THE HELP DESK The Help Desk: Top Tips

Tips on starting your own business

If you're struggling to find work, now may be the time to start your own business.

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By Gerri Willis, CNN personal finance editor

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For more information on managing your largest investment, check out Gerri Willis' 'Home Rich,' now in bookstores.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- President Obama is expected to outline a set of proposals to spur job growth today. If you've tried and failed to find work it may be time to start thinking about starting your own business. We've come up with resources that are available to you now, if you want to start your own business.

1. Getting started

Job number one is making sure that the business you intend to enter is one that you have experience in. If it's not, you need a partner. Harry Dannenberg of SCORE, which counsels start ups, says that a lack of experience if one of the most common problem he sees.

Next, be aware of the competition -- you have to have a competitive edge -- what are you providing that others don't.

You'll also need to write a business plan -- which is more than just a laundry list of goals and industry background. And don't forget to estimate operating costs and determine how much business you will have to do and income you will need to generate to cover those costs. Your local college or university may offer workshops and courses for entrepreneurs

2. Resources

The Small Business Administration operates 364 SCORE chapters across the country to counsel new business startups. Counselors are typically executives who have been through the process themselves and can assist newer ventures.

Success stories include Jelly Belly and Vermont Teddy Bear. Go to score.org on the Web. They also have an online mentoring service available 24-hours a day and their services are free.

FastTrak is an academic program you can take locally. Classes cover things from how to find customers, hire staff and put together a business plan. In many cases the classes are free, but some can cost from $500-$700 for a 10-week course.

Money is the other important topic. Small biz experts don't recommend tapping your 401(k) or credit cards for start up cash. The SBA guarantees bank loans making it more likely that you can get the funds you need. Go to SBA.gov for help.

You may also want to check out entrepreneurship.org. Here you can find information on how to market your business.

3. Watch for scams

Beware of offers of a grant. The truth is that there's not a lot of grant money out there for entrepreneurs since most start-ups are for-profit.

You really want to be aware of scams offering you government grants and Federal money. These scam artists will lie about where they're calling from, or they claim legitimacy using an official sounding name like the "Federal Grants Administration." They may ask you some basic questions to determine if you "qualify" to receive a grant. According to the FTC, it's a rip off. Starting your business is no easy thing -- and GETTING money to start that business is even harder.

-- CNN's Jen Haley contributed to this article.

Talkback: Do you want to start your own business? To top of page

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