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Free Resources for Small Business Owners to Start, Manage and Grow their Company

When it comes to resources available to small businesses, the first thing to know is what defines a small business. If you own a business with fewer than 500 employees, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) considers you a small business owner, which opens the door to an array of resources designed specifically for owners like you.

Most small businesses are owned by one- or two-person teams, and if you fall into this category, you know how rewarding it is to live out your specific vision – and how difficult it is to compete and thrive. After all, only about two-thirds of small businesses survive within the first two years. But MECU is here to help you every step of the way, whether you need help starting, managing or growing your business or startup. Access these valuable online resources available for small business owners in Maryland.

Start with the Small Business Administration

Startups and existing business owners can greatly benefit from the services offered by the SBA, which started in 1953 as an independent agency of the federal government to help small businesses succeed. Today, their website offers a wealth of resources for small business owners, including online learning center courses, business guide planning center, and their funding programs.

Although the SBA doesn’t directly lend to businesses, they create guidelines that allow entrepreneurs to access funding by guaranteeing the loans in case of default, which reduces the risk to many local SBA lenders, like MECU. SBA loans also have lower down payment requirements and flexible overhead requirements, and help business owners prepare their loan packages to increase the success rate.

SCORE Free Business Advice

Over the last 50 years, SCORE has served small businesses around the country by providing free business mentoring and education. SCORE is a non-profit partner of the Small Business Administration and has helped over 10 million business owners launch, manage and grow their company. They also offer courses on demand, workshops, webinars, and a helpful library of resources for entrepreneurs.

Visit the Small Business Development Centers in Maryland

Another partner of the SBA, the Small Business Development Centers offer small businesses free consulting and low-cost training. With more than three decades of experience helping more than one million companies across the country, SBDC offers small businesses in Maryland support in the following areas: 

  • Business plan development

  • Lending and financing assistance

  • Exporting, importing and manufacturing support

  • Market research

  • Healthcare advice

  • Disaster recovery help 

Women’s Business Centers in Maryland

Women-owned businesses have been on the rise across the nation, composing more than 11 million and employing nearly 9 million people, according to an American Express 2016 report. Over the last couple of decades, women-owned businesses grew 54%, but only received 5% of the country’s equity capital. In Maryland, there are nearly 10.4 million firms are owned by women (50% or more), employing more than 12.8 million people, and generating $1.9 trillion in sales. (source) To help level the playing field for female entrepreneurs, the SBA partnered with the Women’s Business Centers, which helps more women succeed in starting or running their company.

Support for Veteran Business Owners

Veterans, military spouses, National Guard and Reserve members and spouses can get support via the Veteran's Business Outreach Centers to start, buy or grow a business. A variety of programs are offered for businesses Maryland including Boots to Business, pre-business plan workshops, mentors and training, support on assessing the feasibility of a business idea and more. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) also offers a variety of resources to help veterans buy, start or grow a business.

Resources for Minority Business Owners

As of 2016, there were eight million minority-owned businesses in the country. Several resources are available for minorities looking to start or grow their company in Maryland. The Minority Business Development Agency works to connect minority business owners with contracts and financing, while advocating within the government to promote issues central to minority entrepreneurs. They have a variety of programs including grant competitions, a research library, and local business centers.

The SBA offers the 8(a) Business Development Program to help disadvantaged minorities qualify for government contracts and compete in the marketplace. They also assist minority owners with registering their business with non-government companies and certification agencies.  

MECU is Here to Help

Managing your own small business in Maryland can be rewarding and challenging. If you want to start your own business or you’ve already launched, free resources can help. Of course, the business bankers at MECU can also be a source of guidance to help you access funding and point you in the right direction on a variety of related topics. To speak with a local business banking expert and see how we can help, please contact us today.