Small Business Administration

General Introduction

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has provided capital, contracts, and counseling to small business owners since 1953. The agency's website presents in-depth guidance on business planning, start-up, management and exit strategies, SBA services, useful tools, and local resources. With the links provided here, this wealth of information is just a few keystrokes away.

Starting and Managing a Business

The SBA has all the information and resources you need to launch and run a successful small business. From writing a business plan, to finding a mentor, to learning about financing and business regulations, a novice entrepreneur can get a great start by accessing tools on this site. Resources are also provided for successful management and growth.

Small Business Readiness Assessment Guide

This guide is designed to help you assess whether you ready to start a small business. The assessment includes 25 questions to help you evaluate your personal characteristics, skills, and experience as they relate to your readiness for starting a business. Your responses are scored automatically, and a brief analysis is provided.

Loans, Grants and Other Funding Programs

When you are ready to consider financing products for your small business, the SBA will guide you through the best options available for your company and location. Subjects include financing through SBA loan programs, government grants, bond options, and venture capital or other financing options. There’s also information on low-interest loans for small business owners affected by natural disasters.

The section is easily navigable to find information on all their funding options starting with the SBA’s flagship 7(a) loan program.

7(a) Loan Program

The 7(a) loan program is the SBA’s primary program for providing financial assistance up to $5 million to small businesses. There are several types of loan and funding options under the program with varying loan limits and eligibility requirements.

Standard 7(a) loan: Financing for small businesses up to $5 million with the SBA guaranteeing 85% of loans up to $150,000 and 75% for loans greater than $150,000.

7(a) small loan: Loans up to $350,000 with the same SBA guarantees as the standard 7(a) loan.

SBA Express loan: Loans up to $350,000 that need a faster turn-around, within 36 hours. SBA guarantees up to 50%.

Export Express program: A streamlined loan process for exporters and lenders to obtain SBA-backed loans and lines of credit up to $500,000.

Export Working Capital loans: Designed for businesses that can generate export sales and need additional working capital to support these sales.

International Trade loans: Long-term financing designed for businesses businesses that are expanding because of growing export sales, or that have been adversely affected by imports and need to modernize to meet foreign competition.

Preferred Lenders program: The SBA gives select lenders more authority to process, close, service, and liquidate SBA-guaranteed loans.

Veteran-owned businesses: SBA loans made to veteran-owned small businesses come with reduced fees.

CAPLines: An umbrella program that helps small businesses meet their short-term and cyclical working-capital needs. It features four lines: Seasonal CAPLine, Contract CAPLine, Builders CAPLine and Working CAPLine.

Microloan Program

SBA’s Microloan Program provides small, short-term loans to small businesses to help with working capital and the purchase of inventory, supplies, furniture, fixtures, machinery or equipment. SBA provides funds to intermediary lenders, specifically designated community-based organizations providing business training and technical assistance to applicants.

CDC/504 Loan Program

The CDC/504 Loan Program offers small businesses another avenue for business financing, at the same time promoting business development and job creation. The 504 Loan Program provides approved small applicants with long-term, fixed-rate financing used to acquire fixed assets for expansion or modernization.

Disaster Loans

SBA provides low-interest disaster loans to businesses of all sizes, private non-profit organizations, homeowner, and renters. These long-term loans may be for physical or economic damage, home or personal property, or business property. In addition to Fact Sheets for each category of disaster assistance, which delineate loan limits and application procedures, the website also lists current disaster declarations by state.

Grants

The federal government does not offer grants for starting or growing a business. It only provides grants for non-commercial organizations (nonprofits and educational institutions) in medicine, technology development, and related fields. Some business grants are available through state or local programs. But these grants usually require you to match the funds or combine the grant with other forms of financing, such as a loan.

Surety Bond

SBA offers surety bond guarantees for businesses that meet certain eligibility requirements. All federal construction contracts valued at $150,000 or more require a surety bond during the bid process or as a condition of contract award. Most state and municipal governments as well as private entities have similar mandates, as do service contracts and some supply contracts.

Small Business Investment Company

The SBIC is a multi-billion-dollar program that provides funding to qualified investment management firms with expertise in certain sectors or industries. SBICs are privately owned and managed investment funds. SBA-licensed and regulated, they use their own capital plus funds borrowed with an SBA guarantee.

Federal Government Contracting

Contracting with the Federal government is a great way to help your small business grow – and many programs are available that give preference to small businesses. The SBA is there to help you every step of the way, from certification, to registration, to finding contracting opportunities, and finally, to contract support. This enables you to not only decipher the complex procurement process, but also to prosper from it.

SBA Learning Center

Since its inception, the SBA Learning Center has provided counseling and training programs for small businesses. The Learning Center’s free courses number in the dozens. Tools include podcasts, videos, spread sheets and calculators to assist small business owners and prospective entrepreneurs.

Local Resources

Closer to home, SBA provides counseling and mentoring to small businesses through a variety of local programs, partners and offices – with direct links posted in the Local Resource section. These include SBA district offices located across the country, many colleges and universities with Small Business Development Centers, Veterans Business Outreach Centers, and Women’s Business Centers.

Another resource partner of the SBA is SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives). This nonprofit resource is comprised of volunteers who offer free and confidential business counseling services to small businesses. With over 300 offices across the country SCORE's resources also include mentoring services, templates and tools, local and online workshops, as well as networking events.