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April 25, 2006 > Small business info at your library

Small business info at your library

by allie Pine, Reference Services Manager, Fremont Main Library

If you are a small business owner, or would like to become one, you probably know that there are lots of things to know about and keep track of, in addition to the field in which you work. Just starting out, there is writing a business plan, getting seed money, getting the right legal forms completed, licenses, deciding about whether being part of a franchise, being home-based, or being incorporated is right for you and the business...or even getting ideas for what sort of business to start up.

The library has books on all of these. A few of the most popular titles for start-ups are: Small Time Operator by Bernard Kamaroff (be sure to get the latest edition), The Small Business Bible by Stephen Strauss, and The Elements of Small Business by John Thayer. Other titles that might be of interest are How to Raise Capital by Jeffry Timmons, Anatomy of a Business Plan by Linda Pinson, and Legal Forms for Starting & Running a Small Business by Fred Steingold. Once you have started up, you might wonder about e-commerce, tax issues, marketing, hiring and firing, and growing your business. Some possible titles for these issues include Get back in the box: innovation from the inside out by Douglas Rushkoff, Marketing Without Advertising by Michael Phillips, Tax Savvy For Small Business by Frederick Daily, and Grow Your Business by Mark Henricks.

We also have lots of books for running various types of businesses, including Entrepreneur Magazine's Start-Up series, which covers auto detailing to wedding consultant. Go to, and enter "small business" (with the quote marks so it gets searched as a phrase) in the catalog search box on the upper right to see the large range of materials you can get from the library. Or try more focused searches such as "small business" finance, or home-based business. Our reference collection includes some resources that could help entrepreneurs expand their business by targeting specific markets. You might want to come in and have a look at Community Sourcebook of Zip Code Demographics, (indexes of spending potential in various areas. Also contains demographic data, and information on the number of businesses and industries in each zip code); Lifestyle Market Handbook (Shows marketing profiles at the county level, including hobbies, investing, and high tech activities); Projections 2005 (Forecasts for the Bay Area through 2030 on population, housing, workforce and income) and Survey of Buying Power (An annual report by area of retail sales in designated merchandise lines, including measures of disposable income.) All of these are kept at the Fremont Main Reference Desk on the second floor.

Library staff has also developed guides, available on our homepage Click on the Business & Investments link under Research Guide. Under Starting a Business, there is a Procedure for Starting a Business in Alameda County that includes links to help choose a name, get licenses, and hire employees. There are also links to the SBA's regional small business development centers and to its SCORE program, which uses retired entrepreneurs who offer free experienced advice and low-cost seminars. There are many other web sites that provide information to the new and seasoned entrepreneur. A few you might find interesting are: advisor page, including useful links to sections on starting a business, operating a business, marketing, legal issues, website and Internet marketing. It also has extensive links to doing business with the U.S. and state governments, and is searchable.), (Up-to-the-minute news, articles, and reports on the electronic commerce industry. Information includes an industry guide, government regulations, their top ten stock index and advice for small businesses.) and (links to free online articles at sites ranging from government publications to business zines. Areas covered include economics, entrepreneurs, finance and accounting, human resources, industry publications, e-commerce, and management.)

Click on:> Articles and Databases> Business & Investments> Reference USA
With your library card, you can build lists of potential clients, whether they are end consumers or other businesses. Ref-USA is really two separate databases. One is called Residential and contains residential listings for the entire U.S., with median income and median home value from the U.S. census where available. If you wanted for instance to create a list of potential customers from the 94539 zip code whose median home value was $500,000 or more and whose median home income is $100,000 or more annually, click first on Residential to get the consumer database, then on the Custom Search to enter your criteria as in the example below. For this example, the next screen will give you boxes to enter up to 5 zip codes and to specify median home values in 6 different ranges and median incomes in 5 ranges. Multiple ranges may be selected by holding down the control key while you click on selected ranges.

The other is called Business and provides key executives, sales volume, number of employees, and parent and subsidiary relationships for over 10 million U.S. companies. Click on Business and then the Custom Search tab. The Custom Search options are shown below:

One of the more interesting searches is by YP Heading or SIC. That's yellow pages or Standard Industrial Classification heading, which turns out to be almost a keyword search. You could for example look for computer related businesses in Fremont with less than 50 employees. This search brings you to a Search Refinement page where several different types of computer businesses are listed by yellow pages heading and by SIC code. Choose one or make multiple choices holding down the control key while you click on selected headings. When I chose Computers-Networking, I got a list of 26 companies with the address and telephone numbers which I could either download or print immediately. Clicking on an individual company gets you more detail. Data varies with each company (for publicly-held companies, there is always more) but may include: sales estimate, headquarters, whether they are foreign-owned, year established, and credit rating code. There is always a link to driving directions and a link to search the company in Google News. You get 50 prints or downloads with any search in either the Residential or the Business mode. If you need more, you will have to re-execute the search and print or download the next 50. This is a great tool for building contacts and customers. It is available 24/7 from your home or office, with your library card. If you don't have one, go to, and click on the Get a Library Card link under the Using Your Library heading. Print out a copy of the registration form and bring it with you to any Alameda County Library branch with some identification showing your name and current address. Your library card: Get it! Use it!

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