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Sources for Small Business Success

Complimentary support for an array of business needs is available from government and non-profit entities.

Operating even the most so-called “typical” small business is an increasingly complex endeavor, given the rise of various sophisticated technologies (including social media strategies and cybersecurity, for example), and, separately, an expanding labyrinth of wide-ranging state and federal laws. Against this emerging backdrop, the small business owner may require access to capital, assistance with creating a solid business plan, or help with an array of other concerns.

Even well-run companies may not be aware that high quality, complimentary business support is available from many public-sector and non-profit entities, both at the state and federal levels. This article showcases a handful of such sources, while simultaneously detailing how they can help businesses successfully overcome obstacles.

Brenda Hopper, chief executive officer/state director, New Jersey Small Business Development Centers (SBDC), says, “I am not surprised that a lot of businesses still don’t know that the SBDC exists, and the fact that our one-on-one counseling is free, because [companies] are in the trenches. They have operations – they don’t have time to get on the internet; they don’t have time to reach out to a number of resources. In a lot of cases, when they have an issue, that’s when they seek some assistance. Suddenly, they can’t meet payroll, or they want to buy new equipment and can’t get a loan. Then, they start to do some research [and find us].”

Before a business owner approaches anyone for assistance, the first step he or she may feel the need to take is to completely comprehend the nature of the company’s problems or pursuits, and be highly educated when seeking advice. Of course, businesses that need public-sector support range from high-tech startups whose owners possess MBAs, to home-based businesses started by those with no previous experience.

Overall, Donald Newman, director of small business advocacy at the New Jersey Business Action Center, is forgiving to would-be callers, saying, “I would emphasize that the most important thing is to make the call. Don’t worry about what you need or what you are going to be asked for. Make the connection. Then, we can talk about what are the needs. What we find is that a lot of people don’t know what they need, and I would rather have them call and be told that they need to gather some information for us, than not make the call because they don’t know what to bring to the table.”

Business ranging from those that “don’t know where to start” to those with dossiers of spreadsheets and analyses, can receive free, in-person mentoring guidance from experts at the aforementioned New Jersey Small Business Development Centers (SBDC), or from SCORE (part of the U.S. Small Business Administration), which also has a bevy of seasoned business professionals. Moreover, again, the New Jersey Business Action Center (BAC), formed by the Christie Administration in 2010, is a comprehensive resource, which has access to nearly every esoteric business answer – even those not available online. For example, during Superstorm Sandy, some businesses had difficulty receiving U.S. Postal mail, and it was the BAC that took the time and effort to help solve that vexing issue.

Each entity, whether it is the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) or those mentioned above, has extensive information on its website that can help spawn intelligent conversations when CEOs do make contact with them.

Access to Capital

Financing is an enormously important component for business growth, and before a company contacts a bank or other lending source, it should “do its homework.” For instance, it is commonly reported that business owners will speak with a banker who asks, “How much money do you need to borrow?,” and the owners, in effect, reply, “How much can I get?”

BAC’s Newman says, “I advise people all the time that that question hurts you, because it makes it sound like you are not prepared; you don’t have a plan for the money; you don’t have an idea of where you are going. If that’s your answer, then it actually hurts you. You are much better off talking to us. We don’t judge based on that answer; what we do is connect you to the resources that can help you. ‘Go to a counselor’; ‘Go to a mentor,’ who can go over a business plan with you, look at your cash flow, your financials, and determine what you can afford, what you need, and how much you should be looking to borrow, in order to achieve those goals. Sometimes, it’s not what people really ‘want,’ it’s what they need, and [determining that] is the most important aspect of what we do.”

Of course, lenders examine business plans, business owners’ personal credit histories, and a host of other relevant factors. Al Titone, district director for the New Jersey District Office of the US Small Business Administration, says, “Make sure you go in prepared, whether you are a startup or an existing business. If you don’t have a strong relationship with the bank, they are going to look for certain things. We suggest you make sure you have your management expertise, you have sufficient operating funds that would include paying back any loans, and a business plan with financials. There is a whole list, and you can find it on the website, that we suggest folks have. One of the biggest things that they don’t have is a business plan. Or, they don’t have one that they are familiar with.”

Overall, there is plenty of money available for qualified businesses, and the public sector can aid in obtaining those funds. The U.S. Small Business Administration has an impressive array of offerings and endeavors. Focusing solely within the realm of small business financing, the SBA has, for example: the General Small Business Loans 7(a); the Microloan Program; the CDC/504 Real Estate & Equipment Loans program; and Disaster Loans. The SBA is famous for guaranteeing loans made by banks, meaning if the loan defaults, the SBA will help make the financial institution whole again.

Melissa Orsen, chief executive officer of the EDA, notes that her entity offers a wide variety of resources to support small businesses. In addition to providing direct loans of up to $2 million for fixed assets or up to $750,000 for working capital, the EDA works with local banks and other financial institutions to provide funding. The EDA offers its Premier Lender Program, the Small Business Fund, and the New Jersey Advantage programs. Also, through the state’s Loan to Lenders program, the EDA makes capital available to financial intermediary organizations that can effectively reach small businesses in local markets, including micro-lenders and community development financial institutions.

Orsen adds, “I would also like to point out that the EDA offers a continuum of assistance specifically designed to help technology and biotechnology companies at every stage of growth. From networking and mentoring to financial assistance such as loans and tax credits, hundreds of entrepreneurs, emerging businesses and established companies benefit from EDA support each year. I strongly encourage the state’s technology entrepreneurs to reach out to us to learn about programs to help them grow.”

Esoteric Questions

Locating the correct answers to a wide variety of business questions may be a daunting task. Even if an “answer” is found online, how can its validity be confirmed? A business never wants to move forward with incorrect information that could result in reduced profits, fines – or even lawsuits. In many instances, contacting a qualified attorney or accountant is advised, but what if the question doesn’t fall under either of those umbrellas?

Again, the BAC may be able to assist in this arena. Newman says, “Sometimes it’s a specific issue; [the business] wants to get into government procurement. How does it do that? ‘How do I even start? How do I become a vendor for the state?’ or ‘I am a vendor for my local municipality, and they are telling me that now that I have sold them over a certain dollar amount, they want me to have a vendor ID, from the state. What is that all about?’ We can help them do that. We can help them learn that system, and become a government vendor, learn about set-aside programs for small businesses, and so on. Meanwhile, we have export questions from people who want to get into exporting. We have an entire team of international trade experts who can help them, within the BAC.”


The New Jersey Business & Industry Association is a member-based organization, with a host of resources for small business. In addition to its Member Action Center, which provides guidance on nearly every imaginable topic, it includes a complimentary legal hotline, where attorneys from the law firm of Jackson Lewis can provide up to 30 minutes of consultation, each month, for a member.

That said, Stefanie Riehl, vice president of business resources at NJBIA, this month is spearheading the launch of the the association’s Small Business Network. She says, “The precursor to this Small Business Network was an entrepreneurial roundtable. At it, one of our sole proprietors said, ‘Everything you are offering is great, but I am a sole proprietor. One of the things I need is information on collections; that is, getting my accounts receivable in.’ We at NJBIA said, ‘Wow, we hadn’t heard that before.’ We went ahead and were able to schedule a collections webinar for October. Conversations like that are going to help us be more responsive to small businesses, and really try to service them better.”

The Small Business Network’s first meeting is this September 15. Riehl adds, “Over the course of my five-plus years at NJBIA, I have really come to appreciate the struggle of a small business owner. It’s so rewarding to be able to help them. I think we are well positioned to provide those services to the small business owner, and, like I said, to focus on the core services, as well.”


The New Jersey Business Innovation Network (previously known as the New Jersey Incubation Network), is yet another resource for companies. Lou Cooperhouse holds many titles: Director, Rutgers Food Innovation Center; President, NJ Business Innovation Network (NJBIN); and Board of Directors, International Business Innovation Association (NJBIB). NJBIN has evolved into a collection of entrepreneurship support programs that include traditional incubator programs that are accelerators (which enable access to capital); programs that offer co-working spaces; and even science parks.

Cooperhouse says, “Incubation is not necessarily a well understood word. Incubation is really a support network, to help mentor entrepreneurs, and those entrepreneurs could be students, faculty at universities, and, more typically, they are from private-sector corporations that are looking to develop a business based on some specialty niche. It could be protected by intellectual property, or some marketing niche that really hasn’t been done before, or is now being done better. Incubation is about having individuals who really come with two things: They bring a professional support team to support your business, and they bring a tremendous resource network to support you as well. An incubator is really a bit of an aggregator; it is really bringing together the resources that an entrepreneur needs to be successful. Those resources could be anything from assistance with your whole business plan and your strategy, your marketing sales strategy, your operational technology strategy, your financial needs – all your commercialization aspects and equipment. It also could be a way to get your product developed and actually manufactured for sale. It is trying to help you from the A to Z of the ideation of your business, all the way through to commercialization, sales and financing.”


Business problems run the gamut from the simple to the sublime, and, so, too, do the complimentary resources available to them. All of the above entities have a vested interest in helping ensure businesses succeed, because profitable businesses boost New Jersey’s economy in myriad ways, and pave the way for the state’s bright future.


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