For new business owners, starting a new venture from scratch can be a daunting task. Where should you start? How will you find customers? How much are people willing to pay for your product or service? These are just a few questions every small business owner may ask as they ramp up operations.
The fact is small businesses help create new jobs and stimulate economic prosperity in their communities. But to get started as a business owner, it’s important to tap into the resources that will help you grow. Whether you’re based in the US or Canada, both offer several government resources to help you start and grow a business. Below is a list of resources for each country.
Government Resources Available for Small Businesses in the US
Business.USA: This government site is a great place to start your online research because it includes an online questionnaire and nearly 200 free, training resources. Here, you can locate business events and business assistance centers in your area, plus learn more about government contracting or exporting goods. The site also features business resources specifically for female business owners, military veterans, the socially and economically disadvantaged, and American Indians and Alaskan natives.
Export.gov: If you’re planning to export goods outside the US, check out the resources on this government website. In particular, the International Buyer Program could help match you with international buyers interested in the goods you’re offering. The website also has a FAQs page to get advice on required paperwork and other aspects of exporting.
SBA.gov: The US Small Business Administration (SBA) has a ton of free programs and resources. Here’s a breakdown of some options to explore:
- Blogs – Starting a Business: The SBA blog covers the basics of starting a business, including understanding the tax obligations of business owners and creating an operating agreement. In Starting a Business, you’ll also find information on hiring and retaining employees and writing a business plan.
- Contracting: SUB-Net is SBA’s database of subcontracting opportunities. Subcontracting from a major government contractor can bring work your business may not land on its own so, depending on the nature of your business, this might be an avenue to consider.
- Emerging Leaders Initiative: This 7-month federal training program assists executives of high-potential businesses in historically challenged communities. Executives work with business mentors, attend workshops and build connections.
- SBA Loan Program: General small business loans, smaller microloans and disaster loans can provide upfront capital to help you start or grow a business. The SBA doesn’t actually lend money but does set guidelines for its partners, which includes lenders and community development organizations.
- Startup America: This White House initiative is aimed at removing barrier to entrepreneurship and helping American entrepreneurs thrive. This includes expanding access to funding, providing entrepreneurship education and encouraging collaboration between large companies and startups.
SCORE.org: Supported by the US Small Business Administration, sign up for webinars, local workshops or find a volunteer business mentor in your area who can answer your business questions through SCORE. It also offers video mentoring where you can connect with a mentor through FaceTime or Skype regardless of geography.
STOPfakes.gov: The International Trade Administration, US Department of Commerce manages a website aimed at educating the public around counterfeit goods and intellectual property rights violations. Through the site, you can take an online course and receive help on protecting intellectual property and resolving intellectual property issues.
USPTO.gov: If you need a patent or trademark to protect your intellectual property, you can get an overview of the process (including an explanation of fees), search for existing patents, trademarks and more.
In addition to national resources available to business owners, your state may also have programs that provide advice, mentoring and other resources to small businesses in your state. For instance, Texas has a website for small business owners and Oregon has an Office for Small Business Assistance. BusinessUSA has an interactive map that can help you locate state and local resources. This is just starting point to help you on your business journey, so be sure to research other resources in your area.
North of the Border: Government Resources Available for Small Businesses in Canada
Apprenticeship Job Creation Tax Credit: If you’ve hired apprentices after May 1st, 2006, your business may be eligible for a non-refundable tax credit equal to 10 percent of the salaries and wages paid to eligible apprentices. Your apprenticeship program must be designed to certify or license individuals in the trade, and the contract must be registered with a federal, provincial or territorial government.
Build in Canada Innovation Program: In this program, Canadian companies can submit proposals for pre-market products or services to potentially improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the government. The product or service must be at least 80 per cent Canadian content and the contract up to $500,000 in value.
Canada Business Network: Bookmark this website and hub for the Federal Government’s business resources. It includes resources on all aspects of business including permits and licenses, taxes, business plans, hiring and managing employees and naming your business. The website can also point you to a regional business service center in your local area.
Canada Small Business Financing Program: As part of the Canada Small Business Financing Act, this program makes up to $1 million available to for-profit Canadian companies with annual gross revenues below $10 million. Applications are accepted all year round and you must apply at a financial institution or credit union.
CanExport: Over five years, this new program will provide up to $50 million in financial support to small- and medium-sized enterprises who seek to develop export opportunities beyond Canada’s borders.
Additional Government Resources by Canadian Province and Territory
Alberta Government Business Resources: This directory of business resources for Albertans includes a section where you can get free advice from a business advisor or learn about operating a business, following local regulations and more.
Small Business BC: Through this website for BC residents, you can register a business, receive expert advice on small business topics, locate seminars and events in your area and read business how-tos.
Entrepreneurship Manitoba: For Manitoba residents, this website includes a video series on business topics, information on workshops and events, resources for young entrepreneurs, and information on licenses, permits and regulations.
New Brunswick Resources for Business: Residents of New Brunswick can find information on building permits, business planning tools, corporate registration and financial programs through this website.
Government of Newfoundland and Labrador Information for Business: This section of the provincial government website includes resources on starting and managing a business, including small business counseling, self-employment assistance, licensing and more.
Government of Northwest Territories Services for Businesses: The Northwest Territories government website includes a section that provides information to business owners on procurement events, business licenses, land applications and more. It also covers the Business Incentive Program, which gives preference on government contracts to businesses that are owned and operated within the Northwest Territories.
Nova Scotia Department of Business: This section of the website covers government programs, film and TV production incentives and funding opportunities. Invest Nova Scotia might be interesting to business owners in this region. There, the organization invests in projects that advance the province’s economy.
Nunavut Department of Economic Development and Transportation: Nunavut-based businesses can get information on Community Futures offices that provide business development loans, technical support and training, as well as crown corporations that providing business financing.
Prince Edward Island For Business: This section of the PEI government’s website covers employment standards, states and regulations, a new business checklist, information on harmonized sales tax, self-employment and more.
Quebec Service Centres: Quebec Service Centres provide business owners with information on government programs and funding, export readiness and more. Online resources including business consulting, export preparation service and business documentation are available in French only.
Starting a Business in Saskatchewan: The Saskatchewan government website reports that small businesses with fewer than 50 employees represent nearly all (98 percent) of business in the province. This section of the website links to information on business permits and licenses, a directory of resources for small business owners and information specifically for First Nations businesses.
Government of Yukon Business Resources: The government of Yukon has assembled a list of resources for business owners operating in the territory. This includes information on permits, business licenses, land zoning, trade schools and insurance.
About the Author: Freelance journalist Susan Johnston Taylor covers entrepreneurship, small business and lifestyle for publications including The Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur and FastCompany.com. Follow her on Twitter@UrbanMuseWriter.