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Eight free resources for business

16 August 2010 No Comment

By Helen Kaiao Chang

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Cut expenses, grow revenue. That’s the formula for a healthy business, especially in a tough market. Here are eight free resources you can tap into in San Diego.

1. Cash – It is possible to find free money or, at least, cheap money. But make sure your business plan is solid. Sources include:

* Business loans: The Small Business Administration, which received fresh funding from the federal stimulus package, has money for entrepreneurs.

* Grants: The city government, which received some $67 million in grant funding in 2008, matches businesses with grants. You can also find lots of specific city grants. For example, Escondido offers a “Façade and Property Improvements” grant, for businesses to make external improvements on commercial buildings.

* Peer-to-peer lending: One way to find private lenders, who will lend you money in exchange for interest, equity or some other security. Sources include: Prosper.com, Virginmoneyus.com, Us.zopa.com and Lendingclub.com.

* Microlending: Groups offer business loans starting at $500, while educating entrepreneurs. Accion SanDiego and Womenempowerment.org are great resources

2. Workers — If you’re looking for free labor, think interns. These are students seeking work experience in your industry. Liaise with a community college or post a request on Craigslist. You can also find low-cost labor at freelance job sites, such as Guru.com and Elance.com.

3. Consultants –You can find a free business coach at Score, one of the leading business advisory groups in town. The San Diego chapter has some 90 consultants, one of which will match your business needs. The Chairmen’s Roundtable is another kick-butt organization, which mentors entrepreneurs.

4. Training — You and your employees can upgrade your skills free at classes offered through Continuing Education San Diego. Classes include: “Internet Marketing,” “Blogging for Profits,” and “E-Commerce Shopping.”

5. Communication – Free online services for teleconferencing, long-distance phone calls and shared documents all help cut communication costs. These help create “virtual offices,” where employees and contractors can be located anywhere — thus saving office rent. Check out: Freeconferencecall, Skype and Google Docs.

6. Market research – The public library is filled with best-selling books, magazines and extensive databases, which can help keep you up with current trends. Due to the city’s budget deficit, some branches may be closing or cutting hours, but you can still use their resources. Many public libraries also have meeting rooms – some free, some for a fee.

Bonuses: the Encinitas Public Library opens to breathtaking ocean views, while the National City branch inspires visitors with its cathedral ceiling and the Mission Valley library features an outdoor waterfall.

7. Services – You need their services. They need yours. But neither of you have much cash. What do you do? Barter. Don’t laugh. Kyle MacDonald bartered a single, red paper clip up to a house. Craigslist has great barter listings.

8. Peace of Mind – We live in San Diego, remember? Just take a walk along one of our gorgeous beaches — such as Coronado, La Jolla, or Del Mar — and remember your problems are but a drop in the ocean of abundance. Yeah, business may be down, but you still live in one of the best places in the world.

Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenChang.

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