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More than ever before, the academic world relies on technology to help give students easier access to the kinds of information, coursework and instruction that are often out of the reach for ordinary Americans, either because of geography, costs or time constraints. Now, thanks to the Internet, business training is no exception.

At the U.S. Small Business Administration’s extensive Web site, small business owners and entrepreneurs can now access an online virtual classroom of business courses, workshops, information resources, learning tools and counseling assistance through the agency’s Small Business Training Network.

The Small Business Training Network is an Internet-based learning environment — operating like a virtual campus — that offers online courses, workshops, publications, information resources, learning tools and direct access to electronic counseling and other forms of technical assistance for entry-level entrepreneurs and experienced business owners alike, for students, for home-based businesses and specifically for women. There are key resources and suggested courses aimed at pre-venture businesses and growing businesses to meet all kinds of small business training needs.

The Training Network, available on the Web 24 hours a day, operates like an electronic umbrella under which many SBA and agency resource training programs are captured, aggregated, sorted by content and made available in multiple formats. It serves small business clients, agency resource partners, other federal agencies and global students of enterprise.

The Training Network was designed with the small business entrepreneur in mind to provide interactive business guidance on a range of topics. There are 12 training categories with more than 60 interactive courses and electronic guides that provide educational tools and resources on entrepreneurship. Many of the courses include audio sound bytes, quizzes and feedback.

Designed to help small businesses compete in a constantly changing, global environment, the Training Network makes SBA’s business management resources available anytime, anywhere. Online course topics include “Starting a Business,” “Business Management,” “Financing,” “Marketing & Advertising,” “Business Planning Tools,” “Government Contracting,” “Risk Management,” “E-Commerce,” “Federal Tax Training,” “International Trade” and “Small Business Retirement.” The Training Network also includes a variety of learning tools and guides for easy access and learning, as well as a comprehensive electronic library.

Many of the learning opportunities offered by the network are developed by cosponsors (academic institutions and corporations), some are developed by SBA’s resource partners, and some are developed internally through agency contracts. All of the offerings are free, most are self-paced and the majority are considered “topical primers.”

In addition to a wide selection of online offerings, the Training Network serves as a window to all of the traditional, face-to-face technical assistance programs offered by the agency. Traditional training opportunities offered by SBA and its resource partners around the country can be easily identified by visiting www.sba.gov/calendar.

The Training Network’s virtual library features more than 200 free e-books and publications, links to top business magazines and national newspapers, direct links to colleges and universities that offer other online business training courses and programs and a section for young entrepreneurs to pursue their business interests.

All of the SBA’s Small Business Training Network’s resources can be accessed online at www.sba.gov/training.

Small Business Success

Gutter Werks Inc., a family-owned business, was started in 1998 by Brad Howe and his son Joshua. No stranger to the industry, Brad actually started working in the rain gutter business in 1976. The experience provided him with a sound foundation when starting Gutter Werks Inc. The company offers installation of a seamless rain system that comes in 40 colors and is formed onsite, creating a virtually seamless and superior product.

Brad and Joshua started small, getting a contractor’s license, placing an ad in the phone book and distributing flyers. Today, Gutter Werks Inc., has grown to include five full-time employees and two part-time employees. Brad and his son enjoy working for themselves, but sometimes wish there were more hours in the day to get everything done. They also believe in giving back to the community and do so by installing rain systems on drug rehabilitation centers and battered woman shelters at no charge.

Their goal is to grow Gutter Werks Inc., into a well-known, successful business while continuing to maintain a great reputation within the industry. Recently, Gutter Werks Inc. acquired an SBA guaranteed line of credit, which will allow for better cash flow and provide funds to purchase new equipment.

Additional information on SBA loan programs is available at www.sba.gov/ca/sandiego or (619) 557-7250.

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