Start Your Small Business Engines

by Lauren Simonds

Got an idea for a small business but not sure how to pull it off? Microsoft's StartupCenter.com offers advice and tools to rev you up and get you on the road to your business launch.

You just got the best idea for a business – nothing more than a few lines scribbled on a damp napkin – but you just know it's going to take off. Now what? The road from inspiration to entrepreneur is long, bumpy and filled with questions.

To help you on your journey, Microsoft has joined forces with MasterCard, FedEx and Bank of America to launch StartupCenter.com – a free site designed especially for people who want, but don't yet have, a small business to call their own.

Cindy Bates, Microsoft's general manager for small business, called StartupCenter.com a comprehensive guide for the budding entrepreneur. "It's designed to provide resources for people in the earliest stages of starting a new business," she said. Microsoft estimates that nearly one million new small businesses startup each year.

Microsoft designed StartupCenter.com to help people take an idea for a small business from inception to fruition.
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"StartupCenter is a place where people can get all kinds of information they'll need to get their business up and running," said Bates.

"It's a complete online guide with a range of topics — not just technology. And by comprehensive, we mean the site offers entrepreneurs actionable steps to help them get started."

Examples of some of the topics include how to set up an office, advice on whether to buy or lease equipment and how to build a brand or create a logo.

"The site offers advice on how to launch your own business and equips you with real-world tools to help you succeed," said Bates. "If you're looking for information on a business plan, you can click on a link for a template; need to apply for a patent, click here to begin that process," she said.

While StartupCenter.com is an offshoot of Microsoft's Small Business Center Web site, the two sites serve different purposes. The Small Business Center covers all small businesses, while StartupCenter.com is aimed specifically at people who want, but don’t yet have, a small business, and it's designed to provide advice to take an idea from inception to launch. Bates defined the target audience as people who want to start a company that will employ, at most, up to 50 people.

MasterCard, FedEx and Bank of America have partnered with Microsoft to provide a variety of products and services appropriate to the fledgling small business. For example, MasterCard offers cash-flow management solutions, business intelligence and a "Find-a-Card" tool to help entrepreneurs find a credit card for their business needs.

Bank of America offers financial and payroll tools, such as small business checking accounts, online invoicing and bill-pay and an online health insurance platform. And StartupCenter.com offers direct access to FedEx's Express and Ground shipping (and other FedEx time-saving tools).

Each partner offering services on StartupCenter.com is a distinct extension of the site and will also feature a link on its home site directing customers to StartupCenter.com.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

This article was originally published on Monday Jul 2nd 2007
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