Free Resources to Help Your Business Grow

Alright, here is the situation: you’ve got your million dollar idea, but now you are in need of guidance, training, and an exorbitant amount of costly software to make your dreams a reality. The harsh reality is that starting a small business involves a great deal of financial risk, and can be an extremely costly endeavor; the good news is there are many free resources to help curb these costs.

Many an entrepreneurial spirit is shattered after one of those million-dollar ideas is never brought to fruition due to a lack of understanding about how begin a small business venture. Sure that old college professor can provide some insight, but that’s just not enough; you need a proper mentor. Luckily there are people who can fill this position at little to no cost! Who are they? They call themselves “SCORE,” or the Service Corp of Retired Executives.

SCORE is a non-profit network of over 12,000 volunteers, in more than 340 chapters, that has been committed to helping small businesses grow by providing free education and mentors for almost half a century.

Supported by the Small Business Association, SCORE is dedicated to connecting your small business with the right mentor, and facilitating proper educational training. Each local chapter hosts workshops and events in order to help your business get the help it needs. Local mentors don’t fit the bill? SCORE will get you connected with an e-mail mentor, from another chapter, if the local mentors don’t fit your needs. Think of it as a Big Brother/Big Sister kind of program; mentors are meant to help steer you in the right direction, so that you are able to meet your full potential.

While a mentor may provide the guidance your business needs to get off the ground, there may still be something to desire as far as proper education and training. Luckily, the Small Business Administration’s Small Business Technology and Development Centers, or “SBDCs,” can help.

SBDCs offer a variety of free workshops and training sessions for small businesses, as well as a wide variety of services; everything from support with business growth and sustainability to economic growth through job creation and retention.

Much like SCORE, SBDCs can also provide your business with a professional business advisor to help with developing business plans, manufacturing logistics, financial issues, importing and exporting support, disaster recovery, market research information, and even healthcare information. With 900 service sites, you are likely to have access to the SBDC resources you need locally.

Now all of this is well and good, but the right mentors and training programs can only carry your small business so far. All of this guidance and training is rather useless without the right tools of the trade; and for a business in today’s age of technology, this means software programs.

Whether the software is used to manage finances, projects, or simply for communicating, chances are it is costly. While larger, often more established, businesses have hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on costly software, chances are your small business or startup cannot afford such expenses. Luckily there is a whole world of alternative programs designed to simulate the expensive ones; and guess what? They are absolutely free!

These free programs are known as “open-source” software programs. Open-source software exists for all aspects of managing a business. In fact, an open-source alternative is likely to exist in place of most major programs. Everything from accounting to backup, customer relationship management to group collaboration, and office productivity to project management, open source software has you covered!

One of these notable alternatives, Evolution, replaces Microsoft Outlook. It features many of the same tools such as group e-mail, calendar, and contact manager without the price tag. It even has spam filtering, an advanced search function, and encryption!

The list of open-source alternatives is almost endless, and it would be impossible for me to mention and go into detail about all of them. Thus, the following is a link to a list that details 75 open-source replacements to get you started! Click Here for the list. 

Owning and operating a small business can be one of the most rewarding jobs in the world. While owning and operating a small business may seem impossible in the shadows of larger ones with seemingly infinite funds, the truth of the matter is you can do it! By utilizing all of the free resources made available by networks such as SCORE and SBDCs, and by taking advantage of open-source software, your business is sure to flourish.

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