by Kelly Head

Building and managing a successful enterprise in today’s ever-changing business landscape can be a daunting prospect. However, with the right tools and support, a business dream can become a thriving reality. That’s where Square One Small Business Services at Mid-Continent Public Library (MCPL) comes in. Funded in part by a grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Square One was founded in 2014 as an initiative to fuel the local economy by supporting small businesses through free resources and services.

The first and most critical service that Square One provides is one-on-one consultations with local entrepreneurs. Square One’s team of business specialists connects businesspeople with the tools they need to be successful””whether that’s an online database that can help them create a business plan to present to investors; a free, expert-led seminar at the library on funding and marketing a business; or setting up a meeting with an external incubator that can offer unique opportunities.

“The services that MCPL offers through their business specialists are unexpected and amazing,” said Mat Maynor, co-owner of Big Vision Media Group. “It is a big value for small business. My one-on-one with the business specialist even led to starting another venture due to the market research.”

Additionally, as part of Mid-Continent Public Library, Square One customers can access a wide range of insightful and valuable business databases at no charge.

Here are just a few:

DemographicsNow allows you to analyze the demographic and market potential of any location in the U.S., create custom reports, perform quick market analyses, create fully interactive maps, and much more. Example use: find an ideal location to open your business based on traffic patterns.

Kansas City Business Journal includes access to the most recent issues, special publications, and the annual Book of Lists. Example use: stay up to date with the business world in Kansas City.

Lynda.com is a video library of engaging, top-quality courses taught by recognized industry experts. Learn business, software, technology, and creative skills to achieve personal and professional goals. Example use: learn how to market on social media.

ReferenceUSA collects information about U.S. businesses including annual revenue, estimated expenses, management directories, employee numbers, square footage, and credit rating. You can also search the U.S. Consumers/Lifestyles module to find information about purchasing behavior and interests of consumers in a particular area. Example use: pull a list of addresses for a direct mailer.

Safari Business Books includes hundreds of business books you can read online. Finance, human resources, management, and marketing are some of the specific areas covered. Example use: read business books with no due date.

Small Business Resource Center provides information on all major areas of starting and operating a business, including accounting, finance, human resources, management, marketing, taxes, and more. Example use: look at sample business plans from real businesses.

Statista is an online statistics, market research, and business intelligence portal. It provides access to data from market and opinion research institutions as well as from business organizations and government institutions. Example use: polish your presentations with graphs and charts.

Square One also regularly organizes free classes and “bootcamps” led by local experts on a variety of business-related topics. In fact, on Wednesday, Oct. 17, Square One will host a lecture on using demographic data to make business decisions. For more information about Square One classes and to register, visit mymcpl.org/squareone.

Currently, MCPL has two branches in Lee’s Summit located off Oldham Parkway and Colbern Road. As part of the library’s five-year Capital Improvement Plan, which calls for the improvement of all 31 branches and the addition of two new ones by 2022, MCPL recently acquired another property in Lee’s Summit off 50 Highway and Blue Parkway.

Pending city approval, MCPL plans to use this space to erect a brand new 20,000-square-foot branch with a wide array of amenities, including a community programming room for classes like Square One’s seminars, enclosed meeting rooms, designated teen and children’s areas, and more. Learn more about this project and the rest of the Capital Plan at mymcpl.org/Community.

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