The 50+ Entrepreneurs’ Ecosystem

Entrepreneurs themselves are a diverse lot, from street vendors in LA to the technology titans of Silicon Valley. But regardless of their location, their size, or their industry, the environments in which entrepreneurs operate — the ecosystem — can and does dramatically impact their survival, their growth, and their success.

What are the resources you need in order to succeed with your business?

Let’s review some of those resources.

The Small Business Development Center

Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), funded in part by the Small Business Administration, help entrepreneurs develop business ownership, as well as assist existing businesses to remain competitive.  SBDCs are hosted by leading universities and state economic development agencies.

Services they provide:

  • Business Consulting
  • Low-Cost training to include business plan development, manufacturing assistance, financial packaging and lending assistance, exporting and importing support, disaster recovery assistance, procurement and contracting aid, market research help, program support and healthcare guidance.

For a complete list of SBDCs located across the US, go to their website.

The Small Business Administration

The Small Business Administration (SBA) district offices are located in each of the 50 states and Puerto Rico and Washington DC. These offices are responsible for the delivery of the many programs and services provided by the government.  Some of the services available include:

  • Financial assistance through guaranteed loans made by area bank and lenders.
  • Assistance to socially and economically disadvantaged individuals through the Minority Enterprise Development Program, Women’s Business Ownership Representatives, and guaranteed loans for credit-worthy veterans.

For a complete list of the locations and services, please see their website.

Association of American Retired Persons, Inc.

The Association of American Retired Persons, Inc. (AARP) offers more than a focus on the elderly after retirement.  They offer assistance to help people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, and fight the issues that matter the most to families, such as health care, employment, and income security.

For their assistance in starting a business, visit their webpage.

One document you will find very useful is: AARP Foundation Business Model Canvas Guidance. This document, from the AARP Foundation, is used for businesses interested in applying for an AARP grant.  You may not be eligible for a grant from AARP, but this guidance in completing the Business Model Canvas is an excellent resource as you begin thinking about your enterprise.

SCORE SCORE has over 12,000 volunteers with multiple years of business experience available to help small business owners through on-on-one counseling, business tools and training programs.

Process for securing a legal business name

Depending on the legal status you decide upon in forming your business, this will determine how to secure your legal business name.

A plethora of information is located at NOLO.

To stay out of trouble, understand the law. If you choose a name that is similar to a competitor’s name, you could be sued.  The only way to protect yourself is to do your due diligence and find out whether or not a name you choose is identical or similar to another business name.

Type a name you’re thinking of using into Google. You can quickly see whether someone else on the Web is using a similar name to market similar products or services.

Check with your county clerk’s office to see whether your desired name is already on the list of fictitious or assumed business names in your county. (In a few states, there is just one statewide fictitious name database — if that’s the case in your state, your county clerk will tell you.)

Network Solutions  An easy way to look for business names online is to go to the Network Solutions website and type in variations of the name you want to use. 

If you’re organizing your business as a corporationLLC, or limited partnership, you must be sure your business name isn’t the same as that of an existing corporation, LLC, or limited partnership in your state. Contact your state filing office to find out how to search their name database. If your proposed name (or a very similar one) shows up in your state’s database, you’ll have to choose another.

Website and URL

Every business needs a website.  This can cost thousands of dollars, a couple of hundred dollars, or free, depending on your budget.  However, do not skimp on creating a first impression on the internet.  When a potential customer finds your webpage, this may be the first time to discover you, and that first impression is the most important.  It’s much like a Resume when you were trying to find a job.

There are numerous resources available for help in designing a webpage, based on your budget.  Perhaps you can start with a simple, clean look, and as your business grows, you can invest more in the webpage.  If you have the time, and the creativity, then you could do it yourself.  I know that I had so much to do in building my business, I didn’t have time to learn, and I wanted to make the best impression I could with the budget I had.

Here are some resources for you to investigate.  Do your homework and find out about the resource and the reviews they receive from their users!  Whatever you decide, plan to maintain the website on a constant basis, to ensure the customer has only a positive experience when visiting your site.  Besides the website you will need a domain and a host.  There are several websites that will help you with both building your website and accessing a domain.  Websites need hosts that serve and maintain the files for many websites.  You will need a host to house your website.

Watch this YouTube video produced by GoDaddy.

Forbes’ suggestions for hosting the website, and other important information.

GoDaddy  https://www.godaddy.com/

Reviews: https://webhostinggeeks.com/providers/godaddy

WIX https://www.wix.com/

They offer a free website builder and it walks you through the steps of building a website and  accessing your Domain, as well.

See WIX Reviews https://fitsmallbusiness.com/wix-reviews/

WordPress https://wordpress.com/

Reviews for WordPress:

https://hostadvice.com/hosting-company/wordpress-com-reviews/

Get a custom domain, no ads, and support for you starting at $4.00 per month.

Internal Revenue Service

An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is also known as a Federal Tax Identification Number and is used to identify your business.  You will need an EIN.  It is free through the Internal Revenue Service and you will be issued your EIN immediately.  When you go to the IRS website, you will walk through a series of questions to assist you.

This same website will give you information on starting, operating and closing a business, as well as information on incorporating, should you plan to legally incorporate your business.

FYI:  You will not be able to open a business bank account without an EIN.

Entrepreneur Friendly Banks

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) published a thorough checklist http://guides.wsj.com/small-business/funding/how-to-shop-for-a-bank/  for helping entrepreneurs decide which bank could best help them in their small business needs.

As a summary, learn the answers to the following questions:

  • What kind of lending authority does your local banker have?  
  • What is the history of its small business loans?
  • Will you have one-on-one access to a loan officer?
  • Be sure and compare banking rates.
  • Does your bank work with the Small Business Administration loan system?
  • What extra benefits are available with your account? Know all of the services you will have access as a small business.
  • Consider your long-term banking needs and does your local bank support your goals?  

According to the article: “It’s a good idea to interview branch employees and managers at competing lenders every few years and gauge their willingness to devote time to a single businessperson. “

Micro-Loans

The SBA Microloan Program provides loans and grants to non-profit lenders who may then provide micro-level loans for business newly established business entities.   The SBA has established strict rules around the lending process.  Become familiar with the process before you proceed to a micro-lender.

Some micro-lenders: found on this website.  (July 2017)

  • Aspen Institute’s Field program
  • Grameen America
  • Liftfund located in Texas, Georgia and Florida
  • Opportunity Fund in California
  • Accion New Mexico
  • Justine Petersen
  • CDC Small Business Finance Corp
  • Valley Economic Develop Corp
  • Empire State Certified Development Corp
  • Main Street Launch (San Francisco Bay area)
  • KIVA
  • Pacific Community Ventures
  • Excelsior Growth Fund
  • Business Center for New Americans

Check out more about micro-lenders.

Books

Steven Blank, “The Startup Owner’s Manual”

Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur, “Business Model Generation” Universities across the world are using these texts in teaching the business model (how a company provides value to the customer, and how the business will make money)

SEE ADDITIONAL BOOK SUGGESTIONS

On-Line Courses

Numerous courses are available online, and some are free.  The three platforms for online courses I recommend:

Udemy https://www.udemy.com/

Coursera https://www.coursera.org/

Udacity https://www.udacity.com

Khan Academy https://www.khanacademy.org

These platforms offer free or affordable online courses in a variety of subjects that may meet your learning needs.)

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