Winning Web Sites: Forbes Impress, Spring 2000

So, you fancy sweats and slippers to a business suit? Maybe you and a few others decided to go it alone, rather than working for The Man? Your timing couldn't be betterătoday's small businesspeople have more tools at their fingertips than ever before. The Internet boasts a goldmine of valuable information that's free for the asking. Following are the top 10 best Web destinations for small businesspeople.

1. Small Business Administration Home Page:
The home page of the Small Business Administration should be your first stop. You'll find links to local resources and comprehensive articles on all aspects of business in the Online Library. Free online counseling is also available by SCORE (the service corps of retired executives) and online courses teach everything from Power Point to how to create a business plan.

2. Home Page:
Before you drown in a sea of business law dictums and changing tax laws, visit the companion Web site for Nolo Press, publisher of a variety of self-help law books. You'll find a helpful legal encyclopedia, tips for small business and much more. Be sure to check out business software downloads, and the list of more than 500 FAQs, and free downloadable legal forms.

3. The Intellectual Property Law Server:
While we're on the topic of law, you also need to know how to protect your intellectual property. Discover what's protected, what's not, and how to safeguard your work at this site. Included are news, events, and forums specifically addressing intellectual property law and vital facts regarding patent, trademark, and copyright law.

If you haven't yet opened your business, consult Everything from startup advice columns to news stories will give you the information you need to get the ball rolling. Links to other resources help you expand your searches, while visitor forums allow you to exchange advice with peers.

5. Venture Capital Online:
We all know it takes money to make money, and who better to help you make your first million than a benevolent venture capitalist? Based on specific investment criteria, this site helps match venture capitalists with entrepreneurs. The site also helps you target your search depending what stage you're in: idea, planning, or growth.

6. The Marketing Resource Center:
Marketing is an ongoing process for any company. At the Marketing Resource Center, you can enter information about your business into the BusinessFind search engine and Business Classifieds to find networking opportunities. To read up on the nuances of marketing, research the listings in the articles library. The message board allows you to exchange marketing ideas with other businesspeople from across the globe.

7. Benefits Link:
Too many people view the cost of establishing a benefits package a detriment to starting a new business or working for yourself. It doesn't have to be that way. Benefits Links is a free online publication that includes information on every kind of benefits topic, from audits, IRA and health plans, helping you find what's right for you. The Q&A column includes smart answers to a variety of questions and the keyword search feature allows you to target your queries in the site's archives.

8. The Idea Cafe:
The Idea Cafe is dedicated to helping people who own their own businesses promote their businesses. Both informative and fun, this site balances meaty advice for how to grow your company with detailed instructions for how to fold a paper airplane.

9. Webmonkey:
If you haven't already figured it out, the Internet itself is an essential business tool. Webmonkey provides tutorials for information on how to do everything from writing HTML to designing the architecture of your site. Written by experts employed by the venerable Wired Digital empire, you're in good hands with the monkey.

10. The Firm List:
But if you're looking for a pro for the job, consult the Firm List. This site provides a guide to Web design and development firms in 53 countries. Search by keyword or browse by a geographic area to find the perfect firm for your company.