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Thinking about starting a business? There is help available


With a lot of job losses and an uncertain economy, there is an increasing number of people wanting to begin their own business.

The Kauffman Foundation, an entrepreneurship research and advocacy organization, states that entrepreneurship is as prevalent in the United States as getting married or having a baby. At any one time, more than 10 million adults in the U.S. are actively engaged in creating businesses. With the current economic conditions, those numbers are expected to grow by perhaps as many as an additional 2 million people.

Glenn Muske, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension interim associate dean, assistant director, family and consumer sciences, said there are many crucial items to consider before starting a business--how to market the product effectively, how to structure the business and what the best options for your plan are.

"There are many resources out there for potential entrepreneurs to take advantage of," Muske said. "Using trustworthy resources and getting advice from professionals with experience in this area may be the key for starting a successful business."

Good sources of information include your local Extension office. They have educational materials to help you get started and may be offering workshops on starting a business. Also, the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service has a helpful website with tools, taped Webinars, educational materials, etc. Go online to eXtension.org/entrepreneurship for additional information.

The U.S. Small Business Agency also provides a variety of assistance by using many resources including the Small Business Development Centers. SBDCs provide free counseling and assistance on issues covering business planning, financing and site location. There are approximately 900 locations across the U.S.

Muske said SBDC employ full-time business counselors and usually former entrepreneurs who are well-networked to meet with entrepreneurs or direct them to other professionals who can help.

To find the nearest SBDC go to asbdc-us.org on the Internet.

Another SBA source is the Service Corp of Retired Executives. These groups are retired business owners who volunteer their time to assist new and on-going business owners in developing their business operations.

Other sources of information are the local Vocational Technology Centers. They offer classes and one-on-one assistance. The second source is the Oklahoma Department of Commerce. Check out their website at http://www.okcommerce.gov/ for tools and helpful information and guidance.

A final resource is Rural Enterprises, Inc. This organization offers courses through their Women's Business Center that are open to everyone. They also provide an excellent opportunity to network with other entrepreneurs.

"Networking is oftentimes an overlooked resource for new entrepreneurs," he said. "Figure out who is successful in the industry and try to meet with those people face-to-face."

"By networking with other professionals, you will be able to share similar experiences and problems which can be beneficial, therapeutic and educational," Muske said. "Your local Chamber of Commerce or Economic Development Center is also a source for networking opportunities."

Muske said the OCES is able to help entrepreneurs and small business owners by providing educational materials and workshops. For more information, contact your local county Extension educator.

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