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Business Resources

The Small Business Administration - Starting a business or growing a business, the SBA offers tremendous resources and training. They are a funding partner for our Illinois Small Business Development Center at Bradley University.

The State of Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) - DCEO is also our funding partners. This site provides useful guides, services, and data relating to starting and growing a business in Illinois.

Starting a Business

Business Feasibility

  • Business Feasibility-Management - One of the most critical, yet most intangible, requirements for a successful business is management skill. Having sufficient market opportunity as well as financing is insufficient. Your business will fail if you are not able to control and direct the business once it is operating. In addition, it is unlikely that you will succeed if you do not enjoy or do well the kind of work required. This article discusses these issues.
  • Business Feasibility-Market - It is important that you know, in your own mind, precisely what business you are going to engage in. You may say "That's obvious!" but in taking the time to collect your thoughts and write your idea down, you may discover problems you had not anticipated and advantages you had not considered. This article will help you make those decisions.
  • Business Feasibility-Money - This article will help you determine how much money you need to start a business.
  • Business Feasibility-Personal Factors - When evaluating your business idea, one of the elements to consider is its ability to satisfy your wants and needs. If it cannot, you will most likely be unhappy with the business, and an unhappy owner usually makes a poor manager. Poor management is a leading cause of business failure. Read more about these issues.
  • U.S. Census Bureau - Website where you can search any zip code, city, county, metro area or state for demographic data. Very helpful in defining the size of your potential customer base.
  • The SBDC National Information Clearinghouse - Has a huge amount of statistics for various industries, trends, and customer data.
  • www.nfib.com/illinois - Many small business tools including how to start a business, writing a business plan, marketing, accounting, tax, law etc.
  • FitSmallBusiness - Has a large database of information taken from private and public sources to provide small business owners with the advice and guidance they need in all areas of the business.
  • Deluxe - (as in the check company) has an easy to use site with interesting statistics about small businesses, as well as many other resources and tips for starting a business.
  • Small Business Administration - Website containing information on starting & financing a small business, SBA resources, and a classroom where you can learn how to prepare a business plan.
  • Women's Business Center - Directed at the special needs of women-owned businesses. Information available on a variety of topics including marketing, management, technology, and doing business with the government.
  • Business Owners Idea Cafe - Website is operated by top entrepreneurs that include varieties of award-winning resources.
  • BizBuy Sell - Can show you more than 25,000 businesses that are currently for sale.
  • TradePub.com - Lists numerous publications you can subscribe to for free

Business Plan

  • Business Plan-Checklist - Easy to use outline of the information that needs to be developed prior to writing your business plan.
  • Business Plan-Outline - Summary of the outline and sections of a typical business plan.
  • Simple Break-even Analysis - A discussion of how to determine how much you have to sell to reach your profit goals.
  • Guide for Retailers - A detailed article on the issues association with starting a new retail store.
  • Guide for Service Firms - In the service business, your sales potential will depend on the area you serve. How many customers in this area will need your services? Will your customers be industrial or commercial clients, consumers or all of these? This article discusses these issues.
  • Guide for Small Manufacturers - A comprehensive look at the decisions manufacturers need to make before starting a new manufacturing business.
  • Choosing a Retail Location - Three factors confront you as an owner-manager in choosing a location: selection of a city, choice of an area or type of location within a city; and identification of a specific site.
  • Guide for Construction Firms - Defining your construction business clearly and tailoring your business plan to your definition will help increase your profits.
  • The Ultimate Guide to Business Plans - Comprehensive guide to writing a business plan for an e-commerce store.
  • Palo Alto Software - Includes very large number of sample business plans.
  • FormSwift - SWOT Analysis - An excellent tool for analyzing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of a business, from the Start-up FormSwift.
  • Comprehensive Guide to Starting a Business - Not only a no-cost resource on how to write a business plan, but also information on many topics associated with starting a business. The site is maintained by Workcomplab which has expertise on workers' compensation coverage.
  • U.S. Census Bureau - Website where you can search any zip code, city, county, metro area or state for demographic data. Very helpful in defining the size of your potential customer base.
  • The SBDC National Information Clearinghouse - Has a huge amount of statistics for various industries, trends, and customer data.
  • MoreBusiness.com - Sample business plans, sample contracts, sample marketing plans, business loans, employee manuals.
  • Small Business Guides - The Internet's largest source of information for small business, includes Starting a Business, Financial Management, Sales & Marketing etc.
  • NFIB - Many small business tools including how to start a business, writing a business plan, marketing, accounting, tax, law etc.
  • FitSmallBusiness - Has a large database of information taken from private and public sources to provide small business owners with the advice and guidance they need in all areas of the business.
  • Small Business Administration - Website containing information on starting & financing a small business, SBA resources, and a classroom where you can learn how to prepare a business plan.

Market Research and Brand Positioning

Legal and Intellectual Property

  • Choosing a Legal Structure - Learn about the types of legal structures available for a new startup.
  • License, Permits & Tax Requirements - Because there is extensive cost in time, fees and red tape involved, obtaining licenses, permits, and tax requirements may be one of the last steps to take before opening a business.
  • Employee or Independent Contractor - This is a critical distinction and you don’t want to have issues with the IRS. This article discussion how to decide.
  • Comprehensive Guide to Starting a Business - Not only a no-cost resource on how to write a business plan, but also information on many topics associated with starting a business. The site is maintained by Workcomplab which has expertise on workers' compensation coverage.
  • MoreBusiness.com - Sample business plans, sample contracts, sample marketing plans, business loans, employee manuals.
  • www.nfib.com/illinois - Many small business tools including how to start a business, writing a business plan, marketing, accounting, tax, law etc.
  • Business Owner's Toolkit - Has many sample forms and guides for almost any business topic.
  • freeadvice.com - Has plain English explanation of legal concepts for business owners.
  • Insure.com - Its small business section has a plain English explanation of insurance for small businesses.
  • Illinois Secretary of State - Website where you can search for corporate name availability and access incorporation form.
  • FormSwift - Incorporating - A guide on how to incorporate and the steps involved from the Start-up FormSwift.
  • FormSwift - Independent Contractor - A guide on the use and determination of independent contractors from the Start-up FormSwift
  • Insureon Insurance Policy Types - This comprehensive list provides information on the most popular types of insurance policies small business owners should purchase, along with policies that many small business owners would not think to purchase but could be important to have.
  • IRS - Website where you can download and print every tax form and publication or ask questions.
  • Illinois Department of Revenue - Site where you can obtain information and forms on sales tax, income tax and more.
  • U.S. Patent and Trademark Office - Website where you can obtain information and guides on preparing patent applications and trademarks. You can also search for existing patents and download forms.

Financial

  • Simple Break-even analysis
  • Comprehensive Guide to Starting a Business - Not only a no-cost resource on how to write a business plan, but also information on many topics associated with starting a business. The site is maintained by Workcomplab which has expertise on workers' compensation coverage.
  • Smallbiztechnology.com – Strategic solutions for small businesses.
  • Best Business Credit Card Guide - This directory has the most popular business credit cards today. The directory is updated on a weekly basis to reflect any new changes, to add new cards, and to remove expired cards. The business credit cards directory highlights the most important features for each card. The directory is maintained and updated consistently to make sure it’s always current.
  • WalletHub - WalletHub is the first-ever website to offer free credit scores and full credit reports that are updated on a daily basis. WalletHub performs three primary functions, providing: 1) Customized credit-improvement advice; 2) Personalized savings alerts, and 3) 24/7 wallet surveillance. Such features are supplemented by reviews of financial products, professionals and companies with a diverse community of subject matter experts. They also offer a very user friendly directory to compare credit cards on the market, based on a number of factors including credit level, annual fees, rewards, etc.
  • Average Wages by Occupation in Illinois - To view occupational employment and wage estimates for the state of Illinois.
  • Fundera - A guide to successfully find and secure a small business loan.
  • Startup Wisdom: 27 Strategies for Raising Business Capital - A free e-book discussing a variety of techniques to raising capital from loans and crowdfunding to more non-traditional methods such as factoring and vendor financing. This is an easy to read book that explains all the ways a business can get funding to start or grow.
  • www.bizmove.com - The Internet's largest source of information for small business, includes Starting a Business, Financial Management, Sales & Marketing etc.
  • www.nfib.com/illinois - Many small business tools including how to start a business, writing a business plan, marketing, accounting, tax, law etc.
  • Insure.com - Its small business section has a plain English explanation of insurance for small businesses.
  • The Company Corporation - This website does incorporation for you.
  • Insureon Insurance Policy Types - This comprehensive list provides information on the most popular types of insurance policies small business owners should purchase, along with policies that many small business owners would not think to purchase but could be important to have.
  • IRS - Website where you can download and print every tax form and publication or ask questions.
  • Illinois Department of Revenue - Site where you can obtain information and forms on sales tax, income tax and more.
  • Basic Guide to U.S. Government Grants - Though grants for small businesses are very limited, it you fit the criteria, they can really help a company grow. We know many of these so contact us if you have questions.

Marketing

Strategy

Please also refer to the Business Plan section as those resources also discuss marketing strategy.

  • Tips for competing with Mass Merchandisers - Mass merchandisers, particularly the discount general merchandisers such as K Mart and Wal-Mart, are growing at a rapid rate and have captured market share from smaller competing firms. It is possible for smaller firms to survive in such an environment, but substantial changes in operations are usually required. This article offers suggestions to smaller firms on competing with mass merchandisers.
  • Pricing Products and Services The primary goal of business is to make a profit. Many small businesses fail to do so because they do not know how to price their products or services. Pricing is the critical element in achieving a profit and is a factor that all firms can control.

Website

  • Website Builders - This site will provide you a list of the top ten rated website builders. These builders will allow for you to build your own website, saving money in the process.
  • Building your own website - This site details a variety of topics on how to build your own website.
  • How to Create a Website with Videos - Comprehensive guide to building a website hitting all the key issues including WordPress with links to videos.
  • The Ultimate guide to Website Builders - Has some similar sites to the above, but a more comprehensive listing.
  • Internet Statistics and Facts - Filled with a range of facts associated with the internet such as most popular content management system, and what is the most common domain name extension.
  • How to Start an Online Store with WordPress - Good step by step guide with some interesting eCommerce facts.
  • How to Build an Ecommerce Store with Shopify - Shopify has become a very popular eCommerce platforms. This article explains how to set up an account, add products, accept payments, handle taxes and shipping, and integrate with your domain name.
  • What is Web Hosting? - This is a nice guide for beginners to inform about web-hosting, a critical decision all small businesses must make before their website goes public.
  • Google Adwords Keyword Tool - Free tool to identify possible keywords for the topic of a webpage.
  • WordTracker - For fee service to find keywords that compares monthly usage and site competition on the search engines.
  • Useit.com - Jakob Nielsen's site (Usable Information Technology)
  • Smallbiztechnology.com – Strategic solutions for small businesses.
  • Google Analytics - Free to all advertisers, publishers, and site owners.
  • Add Google Analytics to Wordpress - Step-by-step tutorial.
  • Digital.com - Provides reviews of various business resources (web hosting, email marketing, how to start a blog, eCommerce platforms) written by actual users that have posted comments and reviews.

Marketing Tools

  • Digital.com - Provides reviews of various business resources (web hosting, email marketing, how to start a blog, eCommerce platforms) written by actual users that have posted comments and reviews.
  • Constant Contact - Helps small businesses, associations, and nonprofits connect with their customers, clients, and members. With its email marketing, online survey and event marketing tools—supported by its expert personal coaching and support—help all types of small businesses and organizations create professional-looking email newsletters and insightful online surveys and begin a dialogue with their customers.
  • Survey Monkey - Website for creating free surveys.
  • Word of Mouth Marketing Association - WOMMA, is where you will find the latest on marketing strategies.

International Trade