Top 10 Places to Find Free Startup Help

More Help Is on the Way

6. Help for Women
If you feel it's a man's world out there, there's help for you. Springboard Enterprises, for instance, is an organization that coaches women entrepreneurs and puts them before investors.

For inspiration and advice, look to the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). This 8,000-member organization has dues, but most chapters allow you to attend three meetings before requiring you to join, says Suzanne Pease, NAWBO's president-elect.

7. Technology Centers
The Oklahoma Technology Commercialization Center (OTCC) in Oklahoma City is on a mission to help create technology companies. "There are similar organizations across the country," says Bill Grissom, OTCC's director of operations and finance. "We're all similar in that we're helping entrepreneurs make an economic impact." Most such centers exist to help technological start-ups, admits Grissom, because that's where the money is.

Some organizations are free, and some charge a "nominal fee," says Grissom, who says OTCC asks for $750 "just to make sure [entrepreneurs are] serious." The money goes directly to a market research firm to look at the entrepreneur's product or service. "And then all the other services we provide [are] free," says Grissom, whose organization helps start-ups test technologies, develop marketing plans and hunt for venture capital.

8. Ethnic Help
Whether you're Native American, African American or Asian American, you likely have a group of peers that wants to help you. The Oregon Native American Business and Entrepreneurial Network, for instance, offers classes for $10 to $100 to Native Americans in Idaho, Northern California, Oregon and Washington.

Also check out the Minority Business Development Agency, a federal agency that's available to numerous minority groups.

9. Business Community Centers
Your local business center is another place to turn to. They're not everywhere, but many states and towns have them. It's worth going to a search engine and typing in "business community center" or simply "business" and the name of your town or state. Look at it this way: If nothing else, by the time you've gone to everybody looking for free help, everybody's going to know you.

10. Friends and Family
After all, they do count, and they do care about you and your new business. You can turn a mass-mailing project into an assembly line of helpful parents, cousins and friends, and treat everybody to pizza. If you have a friend or relative who owns a business, you can barter services. Or just ask for help without them expecting anything but your gratitude. If they're last on your list, they really should be first.

Geoff Williams is a full-time freelance journalist in Loveland, Ohio, and a frequent contributor to Entrepreneur.

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Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.

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