Every professional needs to know the tools of their trade, and also what resources to draw on when they need help. If you’re an entrepreneur, you need to know what tools and resources are available for starting a business. Here are some of the best ones to keep in your “entrepreneur’s toolbox.”
Business Information: Small Business Administration
The Small Business Agency (SBA) provides informative, accurate and extensive business information. When you find confusing or conflicting information online, turn to the SBA as the definitive source. The federal agency doesn’t have any agenda, except to provide entrepreneurs and business owners with the information they need to succeed.
You can find a wealth of information on SBA.gov. There are guides on writing business plans, tips for burgeoning entrepreneurs, and extensive FAQs. The agency also has extensive details on financing and grant programs, some of which the agency offers or subsidizes. In addition to the SBA’s website, there are also district offices located in each state.
Score has been helping entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses for more than a half-century. The nonprofit organization specifically focuses on mentorship, which may be one-on-one or through a small class. Programs include both in-person and online opportunities.
The mentors that Score uses are almost all volunteers, but they’re people who have established successful businesses. They’ve been there before, and they usually have advice on how to proceed with a particular challenge.
Pursuing mentorship opportunities with Score can have the added benefit of increasing your network. You could meet successful business owners, professionals in your field, service providers that you’ll periodically call for repairs, or other helpful connections.
Initial Set-Up: Tailor Brands
Tailor Brands makes establishing your business easy. Complete guides show you how to register a limited liability company (LLC) in any state, and the guides include both detailed how-tos and helpful services that you can use. Everything is explained in plain language and in clear instructions.
In addition to actually establishing your LLC business, Tailor Brands also has tools for websites, business email, logos, business cards and more. It’s a one-stop shop for almost all business formation needs.
Business Plan: Bplans.com
General business plans serve as useful templates, but they’re limited in how much they can help your specific business. Bplans.com has more detailed business plan templates that are adjusted for different industries, and they almost certainly have a template for your business’s industry.
In addition to business plans, Bp;ans.com also has templates for cash flow forecasts, and other reports that are sometimes included as part of a business plan.
Website Analytics: Google Analytics
Google Analytics is the startup business’s ideal website analytics program, and not least of all because it’s available for free. The software is easy to integrate with your website, using either a plugin or minimal coding. Its data is top-notch, as you can see how many people are visiting your site, where they’re coming from, what they’re doing on the site, where they’re located and more.
You may eventually pay for website analytics too, but don’t bother when you’re first getting started. Google Analytics will give you all of the visitor information that you need at first (and maybe ever).
Don’t wait to set up Google Analytics, but implement it as soon as your website is live. The provided data is one of the best ways to learn about your customer base, and to see how specific features of the site are working.
Investment Funding: AngelList
If you’re starting a business that’s likely to attract investors, AngelList matches promising startups and growth businesses with interested angel investors. While a match isn’t guaranteed, the platform has identified some 6 million matches, including well-known names such as Nerswallet, DoorDash, Roblox and Peleton.
Angel investment deals can vary in their terms, but they’re commonly defined by the large cash infusion that they provide. These sorts of investments were previously only available to a select few businesses, but AngelList has made them available to virtually all businesses.
Crowdsource Funding: Kickstarter
If you’re looking for a large number of small-sized donations, Kickstarter is still the preeminent crowdsourced funding platform. You’ll only receive pledged funds if your project is fully funded, but you also only pay a fee (as a percent) if your project is funded.
Kickstarter has been successfully used by many businesses that have products to sell. While there are other platforms to consider, Kickstarter is still the one that’s regularly funding dozens of projects each day. It’s the primary one to consider if you have a product available or in production.
Canva has taken the drag-and-drop interface that’s made several website building platforms popular, and incorporated the same concept into digital design. Create your own marketing materials, including digital banner ads, blog graphics, social media posts, print brochures, print flyers and more.
The user-friendly interface lets you make all of these materials without paying an expensive graphic designer, and available templates will ensure that your own designs look good. Once you’ve created a few different pieces, you’ll have favorite setups that can quickly be used to create new materials as they’re needed.
Mailing List: MailChimp
MailChimp makes managing bulk email lists easy. You can efficiently draft emails by using pre-built templates, and emails can be sent to your entire subscriber list or a portion of the list. You’ll also receive helpful analytics reports on who opens your emails, whether they click on links in the emails, and other details.
You can use MailChimp to send out a monthly newsletter. Many businesses have additional emails that go out to only certain subscriptions, and some businesses use specific onboarding email series. MailChimp has all of these capabilities even at its most basic account level.
Additionally, the email resources that MailChimp offers are available for free. Your business can have up to 2,000 subscribers and send upwards of 12,000 emails before you have to pay for a higher-level account. When your business is still new, these limits probably provide more than enough email capability at no cost to your business’s budget.
Internal Communication: Slack
Slack brings internal communications into a centralized system, which is the Slack messaging system. Without a centralized channel, communications can easily be lost or forgotten when they’re sent over text, email, chat and social media. Messages are much less likely to be missed when they’re all together within the Slack system.
Of all the various messaging systems, Slack is a favorite because of how well it works across different devices and channels. Apple, Android and PC users can all use the system without issue, and you don’t have to actually reply within Slack itself. Simply send an email, text or other communication, and Slack will include it within the system’s messages.
Of course, Slack can be used for both company-wide communications and team-specific communications.
Improve Your Business
No matter what stage your business is at, every small business can benefit from at least a few of the tools and resources noted here. Consider which are appropriate for your business to use, and make those resources a standard part of your entrepreneurial toolbox. Use them to establish and/or grow your businesses, and you could reap the rewards.