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Marketing Viewpoint by Ruth Winett

Eleven Creative Tips for Business Researchers

Researching startups and other low-profile private companies is challenging when you have limited resources. However, with creativity you can find the answers you need by consulting the following free online databases, government agencies, libraries, and publications:

Online Databases For the hiring plans of a target company, set up a trial account, and then click on jobs and then the name of the target company. Job postings often indicate a company’s future plans.

DB,, and are all massive databases that contain company information, as well as lists of employees. All three offer free trials.

Government Agencies

Secretaries of State: Each state records different types of information. Here are two examples:

  • Ohio - provides detailed company profiles.
  • Massachusetts - provides incorporation information and names of owners and managers.

Municipal Clerks: Clerks maintain lists of local businesses. However, you may have to pay a small printing fee. Here is a sample URL

Assessors: Local assessors maintain databases of business and residential properties, their owners, and the assessed values of the properties. Changes in business ownership usually indicate a change in company plans.

Better Business Bureau

Interested in a company’s reputation? Click on Enter company name and city and state. Unfortunately, the Better Business Bureau does not review all businesses.


Boston Public Library’s Kirstein Business Library and Innovation Center: Email inquiries to Massachusetts residents can also apply online for an eCard and search the BPL’s databases. Two BPL resources have information on private companies. (Both require a BPL card number and a 4-digit PIN):

  • AtoZdatabases - Search by business name using the search box or create a custom search by clicking "Get Started" under "30 Million Businesses & Executives."
  • Mergent Intellect - Search for small companies and for individuals.

Local Libraries: Call, email, or visit the reference department of your local library. Many local libraries offer free online access to databases, such as Reference USA, which has information on new and established companies.


Local newspapers and reporters: For example, search for "Memphis business news," and retrieve links to several print and online newspapers, as well as blogs. These sources provide breaking news, such as companies that are moving to the city.

Business Journals: publishes editions for 43 cities, some of which are free. It also publishes a national journal and lists of companies in some cities, sorted by size and industry, e.g.,

Local blogs: For instance, Framingham Source and Natick Patch provide developing news about small and large local businesses, plus other local news in their respective communities.

As always, you should consult several sources and thoroughly check your facts. Inevitably, some sources will be incomplete, out-of-date, or inaccurate.

Actionable Business Insights

Copyright © 2/20 Ruth Winett. All rights reserved.

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