Press (www.nolo.com) is a terrific resource for legal information. Their self-help publications address a wide variety of topics and can be purchased online or found in local bookstores and libraries. More importantly, their information is trustworthy and easy to understand. Topics include patents, trademarks as well as how to choose on the best legal entity for your company (LLC, incorporate, etc.). Law school legal clinics are also great options.
Creative Financing. Peer lending came on the scene several years ago, and crowdfunding has become the latest craze. There are a variety of flavors, depending on the company. Here are just a few options:
Prosper (www.prosper.com) sponsors peer-to-peer lending—a popular alternative to traditional loans and investing options. They offer fixed rate, unsecured personal loans from $2,000 to $25,000 with terms of 1, 3 and 5 years available. People who need money request it, and other people bid for the privilege of lending it to them.
Kickstarter (www.kickstarter.com) is a funding platform for creative projects (films, music, art, technology, etc.). “If people like the project, they can pledge money to make it happen.” However, everything on Kickstarter must be a project—it’s not ideally suited to startups because there are whole categories of projects the site prohibits, such as social networks and e-commerce sites.
Indiegogo (www.indiegogo.com) is a crowdfunding platform that allows small businesses of all kinds to raise money.
Funding Launchpad (www.fundinglaunchpad.com) is a platform that helps startups and small businesses navigate the world of fundraising via expert educational tools and a directory of vetted resources. They built FundingLaunchpad with the goal of making crowdfunding clear and straightforward. “They are one of the first companies in the U.S. to allow entrepreneurs and small businesses to legally raise up to $1,000,000 in equity investment from the general public – including unaccredited investors – using the power of social media to drive participation in state-registered ‘direct public offerings’.”