African-American Businessman
African-Americans with small businesses can use the tips below to stay in business -- and grow their enterprises. © Tyler Olson - Fotolia.com

National Small Business Week 2012, which runs from May 20 through May 26, is a powerful reminder that much of America’s economic growth is derived from Main Street – not Wall Street. Small businesses add $11 trillion annually the U.S. economy, according to figures from the U.S. Small Business Administration. But as most entrepreneurs will tell you, running a business is incredibly hard work – and one where the odds are stacked against you. In fact, more than 50 percent of all small businesses fail within their first five years, the SBA says. Whether you’re a would-be entrepreneur, a founder of recently launched company, or a seasoned small business owner, you can beat those odds by staying abreast of resources that can help your enterprise succeed.

Here are five resources that back entrepreneurs – and others – can use to start a business, grow a company, or even take an established operation to entirely new heights.

Resource #1: GoFundMe.com

What Is It?: A unique fundraising source for small business owners at every level.

Who Needs It?: Any current or would-be entrepreneur who requires cash.

Why It’s Useful: There’s so much hype around social media. “But how do you most effectively use those tools and how do you turn that into value for you or your business?,” asks Hajj Flemings, a technology entrepreneur who specializes in branding and social media strategy.

Flemings says he loves GoFundMe because it’s a crowd-sourced platform that can help anyone with a dream. “If you’re able to put together a great story and explain your business, you can get your idea or initiative funded and you don’t have to pay the money back.”

With GoFundMe, donors also don’t get any equity in the your company, Flemings adds. “They’re simply making a donation. And they do it because people like to feel that they’ve helped to launch a great product or service.”

Resource #2: Business.gov

What Is It?: A federal government database offering business assistance and information about federal loans.

Who Needs It?: All small business owners, including people preparing to launch a business and current entrepreneurs trying to grow their operations.

Why It’s Useful: Check out www.business.gov to get the most comprehensive info available on where minorities, women, and others can land government contracts. You’ll also find niche resources and advice if you happen to be disabled, live in a rural community, are in the military or have a home-based business. There’s even a link on the website offering targeted help for minorities who are launching a business, or trying to expand one.

Resource #3: BusinessIQexpress.com.

What Is It?: BusinessIQ Express is a subscription-based membership service that helps small businesses improve their cash flow.

Who Needs It?: Entrepreneurs who’ve had problems collecting money owed to them and those who want to figure out to whom they should extend credit.

Why It’s Useful: BusinessIQ Express lets entrepreneurs do three things — evaluate the likelihood that customers, suppliers and partners will pay or deliver on time; monitor their business relationships with alerts and notifications of key changes; and collect on outstanding debts and avoid future losses.

“Maintaining cash flow and ensuring prompt payments are challenges that all businesses face,” says Adam Fingersh, senior vice president of Experian’s Business Information Services, which offers BusinessIQ Express. “Large businesses usually have enough built-up capital to weather the ebbs and flows of untimely payments, but for a small business, delinquent payments can mean the difference between being open tomorrow and having to shut their doors forever.”

In honor of National Small Business Week, BusinessIQ Express is offering 50 percent off of its usual subscription price for the first year of membership. Until the end of May, you can get the service for $375, instead of the normal price of $750. For more details visit: http://www.businessiqexpress.com/smallbusinessweek.

Resource #4: SideJobTrack.com

What Is It?: SideJobTrack is a free invoicing tool designed for part-time entrepreneurs or independent contractors who work on several jobs at once.

Who Needs It?: Anyone with a side hustle in virtually any industry, or those who juggle multiple contracts simultaneously.

Why It’s Useful: When you have to manage numerous jobs at once, balancing everything can be burdensome. But SideJobTrack makes managing your work flow and invoicing a snap with its online tools focused on eliminating common problems associated with project management, invoicing, and reporting.

Resource #5: Logaster.Com

What Is It?: A company that offers free logos.

Who Needs It: Every business needs a logo.

Why It’s Useful: Having a logo helps establish your brand identity and can make you instantly recognizable to your customers. Think about how you instantly know that a curved, swoosh symbol on a tennis shoe represents Nike. Now think of how cool it would be if you had a logo that was similarly recognizable.

Paying a professional designer to create a business logo can cost hundreds or sometimes thousands of dollars. But Logaster is free of charge, saving you big bucks on an essential component of your marketing strategy. If you do have a few dollars to spend, though, Logaster offers extra features like business cards and fax cover sheets for a monthly subscription of just five dollars.

Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, The Money Coach®, is a personal finance expert, television and radio personality, and the author of numerous books, including the New York Times bestseller ‘Zero Debt: The Ultimate Guide to Financial Freedom.’ She has appeared on such national TV programs as ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show,’ ‘Dr. Phil,’ ‘The Tyra Banks Show’ and ‘Good Morning America’ sharing her success story and teaching millions about proper money management. Follow Lynnette Khalfani-Cox on Twitter at @TheMoneyCoach.