April 29 through May 5 is National Small Business Week. Every year since 1963, the president of the United States has issued a proclamation announcing National Small Business Week, which recognizes the critical contribution of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners. More than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and they create about two out of every three jobs in the U.S. each year.

This week, on Tuesday, May 1, the town of Fairfield, in partnership with the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce, hosted a free workshop at the Fairfield Regional Fire Training School for business owners. Led by Valeria Bisceglia, business adviser at the Connecticut Small Business Development Center, this interactive workshop covered key topics of importance for creating an effective marketing plan.

The attendees learned about how to articulate a distinctive value proposition to their target markets and how to craft the right messaging in order to increase the effectiveness of their marketing efforts. The workshop was designed to be highly interactive, so the participants had the opportunity to discuss customer segments, how to identify and cultivate the ideal customer and messaging that speaks to different customer types.

The Connecticut Small Business Development Center offers expert assistance at no cost to entrepreneurs and small business owners. It is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, the state Department of Economic and Community Development and the University of Connecticut.

For example, it offers online courses to help start and run a business, including:

How to write a business plan: Learn the importance of business planning, the components of a business plan, and view sample plans and resources.

Legal Requirements: An overview of legal requirements for small businesses and how they may have impact on a business.

Financing Options: An introduction to financing options for a small business.

Young Entrepreneurs: A course which introduces entrepreneurs to the basics of creating and financing a success business.

In addition to its online Learning Center, SBA offers: financial assistance for new or existing businesses; free counseling, advice and information on starting, better operating or expanding a small business; assistance to business owned, and controlled by, social and economically disadvantaged individuals; women business owner assistance; special loan programs for businesses involved in international trade; and a Veterans Affairs officer available to assist veterans.

Business owners who are interested in more information and accessing additional tools and resources should contact Bisceglia to schedule an appointment at 860-576-0641 or at ctsbdc.com/valeria.bisceglia@uconn.edu.

Beverly A. Balaz is president of the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce.