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For small businesses, help is there for the taking

I started my first business when I was 25. I think that’s why I consider myself an entrepreneur by trade – even with seven terms as a Pennsylvania state representative.

I started my first business when I was 25. I think that’s why I consider myself an entrepreneur by trade – even with seven terms as a Pennsylvania state representative.

While I have always been aware and supportive of resources aimed at helping small businesses, it wasn’t until I returned to the private sector, at the helm of my own consulting firm, that I was really reminded of just how many options exist.

Truly, one of the biggest obstacles business owners face is reluctance to take advantage of the help that’s available.

You may ask, “Am I really eligible?” All too often, the inquiry stops there. Here in the Lehigh Valley, there are several outlets for support, each with specific avenues for assistance.

Lehigh University’s Small Business Development Center is akin to a one-stop-shop for those looking to start or grow a small business. The center, on Lehigh’s Murray H. Goodman Campus, offers consulting services free of charge, thanks to state and federal backing.

For entrepreneurs just getting started, the SBDC can help you navigate through financing, regulations and licenses. For the more established small-business owner, the center tackles the topics of talent and product development and legal and accounting issues and can even put you on the path to a patent.

The Lehigh Valley Chapter of SCORE also helps with a broad range of topics through a network of qualified volunteers offering expertise and confidential entrepreneurial counseling, mentoring and education.

SCORE is the nonprofit arm of the Small Business Association with branches across the country. Our local chapter boasts more than 30 volunteers with a breadth of expertise to share at no cost.

If you want to tap into more industry-specific know-how, the Manufacturers Resource Center in Bethlehem is designed to answer the pesky questions plaguing production, including going green and getting grants.

Here, you likely will encounter more of an expense for resouces, so start with the MRC website. It’s thorough and offers several case studies to give you a good idea of what it offers.

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