Want to start a business? Make the library your first stop

This article by Librarian Kassy Rodeheaver was originally published in the Arizona Daily Star on Nov. 18, 2018.

Starting a new business can be daunting. If you don’t know where to begin, the public library is the first place you should turn to for help. We offer free trainings, tools, and access to industry experts.

Every Thursday morning you’ll find entrepreneurs gathering at the Idea+Space in the Joel D. Valdez Main Library, 101 N. Stone Ave. It’s there that we host the “Want to Start Your Own Business?” class every week.

This program guides you in finding free or low-cost local organizations who can help you launch your company. You also get to network with other new business owners and discover library resources and upcoming workshops.

Our online tools will save you tons of time and money. All you need is a library card to access them anywhere and any time.

ReferenceUSA is just one of the free tools we have for business owners. You can use it to create lists and maps of competitors or potential customers, find estimated annual revenues, and identify how big your target market is. Marketing companies charge hundreds to thousands of dollars for the lists that you can create yourself by using this resource.

The Small Business Reference Center is your go-to tool for thousands of articles on proven best practices. You can also find answers to your legal questions by downloading Nolo ebooks on topics like choosing a legal structure or hiring your first employee.

Do you need help getting financing? We have samples plans across hundreds of industries in the online Business Plans Handbooks.

The library also provides free training and access to expert guidance. A volunteer mentor from SCORE will provide you with actionable feedback on your plans and help you understand startup and growth strategies. A business lawyer provides entrepreneurs with free 15-minute appointments to answer all your questions. We also have a twice-monthly visit from the director of the U.S. Commercial Service in Tucson, who comes to talk about exporting to foreign markets.

We also host classes, taught by the best-of-the-best specialists, on a wide variety of topics including SBA-backed loans, social-media marketing, increasing sales and website development. Each month over 100 people attend classes at the Idea+Space to get help starting or expanding their businesses.

The types of business owners coming to the library are diverse. We have helped people who started companies in manufacturing, construction, retail and professional services, along with entrepreneurs spanning industries from food trucks to medical devices.

As one person put it when asked what they liked most about the library’s business services: “The amount of resources available! I didn’t know there was so much!”

At your library, we welcome anyone with an idea. Let us help you take your next step toward becoming a successful business owner.

Kassy Rodeheaver is the business librarian in charge of the Idea+Space at the Joel D. Valdez Main Library.