Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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If I'm thinking of starting a business, what should I do first?

Before you quit your job or print business cards, it is wise to take stock of personal considerations. Ask yourself:

If the answer to any of these questions is "no," you may want to focus on self evaluation and development before proceeding. If most of your answers are "yes," then it is time to do some research! Get as much information as you can on the feasibility of your idea and on the real experience of starting and managing any business. You can do this by:

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What is a small business?

The Office of Advocacy defines a small business as an independent business having fewer than 500 employees. (The definition of "small business" used in government programs and contracting varies by industry; see

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What registration and licenses are generally required to start my business?

Obviously, there are specific requirements in each state, county and locality, but it is possible to list the kinds of basic licenses and registrations a new business will need:

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How can the SBDC help me with my established business?

The SBDC provides an array of services to established businesses, including:

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What is a business plan?

A business plan precisely defines your business and serves as your firm's resume by:

Your business plan can also service as a guide to make sure you stay on track with your goals and objectives. Writing your plan is an educational process in which you learn about your business and how you expect it to operate. It should reflect your goals, objectives, priorities, and management style.

A SBDC counselor will not write a business plan for you, but will assist in assessment of the plan. They may offer recommendations in order to make it a viable business plan to gain financing thru a lending institution.

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How long will it take to write a business plan?

A well thought-out business plan generally takes anywhere from six months to a year to complete, but it can be less depending on how committed you are to the business and how much time you are willing to spend on writing your plan.

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Does the SBDC provide financing?

The SBDC does not provide financing, rather, our assistance is technical and educational in nature. We work with banks and other lending agencies and organizations to assist in putting together financial projections, but the actual financing comes from outside sources. Generally, you start with the bank where you normally do business and have established accounts. You may have to apply at several lending institutions or look for alternative sources such as outside investors.

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Are there any grants available for my start-up business?

Generally speaking, grants given to business start-ups are very rare. An exception may be for a high-technology business or for businesses producing products that can be used by certain agencies or departments involved in our nation's defense. Also, non-profit businesses are sometimes eligible for grants.

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How do I get a business loan?

The kind of financing most entrepreneurs seek through commercial lenders is debt financing, and most banks provide debt financing for existing and start-up businesses. Banks vary substantially in their lending practices. While one bank may decline your loan application, another may be willing to take a higher risk or be interested in lending to small businesses. It is advisable to understand a bank's lending guidelines before applying for a loan. The general guidelines that would enable a lending officer to at least make an informed decision regarding your loan proposal are as follows:

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What form of business do you recommend for a new business?

Each form — sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or limited liability corporation — has its advantages and disadvantages. The one you should pick depends on your circumstances, including:

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What kind of insurance is needed for a small business?

There are four types of insurance that are generally considered essential for small businesses: fire, liability, auto and worker's compensation.

Before buying any insurance, consider the risks that should be covered, compare costs from the different companies, and get professional advice from an insurance agent.

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What are the alternatives in financing a business?

Committing your own funds is often the first financing step. It is certainly the best indicator of how serious you are about your business. Risking your own money gives confidence for others to invest in your business. You may want to consider a partner for additional financing. Banks are an obvious source of funds. Other loan sources include commercial finance companies, venture capital firms, local development companies and life insurance companies. Trade credit, selling stock and equipment leasing offer alternatives to borrowing. Leasing, for example, can be an advantage because it does not tie up your cash. Ask your local SBDC for information about these various sources.

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Where can I go for help?

Your local SBDC offers counseling, training and information resources to help you with your business issues. Contact a center near you for more information.

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Will the SBA loan money to me?

The SBA does not make direct loans. Its loan activity is in the form of participating loans and loan guarantees. You must deal with a bank to reach the SBA. You can think of the SBA as a level above your bank that is providing incentives to your bank to make it easier for you to get debt financing. The bank plays a major role in evaluating your loan application and in administering the loan. The bank's agreement is necessary before the SBA will get involved. Your local SBDC can help you find a bank for your financing needs.

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How does the SBDC UC Merced Regional Network assist veteran business owners?

In addition to counseling and training, the SBDC can assist veteran business owners with the SBA pre-qualification loan program for veterans. Veteran business owners are also eligible to apply for the Veteran Small Business of the Year Award presented annually to a California Veteran. The award recognizes Veterans who have made a significant contribution to California’s economy through their involvement in small business as well as by promoting a sense of duty and an appreciation of country, democracy, and freedom. Contact your center for nomination packages.

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