Small Business FAQ

Small Business FAQs

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How do I get a small business grant or loan?

The Federal government does not provide grants for starting a business. Generally, Federal grants are only available to non-profits, state and local governments and larger businesses engaged in government-sponsored scientific research. Some small business grants can be obtained from non-profit organizations and a few state government agencies for specific types of businesses.

However, federal, state and local government agencies provide loan guaranty programs that make it easier for small businesses to obtain start-up and expansion loans from commercial lenders.

Use our Loans and Grants Search Tool to find a broad range of financial assistance programs for which your business might qualify.

Visit the Small Business Loans guide to get general information about loans and how to apply for them.

Find grants for women owned businesses?

The Federal government does not provide grants for women to start or expand a small business. Generally, grants for women entrepreneurs are provided by non-profit organizations. Our resource guide for women owned businesses provides information on several Federal and state loan programs specifically for women business owners.

To learn about other small business financing programs, use the Loans and Grants Search Tool; or visit the Small Business Loans guide to get general information about loans and how to apply for them.

Write a business plan?

A well-written business plan is essential when starting a new business, especially if you apply for a small business loan. Visit the Business Plan Resources page to find information on preparing a winning plan for your new venture.

Start a home based business

Whether you conduct business out of your home or in a commercial space, you will need to follow some basic legal steps to starting a business. Home based businesses have some unique licensing, zoning and taxation requirements that can easily be overlooked, but if ignored, can lead to costly fines.

Visit the Home Based Business Resource Guide to get essential information on starting a home based venture and on complying with local laws and regulations.

Register a business name

Assumed name, trade name, "doing business as" (DBA), and fictitious name ... all these words refer to the same requirement of registering your business with a government agency.

The regulations for registering a business name vary from state to state. In some states, business owners are required to file a registration form with a state corporations agency, while in other states, businesses register a name with a county or city clerk office.

In addition, some jurisdictions require only some types of legal entities to file business name registration (e.g. LLCs or Partnerships), while others require all businesses to register trade names regardless of legal structure.

Visit the Business Name Registration guide to learn the requirements in your state and find out where to register,

Search or register a corporation

If you are looking to establish your business as a partnership, LLC, or corporation, you will need file forms with your state's agency responsible for chartering corporations, usually a Secretary of State office. These agencies also provide public access to records for registered corporations and liens filed against businesses.

In most states, you can search for corporate records free of charge. However, nearly all states charge fees for filing incorporation documents. If you have a third party file these documents on your behalf (e.g., an attorney or online legal service), you will be charged a fee for their services as well as the fees charged by the state.

Visit the Business Incorporation guide to learn more about incorporating your business, and find links to forms and tools available from your state.

Obtain a business licenses

Each jurisdiction has its own unique business licensing requirements. Unless yoru business is regulated by the Federal governemnt , most of your licensing requirements are imposed by your state and local government. Obtaining a license involves filling out a registration form. If you are starting or expanding your business, you will likely need to fill out lots of registration forms. has conveniently organized resources to help business owners understand the registrations they must typically complete in order to legally operate. Visit the Business Licenses and Permits guide to learn about tools and resources to help you locate and obtain your business licenses and registrations.

Get info on employment laws

Whether you are current employer or thinking of hiring employees or independent contractors, it is essential that you comply with all Federal and state labor laws.

The Employment and Labor Law guide provides comprehensive information to help employers manage within the law.

Bid on government contracts

Federal and state government agencies award millions of dollars in contracts to small businesses every year. Contracting with government is a great way to expand your business.

To become a government contractor you need to complete a few simple steps. Visit the following resources to help you understand how to register as a contractor and how to bid on government contracts:

Visit our Government Contracting Guide for additional resources.

Find info for self-employed or independent contactors?

Visit our Self-Employment Guide to find resources that help self-employed individuals and independent contractors start and operate their businesses, including tax information.

Get free workplace and labor law posters?

You never need to pay for posters that the government requires you to display in your workplace. Both state and federal labor agencies provide these posters free of charge.

Visit the Workplace Posters guide to find out which posters you are required to display and how to obtain them.

Find statistics and market research data?

The Federal government is the largest producer of statistical data in the world. From demographic data to statistics about business conditions in your local area, the Business Data and Statistics guide provides statistical resources to help you understand your target market and become more competitive.

Learn about exporting products?

The Import/Export Guide provides access to a number of free financial and advisory resources to help your small businesses compete in overseas markets.

Get info on energy saving rebates and credits?

In tough economic times, business owners are constantly looking for creative ways to save money. Reducing energy costs is a great place to start. The Energy Efficiency Guide has a number of resources on tax savings, rebates and financial incentives:

My question is not listed here. What do I do now?

If we did not answer your question here , try searching for what you need using the search box in the upper right corner of this page, or browsing through the directory of topics listed on the left.

If you still cannot find what you need, contact us and we will direct you to the right resources.