1. What business should I go into?

You are the only one who can answer this question. Start with a list of things that you enjoy doing and in which you have experience or education, or both. List all the businesses you can think of related to these activities. Jot down how each business does in good times and bad times and why you believe this. Do research. Pick three business options for further consideration.

Example: Compare your three choices using a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest score. Make your own list of objectives. Be honest with yourself as you analyze the alternatives.

Objective Fabric Store Upholstery Shop Alterations Shop
Do I enjoy this work? 8 10 7
Is there a growing need? 6 10 5
Can I specialize? 9 8 6
Can I try it out first? 3 10 8

These questions will help clarify your thoughts:

Once you have narrowed your choices, make a “for” and “against” list for each business.

Write down the names of five successful businesses in your chosen field. Analyze what they have in common and why they are successful. Write down the names of any business failures in your chosen field. Try to find out why they failed and write down the reasons. Talk to people in your chosen business. Find out the negative aspects of the business. Better now than later. After settling on a choice of business that you believe can meet your objectives, learn all you can about the business and then write a Business Plan.

2. I have heard that grants are available to start a business. How do I get a grant?

Unfortunately, there is much incorrect information in the media about grants for small business. Don’t fall victim to promises of free grant money that are so prevalent in the media! The truth is, we don’t know of any grant money available to start a for-profit business. This is true even if you are a woman, a minority, or a veteran. Virtually all grant money available is to help non-profit entities and organizations who provide a public service or fill a public need, such as senior centers, children’s services, civic organizations, education and research facilities and programs, and public works. One exception is the possibility of grant money from the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. If you are a disabled individual you should check with Vocational Rehabilitation to see if you qualify.

3. If I can’t get a grant, how can I finance my business?

Most business startups are financed by their owner’s personal funds or borrowing capacity. The most common sources of money to start a business are personal savings, home equity, friends and relatives, even credit cards (not recommended). Other options for raising startup money include taking on partners who exchange cash for an ownership interest in the business. This can also be accomplished through incorporation and sale of stock shares, or through a Limited Liability Company with several member/owners, each contributing capital. With good credit, money down, and sufficient collateral, a commercial loan is also an option. A good place to start is to request a copy of your credit report and make sure it is accurate. The SBDC office can help you determine what financing you may need and also help you evaluate the feasibility of your business idea.

4. What is a Business Plan and why do I need one?

A Business Plan is a written explanation of the proposed operation, facilities, equipment, financing, and other components involved in making your business work successfully. The purpose of a Business Plan is threefold: 1) to determine the feasibility of a business idea; 2) to serve as an Operations Guide once the business is up and running; and 3) to determine and prepare to request any necessary financing for the business. A DO-IT-YOURSELF GUIDE is available on this website to help you get started. A typical Business Plan includes explanation and analysis on the following topics as they relate to your business:

A well-prepared Business Plan will require considerable thought and research. It is important that you write the plan yourself so you will gain important in-depth knowledge about your business. The Small Business Development Center has trained consultants available to help you understand and develop your business plan.

5. How much do SBDC services cost?

Small Business Development Center counseling services are provided at no charge. Occasionally, nominal fees are collected to recover specific costs, such as training materials.

6. What kind of help is available from the Small Business Development Center?

SBDC counselors are available to provide information to business owners and prospective owners on a wide range of business issues. SBDC counselors can help solve business problems, improve management skills, suggest new ideas for products or services, and provide guidance in planning and marketing. SBDC assistance is aimed at providing the business owner with information and resources needed to tackle business problems and opportunities, rather than doing the work for them.

7. Do I need an appointment to visit the Center?

Yes. Most SBDC offices handle a large workload of client appointments over an extended geographic area. For this reason, it is important to schedule an appointment with a counselor to discuss your business questions. Appointments are usually scheduled during the 8 to 5 workday, but exceptions can be made if this is not possible for you. It is always a good idea to bring any information you have about your business and finances with you to the appointment. This will save time by allowing the counselor to more quickly develop an understanding of your business.