Business Planning Resources Available to Small Business Owners
Starting and running a business can be both exciting and daunting. But with some assistance and the right resources, small business owners and entrepreneurs can achieve success.
Aspire connects business owners to an impressive set of programs and resources to help start and grow their businesses. Through Aspire, small businesses can connect to business coaching and microloans. These resources help business owners with planning, start-up funds, overcoming obstacles, researching data, and other resources to help them succeed.
“Nearly 70% of Aspire’s investors can be classified as small businesses,” explained Aspire Vice President of Investor Development and Relations Angela Vandersteen. "We want to provide every resource and connection possible to help new entrepreneurs succeed. Even if a businessperson doesn’t know exactly what they need, because of our partnerships, we can connect them to experts who will help them find the right path.”
But this assistance benefits more than small business owners, Vandersteen added. “Finding ways to keep a business open directly impacts the community as well. Small businesses provide a variety of services and shopping options, job opportunities for those of all skill levels, and opportunities for local residents to fulfill dreams.”
“Aspire maintains partnerships with a trio of business-support agencies to meet with small business owners for free, confidential, one-on-one business coaching,” Vandersteen noted, adding that these partners help small businesses in Johnson County in a variety of ways:
Business Ownership Initiative: “The Indy Chamber’s BOI and Entrepreneur Services department offers free business coaching, training and lending to small business owners in Central Indiana,” explained Sarah MacInnis, Vice President, Small Business Development. “We see many small business owners in need of help with cash flow projections, marketing, human resources, procurement and access to capital.” MacInnis added that over the last two to three years, BOI has seen some changes: “We are seeing a large increase in pre- and early-ventures, as individuals seek entrepreneurship as alternative sources of income for their families. We are also seeing a growth in businesses looking to scale now that they have stabilized out of COVID.” She added that misconceptions do occur. “We often find misunderstandings around the types of funding/capital available to small businesses. From grants, to loans, to equity investment/venture capital and everything in between, business owners typically benefit from a deeper understanding of which one is right, and available, for them. As an SBA microlender and Community Development Financial Institution, BOI offers small business loans up to $50,000 and often needs to clarify financing options.”
Indiana Small Business Development Center: “ISBDC provides a range of business services from start-up, finance prep, export promotion and business planning,” explained Dan Drexler, Central Indiana regional director. “We serve as the small business conduit to a number of state-offered small business programs including HireUP (executive search), CyberSecurity certification, Export Accelerator and the Indiana Technical Assistance Program (INTAP).” He added that these businesses typically are looking for help with business planning and preparation for capital (primarily seeking bank loans). “The volume of requests for our center has nearly doubled in the last two to three years,” Drexler noted. “We currently have a backlog of 100 businesses awaiting advisor pairings, we average close to 200 unique/new requests monthly, and we currently have a two-to-three-week scheduling window for setting appointments.”
SCORE: “SCORE is made up of 11,000 volunteers like me who offer a wealth of business experience,” explained Branch Manager Mike Crumbo. “The expertise of these volunteers can be tapped from anywhere in the country. In addition, SCORE has a free library of webinars, blogs, workshops and other tools available at indianapolis.score.org.” Services most in demand are preparing financial projections and business plans. Increasingly over the past two to three years, Crumbo said, people starting businesses have been thinking about the idea for a period of time and are seeking help putting structure around their plans. SCORE is a 501c3 nonprofit organization and a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
What is the economic outlook for small businesses/entrepreneurs locally? “Johnson County remains one of the hottest small business growth markets within our region,” enthused Drexler. “Through the great outreach by Aspire, businesses are plugged into state, regional and local opportunities on a consistent basis — best in the region!” Crumbo noted that Greenwood’s major development underway in Old Town and Franklin’s new downtown park are important for small business growth, providing opportunities for restaurants and other ancillary services.
Appointments with representatives of any of the partnering agencies can be arranged directly using the contact information provided at AspireJohnsonCounty.com/small-business-resources.
“In addition,” Vandersteen noted, “Aspire has listed on its website several resources for small businesses and entrepreneurs.” These include useful links to free, non-commercial sources of business how-to information, templates and guides, including business plans, financing, marketing, strategic planning and more. Potential and current business owners do not have to be Aspire members to take advantage of business mentoring and microlending services. Click here to see the entire list: Small Business Resources l Aspire (aspirejohnsoncounty.com).
Vandersteen concluded by reminding small business owners Aspire continues to provide networking opportunities and educational events on topics relevant to small business needs.