Over the years, I have been incredibly fortunate to be invited to deliver workshops and presentations all over the world and to directly serve small business clients all over the world.  There is something I have noticed.  Business organizations and associations throughout the world – that exist to offer free or low-cost services to small businesses – struggle to reach those businesses.  At the same time, small businesses throughout the world struggle without knowing that organizations exist that could help.  Today, my Marketing Tip of the Week goes far beyond marketing.  I want to put a piece of content out there that may help more small business owners get connected with the small business support organizations that can help them.

Let’s start with a message from me to business owners:

Business owners!  Did you know that there are organizations all over the world, in most major cities, that are specifically tasked with helping small businesses, microbusinesses, entrepreneurs, and/or start-ups of every description?  Did you know that there are organizations out there that offer business education, coaching, workshops, networking, and support for low cost or no cost?  Did you know that there are businesses and institutions out there that have loan funds to distribute and may not have the same lending profile as traditional funders?  Did you know that there are associations out there that exist to give business owners like you the opportunity to network, meet, and collaborate with other business owners?  Would any of this be helpful to you?  Read on.

Did you know that there are organizations all over the world that are specifically tasked with helping small businesses, microbusinesses, entrepreneurs, and/or start-ups of every description? #smallbusiness #smallbiz #smb Click To Tweet

Now a message from me to business associations:

Business associations, organizations, and institutions! I know that many of you are scratching your heads trying to figure out how to get connected with new clients, new members, new attendees.  Some of you have quotas you are trying to reach in order to maintain your own funding. The difficulty many of you experience in making business owners aware of your services, is the most common concern I hear with the organizations I have spoken at or worked with as clients.  I promise you that there are businesses out there who need you and have no idea you exist.  They may even be on the brink of going out of business because they haven’t heard about you, and there you are just wanting to meet them.  Does this describe your organization?  Read on, email me if I need to add a resource I haven’t listed here, and SHARE THIS so we can help drive more business owners to your door or other the doors of fellow organizations like yours.

My goal is simple: to plant the seeds that may get more business owners connected with business services. This could include marketing, but it could include so much more.  If this tip helps someone look for and find the support they needed and didn’t know was available, it will be well worth it.

So, what organizations exist?  Let’s start making a list.  I am not claiming to be an authority on all of the types of business organizations out there in the world.  I have gotten a sense of the landscape in many countries, but there is no way that I by myself will be able to come up with a comprehensive list in a simple blog.

But let’s start somewhere.  Let’s start here.  Business owners, I can’t specifically vouch for every organization listed here, but I hope this opens your mind to researching what exists in your area.  Business organizations, I want you to email me here if there is a category of organization that I should add, especially in countries for which I have less knowledge of the business support landscape.  I will review all suggestions and add names and links of those that seem appropriate to this list.

North America / South America / Central America

  • Small Business Administration (SBA) – There are SBA offices in many cities throughout the US, and they are often grantors of other organizations on this list, so outreach to an SBA office could help you locate the right resources for you.
  • Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) – This is a network of centers that provide free consulting and free or low-cost workshops to all types of businesses. They exist in all US states (with regional centers all over each state), Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Pacific Islands.
  • SBDC Global – Through SBDC Global, the SBDC network extends through the Caribbean, Central American, and South America.
  • Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC) – Like the SBDCs, these are all over the US.  Their goal is to help businesses who are looking for help in navigating the government marketplace and government contracting.  They often have close links with the SBDCs in their area.
  • SCORE – This is a US-wide network of volunteer business mentors. Again, you are likely to find SCORE offices in regions throughout each state, offering coaching and workshops.
  • Chambers of Commerce – These exist all over North America from metropolitan areas to towns. Size varies, but you may very well find a chamber near you that has a membership base of businesses just like yours.  Chambers often offer networking and educational opportunities as well as a chance to bring the small business voice into the community or local government.
  • Business Improvement Districts/Zones/Areas – You’ll see these in Canada especially, although they are also in the US. These tend to be connected with economic development agencies and city or district governments.
  • Industry Associations – What industry is your business in? There may be an association just for businesses of your type. Some industry associations are large enough that they have chapter associations in various cities.  Whether you are a bed and breakfast proprietor, real estate staging professional, professional organizer, or represent any other industry, it is worth taking a look at what exists for your type of business.
  • Small Business Centers/Centres or Entrepreneur Centers/Centres – This is another term you can look-up. You may find these to be structured as nonprofits and often are run independently.
  • Women’s Business Centers – Women’s business centers are all over! Some are run with government funding, some could be run as nonprofits, and there will be variation in the services provided.  Some states have networks with lead centers and regional centers.
  • Veterans Business Centers – Like women’s business centers, most states have centers that are operated with government funding, so check your location to see what is closest to you!
  • Networking associations – There are organizations that are specifically created to allow business owners to network. Some operate in a highly-structured way like BNI groups or Biz to Biz groups, others may be run as meetups.
  • Nonprofits – There are small business support nonprofits all over, but you really need to look up your city to see what is available to you as these will vary in mission and services. I have worked with organizations in Seattle such as Ventures and Business Impact NW and there are many others that exist that may have a mandate to serve your area.
  • Lending institutions – There are nonprofits and institutions that have funding set aside for microfinancing, or even funds granted to THEM specifically for lending to businesses. I recommend starting by checking out this SBA lender referral resource or nonprofits in your area to see what your options are!

Worldwide

Let’s start general (you may see some repetition with the list of the Americas) and get more specific:

  • Chambers of Commerce – These exist all over the world from metropolitan areas to towns. Size varies, but you may very well find a chamber near you that has a membership base of businesses just like yours.  Chambers often offer networking and educational opportunities as well as a chance to have a voice in your community.
  • Business Improvement Districts – Usually there is a link here with local government and economic development authorities.
  • Industry Associations – What industry is your business in? There may be an association just for businesses of your type. Some industry associations are large enough that they have chapter associations in various cities.
  • Small Business/Entrepreneur Centres – This is another term you can look-up. You may find these to be structured as nonprofits and often are run independently.
  • Networking Associations – There are organizations that are specifically created to allow business owners to network.  Some are larger, structured organizations with regional chapters.  Some may be smaller local meet-ups with private organizers.
  • Nonprofits – There are small business support nonprofits in some cities and countries, but you really need to look up your city to see what is available to you as these will vary in mission and services.
  • Women’s Business Centres – Women’s business centres are all over! There is variation in their business structure, services, and funding sources.
  • By Country

Again, my goal here is simply to get small businesses in my network and those who come across this tip to be aware that there is very likely support available to them, close to them, within their price range.  Although I can’t make any guarantees with these services, it is a place for you to start.  Do the research and see what meets your needs.  If this is news to you, spread the word to someone else who runs a business that it may find this new information useful, too!

If you represent a type of organization on this list, share this.  Get the message out.  The only way to connect with the business owners you want to serve is to market the message.  I’m doing the bit I can to help!

If you represent a type of organization NOT on this list and want to be considered to be added to this list, email me here.

And after all of this, how can business owners get MORE out of their experiences with business organizations and networking opportunities?  Don’t just show up…get more from it.  Read here to learn How to Get the Most Out of Chamber of Commerce or Networking Events.