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Do you want counseling about business problems? Advice about finding export markets? Find out how to become a government contractor? Well, there is a great resource for you: your local Small Business Development Center, or SBDC.

These are community organizations, often affiliated with universities, that offer advice and training to prospective entrepreneurs and current business owners. They are funded in part by the U.S. Congress through the Small Business Administration and by the host organization. 

Specializations

Many SBDCs have specializations. For example, the Small Business Development Center at the University of North Florida has agribusiness programs. The SBDC at the Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago works with manufacturing companies. The one at Lehigh University helps energy companies in Eastern Pennsylvania. And many use host university resources in interesting ways. For example, the SBDC of McLean County, Illinois has a partnership with the Spanish department of Illinois Wesleyan University to conduct Spanish-language programs, while the Happy Valley Launchbox at Penn State University works with student entrepreneurs. 

Typical Programs

A typical small business development center offers programs for people who are thinking of starting a business. These include how to write a business plan, how to make financial projections, and how to finance your business. For people who already have a business, the program offerings are different. They may include in-depth workshops on accounting systems, online marketing, and government contracting. Many programs are free or have a low charge (such as a $49 registration fee that includes lunch). Some programming is offered through online classes or webinars.

In addition, many SBDCs offer research and consulting services to help businesses that need one-on-one advice. In most cases, these services are free of charge.

Helping Established Businesses

Even businesses that are long-established can find benefits from Small Business Development Centers. For example, some have programs on the management challenges of  family businesses or information about developing succession plans

At Bento for Business, we believe in the power of small businesses to support and grow American communities. We also know that small business owners sometimes need help. We can help with cash flow management; your local Small Business Development Center may be able to help you with other challenges of growth.