Launching a new business can be an exciting – and daunting – adventure. You may have the innovative ideas, enthusiasm and drive, but where do you start when it’s time to turn late-night brainstorming into a viable venture?
There are a variety of free online resources that provide information for would-be entrepreneurs, from creating business plans to obtaining licenses and finding creative ways to obtain startup funding..
U.S. Small Business Administration
The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers loans, grants, counseling and other types of assistance to small businesses.
The SBA provides free face-to-face and Internet counseling on an individual basis for small business owners, as well as “low-cost training” to small business owners and potential entrepreneurs at more than 1,800 locations nationwide.
The agency’s website includes information on topics such as formulating a business plan, performing a market analysis, choosing a location and selecting an organizational structure. You also can learn about SBA loans and grants available to businesses.
The SBA’s online learning center includes courses ranging from entrepreneurship for women to government contracting. There’s also a guide designed specifically for young entrepreneurs. The free courses, some of which include video instruction, provide real-world examples, Q&A sessions and success stories.
Internal Revenue Service
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website includes a section titled Starting a Business, with information for new and prospective business owners. It offers advice on selecting a business structure, obtaining an employee identification number (EIN) and recordkeeping, as well as a tax calendar and a list of federal requirements pertaining to small businesses.
The section also includes a link to individual state requirements for businesses and more detailed information for specific industries.
The IRS Video Portal includes webinars, and video and audio presentations for small businesses, individuals and others.
Launched in 2009, Kickstarter provides a crowdfunding platform for entrepreneurs to raise funds for startup projects in an array of industries.
Business owners and entrepreneurs post project proposals on Kickstarter, setting a fundraising goal and deadline, and invite people to pledge financial assistance. A project must meet its fundraising goal by the deadline in order to receive any pledges, at which point Kickstarter receives a fee equivalent to 5% of the money raised.
Kickstarter projects must fall into one of the following categories: art, comics, dance, design, fashion, film, food, games, music, photography, publishing, technology or theater.
The website includes advice on defining and promoting a project, and creating rewards for financial backers.
Fundable is a crowdfunding platform for startup businesses, rather than specific projects. Startup companies build a profile on the site, which they use to attract investors and manage investor commitments. Entrepreneurs can offer equity or rewards in return for financial backing.
Fundable projects include a range of startup companies, from a planned restaurant in the Florida Keys to a line of designer denims and a mask that mimics the effects of altitude training.
University Business Incubators
Many universities have business incubators that partner with startup companies to provide guidance and resources for developing and sustaining successful business models.
For example, the University of Central Florida Business Incubation Program provides early stage companies with access to mentoring, business plan development, networking, legal advice, market research and office equipment, among other services.