I have started two businesses, a for-profit and a nonprofit. I can attest to one commonality from both experiences: Market and industry research is one of the least fun and most time-consuming start-up activities. But it’s essential for finding funding and asserting your viability.

Which is why any would-be entrepreneur should check out BizBoost, a free service through the Denver Public Library that helps businesses with their research.

I recently spoke with Dixie Malone, the BizBoost librarian, and found out this service just might be one of the library’s most valuable and best-kept secrets.

Cheap Thrills: When did BizBoost start? What inspired it?

Dixie Malone: The Denver Public Library has offered the opportunity for many years to do business research by making an appointment with an experienced business-reference librarian. Even many of our frequent library users don’t know that the modern library has sophisticated tools, both electronic and in print, to help the entrepreneur start and build their businesses.

In early 2007 it was named “BizBoost” with the tagline  “business research solutions.” A standard form for requesting a business research session was developed in print and then appeared on our Web site in mid-2007.

CT: What services do you offer small businesses?

DM: We help our customers understand how to do business research.  We try to not only find the answers to their questions about their industry, their market, and their competition, but to also show them how to use our databases for ongoing research on their own. We don’t tell people how to start businesses or mentor them through that process. There are so many wonderful organizations in our community who fulfill that role, and we try to refer businesses to those appropriate service providers who best suit their situation.

CT: What are some of their more frequent questions?

DM: Our most frequent customer is a start-up entrepreneur who needs to write a credible business plan. They are new to business research and the level and depth of the  kinds of information and statistics that are available. Some of our best resources for those customers involve demographic and consumer behavior information. We also have many businesses who are looking for business-to-business sales leads, and we have a terrific free database for those customers.

CT: Is this entirely an online service, or do you have in-person meetings as well?

DM: We always prefer to meet with our customers one-on-one to show them how to navigate the Web site and databases. If they are trying to do something simple, we can talk them through it by phone. You can use all of our databases 24/7 from wherever you have Internet access using your Denver Public Library card.