How do Small Business Development Centers Work?

Starting a Small Business - What You Don't Need
Starting a Small Business - What You Don't Need. Photo: Morsa Images/Getty Images

Many small business owners don’t know about all the resources that are available to them. One of those resources is the network of Small Business Development Centers that are run by the Small Business Administration.

Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) are a little-known asset available to entrepreneurs, start-ups, and established small businesses. They’re designed specifically to help small businesses with all kinds of business-related activities, including providing guidance with marketing and financing. This resource can be a huge help to people who are just starting out, or to small business owners looking to expand.

These centers are run by the U.S. Small Business Administration in partnership with local communities, state and local governments, and the private sector.

SBDCs Are Tailored to Their Communities

Because SBDCs are run in conjunction with their local governments and local businesses, each center is tailored to the needs of their community, and works with other resources available in the state and surrounding areas.

The staff is also local; SBDCs always have paid staff and are often staffed with volunteers from local banks, trade associations, and the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE).

Finally, much of the funding is local. The national SBA provides less than 50% of the funding for local SBDCs, and local sponsors provide the rest of the funding. This is often through grants, private sector funding, universities, technical schools, and state legislators.

This local focus is a huge advantage to startups because it allows each center to focus on where help is needed the most.

What Can Small Business Development Centers do for Entrepreneurs?

One of the biggest challenges with running a small business is that it’s hard to be an expert in everything, which is important when you are the person running everything from scrubbing toilets to fulfilling orders.


For example, you may be an expert regarding customers, products, and services, but unless you’re an accountant, you may not be an expert in taxes for small businesses.

That’s where the SBDCs shine. They put together people who are experts that can help small business owners close the gap in their knowledge. This can include areas such as:

  • Putting together feasibility studies
  • Understanding how to get financing for the business
  • Dealing with business taxes
  • Production
  • Marketing
  • Tackling engineering problems
  • Helping business owners with organizational skills
  • Understanding best practices for hiring

You don’t have to take advantage of all of these services, but it’s helpful to know what’s available.

Specialized Areas that SBDCs can Often Help With

In addition to these areas, Small Business Development Centers can often help with specialized areas of business as well, including:

  • Rural development
  • International trade assistance
  • Technical assistance
  • Venture capital formation
  • Procurement assistance

Who Is Eligible for Assistance from SBDCs?

If you’d like to start a business for the first time, or if you already own a small business and want to expand it and can’t afford a private consultant, then you are eligible for the services of a Small Business Development Center.

Where Are Small Business Development Centers Located?

There are almost 900 Small Business Development Centers nationwide and they are in every state, as well as in Washington DC, and Puerto Rico.

You can find the closest SBDC to you by visiting the interactive map here. The easiest way to search is by zip code. You can also search by city or state.

The Bottom Line

If you’re starting a small business or looking to expand then SBDCs can be an amazing resource to help you get started or fill in the gaps in your skill set.

One of the biggest advantages of using a Small Business Development Center is the opportunities for networking within the business community. Because these centers often recruit volunteers who are current or former business leaders, you’ll often meet people who are not within your daily sphere of influence. This alone can open up doors for you that might not be opened otherwise.

It is recommended that most small business owners check out what their local SBDC has to offer and to see if the services can be helpful in helping them set up or expand.

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  1. U.S. Small Business Administration. "About Office of Small Business Development Centers," Accessed Oct. 9, 2019.

  2. U.S. Small Business Administration. "About Office of Small Business Development Centers," Accessed Oct. 9, 2019.

  3. U.S. Small Business Administration. "Find Local Assistance," Accessed Oct. 9, 2019.

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