By Jean Kruse / Guest Editorial
Do you have a dream to start your own business and become your own boss in 2015?
If you are really serious about it, perhaps you have already started to investigate the possibilities. Fortunately, the Internet provides entrepreneurs with a wealth of resources. For example, I Googled the question, “How can I find funding for a startup business?” and found more than 81,000 results (some less-than-legitimate, but many helpful).
At www.forbes.com, contributor Drew Hendricks commented that, “If founding a startup was easy, then there would be a lot more people participating in the exciting and sometimes exhausting trip that entrepreneurs experience on a daily basis. That’s why we sometimes need advice, inspiration and insights from the people who have successfully launched their own business.”
As you probably know, you can get free and confidential advice about starting a business from SCORE. What’s more, most of the SCORE volunteers who mentor our clients have actually owned their own businesses.
One of the most frequently asked questions by our clients is, “How can I get a grant? I have no money but I have a great idea for a business and it is my lifelong dream, so I need a grant to get it started.”
In his article, Hendricks cites different avenues for researching and securing grant funding. Among his online suggestions for places to look for grants is a comprehensive article on grants for small businesses from the Houston Chronicle (http://bit.ly/chronsmallbiz) and Federal Grants, a website designed to help users locate information on government assistance for individuals and small businesses (http://www.federalgrants.com).
Hendricks also suggests looking for an angel investor, and recommends http://gust.com, a website designed to connect entrepreneurs with investors.
If those options aren’t available to you, you might consider getting a small business loan to fund your startup. Go to http://www.sba.gov/loanprograms and read about all of the various types of loans available. You can visit the local Small Business Administration (SBA) office in Cedar Rapids at 2750 First Ave. NE to ask questions about their loan programs.
Note that the SBA itself does not provide the loan – you must go through a lending organization, bank or credit union to actually obtain the loan. SBA personnel will advise you on seeking assistance for applying for a loan from one of its three affiliated agencies: SCORE, the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) or the Women’s Business Center. The services of all three of these organizations are free and confidential; you can utilize just one of them or all three.
There are 11 SCORE locations in Iowa. The organization has no paid employees, as all mentoring and administrative functions are provided by volunteers. Each volunteer has certain areas of expertise and the volunteers work in teams to provide you with the assistance you need. You can meet with a volunteer mentor as frequently as you like.
The only SCORE office in the Corridor is located in the Cedar Rapids SBA office. Call (319) 362-6943 or go online at www.scorecr.org to request a mentor. If your business is in another part of Iowa, the SBA can provide you with the contact info for the other 10 SCORE locations.
There is only one Women’s Business Center (WBC) in Iowa, at 1111 Ninth St., Des Moines, but they work with women in all parts of the state. You can call them at (515) 283-0940 or (800) 421-0940.
There are 16 SBDC locations in Iowa, including three in the Corridor:
- Kirkwood SBDC, 3375 Armar Drive, Marion, (319) 377-8256
- University of Iowa SBDC, E114 BioVenture Center, Iowa City, (319) 335-3742
- University of Northern Iowa SBDC, 8120 Jennings Drive, Cedar Falls, (319) 273-4322
In addition to startup assistance, all three of these organizations work with existing businesses and can act as a sounding board to provide ongoing guidance and advice. All three also provide workshops about various topics of interest to small businesses.
SCORE, WBC and SBDC frequently work together, so you may start with one of them and they may refer you to one of the others. As your business develops, any one of these three organizations may eventually refer you to the Entrepreneurial Development Center (EDC), which is another organization in the Corridor. They can be contacted at www.edcinc.org or (319) 369-4955.
The overarching goal of SCORE, WBC and SBDC is to accelerate the economy of the Corridor by assisting entrepreneurs in getting started and improving the bottom line of existing businesses. We hope you make your dream come true in 2015.
Jean Kruse is a SCORE counselor and SCORE Iowa district president. She operated her own CPA firm for 13 years and in 1988, joined RSM McGladrey, a national firm, where she provided accounting and tax services to small businesses.