We often hear how small business drives the American economy, that it creates 90 percent of new jobs in the U.S, how it's the engine that keeps America strong. But the Federal bailout trough seems reserved for corporate giants, and it makes you wonder, where can a small business go to catch a break?
Intuit has stepped up to the plate with an initiative called, Small Businesses United, which the company calls a small business stimulus package. The campaign is designed to help small businesses save money, save time and attract more customers.
The package features three main components: free software and services, $315,000 in small business grants and $50,000 in donations to organizations that help people start their own businesses.
In the software and services department, Intuit offers both free applications and special discounts. QuickBooks Simple Start Free Edition, which lets you track money coming into and out of your business, and Cash Register Plus, its retail management software, are both available to download from the Small Business United site totally free of charge.
For new customers, Intuit Online Payroll service is free of charge for six months, after which it will cost $9.95 per month. You can also save on credit card processing with QuickBooks Online Terminal. The service is free for the first six months, though transaction fees still apply.
If you don't have a professional Web site yet, you can set one up through Intuit's Web Site Service, and it's free for the first year. The package includes site-building software, point-and-click design templates, Web hosting and seven-day, toll-free phone support.
And if you're looking to incorporate, you can save on that, too, with incorporation and LLC formation services from MyCorporation, which is an Intuit-owned company. This service is free until July 31.
According to Terry Hicks, Intuit's vice president and general manager of the small business group, the stimulus package is aimed primarily at businesses that are just getting started.
"Owners of very small businesses realize the benefits [of these types of products and services] but may delay taking advantage of them due to the cost. It's a tough trade-off," he said. "They're wondering how to spend their precious seed capital and what to spend it on. These products make it possible for them to get started right away."
Share Your Story: Win a Small Business Grant
Small business owners can win up to $25,000 grand prize just by sharing their experience and advice. Intuit is sponsoring the contest as a way to honor the united entrepreneurial spirit of small business.
Go to the Small Business United site to enter by march 23. A panel of judges will select 50 finalists who will each win $5,000 and a Pure Digital Flip Video camcorder. The finalists will then have until April 16 to post a video entry telling their story for public viewing and voting.
The top four vote getters will win a $10,000 grant and $2,500 in Intuit products and services, and the grand-prize winner will receive a $25,000 grant plus $2,500 in Intuit products and services.
Noting how hard it is for small businesses to find capital, Hicks noted that these competitive grants could help the next great small business get funding or boost an existing venture.
In addition to the contest, Intuit is also donating $50,000 to organizations that help develop small business entrepreneurs. Some of these groups include the Latino Coalition, National Black Chamber of Commerce, Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council and Women Impacting Public Policy.
"It's good business," said Hicks. "Intuit cares about its small business customers, and this initiative is part of a long-term approach to help businesses get started and be successful."
Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com
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