Starting a new business can be challenging. Between finding a source of funding, building an online platform, and securing customers, an entrepreneurial venture can be costly and time-consuming. But Philadelphia has long been a hub of innovation, and the pandemic hasn’t changed that. Here are 10 free local resources and organizations open to the public that can help take business ideas to the next step.
Philly Startup Leaders brings local established and aspiring business leaders together through workshops and programs, many of which are free. The group also posts meetings for other local business communities on its website, as well as resources for entrepreneurs like a list of co-working spaces and accelerators in the city. Philly Startup Leaders hosts its own application-based funding program, too, for idea-stage and early-stage start-ups.
1 Million Cups Philadelphia is the local chapter of a national organization that fosters a community of local entrepreneurs founded in the notion that the best business ideas are discussed over “a million cups of coffee.” Meetings, held on the third Wednesday every month over Zoom, consist of local entrepreneurs presenting their business ideas, followed by open discussion. Those presenting get feedback, while those in attendance hear about different business strategies and approaches.
The city’s Business Services website provides new and aspiring business owners with resources on planning, launch strategies, and management. Sections of the website offer advice tailored to specific industries, while others offer general advice on topics like taxes and financing. The city also offers workshops on career readiness, and posts coming events for local business communities as well.
Formed through partnerships among the Small Business Administration, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, and universities across the state, the Small Business Development Centers provide one-on-one consulting and training services to entrepreneurs. Recent webinars on their website discuss special strategies for industries that have been affected by the pandemic, such as restaurants and fitness centers. Other webinars give advice on topics like finding funding for a start-up, marketing, and management.
SCORE is a national association that brings together mentors and owners on a volunteer basis, and the Philadelphia chapter provides guidance to more than 7,000 local entrepreneurs. Those interested in starting a new business can request meetings with available mentors who can provide advice across a variety of industries. SCORE regularly hosts workshops too, covering start-up basics, business growth strategies, and e-commerce, to name a few. Its website also has an online library of blog posts and guides for entrepreneurs looking to get their business or idea to the next step.
Organized by the Community College of Philadelphia, Power Up Your Business brings together small business owners and community-based business groups to provide education to the region’s emerging entrepreneurs. The program has two approaches. One involves lecture-based workshops in business basics like bookkeeping, marketing, or creating an online platform, while the other has a peer-based learning structure with a bigger emphasis on mentorship.
The local chapter of a national business community, Venture Café hosts virtual meetings every Thursday from 3 to 8 p.m. to connect local innovators and entrepreneurs. Over the five hours each week, the group hosts smaller events like roundtable discussions on start-up strategy, presentations from local businesses, and open office hours with mentors and business leaders. Venture Café keeps an online archive of past meetings and events since the start of the pandemic, so those who missed the meetings can listen in on the conversations.
Hosted by the Wharton School of Business, the Venture Lab fosters entrepreneurship through programs for students and the Philadelphia community alike. Its VIP-Community (VIP-C) initiative is an application-based incubator for those with idea-stage businesses. Those accepted have access to mentorship and education workshops through the Venture Lab and resources through the program’s co-working space, once in-person interactions are deemed safe again.
Launched in 2016, the Philadelphia Immigrant Innovation Hub, or PhillyiHub, helps immigrant entrepreneurs pursue their business ideas through education. The six-week training program is free to all accepted applicants, and centers ontopics like entrepreneurship, marketing, pricing, and business operations. All participants give a group presentation of their ideas at the end of the program, and will then have access to local business resources and communities through PhillyiHub.
The Free Library of Philadelphia Business Resource and Innovation Center often provides and posts business resources for the area’s emerging entrepreneurs, even during the pandemic. Now fully online, the library hosts virtual events on business advice like office hours with an accountant or how to get your business to appear on Google searches and maps. In addition to these regularly held events, the library provides access to online databases of business resources, as well as samples of business documents for business plans.