Navigating the SBA

The Small Business Administration (SBA) was founded in 1953. Since its inception, the goal of the SBA has been to provide small businesses, small business owners, and aspiring entrepreneurs with the resources to help them achieve their goals. The SBA offers many forms of free or low-cost assistance, programs, and education to help all small business entrepreneurs.


It’s a common misconception that the SBA’s assistance is limited solely to small business startups. The truth is that SBA has programs, aids, and resources to work with businesses through all phrases of development – from startup to retirement.


The SBA’s small business programs generally fall into one of these four main categories:


  • Business Financing
  • Education & Training
  • Federal Government Contracting
  • Advocacy


Here’s what you need to know about working with the SBA in each of these categories!


The SBA & Small Business Lending and Financing

The SBA can help small businesses procure funding for their small business startup or expansion, which is often one of the hardest parts of getting a business off the ground. It’s worth noting that the SBA does not act as a direct business lender. Instead the SBA provides loan guarantees to lenders. These SBA guarantees may help less-qualified candidates quality for small business funding.


If you’re a prospective borrower looking for a comprehensive listing of SBA approved lenders, visit the SBA Linc site. This interactive tool can walk you through the necessary steps to apply and connect you with SBA-approved lenders.


The SBA also works with lenders to provide specialized loan programs to certain lending candidates. Some programs offered under the SBA are as follows:


  • The SBA Micro-Loan Program
  • The Basic 7(a) Loan Guaranty Program
  • The 504 Loan Program – Certified Development Companies (CDC)
  • Patriot Express Loan Program
  • SBA Special Purpose Loans
  • Veteran Loans
  • Women Owned Business Loans
  • Minority Owned Business Loans


For detailed information on the various specialized loan programs offered by the SBA, including application information, visit the SBA’s Loan and Grants site. Note that these programs are always changing, and the above list is not a comprehensive capsule of all special loans available.


The SBA & Small Business Education

The SBA wants to assist all small businesses succeed, grow, and become profitable. It’s not just about dedication and hard work (although that’s a big part of it). Running a small business requires a broad range of skills and talents, many of which are new to people starting their own businesses. In the vein, the SBA offers personalized assistance and training on topics of interest for small business owners.


Interested individuals can learn about a wide range of relevant topics, including marketing, business plans, accounting, and more. You may know all about marketing, but be unfamiliar with business accounting and tax management – there are classes for that! And lots of those classes and seminars are offered online; you can check them out at The SBA Learning Center . For local college courses offerings, visit the Small Business Development Centers. The SBA offers a free nationwide network of training and networking opportunities in hundred of locations around the country.


Finally, the SBA offers mentoring and one-on-one assistance opportunities with other small business owners and people in your industry. To learn more about those programs, visit the SCORE site.


The SBA & Government Contracting

The SBA recognizes that it can be challenging for small businesses to compete with huge corporations, especially in certain STEM-intensive industries. So, they offer programs that help level the competitive playing field with regard to government set-asides.


The SBA works with federal agencies to “award at least 23 percent of all prime government contract dollars to small businesses and help federal agencies meet specific statutory goals for small disadvantaged businesses, women-owned small businesses (WOSB), service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSB), and small businesses that are located in historically underutilized business zones (HUBZone).”


In other words, the government is required by law to reserve a certain amount of contracts for small businesses and those owned by minorities and women. That type of contract can be a terrific opportunity for your business. If you’re interested in taking on government contracts, you can get started on the SBA’s Government Contracting site.


Advocacy and Other Programs

In addition to helping small business with funding, education, and government contracting, the SBA offers a number of other programs that may be extremely helpful for your small business. Two of the biggest are the disaster assistance program and the SBIR/STTR research grant programs.


Just one disaster can wipe out a small business owners’ life’s work and livelihood. The SBA works with lenders, federal agencies, and other relevant parties to ensure that small businesses suffering from the effects of natural disasters can get back on their feet. Among other elements, that may mean funding or repairing or replacing infrastructure. To learn more about how the SBA helps small businesses in disaster, visit the SBA’s Disaster Assistance site.


If you’re working on new technologies or systems, you may want to check out the SBA’s SBIR/STTR programs. Those acronyms stand for “Small Business Innovation Research” and “Small Business Technology Transfer.” This program works with research institutions and government agencies to foster STEM and commercial innovation through grants. For more information on the SBA’s grant and research programs, visit the SBIR/STTR site.


Take Advantage Of These Great Resources!

Running a small business is tough enough – why pass up extra help and resources? No matter where you are in the journey of your business, the SBA may be able to offer you tools to help your business flourish.


Thank you to Fifth ThirdBank for supporting Accion in expanding economic opportunity for small business owners.


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