The U.S. government is here to help small business owners. Here’s a list of free and low cost small business resources available from the SBA, Department of Labor, IRS, and more.

The U.S. government is here to help small business owners. Here’s a list of free and low cost small business resources available from the SBA, Department of Labor, IRS, and more.

 

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS)

What it costs: Free

What it does: The HHS is a completely free government resource for you to learn about, comment on, or file a complaint about regulations; access government grants and contracts; and connect with HHS programs and services such as emergency preparedness, food and drug safety programs that could be relevant to your business’ industry, and health insurance for small businesses.

U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)

What it costs: Free

What it does: The DOL has everything you need to know about regulations and compliance information as a small business owner. From worker’s compensation and OSHA to employment benefits and whistleblower protections, there is a treasure trove for you to explore. Being informed is the best way you can be the best boss.

Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU)

What it costs: Free

What it does: You might notice that OSDBU is a department of Veteran’s Affairs, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reap benefits from OSDBU if you haven’t served in the military. Federal agencies have to set aside a certain percentage of contracts for small businesses, and this is where you can access and apply for them.

U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)

What it costs: Free

What it does: The SBA has a lot of resources and tools for you to grow and manage your business successfully. Find information about applying for licenses and permits, opening a business bank account, registering as a veteran- or minority-owned business, hiring and managing employees, franchising or expanding your business, writing a business plan, preparing for emergencies, and so much more.

IRS Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center

What it costs: Free

What it does: We’ve written previously about this resource, but the IRS has a center for small businesses to find information about filing business taxes, record keeping, registering your business with the IRS, tax workshops, a free calculator, and more.

 

We’re always looking for the best affordable online resources including tools to promote to small business owners like you. If you have a tool you’d like to share with fellow business owners, contact us at sblending@opportunityfund.org.

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.

Loans are subject to credit review. Additional documentation may be required for credit approval. We are an Equal Opportunity Lender. Loans will be made or arranged pursuant to California Department of Corporations Finance Lenders License #6050609.


Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $700 million and helped thousands of families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

Visit us online at opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook  and Twitter

There’s a dangerous document that could ruin your financial health, and that’s called a Confession of Judgement. Learn what this is, why it is so harmful, and how you can avoid signing one.

There’s a dangerous document that could ruin your financial health, and that’s called a Confession of Judgement. Learn what this is, why it is so harmful, and how you can avoid signing one.

 

Since the recession, small businesses have had trouble getting loans from traditional banks. Businesses need working capital to survive, and smaller businesses can really struggle if they can’t get financing when they need it.

Just like most American households, when entrepreneurs are tight on cash things can get desperate. Alternative lenders know this, and some take advantage of this desperation. We’ve written about Merchant Cash Advances (MCAs) before, for-profit companies who offer lighting fast approval and super easy qualifications, even with bad credit.

The problem with MCAs is that they often aren’t transparent about how much this money will cost you. We’ve conducted industry research on these harmful practices, which you can read about here. Not only will you be stuck with high interest rates and hidden fees, leading to painful APR levels, but some MCA businesses may ask you to sign a Confession of Judgement (CoJ).

What is a Confession of Judgement?

A CoJ is an old legal document dating back hundreds of years intended to enforce debts without the hassle and enormous expense of trials. Although most states banned confessions of judgement in the nineteenth century,  they were still used in consumer loans until 1985. Even now, New York allows companies that have an office located within the state to use a CoJ.

When a borrower signs a CoJ to get an MCA, they are “giving up their right to defend themselves if the lender takes them to court. It’s like an arbitration agreement, except the borrower always loses. Armed with a confession, a lender can, without proof, accuse borrowers of not paying and legally seize their assets before they know what’s happened. Not surprisingly, some lenders have abused this power. In dozens of interviews and court pleadings, borrowers describe lenders who’ve forged documents, lied about how much they were owed, or fabricated defaults out of thin air”(Bloomberg).

To make matters worse, language pertaining to confessions of judgment are often times embedded well within the loan contract. It can be difficult to find, and borrowers end up releasing their right to arbitration without knowing.

How You Can Protect Yourself

If a lender requires you to sign a CoJ before they will give you money, that is a giant red flag. Not every lender who asks you to sign will call you with threats and drain your bank accounts overnight, but by signing a CoJ, you are giving them the freedom to seize your financial assets without warning. It is important to know your rights as a borrower, and as a small business owner you don’t want to sign those away. To learn more about your rights, read the Small Business Borrowers Bill of Rights co-authored by Opportunity Fund.

Always do your research and educate yourself about lenders and their offers before you sign anything. Arming yourself with knowledge is the best thing you can do for your business and your financial health. We created a free business loan calculator for you to figure out how much a loan – or cash advance – will really cost you.

Take your time to find a lender who is trustworthy, transparent, and upfront. Confessions of Judgement are potentially dangerous to your business – borrowers beware!

 

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.

Loans are subject to credit review. Additional documentation may be required for credit approval. We are an Equal Opportunity Lender. Loans will be made or arranged pursuant to California Department of Corporations Finance Lenders License #6050609.


Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $700 million and helped thousands of families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

To grow as a business owner, you need to keep learning – which can mean getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new. Get started with these ideas for taking small steps toward big changes.

To grow as a business owner, you need to keep learning – which can mean getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new. Get started with these ideas for taking small steps toward big changes.

Women entrepreneurs: Keep those business skills sharp

You’ve decided to start a business – and that’s a brave thing to do: Not everyone makes the leap of faith to go it alone! But you need to run a business day in and day out, and it’s easy to forget that you have to keep building your business skills, even beyond what you do to keep the doors open and serve customers. Taking the steps below to build skills such as networking, public speaking, and mentoring can help you push the boundaries of what’s possible for your business.

It’s okay to be afraid – but do it anyway

Getting out of our comfort zones can wrack the nerves, but it’s essential for growth (as a person and as a business owner). “As women, we shouldn’t stick to assigned roles because we feel like it’s what we are good at,” writes Angela Ruth, co-founder of payments company Due, in Forbes. “In reality, we could be doing so much more that no one ever encouraged us to do.”

Ruth’s advice: “Sign up for something you would never do and get through it. You’ll experience a heightened sense of confidence.” In her case, the “something” was doing her first conference presentation: “It can be scary to go out and do something completely different than what you are used to, but once you do it, there’s no question as to how confident you’ll feel.”

Speak up!

Unless you’re naturally gregarious and outgoing, nothing may take you more out of your comfort zone than public speaking. But it’s a skill that comes very much in handy for a business owner, since you may be called on to speak at local business or government events, or offer your insights at conferences.

Fortunately, there are many ways to get some practice at speaking publicly on a small scale (without facing a room filled with a hundred people). Toastmasters organizations, located all around the country, can help you sharpen your speaking skills in a supportive environment – you can even ask for a local mentor who can offer advice.

Karen Catlin, a business coach and former tech executive who teaches public speaking workshops, is a fan of pushing yourself to schedule small public speaking gigs so you become, as she says, “comfortable being uncomfortable.” In her case, she’s committed to doing some kind of public speaking at least once a month. And it’s okay to think small – public speaking can be something as simple as raising your hand at a city council meeting.

Mentor a budding entrepreneur

If you’ve had a mentor, you know how valuable it is to get support from a business leader. But have you thought about becoming a mentor, and sharing your knowledge with someone who’s at the beginning of her entrepreneurial journey? You may have more advice to offer than you think. Plus, you’ll be helping another woman realize her business dreams.

Alicia Glen, New York City’s deputy mayor for housing and economic development, firmly believes that mentorship is one of the keys to women’s empowerment. As she told Quartz.com, mentoring doesn’t need to be complicated. First, spend at least 15 minutes with a more junior woman in your business or your professional network, and give your undivided attention. Next, “actually pick up the phone and get her a connection,” Glen advises. While advice is helpful, it’s solid connections that truly help other women.


Loans are subject to credit review. Additional documentation may be required for credit approval. We are an Equal Opportunity Lender. Loans will be made or arranged pursuant to California Department of Corporations Finance Lenders License #6050609.

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.


Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $700 million and helped thousands of families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Opportunity Fund. Working Capital for Working People. opportunityfund.org