Get Started: Ex-Im opens more offices, biz plans

THE EX-IM BANK GOES REGIONAL

The Export-Import Bank, a federal agency that helps companies finance exports, has opened offices in Atlanta and Seattle. These are two of four regional offices the Ex-Im Bank plans to open this year. It has already opened an office in Minneapolis and one is planned for Detroit in late fall.

The offices will serve local businesses that want to export their goods or services.

The Ex-Im Bank's website is www.exim.gov. It has a section devoted to small business exports.

BUSINESS PLAN COMPETITIONS

Every year, companies, schools and organizations sponsor competitions to encourage entrepreneurs to create well-written business plans. Here are three current competitions — one of which ends this week:

MillerCoors is sponsoring the Urban Entrepreneurs Series business plan competition. Winners get a $50,000 grant and could potentially become a supplier to MillerCoors, the brewer of beer brands including Miller Lite and Coors. Entries must be submitted by Oct. 26. For more information go to: www.millercoorsmues.com

The Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership is holding its annual business plan competition. Winners can get cash prizes and a year's membership to one of IFEL's programs. Membership includes coaching sessions and online seminars. For more information go to: http://tinyurl.com/9pnryyj The IEFL is a nonprofit group that supports inner-city economic development by encouraging entrepreneurship and small business growth.

Palo Alto Software's business plan competition closes on Friday. The top prize is $10,000. Palo Alto Software's products include software to help create a business plan. For more information go to: http://tinyurl.com/8rmhv2u

LEARN ONLINE

The University of Virginia's Darden School of Business is holding a free online course for people who have already started a company and who now want to make their business grow. The course is called Grow to Greatness: Smart Growth for Private Businesses, Part I.

The curriculum includes case studies that are designed to help business owners learn from other entrepreneurs' experiences. It will also include workshops that will allow participants to use the concepts they learn to create strategies for two real-life companies.

The course is five weeks long and start Jan. 28. The workload is estimated to be four to six hours a week.

For information on the course, including the syllabus and reading list, go to: http://tinyurl.com/8mrtbbt

MARK YOUR CALENDAR:

SCORE, an organization that gives free counseling to small businesses, holds an online seminar Thursday about e-mail marketing. It will focus on how businesses can get their e-mails noticed and opened. It will start at 1 p.m. Eastern time. For more information go to: http://tinyurl.com/9ly3le4

And the Small Business Administration is sponsoring an online chat with Martha Ross-Rodgers, co-owner of Rodgers' Banana Pudding Sauce. She'll answer questions from business owners about starting and expanding a business. The chat, called "Growing Your Business Passion," will also be held Thursday at 1 p.m. Eastern time. You don't need to register in advance for the chat. For more information go to: http://tinyurl.com/9mmp7e6

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