What does a Small Business Development Center (SBDC) do?
The SBDC’s goal is to stimulate the economy and promote new job opportunities by assisting small business development. The Center provides counseling, training, and information in all aspects of small business management. These include, but are not limited to, the areas of finance, marketing, management, operations, licensing, planning, expansion and human resources.
What is a “small business”?
While the term “small business” is most often used to describe businesses with less than 100 employees, the SBDC applies no stringent criteria to business or nonprofit size. SBDC services are most beneficial to businesses where one or two owners find themselves wearing many hats – marketing, finance, human resources, strategic planning – but they know they cannot afford to lose the focus on their core business. The SBDC can save them time, get answers to their questions, and efficiently link them to resources or other businesses.
Isn’t the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) only for start-ups?
While the SBDC certainly has information helpful to those starting a business, its primary focus is on existing businesses who need information or guidance to become more innovative and competitive.
Are there any special loans or grants available from the Small Business Development Center (SBDC)?
The SBDC makes no loans and we are not aware of any grants for business ventures. The SBDC can help you identify what financing you may need and discuss alternative sources. We can also advise you how to improve a loan application and business plan. Frequently our clients find that loan guarantee programs of the Small Business Administration (SBA) are an attractive source of financing. In many circumstances, however, and in most cases for startups, entrepreneurs must turn to their own savings, to friends and family, or to their personal credit cards to finance business ventures.
What information do I have to have when I call the Small Business Development Center (SBDC)?
You do not have to have any particular information in hand before you contact the SBDC. We will attempt to answer your questions and provide you basic information on your initial call. If you are already in business, we urge you bring your financial information, marketing materials, etc. to our initial meeting to help us better understand your business. If you are starting a business, we will encourage you to prepare at least the framework of a business plan before we meet. That will make it a more productive meeting for all participants. If you do not know how to write a business plan you are welcome to use our Business Planning Guide. We can also refer you to business plan workshops.
Can the SBDC recommend the best business for me to start?
Our experience shows that successful entrepreneurs usually have a solid understanding of their new ventures. This means that they or members of their management team have operated a similar business before, or that they have unique skills and contacts that enable success. We don’t believe it is a good idea to simply pick a business from somebody’s list of “Best Businesses to Start”. Rather than suggest a business to you, we will encourage you to evaluate your experiences, unique skills and strengths, your family support structure and what you think you’ll be most happy doing for the rest of your life.
What kinds of assistance do you provide?
The SBDC offers information or advice to help business owners expand their businesses, solve business problems or improve management, develop new ideas for products or services, or investigate new business opportunities. The Center helps the inexperienced businessperson understand the requirements for going into business, assess business opportunities, determine financial needs and potential sources of financing, and offers guidelines on business planning and marketing. One important aspect of SBDC assistance is that we don’t actually do things for you so much as we try to equip you with information and resources to do things for yourself.
Can the SBDC improve the profitability of my business?
We have a great track record for helping business owners improve management practices, find more customers and/or move into more profitable niches. We offer a fresh point of view and extensive business experience from our staff and a number of other resources. One of the most practical services we offer is an assessment of your cash flow – an area often neglected by business owners. We also link our clients to resources and programs that will help them find new business opportunities.
Do I need an appointment to visit the Center?
Yes. Due to limited staff and space, it is necessary to call for an appointment to meet with a counselor. Appointments are made between 9 am and 5 pm on weekdays. It is generally helpful for startup businesses to review the material in the Alexandria SBDC’s Startup Package before scheduling an appointment. To receive a startup package or to schedule an appointment, contact the SBDC at 703-778-1292.
How do I become a client of the Center?
The first step to become a client of the SBDC is for you to complete the Request for Counseling form and return it to us by fax or mail (that information is provided at the bottom of the form). You may call us with a question or to schedule an appointment to meet with a counselor.
How do I access Small Business Development Center (SBDC) services?
The SBDC welcomes your calls, and is a great first point of contact for finding information or solving problems. Contact us.
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