Help on the Way for Entrepreneurs through New Legislation
By Greg Holden
I just returned from a trip to Michigan, a state that is reeling from the downturn in the economy. All of my friends - some of whom work for General Motors and have just been laid off for much of the summer - have been affected in one way or another. Unable to move because no one will buy their homes, the only option for many is to start their own business, and for some, that means turning to the Internet.
A bill that just passed the U.S. House of Representatives and is being introduced in the Senate is intended to help entrepreneurs who are most in need. Women, veterans, and Native Americans would get education, training and financial support to help them start their own businesses. There's no talk yet about whether the bill is only for those wanting to start a brick-and-mortar company or if it extends to the world of ecommerce as well. And I couldn't get anyone to speak on the record to tell me if it would. (I tried several times to get a comment from the office of the bill's sponsor, Rep. Heath Shuler, Democrat from North Carolina's 11th District). But that bit of unclarity means online entrepreneurs may be eligible for help, or can at least apply for it.
And there's another intriguing online aspect to the bill (though this provision, too, has been criticized as lacking substance by reporter Matt Bandyk). It provides for the creation of distance learning programs - ways of delivering training to those in rural areas who can't attend classes in person. Whether or not that instruction would take place via the Internet isn't clear. But it would seem logical.
The Job Creation Through Entrepreneurship Act of 2009 (H.R. 2352), would amend the Small Business Act. It would direct the Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA) to provide training and counseling to veterans in entrepreneurship through a new Veterans Business Center Program. It would provide $5 million in grants in fiscal years 2010 and 2011 to veterans who already own small businesses and who need financing, to repair damaged credit, and compete for contracts.
The Act would also:
- Contract with third-party vendors for entrepreneurial distance learning content and the "the development of communications technology that distributes such content to potential and existing entrepreneurs throughout the United States." In addition, an online network would be established so entrepreneurs could assist one another and share ideas.
- Develop an Office of Native American Affairs within the SBA, which would provide tools and strategies to boost entrepreneurship among Native Americans.
- Broaden the Women's Business Center Program within the SBA to provide long-term assistance to women entrepreneurs beyond the existing five-year limit.
- Provide more mentors from economically disadvantaged backgrounds in the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) program.
If you are a woman, Native American, or veteran small-business owner or budding entrepreneur, you can apply to the new SBA center that addresses your needs. The question of how small a business needs to be to qualify, and whether it needs to be online or of the brick-and-mortar variety, isn't clear as yet.
If you're interested, let your Senator know: The bill has been passed by the House and has been referred to the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship in the Senate.
About the Author:
Greg Holden, who lives in Chicago, is the author of several books about eBay, including "How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business," second edition, and "Secrets of the eBay Millionaires," both published by Osborne-McGraw Hill. Find out more on Greg's Web site (http://www.gregholden.com), which includes a blog related to his book "Internet Babylon: Secrets, Scandals and Shocks on the Information Superhighway," published by Apress.
About the author:
Greg Holden is EcommerceBytes Contributing Editor. He is a journalist and the author of many books, including "Starting an Online Business For Dummies," "Go Google: 20 Ways to Reach More Customers and Build Revenue with Google Business Tools," and several books about eBay, including "How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business," second edition, and "Secrets of the eBay Millionaires," both published by Osborne-McGraw Hill. Find out more on Greg's website, which includes his blog, a list of his books, and his fiction and biographical writing.
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