The city of NY offers this portal that I think is of limited use – its main goal seems to be to make sure that we all pay our taxes and fees. For instance, the site insists that an internet publishing business meet portable fire extinguisher requirements. I’d say the site is damn well obsessed with fire extinguishers. This is likely the same advice you’d get if you went down to the local firehouse and asked for business advice, and in that case you’d be getting it from hot, muscular guys.
Each state also has an SBDC, or Small Business Development Center. New York’s offers counseling and a variety of free seminars in all five boroughs. (And here are the top four business resources in NYC, according to NAWBO).
Basically, state and local governments really want to promote entrepreneurship, and in most cases just kind of dick around in the mud about it, because the point of entrepreneurship is pretty much that you do it your own damn self. So, there are probably a lot of free programs – wherever you live – that are poorly advertised but easy to find online.
Mentoring is Also Free! Also, There are Things Called Incubators.
You can always get free counseling at SCORE, a nonprofit (in partnership with the Small Business Administration) that provides free business mentoring to entrepreneurs. SCORE was formerly the Service Corps of Retired Executives, but has since just decided to go by SCORE, once realizing that many non-retired people also like to mentor.
You might also consider business incubators. Incubators can range from highly competitive programs like Y Combinator and 500 Startups to warm-and-fuzzy shared office space, complete with ready-made community, that you simply pay to join (see Sunshine Bronx). Many incubators are funded by local governments and come with free counseling of various kinds, and most incubators involve some kind of shared office resources, such as DSL, utilities, copy machines, etc. In NYC, there are several incubators run through NYU Poly, and a directory of affordable workspaces here.
Of course, one of the biggest fuckups I made the first time around as an entrepreneur was trying to seem big and official by renting a bigass office and calling myself a “CEO.” Groan. (See Bullish: Three Career F*ckups I Made So You Don’t Have To.)
So, I won’t personally be taking on office space until I some absolute critical point wherein I have to house people who have to be watched every minute. Which, hopefully, is never. But I understand that some of you are much more social than I am.
In coming weeks…
Even if you have no plans to start a business now, do you plan to work for someone else until you’re sixty-five? In Bullish Life: Responding to Disappointment with Awesomeness, I talked about keeping some plans in your back pocket. Always have a back pocket (maybe not in romance, but definitely in your career).
So, we’ll continue this topic with discussing angel investing, crowdfunding, peer-to-peer lending, and other ways of funding a business (or investing in one). We’ll also talk about networking, something I’ve actually written very little about (I’m an introvert and believe that concentration and quality work are more important than meeting thousands of people who view you as relatively unimportant.)
Not every column is going to be about entrepreneurship – I’m also sitting on some excellent reader questions about the first day at a new job, about working for family members, and about bosses who don’t respect you. I’ll mix it up.
Also, you may be wondering: What are the damn businesses? Let me get some websites up, and I’ll tell you everything. Onward march!
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