Starting a business is one of the most rewarding, but perhaps difficult things you can do. Part of the reason is that there’s an infinite number of ways you can go about it. I always tell would-be entrepreneurs that opportunities are only limited by our imagination. This is great and inspirational, but is usually followed by puzzled looks and questions on how to get started.
The answer depends on where you are in your career/professional development and what kind of entrepreneur you want to be. Entrepreneurship is not a one-size fits all. The needs of each entrepreneur will be as varied as the resources available to pull from. To figure out what you need, I recommend brushing up on some business basics. I will note that this is something I recommend to all budding entrepreneurs regardless of education or experience level.
A mistake I often see experienced professionals make, especially ones looking to launch a business in their field, is that they assume that their experience will automatically equip them to launch a business. However, unless your company has an internal entrepreneur program, your experience will probably not fully prepare you for everything you need to know. Remember you’re going from being part of a team where other handle many business functions for you to doing almost everything on your own.
SBA and chambers
Two great resources are the Small Business Administration and your local chamber of commerce. The SBA’s website provides basic business guides, information on funding, business plan templates and contacts to other agencies that can help. Chambers of commerce are increasingly beginning to provide programs aimed specifically at helping entrepreneurs. These are often an offering in conjunction with the Small Business Development Center or a business coach. Building a relationship with your chamber will allow you to benefit from its programming, help you find a support network or maybe even a mentor, and let you research the vendors available in your community.
Every good entrepreneur belongs to an association. This is part of your networking and sales strategy but can also help you in the early stages before you launch. Professional associations provide industry trends and information that may impact your business. Perhaps there are some looming regulatory changes that would dramatically change your business model. For professional service entrepreneurs, associations often have professional development programs that help you get your business started.
Universities and SBDCs
Like chambers, many universities are also expanding services to help entrepreneurs. The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley has an excellent Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Center with a wide variety of services. Tech entrepreneurs, especially, often benefit from resources and business incubators located within universities. This is part of the reason why SBDC offices are often located on university campuses, it helps connect businesses to researchers and professors.
Libraries are a resource many easily overlook. Not only do they offer a cheap work space with great WiFi, but they also have business resources, such as business license requirements and forms, industry trade journals, and other useful online subscriptions.