UCB Libraries

Entrepreneurship & Small Business
Research Guide has moved to libguides.colorado.edu/Entrepreneurship

  • Getting
  • Market /
  • Consumer /
    Target Market
  • Company /
  • Finances/
  • More
Starting your Research

Think before you search! No matter which search tool you use (databases, Google, interviews), it always helps to have a search strategy. A little planning at the beginning of your research process will save time. Frame your search strategy in terms of the data pieces you will need.

As you work throughout the various resources, you will also want to think about some other questions, such as:

  • What types of information will you need in order to support your idea?
  • What might that information look like? Balance sheets? Supplier contacts? Competitor analysis? Demographic trends?
  • Who might keep track of that data? The Census Bureau? Trade groups or professional associations? Marketers? Distributors? Regulatory agencies?
  • Is the data likely to be freely available or hidden in a database or even released at all?
  • Is there more than one keyword that could describe the concept?
Some topics to consider are:

  • What problem are you attempting to solve?
  • Who are your customers? How do you plan to reach them?
  • What is the market for your product or service? It is growing, stable, or shrinking?
  • Who are your competitors? What sets you apart?
  • What will you need to make this business happen? Suppliers? Employees? Funding?
Sometimes it is useful to look at some business plans or resources describing how to go through the process of creating and researching for these plans. The library has created a list of resources on this topic in the Business Plans guide.
You can survey the industry to discover information about the current business environment, regulations, developments, and issues that impact companies operating within that industry. You'll notice that each of the databases uses different terms to identify industries. In other words, the vocabulary is not standardized across the databases. A tool to remedy this problem is called NAICS: the North American Industry Classification System.


NAICS and its precursor SIC (Standard Industrial Classification) are a means for organizing disparate business into a category about which statistics and data can be collected. You can find out more about both at: www.census.gov/eos/www/naics.


As you go through your project, think broadly and creatively about where your target fits. Some industries are too new or too odd to fit into an established category. It doesn't hurt to look at more than one industry survey. Likewise, it is often helpful to think of a similar/competing company or brand and see where that company or brand fits into the classification system.

Resources to explore

Standard & Poor's NetAdvantage CU provides information on selected industries and detailed company financials.

+ Help Using Standard and Poor's
Industry Surveys

S&P NetAdvantage's has fewer industry surveys than Business Insights: Global, and they tend to be focused on bigger industries. Despite that, if your industry is covered by S&P you will find a deeper analysis, for example: Standard and Poor's NetAdvantage Industry Report
One nice feature of this report is the "How to Analyze a..." section. This report is for determining the value of a particular company, but it also outlines factors that potential investors will consider.

Tip: If you can't determine your industry try going at the problem sideways. Search a company similar to yours (for example, Amazon for a major online retail company) and see which industry they are a part of.

Business Insights: Global CU provides both industry and company information and is another good place to start your research.

+ Help Using Business Insights: Global

Business Insights: Global Searching
First, select "Industries" from the top and you can then either browse or enter the NAICS code for your industry.


IBISWorld Industry Reports CU
This database provides in-depth reports on industries, providing an overview of the industry, outlooks, products and markets, operations and key statistics.



Google Trends

Use Google Trends to examine brand or product searches over time. The video below explains how to use this search to evaluate brands.

Power Searching with Google Quick Reference can help you search any google interface.

Some of the pertinent examples are:

This slide will help you work on identifying the people you are targeting for your product. Check back on the "Getting Started" tab to see some of the questions you should consider when trying to identify your consumer/target market.

Information on Consumers

American Factfinder and Social Explorer CU
These two sites provide data on the demographic characteristics of the US population. American Factfinder is the free source of this data (from a variety of census datasets), going back to 1990, Social Explorer provides only the decennial census and American Community Survey back to 1790.

Consumer Expenditure Survey
The site from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is the only Federal survey to provide information on the complete range of consumers' expenditures and incomes, as well as the characteristics of those consumers.

The Statistical Abstract of the United States CU
This site is the authoritative and comprehensive summary of statistics on the social, political, and economic organization of the United States. Unfortunately, the Census Bureau will no longer produce new volumes after this year. To access the most current data, please refer to the organizations cited in the source notes for each table of the Statistical Abstract.

Market Reports

Mintel CU
This site provides market research containing information on consumer trends, demographic profiles, brand share dynamics and market drivers. There are over 800 individual reports now available in 13 categories, with data covering US and select International Markets.

+ Help Using Mintel

You need to register using your colorado.edu email address to use this database.

ou can browse or search for reports on your industry's market in this database. When searching, try using broad terms for your industry, then you will get reports not only on your industry, but also on the consumers as well. See the results below searching for "pet":

Mintel 'Pet' Search Results
These results not only talk about the market for pet food, supplies, and retail establishments, but also give information on pet owners.

Frost & Sullivan CU
This site offers market research reports and forecasts. Strong in medical, engineering, biotech, and information & communication technology (ICT) research.

Frost & Sullivan requires user sign-in. If the 'Sign In' menu option in the top right corner is activated, you will be prompted to enter your first and last name, as well as a valid University of Colorado email address.

Local Market Audience Analysis

SRDS Online CU
Directories with advertising rates, contact info and circulation/audience audit data for magazines, newspapers, radio stations, Internet sites and marketing list vendors. SRDS Online also provides access to the Local Market Audience Analyst reports, including Market Profile Reports, Lifestyle Analysis Reports, Demographics Reports, and PRIZM Reports.

Simmons CU
Contains media audience and market survey data collected through interviews and questionnaires covering consumer product, media, and lifestyle preferences. Utilized to determine the probable audience for certain products or services.

+ Help Using Simmons

For an excellent overview of searching for and interpreting Simmons data, see these videos created by Jill Markgraf, Head of Research and Instruction at the McIntyre Library - University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire.

The first video explains how to find data about product use in specified demographic groups.
Linked from: www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6UGzwoyoGU.


The second video explains how to interpret the data.
Linked from: www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3Kl54PJ-m4.

Business Insights: Global CU
Research and analyze companies, industries, and economies around the world.

Business Source Complete CU
This database is an excellent place to find articles, SWOT analyses, company profiles, market research reports and industry surveys.


Tablebase CU
In addition to general "Top 10" lists and brand share rankings, there are hundreds of lists covering a huge range of (sometimes unexpected) topics.


Local Business Resources

Reference USA CU
Search for businesses by name, keyword, location, or industry. Financial information, employees, and operating expenses are listed as available, even for small businesses.


Boulder County Business Report
Business news, analysis, data, and statistics for Boulder and Broomfield counties. Access the library's subscription content using the link above for full-text articles, or browse headlines at www.bcbr.com.

Industry Ratios

As you conduct your research it is helpful to know about the financial information of similar companies. These three books take the SIC and NAICS codes found above and connect you with financial information on similar companies.


Company Financials

Public Companies
  • Mergent Online CU
    Search by company name, ticker, SIC or NAICS code. Use the Mergent Toolbox to easily create spreadsheets and reports comparing up to 500 companies simultaneously.
  • LexisNexis Academic CU
    Access company data from sources such as Dun & Bradstreet, Morningstar, and Standard & Poor's in one location called the "Company Dossier." Use this search to quickly find the dossier.

  • Business Insights: Global CU
    Research and analyze companies, industries, and economies around the world. Featuring the tools you need to interpret a global business landscape: robust data sets, visualization tools to help you develop data-driven insights, case studies to broaden your perspective on real-life situations.
  • Standard & Poor's NetAdvantage CU
    Search by company name or ticker, then use the links on the left for valuation, financials, competitors, and stock reports.
Private Companies
  • PrivCo CU
    Private company financials and revenues, private M&A deals and deal multiples, private firm valuations, venture capital fundings, private equity deals, private and family ownership breakdowns, bankruptcies, restructurings, and more.
  • LexisNexis Academic CU
    LexisNexis is incredibly valuable for private company data as well. Use this link to find in-depth information about private companies, venture capital firms, and others.


Private Equity Info CU
Private Equity Info is a regularly-updated, powerful database of private equity firms, hedge funds, mezzanine investors, small business investment companies, valuation firms, M&A advisory firms, institutional real estate investors and senior lenders.

NOTE: Use is restricted to current UCB students and faculty. Ask a business library employee to log in with username and password.




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