Name an industry, and we guarantee there are maybe two, possibly a handful, of trade or professional associations that serve it. All industry associations are not the same, however. The big, well-funded ones have more power and, naturally, are better information sources. Some have thousands of members spread across the United States, whereas small regional ones may have only a few hundred or a few dozen. Keep in mind, either type can be useful if you make valuable connections.
And connections are key. You're bound to pick up leads from people in your industry--for example, information on the best vendors, outlets for raw materials, market data, hot trends and so on. The more contacts you make, the better the odds of capturing exclusive information.
A great source for locating all the associations serving your industry is the Encyclopedia of Associations (Gale Research), available at most public libraries. Expect to uncover associations you've never heard of. New organizations in virtually all industries are started daily.
It also doesn't hurt to stay on top of industry publications. Like trade organizations, some carry more clout than others. The sheer size of a publication tells you a lot. Many are gorged with news, events, opinions and information you might deem valuable in launching your business.
These are just a few of the top sources for start-up help. Once you start talking to people, you'll uncover others. It also pays to regularly surf the Net for start-up advice. Many banks have Web sites offering advice and some of the financial sites, such as Motley Fool (http://www.fool.com) and financial publications such as The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition (http://www.wsj.com), also feature articles about launching a business. The best advice is to keep your eyes peeled. Do that, and we guarantee you'll uncover more information than you need.
Bank of America Entrepreneurial Center,firstname.lastname@example.org
First Capital Bank of Arizona, 2700 N. Central, #210, Phoenix, AZ 85004, (602) 240-2700
Nebraska Center For Entrepreneurship, University of Nebraska, 209 College of Business Administration University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68586-0487, http://www.cba.unl.edu/additional/ent
University of Houston Small Business Development Center, 1100 Louisiana, #500, Houston, TX 77002, (713) 752-8444