United States Department of Agriculture 4Rural Information Center

Starting a Small Business


Image: Quilt Business

The source for the image on the right is a USDA photo by Ken Hammond.


In the 2010, The Small Business Economy: A Report to the President, "Small businesses those with fewer than 500 employees are generally the creators of most net new jobs, as well as the employers of about half of the nation's private sector work force, and the providers of a significant share of innovations, as well as half of the nonfarm, private real gross domestic product." (Office of Advocacy1) Starting a small business offers rewards and challenges that attract many new entrepreneurs each year. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration's, Office of Advocacy, "For many reasons, local firms serving rural communities often have more difficulty accessing needed technology, transportation, and services, which leads to difficulty in accessing resources resulting in high fixed costs for rural small businesses." (U.S. Small Business Administration 2)

This resource guide identifies business information that may be helpful when starting or maintaining a small rural business including links to full-text resources about: issues to consider before starting a business; the how-to-start a business process; and marketing information. It also contains information on funding sources, training opportunities, technical assistance and general business information.

The Rural Information Center has additional resources for small businesses that include:

  • Promoting Tourism in Rural America: http://www.nal.usda.gov/ric/ricpubs/tourism.html
  • Small Farm Funding Resources: http://www.nal.usda.gov/ric/ricpubs/small_farm_funding.htm
  • Starting a Child Care Center: http://www.nal.usda.gov/ric/ricpubs/rural_child_care.htm

    1 The Small Business Economy: A Report to the President. U.S. Small Business Administrations, Office of Advocacy. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 2010. 185p. http://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/sb_econ2010.pdf [PDF 2.16 MB]

    2 Advancing Rural America. U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Advocacy. Washington, DC: U.S. Small Business Administration. March 2001. 21p. http://archive.sba.gov/advo/stats/rural_sb.pdf [PDF 65.45 KB]

    This resource guide was prepared by Patricia LaCaille John, December 2005.
    Last Modified August, 2013

    The use of trade, firm, or corporation names in this publication (or page) is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by the United States Department of Agriculture or the Agricultural Research Service of any product or service to the exclusion of others that maybe suitable. For more information about National Agricultural Library Policy and Disclaimers You can download and get help using the Adobe Acrobat Reader to view and print PDF documents.

    Issues to Consider Before Starting a Business

    1. Considering Self-Employment: What to Think About Before Starting a Business. George Silvestri. Occupational Outlook Quarterly, 43, no. 2 (1999): 15-23. http://www.bls.gov/opub/ooq/1999/summer/contents.htm

    2. Evaluating a Rural Enterprise: Marketing and Business Guide. Preston Sullivan, Lane Greer. Fayetteville, AR, ATTRA, 2002. 12 p. https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=277

    3. Financial Difficulties of Small Businesses and Reasons for Their Failure. Teresa A. Sullivan, Elizabeth Warren, Jay Westbrook. SBA-95-0403. Austin, University of Texas, 1998. 44 p. http://www.sba.gov/ADVO/research/rs188tot.pdf [PDF 211.65 KB]

    4. Follow These Steps to Starting a Business. Washington, DC: U.S. Small Business Administration, n.d. Web-Based resource. (Visited Sept, 2011) http://www.sba.gov/content/follow-these-steps-starting-business

    5. Home-Based Business... Is It For Me? Kathleen Tweeten, Dale Zetocha. EB-44. Fargo, North Dakota State University Extension Service. 1999. 12 p. http://www.ext.nodak.edu/extpubs/yf/leaddev/eb44w.htm

    6. Home-Based Business... Is It For Me? (continued). EB-44. Fargo, North Dakota State University Extension Service, 1999. 14 p. http://www.ext.nodak.edu/extpubs/yf/leaddev/eb44-3.htm

    7. Providing a Home for Start-Ups. Carl Hoffman. Appalachia (JanuaryApril 2001): 4 p. http://www.arc.gov/magazine/articles.asp?ARTICLE_ID=33&F_ISSUE_ID=&F_CATEGORY_ID=6

    8. Starting a Business in Your Home: Weighing the Pros and Cons. Jim McConnon. Bulletin 4190. Orono, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, n.d., 4 p. http://extension.umaine.edu/publications/4190e/

    9. Starting a Home Business. Bulletin 3007. Orono, University of Maine Cooperative Extension, n.d. 6 p. http://extension.umaine.edu/publications/3007e/

    10. Ten Frequently Asked Questions for Micro and Home-Based Business Start-Up. Glenn Muskie. T-9005. Stillwater, OK: Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension, n.d., 4 p. http://pods.dasnr.okstate.edu/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-2496/T-9005web.pdf [PDF 99.98 KB]

    Business Startup Planning Guides and Toolkits

    1. Business Development Toolkit. Kalispell, MT: Flathead Regional Business Center. Ml http://wsd.dli.mt.gov/local/kalispell/bdkv7/index.html

    2. Business Toolbox. Washington, DC: SCORE Association. http://www.score.org/business_toolbox.html

    3. Frequently Asked Advertising Questions: A Guide for Small Business. Washington, DC: Federal Trade Commission. http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/business/adv/bus35.shtm

    4. Information for Small Businesses. Washington, DC: U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. http://www.sec.gov/info/smallbus.shtml

    5. Information for the Self Employed. Baltimore, MD: Social Security Administration. http://www.socialsecurity.gov/selfemployed.htm

    6. Rural Business Central. Dr. Greg Clary, Extension Economist in District 5 of Texas AgriLife Extension Service. Overton, TX: Texas Extension Service.http://ruralbusiness.tamu.edu/

    7. Small Business and Self-Employed One-Stop Resource. Washington, DC: Internal Revenue Service. http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small

    8. Small Business Online training. San Antonio, TX: SBDCNET National Information Clearinghouse. http://sbdcnet.org/index.php/online-training-resources.html

    9. The Small Business Start-Up Guide. 3rd Rev. Ed. Robert Sullivan. Great Falls, VA: Information International, 2000. 361 p. http://www.isquare.com/prologue.cfm

    10. Start Up America. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Commerce, StartUp America Partnership. http://www.startupamericapartnership.org/

    11. Starting a Business: What New Business Owners Need to Know About Federal Taxes. Washington, DC: Internal Revenue Service. http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=99336,00.html

    12. Templates for Your Business. Washington, DC: SCORE Association. http://www.score.org/template_gallery.html

    Developing Business Plans

    1. The Business Plan for Home-Based Business. Little Rock: Arkansas Small Business Development Center. http://asbdc.ualr.edu/bizfacts/7022.asp

    2. Business Plan Outline. Little Rock: Arkansas Small Business Development Center. http://asbdc.ualr.edu/business-information/1004-business-plan-outline.asp

    3. Business Plan Preparation: Tools for Writing Business Plans. Stephen Lawrence, Frank Moyes. Boulder, CO: University of Colorado Leeds School of Business. http://leeds-faculty.colorado.edu/moyes/bplan/

    4. Business Plans. San Antonio, TX: SBDCNET National Information Clearinghouse. http://www.sbdcnet.org/index.php/business-plans.html

    5. Writing a Business Plan. Washington, DC: U.S. Small Business Administration. Web-Based resource. (Visited Sept. 14, 2011)http://www.sba.gov/category/navigation-structure/starting-managing-business/starting-business/writing-business-plan

    Marketing Strategies and Plans

    1. Home-Based Business -- Market Your Product. Linda Benedict. MP596. Columbia, University of Missouri Extension, 1993. 4 p. http://muextension.missouri.edu/explore/miscpubs/mp0596.htm

    2. Marketing A New Business. Washington, DC: Small Business Administration. http://www.sba.gov/category/navigation-structure/starting-managing-business/starting-business/marketing-new-business

    Examples of Small Business Startups

    1. The Art of Creating a Goat Cheese Business: A North Central Initiative Small Farm Profitability Case Study. Carol Doeden, Marilyn Schlake. Lincoln, UNL Center for Applied Rural Innovation, 2001. 12 p. http://agmarketing.extension.psu.edu/begfrmrs/OptStratSmlFrms/FrmDivstrat/Goatcheese10_05.pdf [PDF 409.74 KB]

    2. The Cooperative Approach to Crafts. R. Wade Binion, Gerald Ely. Cooperative Information Report, 33. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Business-Cooperative Service, 2000. 35 p. http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/rbs/pub/cir33.pdf

    3. Developing a New Co-Owned Agricultural Business: How Do We Start a Value-Added Firm? David M. Saxowsky, David G. Kraenzel. EC-1137. Fargo, North Dakota State University Extension Service, 1997. 13 p. http://www.ext.nodak.edu/extpubs/agecon/market/ec1137w.htm

    4. Food Business in New Mexico. Nancy C. Flores, Jay Lillywhite. Guide E-510. Las Cruces, New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension, 2005. 12 p. http://cahe.nmsu.edu/pubs/_e/E-510.pdf [PDF 78.44 KB]

    5. Starting a Food Business. P.H. Schmutz, and others. HGIC 3861. Clemson, SC: Clemson University Extension, 2000. 7 p. http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/food/food_safety/business/hgic3861.html

    6. Starting a Greenhouse Business. Revised. Paul A. Thomas, William A. Thomas. Athens: University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service, 1999. 24 p. http://www.caes.uga.edu/Publications/pubDetail.cfm?pk_id=6239&pg=np&ct=Starting a Greenhouse&kt=&kid=&pid=

    7. Starting a Greenhouse BusinessA Commercial Growers Guide. Alan B. Stevens, and others. MF 1157. Manhattan, Kansas State University Cooperative Extension Service, 1994. 19 p. http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/bookstore/pubs/mf1157.pdf [PDF 308.92 KB]

    8. Starting Your Own Wine Business. W.C. Morris. Second Version. PB1688. Knoxville, University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service, 2004. 50 p. https://utextension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/PB1688.pdf [PDF 1.38MB]

    Business Finance Guides

    1. The Credit Process: A Guide for Small Business Owners. New York: Federal Reserve Bank of New York, n.d. 18 p. http://www.newyorkfed.org/education/addpub/credit.html

    2. Financing Your Small Business: How to Borrow Money from People You Know. CircleLending, INC.and SCORE. Cambridge, MA: CircleLending, INC. 2003, 20p.http://www.score-suncoast.org/Publications/FinancingGuide.pdf [PDF 252.49 KB]

    3. Obtaining Small Business Financing. Little Rock, AR: Arkansas Small Business Development Center. Web-Based Resource. (Visited Sept. 15, 2011) http://asbdc.ualr.edu/business-information/1003-financing-small-business.asp

    4. Preparing Your Finances. FM-14. Washington, DC: U.S. Small Business Administration, Web-Based Resource. (Visited Sept. 15, 2011) http://www.sba.gov/category/navigation-structure/starting-managing-business/starting-business/preparing-your-finances

    Funding and Program Assistance

    Local Resources

    Federal-State-Private Partnership: Through the SBA and Department of Agriculture (USDA), programs have been set up at the state and local level to assist in getting new businesses started and expanding existing ones.

    While the SBA provides numerous loan programs for small businesses, it does not offer grants to start or expand small businesses. There are very few federal or state grants available to assist small businesses. The grants SBA offers are generally for organizations that provide small business management, technical, or financial assistance. For more information see:

  • Facts About Government Grants. Washington, DC: U.S. Small Business Administration. http://www.sba.gov/content/facts-about-government-grants
  • SBA and USDA Authorized Commercial Lenders: Both SBA and USDA offer loan programs to assist small businesses in rural areas; however, they act primarily as guarantors of loans made to small businesses by authorized commercial lenders such as banks and financial institutions, community development organizations, and micro-lending institutions. Therefore, you may want to start your funding search by contacting the local bank and the closest SBA and USDA Rural Development offices (SBA and USDA contact information in the Federal Resources section below) for information and assistance with those programs.

    Locate Local Lenders, by State: Small Business and Micro Business Lending in the United States Annual Reports: http://www.sba.gov/advo/research/lending.html

    Venture Capital Resources

    Venture Capital for Startups & High Growth Technology Companies. U.S. Small Business Administration. Web-Based resource (Visited Sept. 2011) http://www.sba.gov/content/venture-capital-startups-high-growth-technology-companies

    State Resources

    Many states have business programs that assist and promote small business development within the state. State development agencies may offer direct small business funding programs and other types of financial assistance designed to encourage and assist entrepreneurs in starting or expanding a small business in that state. Many states have also developed state specific business startup guides that are available to assist entrepreneurs. If you cannot locate a specific state guide, see the Small Business Administration's guides that are made for each state, Small Business Resource for Starting and Expanding Entrepreneurs (some are available in Spanish): http://www.sbaguides.com/

  • State Economic Development and Commerce Departments Home Pages: http://www.eda.gov/Resources/StateLinks.xml - National Association of State Development Agencies
  • State Home Pages: http://www.usa.gov/Agencies/State_and_Territories.shtml

    Federal Resources

    The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) both promote economic development and job growth by guaranteeing loans that banks and other financial institutions make to small businesses. Generally, SBA and USDA loan proceeds may be used for working capital, machinery and equipment, furniture and fixtures, land and buildings, leasehold improvements, and certain types of debt refinancing.

    USDA and SBA also finance jointly the Rural Business Investment Program (RBIP). USDA funds the Rural Business Investment Program and SBA is authorized to enable venture capital companies to offer access to capital for rural enterprises. Rural Business Investment Program allows newly formed venture capital investment companies to leverage private capital funds with government financial assistance: http://www.sba.gov/category/lender-navigation/sba-loan-programs/rural-business-investment-program-rbip

    Use SBAs Rural Business Investment Program Mapping Tool to help determine if your business location qualifies as rural: http://map20.sba.gov/RBIP/init.asp

  • U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Business-Cooperative Services (RBS) http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/Business.html
    USDA works in partnership with the private sector and the community-based organizations to provide financial assistance and business planning. The financial resources are often leveraged with those of other public and private credit source lenders to meet business and credit needs in under-served areas. Depending on the program, recipients may include individuals, corporations, partnerships, cooperatives, public bodies, nonprofit corporations, Indian tribes, and private companies.
  • U.S. Small Business Administration, http://www.sba.gov/
    SBA function is to "aid, counsel, assist and protect, insofar as is possible, the interests of small business concerns." SBA offers loan programs to assist small businesses in its capacity as a guarantor of loans made by authorized commercial lenders such as banks and other financial institutions, community development organizations, and micro-lending institutions.
    For program information, business advice, technical assistance, and loan assistance, contact the following:

    Financing Your Business: Understanding the Basics: http://www.sba.gov/category/navigation-structure/starting-managing-business/starting-business/preparing-your-finances/understanding-basics

    SBA Business Loan Programs. http://www.sba.gov/content/sba-loans

  • Basic 7(a) Loan Program. http://www.sba.gov/category/navigation-structure/loans-grants/small-business-loans/sba-loan-programs/7a-loan-program -- SBA's most used business loan program
  • National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders: http://www.naggl.org/ source of technical information for SBA 7(a) program
  • Micro-Loans: http://www.sba.gov/content/microloan-program -- provides short-term loans of up to $35,000
  • Locate SBA Services, by State: http://www.sba.gov/localresources/index.html
  • Certified Development Company (CDC) 504 Loan Program: http://www.sba.gov/content/cdc504-loan-program -- provides long-term, fixed-rate financing to acquire real estate or machinery or equipment for expansion or modernization. A CDC is a nonprofit corporation set up to contribute to the economic development of the community.
  • Small Business Investment Companies (SBICs) provide venture capital to small independent businesses, both new and already established with their own capital and with funds borrowed through the Federal Government
  • SBA 8(a) Business Development. http://www.sba.gov/content/8a-business-development-- offers a broad scope of assistance to socially and economically disadvantaged firms including access to government contracting.
  • Small Business Innovative Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Programs
    The Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs were set up to meet business research and development needs. Currently twelve federal agencies offer financial or technical assistance through these programs for inventors with a new idea they want to produce and market.

    Technical Assistance and Training

    Technical Assistance

    Business Incubators, by State: http://www.nbia.org/links_to_member_incubators/, National Business Incubator Association

    Franchising.Org: http://www.franchising.org/

    Minority and Native American Business Development Centers, by Region (Minority Business Development Agency): http://www.mbda.gov/?section_id=2&bucket_id=151&content_id=2264

    Native American Resources, SBA: http://www.sba.gov/naa/

    SCORE Learning Center: http://www.score.org/learning_center.html

    Small Business Development Center National Information Clearinghouse (SBDCNET): http://www.sbdcnet.org/

    Small Business Guide to FDA: http://www.fda.gov/ora/fed_state/Small_Business/sb_guide/default.htm

    Trade Information Center, 1-800-USA-TRADE, U.S. Department of Commerce: http://www.export.gov/exportbasics/eg_main_017483.asp

    Veterans Business Resources, SBA: http://www.sba.gov/about-offices-content/1/2985

    Women Business Resources, SBA: http://www.sba.gov/about-offices-content/1/2895

    U.S. Internal Revenue Service Local Offices, by State: http://www.irs.gov/localcontacts/index.html

    U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization: http://www.dol.gov/oasam/programs/osdbu/sbrefa/


    SBAs Free Online Courses: http://www.sba.gov/category/navigation-structure/counseling-training/online-small-business-training

  • Business Research & Statistics: http://www.sba.gov/advocacy/847

    EconomicIndicators.Gov: http://www.esa.doc.gov/

    Small Business Advisors State Specific Information, Information International: http://www.isquare.com/states/states.cfm

    Small Business Resource for Starting and Expanding Entrepreneurs (business guides for each state from the U.S. Small Business Administration; some available in Spanish): http://www.sbaguides.com/

    State Economic Profiles: http://www.sba.gov/advo/research/profiles

    U.S. Census Bureau State and County QuickFacts: http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd

    USDA, Rural Information Center
    National Agricultural Library
    10301 Baltimore Ave., Room 123
    Beltsville, MD 20705-2351