Need help developing a social media strategy or deciding the best place to open a new business location? Access/Information, Inc. (A/I) is the place to go for competitive intelligence. Not only is staff certified by the National Center for Economic Gardening, but they have years of experience assisting hundreds of diverse companies with these big questions.
However, if you’re in the beginning stages of creating a business or need some help staying current on a particular issue, there are many freely available business resources that can be indispensable to your company. Business databases and web based tools, such as Canva, are free tools that can make a big difference.
For many research needs, look no further than your local public library. Not only do most public libraries have designated business resources beyond books, there are often dedicated business librarians to help navigate these resources. Here in Denver, BizBoost is a resource within the Reference Department where entrepreneurs can set up an appointment for one-on-one guidance. Below are just a few of the types of business databases available to use at your local library, all you need is a library card.
- Demographics Now– whether starting a business, looking to expand, or increase sales, demographic information is indispensable. This tool allows you to compare several regions to analyze everything from the average cost of a dinner out, to household income.
- Business Plans Handbook– there is no need to re-invent the wheel, this database contains business plans created by entrepreneurs throughout the US.
- ABI/INFORM Trade & Industry– reports, trade journals and magazines provide in-depth information on a range of industries- from adhesives to hardware. Stay current by creating an alert or RSS feed.
Beyond databases, there are many valuable websites. The US Small Business Administration (SBA) is an excellent resource, its website contains information about obtaining loans, resources for working with the government, and contact information for your local office. SCORE, a designated business partner of the SBA, is a nonprofit organization devoted to providing free business guidance. Through mentoring, workshops, and business news, SCORE guides both startups and established companies.
While many people might dismiss LinkedIn as just the professional version of Facebook, it is a great place to find connections and mentors. Not only can you follow companies, but you can also follow business leaders. Expanding your connections, especially those in your industry, ensures that your LinkedIn feed will include news and announcements relevant to your business. LinkedIn also suggests articles that are trending in your region, ensuring that you are in the know at the next networking event.
Beyond gathering data and networking, there are many websites to help with business productivity, eliminating the need to purchase fancy software. Below are a few of the most popular:
- Google Drive– the beauty of Google Drive is that it allows cloud storage of a range of files completely free with a Gmail account. Save a PDF or an Excel spreadsheet, share with employees, or edit through an app on your smartphone.
- WordPress– creating a webpage is a daunting task but WordPress makes it easy with user friendly templates and easy customization.
- MailChimp– the “Forever Free” plan allows you to send up to 12,000 emails a month for free. Part e-mail and part marketing tool, MailChimp includes templates to send news or campaigns to a targeted group of customers.
- Canva– there are several websites to create polished graphics (Infogram, Visme, etc.) but Canva is incredibly popular because it’s so user-friendly. There are many template options, most graphics are free to use (or just $1), and a robust mobile app make this a convenient and affordable graphic design option.
For your company’s big questions, Access/Information can help. For general business maintenance, consider these resources.