Mentors guide entrepreneurs through the process of starting a successful small business. Photo: Tulane Public Relations via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Starting a Business? Phoenix Area Officials Want to Help

If you’re thinking of starting your own business in the Phoenix area, there are plenty of local resources to help you out.

Towns such as Scottsdale and Chandler make economic development staff available to guide entrepreneurs through city requirements, while local offices of federal Small Business Administration programs offer support ranging from help developing business plans to securing loans.

For would-be entrepreneurs, the first place to look is the Arizona Commerce Authority’s (ACA) small business checklist. The automated system uses a drop-down menu to guide users to the precise information they need.

Financial Help

If you’re looking for startup capital, for example, there are links in the ACA site to federal and state loan programs, grants and information on non-profits. Another link leads to the financial portion of Arizona Entrepreneur’s Edge, a 92-page guide produced by the ACA that offers information on structuring a business, paying taxes, hiring employees, marketing and more.

The City of Phoenix offers business retention and expansion services, including the EXPAND Program, which provides collateral to help entrepreneurs secure loans, and the Management Technical Assistance program, which connects entrepreneurs to experienced business consultants.

Another source of information on the financial side of running a business is the Maricopa Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Ongoing courses such as Profit Mastery teach money-management basics. Many services are free, although people taking advanced workshops generally pay for materials.

Startup Labs

There’s help getting your business started, too.

The SBDC, a federal program with seven Valley offices, offers a free Startup Lab. Experts review the process of starting a small business, from filing legal paperwork to figuring out a target market. Once entrepreneurs draft a business plan, SBDC mentors review it and provide feedback.

The right support increases an entrepreneur’s odds of success, says David Norcross, acting center director of the SBDC. “The biggest reason that entrepreneurs fail is that they don’t have a plan and a budget for how they’re going to start.”

SBDC’s partners include SCORE, a national non-profit with local offices, where counselors connect entrepreneurs to experts in matters ranging from human resources to financing. SCORE also works with Arizona State University (ASU), which offers free entrepreneurship support to the community at large, and not just those affiliated with the school.

Other Help

In Scottsdale, staff in the economic development department guide entrepreneurs through city processes from licensing to planning and zoning, says Mark Paratore, a city economic development specialist.

“We really pride ourselves on being that concierge service,” Paratore says. “The faster we can get them in a building, the faster they can get their permits, the faster they’re now helping support the overall sales tax of the city, [and] they’re creating jobs.”

The city’s economic development website,, offers information ranging from demographics to the SizeUp tool, an automated database helping entrepreneurs evaluate competition and identify underserved areas based on their industry.

Mesa offers services similar to other cities, with an ombudsman to guide business owners through city departments. The city’s LaunchPoint technology accelerator, in partnership with ASU, supports tech startups as they search for funding and develop business models.

Other Valley business organizations have emerged to offer guidance. Seed Spot, in Phoenix, gives selected companies office space, access to mentors and practice fine-tuning investor pitches. To be eligible, companies’ missions must involve working to improve social issues, such as helping the environment or bettering education.

ASU resources include free, shared work spaces in the public libraries in Scottsdale, Phoenix, Mesa and Goodyear. The work spaces are equipped with desks, Wi-Fi and a robust calendar of events.

Each location runs its own schedule of free courses, which include local digital-marketing experts discussing Facebook advertising or lawyers giving tips on how to handle lawsuits. There is also ASU’s Rapid Startup School, which teaches entrepreneurs how to set up corporations and improve sales skills.

Gilbert’s chamber of commerce runs a tuition-based, yearlong business academy designed to offer tips for companies at every stage of growth, from developing a vision to building a team to planning for succession.

Selecting Sites

Economic development staff in Chandler provide data that helps with selecting sites and connecting owners with city departments like planning. Other Chandler services include small business development workshops that review available resources and offer financing and marketing tips.

Chandler’s online search engine lists available office properties, and the ACA’s Arizona Prospector site offers a similar service for the whole state.

In Gilbert, the Office of Economic Development operates a website rich in resources for people researching site selection and market demographics.

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