Editor’s note: The following content is sponsored by Mid-Continent Public Library but independently produced by Startland News.
Dusty books. Tedious silence. Cranky shushers.
Many stereotypes come to mind when one thinks of a library. But for those who haven’t recently visited these sanctums of knowledge, you might be surprised to see their transformations from canvas and paper to digital reservoirs of resources for growth for individuals and businesses.
Such is the case for Mid-Continent Public Library, which has a network of more than 30 libraries in the Kansas City region offering entrepreneurs a wealth of tools well beyond books on shelves. From databases to software to an array of events, a free MCPL account affords a trove of information to better build a business.
Regardless of your firm’s stage, here are four tools that entrepreneurs might want to check out. While none of these tools require a person to step foot into a library, you must create an account to access them.
Research is key when you’re starting a business.
Say, for example, I’m launching an outdoor apparel company for women in Kansas City. I want to know how many women, ages 25 – 44, live in Jackson County.
I’d log into my MCPL account, hop over to the DemographicsNow tool and then type in the location — zip code, city, county or state — I want to analyze. Then select your report type — in this case, comparison of age by sex.
Click run report and boom. I know that women account for about 51 percent of Jackson County’s population and that there are about 98,879 women ages 25 – 44.
With DemographicsNow, a user can not only analyze the demographics and market potential of any geography in the United States, you can create custom reports, perform market analysis, draft interactive maps and search people and companies.
Need to beef up your pitch deck with a powerful stat, evaluate a consumer trend or research a new prospective vertical?
Statista is a powerful statistical tool that cuts through much of the grunt work that data digging entails. The business stats tool provides access to data from market and opinion research institutions, as well as from business organizations and government institutions.
With more than 1 million people users — including such corporate giants as Google, Samsung and Unilever — Statista’s database seems to have no end. From analysis in consumer markets like eyewear and alcoholic drinks to infographics on Instagram and cable TV consumption to reports on e-commerce trends, a remarkable amount of data is available. A user can download the data as a PDF, .png, Excel file or Powerpoint file.
One notable aspect of Statista’s offerings is its recommended and popular reports to identify trends or provide context to current events. For instance, I quickly learned Christmas shopping trends, the monthly growth of Bitcoin since 2015 and the 100 largest companies in the world by market value in 2017.
While it’s certainly a valuable tool for business owners, Statista is also remarkably useful for students, journalists and researchers of all stripes.
Small Business Builder
Whether you’re a new entrepreneur, a seasoned business owner or a nonprofit, everyone can benefit from a fresh set of eyes on what you’re building.
Through its step-by-step planning tool, Small Business Builder helps transform ideas into a plan. The program’s dashboard takes users through five areas of exploration to develop a blueprint that’s focused on long-term success, including self-analysis, ideation, your firm’s potential to be profitable, a business plan that can be shared with investors and financial projections.
The entrepreneur profile tool analyzes your strengths and weakness and develops a one-page summary of you as a business owner. Identifying your gaps can help inform how you should build your team.
The ideation tool taps such practices as the lean canvas, SWOT, Porter’s Five Forces and more to plan a high-level framework for a business or nonprofit.
The “Break-Even Analysis” helps founders identify when a user’s business will be able to cover expenses and generate a profit. It also offers helpful resources on budgeting, traditional and nontraditional financing sources and tech tools.
The business planner generates a presentable plan that you can pitch to investors, including an executive summary, lean business plan and strategic marketing plan. For nonprofits, the program also jumps into making grant proposals.
The final step makes some financial projections. It helps provide an analysis of a company’s financial future, including capital expenditures, sales, equity and inventory.
If you need to find information about new or old businesses in the U.S. or Canada, ReferenceUSA is a goldmine.
Comprised of 10 total databases, ReferenceUSA offers information on new and defunct firms, contact information for individuals, information on health providers and more.
There’s a ton of information available through ReferenceUSA. By itself, ReferenceUSA’s U.S. Business database contains more than 49 million businesses that are updated monthly. To improve its accuracy the database completes 24 million phone calls per year to verify businesses, according to ReferenceUSA.
U.S. Historical Businesses allows you to search for businesses — even if the firms went under,— from 2003 to 2013 to help users see changes and trends.
U.S. New Businesses enables users to identify popular areas of economic development by searching for new businesses. Its heat map function allows you to visualize dense areas of activity.
ReferenceUSA also offers white pages to find phone numbers and addresses in the U.S. and Canada.