At a recent community event, I stopped to chat with one of the small business owners in the community who had treated me well in the past. After a few pleasantries, I told him that I had heard good things about his business and asked how he got his start.
He told me that besides help from family and friends and a lot of hard work, Uncle Sam helped him a bit.
I dug further and he told me that he had received some loans from the Small Business Administration. He was clear to tell me that "it wasn't any of that bailout money," either -- he used long-standing programs that apparently aren't well advertised.
Yes, we all know that there are grants and loans and opportunities out there for small business owners. However, when the rubber meets the road, it can be hard to find those opportunities. I can't tell you how often I've heard about great resources for small businesses... except that the bill funding those opportunities has expired.
With this idea in mind, I went digging. I sought out general opportunities offered by the government, not opportunities tied to bailouts or the political flavor of the day.
After some digging, I found four strong ones. If you need funding for your small business, here are some resources I'd use right off the bat.
Government contracting opportunities for small business owners
Want to get your foot in the door for government agencies who might be interested in buying what you have to sell? This is where you start. Get listed, get your products known, and open the door to new opportunities.
Guaranteed loan programs
While the government doesn't directly loan money to small businesses, they do step in and guarantee those loans, enabling you to be eligible for more loan money to fund your dreams.
SBIA's investment program
The Small Business Association also offers a program that will help introduce small businesspeople to venture capitalists who are often willing to put their money into small businesses in the hope that those businesses (and the value of the investor's share in that business) will grow. This can be a very powerful source of funding, particularly if you have big dreams and long term goals for your business.
SBA Disaster Recovery Loans
On the flip side of that coin, what happens if a disaster strikes your existing business, rendering it unable to maintain business activities? The government helps here as well, facilitating emergency loans for disaster recovery for small businesses.
These four opportunities scratch the surface of the opportunities out there. Follow those links and click around -- you may be surprised at what you're eligible for and what you can afford, especially given the low interest rates today.
Remember, these services are just sitting there, waiting to be used. They're already paid for and will only wither on the vine if you don't step up to the plate and take advantage of these resources that can put your small business in a better place.
Image credit: Beverly & Pack