The SBA: Your Secret Weapon for Small Business Opportunities

National Small Business Week is just a few days in a jam-packed year of activities that benefit small businesses, thanks to the efforts of the U.S. Small Business Administration. Since 1953, the SBA has been working to empower entrepreneurs and small businesses in order to help them grow, increase their independence, and encourage a thriving U.S. economy.

This post is a part of a series celebrating National Small Business Week. If you’re a small business owner using Shoeboxed for your business and would like to share your experience, we’d love to hear from you.

National Small Business Week is a time to celebrate and honor the incredible achievements of small businesses across the country. It’s also a time for entrepreneurs to take advantage of small business opportunities offered by the Small Business Administration, the driving force behind this annual week of workshops and events.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of National Small Business Week, which takes place in five cities across the U.S. and culminates in Washington D.C. with the naming of the National Small Business Person of the Year.

But National Small Business Week is just a few days in a jam-packed year of activities that benefit small businesses, thanks to the efforts of the U.S. Small Business Administration. Since 1953, the SBA has been working to empower entrepreneurs and small businesses in order to help them grow, increase their independence, and encourage a thriving U.S. economy.

The SBA offers a variety of small business opportunities and matchmaking services to help business owners start a venture, acquire grants and loans, and take advantage of partnership opportunities with larger corporations.

What follows is a comprehensive list of some of the most popular small business opportunities offered by the SBA, and a handy how-to guide for applying for and securing funding and assistance.

Startup America

The most powerful opportunities for SMBs occur when public and private sector organizations come together to offer increased funding and business connections for startups that wouldn’t otherwise have them.

The goal of Startup America is to give high-growth startup companies every chance possible to succeed and thrive in an increasingly competitive marketplace. In addition to dumping billions of dollars into education and mentoring programs, Startup America has created a partnership program that helps startups and big businesses connect with each other in mutually beneficial ways.

small-business-opportunities-1The SBA recognizes the fact that getting started can be one of the hardest parts of beginning a business, and that seed money is an essential component of any startups’ success.

Because of this, the SBA has vowed to match private investments in high growth startup companies dollar for dollar. This means that any venture capital invested in your startup can be doubled, simply by participating in the program.

If you’re starting your business in an area that is considered “economically distressed,” or if you’ve had trouble scoring a business loan by traditional means, this program may be perfect for you.

The SBA is particularly concerned with small businesses interested in starting with capital between $1 and $4 million; traditionally, small amounts like these are the most difficult to get funded.

The Early Stage Innovation Fund benefits SBAs and investors by doubling the amount of startup capital available during the early stages of the startup process.

Clean Tech Startups

If your small business deals with clean energy or environmentalism, you can benefit from the mentorship program headed by the SBA and the Department of Energy. In 2013, funding from this program will provide accelerated small business opportunities to 100 clean energy entrepreneurs throughout the United States.

The Clean Tech Startup program doesn’t provide financing directly to SMBs. Instead, it pours funding into four separate programs that offer “intense mentoring” to startups that are fiercely innovative and seem like promising business ventures. In other words, all you need to participate in this program is one heck of an idea.

Once selected, you will be assigned a mentor or team of mentors who will guide your startup in accelerating its growth. You’ll be assisted by a network of entrepreneurs, successful clean energy experts, and larger corporations that have a vested interest in seeing your venture succeed.

Interested? Check out which program is currently operating in your part of the country by clicking here.

Obama Introduces Plan To Help Small Businesses

With the credit markets as frozen as they are, it is difficult for many small businesses to get the loans they need to grow. Today, President Barack Obama announced new plans for immediate action to bring America’s credit markets back to life for small business owners.

President-Elect Barack Obama
President Barack Obama

Small business are a major component of the American economy. Obama said that small businesses are “one of the biggest drivers of employment that we have” and said his staff is “working diligently to increase liquidity throughout the financial system.”

Christina Romer, the head of the Council of Economic Advisers, said the government would pump “a significant amount” of money into boosting small business lending, but she did not reveal a total figure prior to today’s announcement by the president.

“We know that small businesses are the engine of growth in the economy, and we absolutely want to do things to help them,” Romer said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” this week.

The first program allows small businesses to obtain loans of up to $2 million that would be backed by the federal government through the SBA. The federal government would temporarily increase the loan guarantee to 90% to encourage banks to lend. The federal government currently guarantees 85% of the loans below $150,000 and up to 75% of larger loans. This increased guarantee is designed to give lenders more confidence and to loosen up credit for small businesses.

The second program, the “504 program”, guarantees up to $4 million in economic development projects for small businesses. Obama’s administration will temporarily eliminate fees for lenders and borrowers on any new 504 applications. This should reduce the costs to both borrowers and lenders in the program, administration officials said.