If you want to start a business in New York City, there are numerous free services to get your idea off the ground if you know where to look.
That's what local entrepreneurs Kerri Ford and Rylee Card found. After establishing careers as stage performers, the two friends were fed up with needing a "day job," like waiting tables, to make ends meet. So they decided to put their talents into their own business.
Launched in early 2011, Dance.Laugh.Learn. is a for-hire performance arts program that provides dance, music and drama classes to kids in schools, summer camps and at birthday parties in and around New York City.
As performance artists, writing a business proposal and navigating legal documents wasn't in their skillset. So to figure out where to start, Ford and Card searched "how to write a business plan" in Google and found NYC Business Solutions, a city-run program that offers help for budding small businesses.
After a few months of taking classes on QuickBooks, accounting, marketing and social media strategies, they were referred to NYPACE, a nonprofit business incubator, which took them on to help with their marketing.
"It's a daunting thing to start a business, especially if you're a creative person, so it was interesting to see all of these resources that are out there and they really just want to help," Card said. "We could go to [NYPACE] for anything and they will help us find a solution, and we don't pay a dime for anything."
The partners also attended workshops at the Business Outreach Center Network to learn how to manage their small business taxes and other financial issues.
For legal advice on how to properly write their business, they turned to Start Small Think Big, an NYC nonprofit that offers legal and financial services to low-income individuals and entrepreneurs. They also watch for workshops from Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, a network of lawyers that provide pro bono legal help and representation for New York City arts and cultural organizations.
Today, Dance.Laugh.Learn. is going five years strong. Ford and Card's program was commissioned by five kid's camps so far for this summer. They are also currently looking into turning their company into a nonprofit and hope to seek help from city services to learn the ins and outs of things like applying for grants.
"[Small business services] are all kind of interconnected, so once you hook up with one, they will tell you, 'Oh, it might be good for you to go into this one,'" Card said. "It's a really great network in New York."
Here are the NYC-based programs that Kerri Ford and Rylee Card used to build Dance.Laugh.Learn.:
NYC Business Solutions: Free services, such as business courses and legal assistance, offered by the Department of Small Business.
Business Outreach Center Network (BOCNET): A small business development organization that provides assistance and access to financial, legal and other resources.
New York Professional Advisors for Community Entrepreneurs (NYPACE): A nonprofit that provides free consulting services to entrepreneurs in New York City.
Start Small Think Big: A nonprofit that gives free financial and legal services to low-income individuals to promote small business in New York City.
Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (VLA): A membership-based organization that offers counseling and assistance to arts organizations, along with free legal representation for artists and arts and cultural nonprofits.