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Updated: Dec 9, 2019
Philadelphia: you could say the American entrepreneurial spirit originated here. It’s where some of the first businesses in the country were started, and small businesses today are flourishing thanks to its global connections, competitive academic institutions, and its position between New York City and Washington, D.C. The landscape contains innovative business concepts (see: cheesesteaks and wifi-enabled beer sensors) abound, as much as the traditional, tried-and-true models of business.
Philly’s startup culture has included the incubators, accelerators, co-working spaces and other trending resources for small businesses, but besides these engines for starting and scaling a business, there’s a pretty robust selection of city government resources and various informal networks. Below, we’ve gathered a list of resources for Philly’s independent business leaders, whether you’re just launching your new brewery, or plotting Philly’s next green business.
The City of Philadelphia Business Services website contains valuable and user-friendly resources for knowing what’s needed in order to launch a variety of types of small businesses. The site contains excellent introductory info for those who are looking to write a business plan, familiarize themselves with business regulations in the city, and file all the appropriate tax and income forms when starting a business.
The city’s Office of Business Services (OBS) provides one-on-one support for businesses and for individuals who are starting a business. The office will help on issues such as licenses, permits, info on tax credits and city security cameras. Businesses or individuals are assigned a Business Service Manager who has direct knowledge about neighborhoods, industries, and city processes.
Philly’s Chamber of Commerce advocates the for businesses throughout the region. Membership creates access to a large network of businesses and their employees, throughout and beyond Philadelphia. Marketing and networking opportunities abound with the Chamber of Commerce.
Girl Develop It is a nonprofit that provides affordable and accessible programs to women who want to learn software and web development through in-person, hands-on instruction. The meet-up page for the group includes over 4,000 women and supporters of women looking to gain tech know-how.
The CCPA advocates for greater support programs for small businesses and has strong connections with the City Council. The CCPA liasions with the City to communicate information about practical matters such as taxes, parking and zoning. They also produce numerous monthly networking and educational events.
The Urban League of Philadelphia, founded in 1917, has been assisting African Americans in the city with economic and social opportunity. The league provides critical social services and advocacy, but also contains an Entrepreneurship Center, which offers coaches and consultants to assist in areas such as sales, marketing, IT, strategic planning, and training for employees and other business services.
Wharton is a member of the Pennsylvania SBDC network, and aims to help small entrepreneurial businesses in the Greater Philadelphia region start, grow and prosper. The Business Building Program, High Impact Growth Consulting Program and SBDC-Developed Projects for Wharton Courses are the three main initiatives of the WSBDC.
The Small Business Development Center at Temple University offers businesses and startups free one-on-one consulting on strategies for growing their businesses. They also offer education programs in the form of seminars and courses and a small business incubator. Many opportunities abound at this renowned institution, which is the largest business school in greater Philadelphia.
SCORE Philadelphia serves 7,000 entrepreneurs in the Philadelphia area. SCORE assists small businesses by providing support programs, workshops and mentoring. The organization also connects the community of small business owners with each other, providing a critical networking opportunity.
The Philadelphia office of the SBA offers one-on-one counseling to existing and prospective business owners on starting and expanding their businesses. The SBA also helps to teach small businesses the ins and outs of working with federal government. The SBA is a great resource for management and technical advice for operating in Philly.
StartupPHL is a collaborative organization between Philly’s Department of Commerce and the non profit PIDC. StartupPHL supports new and existing tech entrepreneurs in the city by connecting communities and providing tech and entrepreneurial training.
Philly Startup Leaders connects the leaders of Philadelphia’s tech startup community with each other. It’s the largest such community of entrepreneurs in the city, and they conduct informal meet-ups as well as workshops. The website contains a good list of resources, info on co-working spaces, and funding sources. Their list serve is a great way of staying connected.
The Entrepreneurs’ Forum of Greater Philadelphia (EFGP) supports the creation and development of small businesses by delivering resources, education and monthly networking opportunities. EFGP offers a forum for the exchange of ideas, advice and investment opportunities through presentations and workshops.
The Philadelphia Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs is a network of female founders of small businesses. Their programs include a number events, such as the founder’s roundtable, and excellent resources for scaling one’s business. Opportunities for networking, awards, and access to incubator-style workshops are included.
Started in 1995, the Women’s Business Development Center was started in 1995 and dedicated to the economic development of women. The center provides entrepreneurial training for those who are just starting a business or who are trying to grow their current one. An extensive catalogue of online business courses is offered.
The Meetup for Philadelphia’s entrepreneurs includes a network of over 2,000 small business leaders. Regular meetings mean the chance to mingle, brainstorm, and receive support from the local business community. Small group meetings provide a chance for intimate discussion.
Founded by the Wharton School of Business, the Enterprise Center provides invaluable access to business education and information about funding opportunities for minority entrepreneurs. The center connects diverse business communities by hosting events, conferences, and initiatives such as ScaleUp! Philadelphia, a program for growing small businesses.
The mission of the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia is to build a green and thriving economy in the region. They do this by educating and growing a broad base of local, independent businesses and educating policymakers and the public about green business practice. The SBN is a solid network of small businesses and initiatives interested in developing a sustainable economy.
The Small Business Expo in Philadelphia is a business-to-business trade show allows exhibitors to market and network amongst Philly’s small business community. Presentations by industry leaders and opportunities to find customers or service providers are available at the expo, as well as interactive workshops.
Coming in January of 2017, the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship will provide their yearly forum for advanced training and research to broaden and sharpen one’s entrepreneurial skills. This conference is a good opportunity to network and is especially strong in its presentation of scholarly insight into running a business.
Offering a conglomeration of events and activities for tech startups, Philly Tech Week provides 6 major conferences, from creative, to civic matters, to business basics. Speakers include a wide range of entrepreneurs, from tattoo artists to leaders of digital strategy firms. Philly Tech Week takes place in different neighborhoods across Philly, providing a snapshot of the individual tech scenes taking shape in the city.
Philadelphia Startup Weekend is a coming-together of creative minds at the co-working space CityCoHo. The event offers an opportunity to pitch your business idea, develop relationships with potential team members, and get a look at what others in the Philly startup scene are doing.
The Philly.com Business section gives a select cross-section of news on small businesses, institutions, and other areas of interest to Philly’s entrepreneurs. Insightful stories into local businesses and customer behavior can be found here.
BizPhilly is a great resource for getting daily stories on small business matters in the city. Profiles of up-and-coming startups, industry news, and local consumer info are some of the types of content on the site. BizPhilly focuses primarily on innovation sectors and the tech economy.
The Philadelphia Business Journal provides a more broad look at Philly’s economy, offering more county specific information and articles on changes to taxes and other highly local matters. Think pieces also give perspective on how different political and cultural developments might have an impact on Philly’s small businesses.
Technical.ly is a great source for editorials and news on local tech entrepreneurs and industries. Not only does the site provide compelling content with a razor sharp focus on Philly, it also connects people and organizations together through events and services.
Michael Jones is a Senior Editor for Funding Circle, specializing in small business loans. He holds a degree in International Business and Economics from Boston University's Questrom School of Business. Prior to Funding Circle, Michael was the Head of Content for Bond Street, a venture-backed FinTech company specializing in small business loans. He has written extensively about small business loans, entrepreneurship, and marketing.