As any small business owner can attest, starting and running your own company takes commitment, hard work, and ingenuity. The good news is that you don't have to do it alone. Thanks to the Internet, it's easier than ever to find authoritative answers to the questions and challenges that entrepreneurs face. Here are seven organizations and associations to consider adding to your list of resources. Most offer free or low-cost services, but some charge membership fees, so be sure to check first.
SCORE: A nonprofit association that provides support primarily through mentorships and education. Small business owners can find a mentor from 62 industries for either a face-to-face or email meeting. There are also free business tools, free confidential counseling, and free or modestly priced workshops and webinars at more than 340 chapters across the U.S. and its territories. SCORE also offers expertise in specialized categories, such as minority, rural, veterans, women, over 50, and youth entrepreneurs.
The U.S. Small Business Administration: An independent agency of the federal government that helps in four key areas. The SBA offers a variety of business financing arrangements, provides free face-to-face and Internet counseling, fights for government contracts for small businesses, and represents entrepreneurs before Congress.
National Federation of Independent Business: A nonpartisan, nonprofit association that lobbies in Washington, DC, and in all 50 states for favorable government policies for small businesses. NFIB membership also offers discounts and buying power for small business essentials such as insurance, credit card processing, office equipment, online marketing products, and more.
National Small Business Owners Association: Focuses on giving members access to various kinds of working capital, insurance products, and financial education. According to their website, they "partner with leading lending institutions to service small business owners who cannot borrow from traditional banks due to business type, a short length of time in business, or an insufficient credit history."
America's Small Business Development Center Network: A network of private, government, academic, and local nonprofit economic development organizations that provide free or low-cost business consulting and training. Operates approximately 1,000 centers around the country. Their website has an extensive list of links to other resources for small businesses.
Business Marketing Association: This well-established association helps members meet their B-to-B marketing and communications objectives. It offers a wide range of programs, reports, surveys, and events that bring expert knowledge and people together.
National Association of Women Business Owners: The only dues-based organization of women entrepreneurs with 70 chapters across the country. Focuses on increasing the voice of women business owners in political, social, and economic leadership roles.