Startups

How to start a business in Delaware: 21 (mostly) free resources for entrepreneurs

Times of economic disruption are actually not a bad time to jump into entrepreneurship. From grant programs to mentorship orgs to webinars, these local resources can help.

The Launchpad in June 2021.

(Photo by Holly Quinn)

Starting a business is always a challenge, but you might be surprised how many resources for entrepreneurs and small business owners there are in Delaware. And many of them — from grant programs to mentorship orgs to webinars — are free.

Right now, in the midst of economic disruption, is actually not a bad time to start a new business — especially one that is in tune with pandemic work and lifestyle changes over the last two years. But that doesn’t mean it will be easy. Where do you start? How can you get the capital you need? Do you really need a written business plan?

This list complies resources that are mostly free, and excludes training programs and bootcamps. For that list, see “Which coding bootcamp is right for you? Consider these 10 Delaware training programs.” It also doesn’t include colleges. You know college offers reliable business education, but it might not be right for you right now.

This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but if you know of a resource that should be included, drop us a line at delaware@technical.ly. And subscribe to our newsletter to get a weekly roundup of innovation news from around the state, plus deep-dives into timely and evergreen tech and biz topics alike:

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Cornerstone West

The parent of West Side Grows Together, Cornerstone West provides resources for entrepreneurs and small businesses such as the free 12-week Launcher Entrepreneurship Program, The Launchpad incubator, Small Business Saturdays and grants for businesses located along the West Side Corridor.

Delaware Bio

If you’re starting a business in the biotech or life sciences sector, you need to connect with Delaware Bio. It’s a membership-based organization, but it does offer events that are open to anyone for free or for a small non-member fee. Network with other members of the bio community through events such as Bio Breakfasts and the Inspiring Women in STEM Conference.

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Delaware Black Chamber of Commerce

A membership-based Chamber with a focus on empowering Black business owners, the DBCC offers educational programming like Enrich Delaware, webinars, pitch competitions and other events, some free to non-members.

Delaware Division of Small Business

This one has tons of free resources for entrepreneurs in any industry on virtually any topic you can think of, from licensing to federal contracting. The agency is also behind the Startup302 pitch competition.

Delaware Innovation Space

STEM startups in need of business training can get it here. There are grant opportunities to help you acquire wet lab space in the modern DuPont Experimental Station location as well as its Science, Inc accelerator.

Delaware Innovation Space. (Courtesy photo)

Delaware Innovation Space. (Courtesy photo)

Delaware Libraries

Libraries in Delaware offer entrepreneurship resources for free, including appointments with business advisors in English or Español and Entrepreneurial Mindset Training.

Delaware SCORE

Mentoring, on-demand online workshops and a huge resource library are all accessible for free from home. You can also connect with the national SCORE Small Business Resilience Hub for pandemic-specific resources.

Delaware Small Business Development Center

Free business consulting services, educational webinars, help with business planning, finance, marketing and cybersecurity are just some of the valuable resources you’ll find at the SBDC.

Delaware State Chamber of Commerce

This one is membership-based, but the Chamber offers a good selection of free webinars that can be accessed on demand.

EDGE Grant

The Encouraging Development, Growth & Expansion Grant awards up to $100,000 in matching funds for STEM startups and up to $25,000 for non-STEM small businesses in Delaware.

The 4th round of STEM EDGE Grant recipients

The fourth round of STEM EDGE Grant recipients, December 2021. (Courtesy photo)

Emerging Enterprise Center

Part of the New Castle Chamber of Commerce, the EEC offers a startup incubator, free e-learning resources and the annual Swim With the Sharks pitch competition.

Export Delaware

Want to expand your small business internationally? This org offers lots of relevant resources and grants to help make it happen.

Great Dames

A membership-based organization focused on empowering women in business, Great Dames offers regular free webinars and virtual events. Members have access to peer mentoring, the org’s new international Hub platform and more.

Leading Edge Ventures

If you’re ready to go after venture capital funding for your startup, Leading Edge is Delaware-based and serves the mid-Atlantic region. Be sure you’ve gotten a lot of advice via other resources on this list before taking this plunge.

PhilaDelaware on WeFunder

Don’t have access to early-stage funding through friends and family? PhilaDelaware on the business crowdfunding platform WeFunder is an alternative that can potentially get your startup off the ground.

The Wilmington skyline

The Wilmington skyline. (Photo by GPA Photo Archive with Creative Commons license)

Stand By Me Minority Small Business Program

Powered by the State of Delaware and the United Way of Delaware, Stand By Me offers free resources for financial literacy and stability, with a focus on members of the state’s Black and Latinx communities. The Minority Small Business Program pairs entrepreneurs and small business owners with financial coaches who can help you connect with financial services, obtain necessary certification and better understand personal finances.

Tech Forum

This Delaware-based nonprofit that brings together tech professionals in the region through events featuring industry speakers. Rather than charging membership fees, each event has a ticket fee.

True Access Capital

Need a business loan? True Access Capital is a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) that empowers business owners and entrepreneurs, especially those who are underserved by traditional lenders, with technical expertise and access to capital.

Wilmington Alliance

If your business is in Wilmington, the WA offers lots of resources for entrepreneurs, including the Wilmington Kitchen Collective Incubator, Wilmington Made and the Wilmington Strong Fund.

WIN Factory Wealth League

The membership-based org behind Delaware’s first Black-owned coworking space, WFWL offers lots of resources, including MASTERMINDS sessions taught by local industry leaders. Mastermind sessions are accessible to non-members for a small fee, with occasional free community events.

World Trade Center Delaware

WTC Delaware is member-based and offers valuable webinars on doing business internationally, as well as occasional free webinars like their Beginner’s Guide to Importing and Exporting.

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