Entrepreneurial careers are on the rise, and working as an independent contractor or starting your own business may be part of your future plans. The National Small Business Week events, taking place this week and organized by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), provide a closer look at what it means to own and operate a small business. Use the activities and resources available to further your career exploration and professional networking efforts. As a student, you may find just the information you need to take the next step toward your goals.
While the main conference is taking place in Washington, DC, that doesn't mean you can't participate from wherever you may be. Many helpful resources are posted online and the event provides a great excuse to highlight some of the SBA's services:
- Small Business Development Centers (SBDC): With locations in 50 states, Washington DC, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Territories, SBDC's provide free and confidential services to those considering starting their first small business as well as existing small business leaders. Consulting services may cover finances, marketing, organization, and more.
- Small Business Training Network: SBA's website provides online courses, workshops, and podcasts on topics ranging from starting a new business to finding funding. These resources include profiles of successful small businesses.
- SCORE: This national network of more than 13,000 volunteer mentors, working from 364 local chapters, offers free services to those considering entrepreneurial careers. Local seminars and workshops are conducted in addition to individual mentoring sessions.
Social media is helping attendees and other interested participants connect and network online. Follow National Small Business Week's backchannel conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #SBW2012, and follow the SBA on Twitter and Facebook. The speakers' bios also include their Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn profiles. Connect with those working in areas you are interested in exploring.
LinkedIn, one of the most popular social networking sites for working professionals, also has special features available for entrepreneurs. Take a look at the LinkedIn Learning Center's Entrepreneurs User Guide for tips that help you "get your ideas off the ground" through activities such as posting questions in LinkedIn Answers and browsing company profiles. If you are active in this network, think about joining groups focused on small business discussions like Entrepreneur's Network and Entrepreneurship.org.
Find out what it's like to be a small business owner by contacting those already out there in operation. Look in your local area and online for inspiration and sources of information. During National Small Business Week, the SBA "recognizes small businesses and entrepreneurs across the U.S. for outstanding contributions with awards in a variety of categories." Where do they get their inspiration and support? You can find the full list of these awards and success stories online, but here are several to get you started:
- Small Business Person of the Year: Victoria Tifft, president and CEO of Clinical Research Management, Inc., was motivated to start her business when she contracted malaria while volunteering with the Peace Corps. She now focuses on providing support for the "development of FDA-regulated vaccines, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices." Tifft has recommendations for new entrepreneurs, including "seeking advice from others … we have a lot of the same stories."
- Entrepreneurial Success Award: Hamdi Ulukaya, president and CEO of Chobani, Inc., started his company in 2005 and successfully faced the challenges presented by larger competing brands. Chobani has since created over 1,200 jobs with more growth predicted for the future.
- Home-based Business Champion of the Year: Wendy Navarro, owner of Saige Nicole's Specialty Baby and Toddler Boutique, began her online retail business in 2006. "Nearly 90% of her suppliers are mom-preneurs," resulting from her commitment to mentor and support other small businesses.
If you think an entrepreneurial career might be right for you, helpful resources are available beyond this week's events. Talk with your career center's advisors for more information about the possibilities of starting your own business. And work with your academic advisors to find out if adding a business-related course, as an elective to your academic program, would be beneficial. You may also be able to incorporate your entrepreneurial interests as part of course projects in non-business courses, allowing you to further research the opportunities available. Work with your instructors to fine-tune your approach.
What are your favorite resources for small business planning? Share your ideas with us here.
Image credit: MDGovpics, Flickr, CC-BY