A lot of people have heard of the Small Business Administration (SBA), but its references in conversation and news articles can be vague. It’s an incredible resource for small business owners, but in order for its services to be fully utilized, we first must help demystify this government organization.
Where did the SBA come from?
The SBA was founded 50 years ago to aid, counsel, and assist small business owners, as well as protect their interests and ensure small businesses a fair portion of government contracts. Its roots reach as far back as the Great Depression, when President Hoover founded the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to provide government backed financial support to American businesses. This means the administration is derived from a time where there was a lot of motivation for the government to spend time, money and effort to ensure American businesses were given a chance to thrive. That’s exactly what the SBA strives to do today.
What does the SBA do?
The SBA works to preserve the idea of free enterprise and recognizes that small businesses are a large part of the health of our nation’s economy. Following this ideology, the SBA provides services to help ensure small businesses are getting the resources and advocacy they need. The SBA’s services can be broken down into four major categories: helping provide access to capital, entrepreneurial development, advocacy, and government contracting.
Helping provide access to capital – the administration has four loan programs: the smaller, variable rate 7(a) loan program; the larger, fixed rate, real-estate and equipment CDC/504 loan program; the Microloan Program for small businesses and certain not-for-profit and childcare businesses; and Disaster Loan programs to repair and replace property. The SBA also advertises government and research grants for small businesses on their site.
Entrepreneurial development – The SBA site features a Small Business Learning Center with online training, videos, live chat sessions so owners can find out how to start, finance, manage, and market their small business.
Advocacy – The SBA’s advocacy initiatives involve hosting symposiums where diverse participants share ideas, practices, and barriers with advocacy staff, who defend small business interests in Congress. It also has many more initiatives, such as the Made in America initiative for immigrants, Startup in a Day for entrepreneurs, LGBT Outreach, Small Business Saturday and more.
Government contracting – In 2011, more than $90 billion worth of federal contracts went to small businesses. The SBA strives to connect government and non-government agencies with small business owners through their Dynamic Small Business Search database, System for Award Management, and Federal Business Opportunities database. Many veteran, minority, and women-owned small businesses may be unaware of the opportunities available to them through the SBA, but they can learn about the demand for their minority status businesses and how to access grant opportunities through the SBA.
Photo Credit: ShashiBellamkonda, Flickr