What Is a Small Business Development Center (SBDC)?

Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) provide free marketing, financing, and business-related assistance to local entrepreneurs. They are found in all states, as well as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. territories. SBDCs exist as a partnership between the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and usually a local college or university, with the purpose to help foster small businesses and jobs by providing educational resources to business owners and those looking to start a business.

Key Takeaways

  • Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) provide business-related assistance and knowledge to help entrepreneurs start, run, and grow their business.
  • SBDCs are created through a partnership between the U.S. Small Business Administration and local universities and are available in all states and U.S. territories.
  • SBDC business consulting is free and business training is offered at a low cost.
  • The impact of SBDCs on the economy is large, as they help launch and assist thousands of businesses and create thousands of new jobs.

Understanding a Small Business Development Center (SBDC)

According to the SBA website, SBDCs help entrepreneurs "realize their dream of business ownership" and help existing businesses remain competitive in a complex, ever-changing global marketplace. SBDCs are hosted by leading universities and state economic development agencies and funded in part through a partnership with the SBA. Less than half of an SBDC's funding comes from the SBA, with the remaining portion coming from Congress, state funding, donations, grants, and corporate sponsorships.

SBDCs combine private sector know-how with the educational background of universities in order to provide entrepreneurs with the resources they need to feel confident in starting and running a business.

Types of Assistance Provided by a Small Business Development Center (SBDC)

SBDC advisors provide aspiring and current small business owners a variety of free business consulting and low-cost training services including business plan development, manufacturing assistance, technology development, lending assistance, exporting and importing support, disaster recovery assistance, procurement and contracting aid, market research help, 8(a) support, and healthcare guidance. Currently, there are almost 1,000 local SBDC centers available.

SBDCs provide the knowledge, education, and expertise small businesses are often missing. Whether it’s taxes, financing, marketing, training or networking, SBDCs are there to help their clients overcome challenges, discover new opportunities, and unlock their potential so that their businesses can achieve new heights. The SBDC network includes dedicated business advisors working in partnership with universities, economic development professionals, chambers of commerce, lenders, investors, and entrepreneurs themselves.

The Impact of Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) on the Economy

Nationwide, small businesses employ 60 million people, which is nearly half of all American workers. With deep roots in their communities, small firms and their employees are the engine driving the American economy. SBDCs provide these local businesses and entrepreneurs with the resources they need to thrive, compete, and succeed.

America's SBDC is the association that represents America's nationwide network of Small Business Development Centers. According to its website, in 2019, it had provided $5.6 billion in financing and created over 99,124 jobs nationwide. Between 2017-2018, it helped start 16,499 businesses, and in 2019, it generated $7 billion in new sales.