SCORE

By Tina Babler, Marketing Assistant, Appleton Public Library

One of Appleton Public Library’s prime resources for entrepreneurs working on a business plan is the Reference USA database containing financial and demographic information on public and private businesses. 

When accessing Reference USA outside the library, be certain to start at APL’s eLibrary page (www.apl.org/e).  After clicking on Reference USA you will be presented with a standard, “I Agree” screen and then prompted for your library card number. Once you are logged in, focus on the lower-left corner of the page under the heading Available Databases.  Collections you can search include; US Businesses, US Jobs/Internships, US Healthcare, US Consumers/Lifestyles and more.

Imagine you want to know the number of restaurants in Appleton. Start by selecting the US Businesses collection. A Quick Search screen loads by default. Look for a tab labeled Custom Search. Choosing the Custom Search tab allows you to construct your own search. To explore Appleton’s restaurant market, you would choose to search by Geography (City=Appleton) and by Business Type (Keyword/SIC/NAICS=Restaurants). That basic search returns an alphabetical listing of the 339 restaurants in Appleton. 

When you open a record for an independent restaurant in the list of 339 results, you may see basic contact information, SIC and NAICS codes, number of employees, annual sales volume, nearby businesses and a competitor report that lists similar restaurants in the Appleton market. Public businesses generally will include much more detail than a private company’s listing, such as a business profile, management directory, stock data, business expenditures, historical data and UCC filings.

The Custom Search tool is extremely powerful and flexible. You can even generate a report for an area by drawing an outline on a map to indicate what parts of the city you want to include in your search using the Map Based Search option in the Geography category of the Custom Search screen.  Business Type can be broad or specific, such as “Restaurants” or “Greek (Restaurants)”.  You can generate reports based on businesses with a certain number of employees or by sales volume or even by executive gender or ethnicity.

Don’t forget to explore outside the US Businesses collection. To start, try looking yourself up in the US Consumers/Lifestyles collection; you may be surprised by what you find. Most of all, don’t be afraid to play around in Reference USA, you won’t break the database or your computer.

TIPS:  

Know your library card number (and PIN) for remote access to Reference USA and most other databases.

Look for a link to Reference USA at www.apl.org/e or www.apl.org/e/refusa (you cannot bookmark Reference USA directly as that would sidestep the authentication process).

Private businesses are notoriously difficult to find information for; they are not required to file with the SEC, so the information found in those reports are often not available. If Reference USA can find the information, they will include it within their listings’ parameters, so don’t automatically count it out. 

Find more databases with business articles and information at www.apl.org/e; select “Business” in the selection box and click “Apply” to see which of them cover business topics.

Take a look at www.apl.org/eseed for a list of more library and online resources that are helpful to entrepreneurs.