Tips and Tools: Free Guides and Free Counseling

SCORE, a group of seasoned professionals offering free counseling to small businesses, has teamed up with the UPS Store for a free online marketing workshop. The session is designed to help owners of small firms develop a marketing strategy and build their brand, among other things. Visit the SCORE Web site and click on "Learn Online." SCORE also recently created a free 24-page workbook with UPS, titled "10 Simple Steps to Finding Customers...and Delivering the Goods." The guide is available at local SCORE offices.

Microsoft has joined with social media expert John Jantsch to create a free social media guide for small businesses. The guide helps "time-strapped and cash-strapped" small firms understand how tools like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Yelp can strengthen and expand a customer base.

IBM released a Spanish-language version of the Small Business Toolkit, which I wrote about last year. The kit was developed in partnership with the World Bank. New tools include daily expert advice, a new women's business-focused blog, mentoring service and a small business educational video series. It is available in 30 countries and 16 languages.

The Community Business Partnership of Springfield, Va., which offers courses and counseling for small firms and entrepreneurs, is looking for financial contributions for its new "Helping Hands Fund," which would provide funding to borrowers who are looking for loans that are too small for traditional financing or who do not have collateral or an appropriate credit score. The center currently has two loan pools - the microloan program for businesses based in Fairfax County, Va., and the Hispanic equipment loan program.

The Export-Import Bank said it has enhanced several of its trade finance products to help counter the tightening of credit and the lack of liquidity in the export marketplace and help U.S. exporters, particularly small-businesses, create and maintain export-related jobs.

Former President Bill Clinton will be the keynote speaker for the International Franchise Association's 49th annual convention, Feb. 14-17 at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego.

Seeds of Tomorrow and Hoffman CFO Consulting have launched the D.C. Bookkeeping Initiative to address the need to provide bookkeeping services to small and medium-sized businesses and non-profits as well as to offer employment opportunities to young adults in the District of Columbia.

Policy makers need to do a better job of promoting youth entrepreneurship, according to a new report (pdf) from the Aspen Institute's Youth Entrepreneurship Strategy Group. The study says youth entrepreneurship training will help build a more competitive workforce that is more creative, innovative and entrepreneurial. Additionally, encouraging youth entrepreneurs might aid in addressing America's growing student drop-out crisis.

Melissa Data is offering a new white paper "Detailing 10 Simple Steps for Greener Mail That Will Save Companies Money" that discusses how companies can increase response rates while reducing the environmental impact of undeliverable mail.

By Sharon McLoone |  December 5, 2008; 5:02 PM ET Tools and Tips
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