When I decided to become an entrepreneur I had to learn how to maximize my resources and capitalize on the magnitude of resources available to small business owners. Obviously if you’re going to start a business you need to count the costs so you can be prepared. Still, having said that, there are some short cuts, many of which are FREE and I want to share some of those resources with you.
Small Business Development Center (SBDC) – The SBDC provides a wide range of educational services for small business owners and aspiring entrepreneur and most of the services are FREE. You can typically find them through the university system. In GA, they are affiliated with the University of Georgia, and they have offices throughout the state. They employ business consultants who offer professional, individualized consultation. Their consultants have advanced degrees in business or management and have extensive practical experience. For more information go to www.georgiasbdc.org
Chamber of Commerce –The Chamber of Commerce is a great resource for business owners, and I think one of the most under-utilized resources, especially among small businesses and even more so among minority-owned businesses. Though they are membership driven, they do offer opportunities for non –members. Chambers are traditionally known for providing networking opportunities, but they also offer beneficial education and training. Unfortunately, not all chambers are created equal – some are better than others. You have to check them out for yourself. I recommend you visit your local chamber a few times, attend a few networking events to see how they operate, and if you like what you see, then make the financial investment and join. I’ve learned that people do business with people they know, so if you’re not in the right places, you limit your ability to generate new business.
Google – There are so many services Google offers to the small business owner as well as nonprofit organizations. I’ve found numerous ways to utilize their FREE email accounts in my business. Their web based email accounts are compatible to Microsoft office and other email providers. You can route most email accounts through GMAIL, which allows you to access your email from anywhere – even your phone. The best part is you keep your business email domain, so nobody knows you’re using Google. Their email accounts offer calendars and document sharing for teams. If you need to upgrade for more business features, they offer a business account for a nominal fee. If you’re a nonprofit organization you can apply for a FREE business account. They even offer a FREE trial so you can try it before you buy it. For more information on small business accounts go to http://www.google.com/apps/intl/en/business/smbs.html . For more information about business accounts for nonprofits go to http://www.google.com/apps/intl/en/nonprofit/index.html
Vistaprint – If you can’t afford to spend a lot for marketing materials or business cards, this is a great resource to get you started. They have a variety of generic design options, and even allow you to upload your own logo. They offer FREE business cards and even FREE websites. Go to www.vistaprint.com
E-fax – There is really no need to spend a lot of money on bulky fax machines that require another phone line (more $$$). You can subscribe to an efax account. It can save you money and also allow you to send and retrieve your faxes from your email account. You can get one of these accounts for less than $10 per month, and most companies will give you a FREE trial for three to six months. There are several options available so do your research.
E-voice – This electronic voicemail system is a tremendous resource for small business owners. It gives your small business a “big” business feel. It allows you to customize your voicemail through an automated system or a real voice if you prefer. Some of the best advantages include multiple extensions, transcribed messages sent to your email account, and digital recordings you can listen to from within your email account. You get to choose your own phone number (local or toll free). It’s a minimal monthly cost, and since this industry has become more competitive, you can now get rates as low as $12 per month AFTER your 6 month FREE trial! There are several companies that offer this so shop around.