Small Business Development Center (SBDC)

The University of Pittsburgh’s SBDC, part of the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence, is a resource for small business owners that provides consulting, workshops, and other specialty business-building support at all stages of the business lifecycle.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below you will find a number of questions that you may have asked yourself as you begin the challenging and rewarding process of starting your own business. We have also included several questions that will be helpful if you have already established your business and are looking to take it to the next level. No matter what stage your business venture is in, we think you’ll find these questions and answers to be a helpful tool.

What is the Pennsylvania Small Business Development Center Network?

The Pennsylvania Small Business Development Centers are committed to helping businesses start, grow, and prosper. Learn more about the ways the Centers are assisting Pennsylvania’s entrepreneurs and small businesses through consulting, education and business information.

What is the cost for SBDC services?

There is no charge for any of the SBDC consulting services. This is made possible by the tax dollars you give to the government. The SBDC is a not-for-profit organization that is funded on the federal level by the Small Business Administration (SBA) on the state level and by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED). These agencies, along with our host university, the University of Pittsburgh, contribute to the financial support of the program.

I’m thinking of starting a business for the first time. Where do I begin?

We have two workshops: “The First Step – Mechanics of Starting a Small Business” and “The Second Step – Developing a Business Plan.” Attend these workshops to help launch your entrepreneurial venture.

How can I arrange an appointment with a consultant?

Submit a request for counseling →
You will then be assigned to a consultant who will assist you in finalizing your business plan and/or complete financial projections. The business plan is a joint venture with your consultant, and the SBDC consultant cannot write the business plan for you.

How soon can I see a consultant once all of the requirements are fulfilled?

Once we receive your completed Request for Counseling and the other materials mentioned above, a consultant will generally contact you within 7-10 business days.

What will my consultant do for me?

At your initial meeting, your consultant will review your business plan or proposal, determine a course of action, and identify areas that each of you will be responsible for completing. Your consultant will then follow up with an engagement letter detailing your meeting and listing the items each of you will work on, along with an estimated time frame for completion.

Do I have to meet any requirements to receive help from the University of Pittsburgh SBDC?

To receive assistance from the University of Pittsburgh SBDC, your business must be located in Allegheny, Washington, Greene, or Beaver County and fall under the federal guidelines for a small business, which generally means having fewer than 500 employees and no more than $10 million in annual sales. Additionally, because of the SBDC’s funding guidelines, the Pennsylvania Small Business Development Centers are not able to assist businesses that are established as not-for-profit.

Can you finance my business?

We do not provide financing; rather, our assistance is technical and educational in nature. We can, however, help you identify sources for financing and will work with you to meet the requirements of financing organizations.

We work with banks and other lending agencies and organizations to assist in putting together financial projections, but the actual financing comes from outside sources. Generally, you should start with the bank where you normally do business and have established accounts. You may have to apply with several lending institutions or look for alternative sources such as outside investors or special county loan programs.

What is the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) and where can I learn more?

The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) was developed to provide new comparability in statistics about business activity across North America. Learn more on the North American Industry Classification System site, where you can read about recent changes and look up codes.

What about loans to women-held or minority businesses?

Banks are no longer allowed by law to give preferential treatment to women or minorities when it comes to loaning money. The SBA does have a prequalification loan program for both women and minorities. Loans under this program are limited to $250,000 or less, and qualifying businesses must be at least 51 percent owned and managed by a woman or minority. These pre-qualification loans guarantee the loan repayment to the bank – they do not guarantee you a loan – and are accessed through your local bank. There are other eligibility requirements that your bank can describe to you, or you can contact us for further information.

What grants are available for my business?

Generally, grants are not available for starting a small business. There are grants through federal and state resources, as well as the private sector, for some research and development projects, high-tech businesses and other specialized areas. Your local public library will have complete listings in the Reference Department.