There’s no question that the economy is going through some rough times right now. I doubt that’s earth shattering news to anyone. And to add insult to injury, it doesn’t appear that it’s going to get much better anytime soon. There are the occasional bright spots, here and there, but on Main Street USA, it’s a real struggle for small business owners across the land.

The sad part is that it really doesn’t have to be that way. Most business owners have no idea of the amount of free help and advice that’s available to them from local experts and small business programs. Everything from seminars and workshops, online learning, low interest loans and grants, contracting and small business mentoring are all just a phone call away for any local resident. Here are some local resources that might be able to bring some more black to your bottom line.

Small Business Administration

The SBA has a plethora of online and individual help with business planning, marketing, advertising, business forms, employment regulations, SBA loans and more. They can help with starting a business, expanding, resizing, growing, and many ways to increase cash flow. (Cost: $0)

Small Business Development Center

The SBDC has local directors that can meet with you to do a variety of helpful things. They can help with your business plan, small business loans and grants, programs for veteran owned business, online training, preparing and reading the financial position of your business. They can provide business checklists and start-up guides that can reduce the speed bumps to business success. (Cost: $0)

Business Expansion and Retention Program

The B.E.A.R. Program is a state sponsored program that puts volunteer business experts in the area together with business owners who are facing business or economic challenges. One of the biggest benefits of the BEAR program is grant money to train employees with their Incumbent Worker Training Program (IWT). For example, you could receive money to cover Quickbooks training for your bookkeeper. The training must benefit the economy and it must be training that the employee could take to another job if that became necessary. (Cost: Advisors you select give two hours free consulting. If you want to continue fees are negotiated.)

Montana Manufacturing Extension Center

The MMEC is program that helps manufactures do what they do more efficiently and profitably. MMEC can handle time and motion studies, plant layout and design changes for more efficient workflow, improved quality control systems to reduce waste, cost analysis and growth strategies. It’s hard to believe the effect that a few minor changes can have on your bottom line. (Cost: There could be some cost depending on extent of the need.)

Profit Mastery University

If you’re anything like me you hate numbers. Profit and Loss, Cash Flow Projections, trying to make sense of all those spreadsheets just makes my head explode. Profit Mastery University is an online course, offered free through the Small Business Development Center, on how to do your financials. The great thing about this course is that’s its in plain English. You get to eavesdrop on an actual class taking the course. There is a printable workbook and you can go as slow or as fast as you need to complete the class. And there’s no grade other than you start seeing profit instead of losses. I can’t advise signing up for this enough. (Cost: Previously $499 – Now FREE to all Montana residents.)


SCORE is a 501(c)3 business organization that provides business consulting and mentoring to start-up and/or existing business owners. The Bozeman SCORE Chapter is celebrating it’s 40th anniversary this year. Score’s job is to schedule an initial interview to determine need, then place your business with the best possible advisor who has experience in doing what you want to do. If there is no one locally to advise you, Score has over 1,000 online counselors nationwide to assist you in starting and running a successful business. The local chapter also has an extensive library of books and business startup guides available. (Cost: $0)

Montana Women’s Business Network

Saving the best for last, there is the Montana Women’s Business Network. There is no question that women business owners have a whole set of business issues that other owners don’t have to contend with. Juggling career, family, and finances can take its toll over time so it’s always nice to talk to someone who’s walked a mile in your shoes. Here you will find financial help, contracting, business resources, international trade, and other women focused groups to help you succeed. (Cost: $0)

Other resources:

Career Transitions, Inc. • Montana WBC Sub-Center
Darla Joyner, ED
20900 E. Frontage Rd. B-Mezz • Belgrade, Montana 59714 • 406.388.6701



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