Small Business Development Centers

Definition: University-based centers sponsored by the SBA for the delivery of joint government, academic and private sector services for the benefit of small business.

Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) are cooperative efforts among the SBA, a college or university, the private sector, and state and local governments. Their services include business counseling, training and technical assistance.

There are more than 1,100 SBDCs nationwide offering free individual counseling as well as low-cost business workshops. Most SBDC offerings are planned on a state and local basis, meaning they're tailored to your area's economic needs.

Many centers specialize in just one facet of business, such as international trade, finance, procurement, marketing, technology transfer or accounting. Some lucky cities have SBDC incubators--large buildings where fledgling businesses can not only rent office space but also receive secretarial support and start-up counseling and assistance.

Because SBDCs are sometimes located on college campuses, many people have the misconception that the advisors are professors with little knowledge of the rough-and-tumble real world. But while SBDC staff members may have academic training, they also have business experience. The counseling is offered on an ongoing basis for as long as you need it, and you can see the same counselor each time so he or she becomes familiar with your business.

Although small businesses vary so much that it's difficult to summarize all the types of help they can get from SBDCs, workshop topics often include marketing, preparing a business plan and obtaining financing. SBDCs can even help you find start-up funds, whether from the SBA or other sources.

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