SMALL BUSINESS STARTUPS START HERE
Have you already researched the market for the product or service you want to offer, looked into the profitability of the small business startup and weighed the pros and cons of the risks involved in your business? If not, please stop here and do your research (blog post coming soon). If you have determined there is a need for your product or service, it can be a profitable and sustainable business and the rewards outweigh the risks involved, you are ready to get your business started!
This website is for informational purposes only - the information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to constitute financial or legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only. Information may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information. Readers should contact their CPA and/or attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular matter.
Outline your goals, identify your target customer, create a budget and make a roadmap of how you plan to reach your goals. It's really hard to know how to market your business if you don't know what goals you are trying to reach.
FIND A BUSINESS LOCATION
If applicable. You can hire a commercial real estate broker, network with other business owners, look around the area you would like to rent to see if there are any spaces available, or do an online search for available spaces.
Find a name that explains what you do to your target market. It should be easy to remember and, if you use a unique spelling, make sure your name is not confused for another existing brand.
Write down your business name. This is the exact spelling, spacing, punctuation and capitalization that will be used EVERYWHERE, FOREVER. Do not use variations of your business name (read why here).
Check to see if your business name is available in the web domain registry as well as across social media platforms.
If applicable, conduct a trademark search using the US Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) Trademark Electronic Search System. You can also search for logo and design trademarks using the proper search codes. Clearance searches and interpretation of results can be a complicated process - a private trademark attorney can help.
There are 4 different ways to register your business name with your locality (city and/or county) and the secretary of state. (See below for links)
An entity name (also known as the registered or legal name) is what is used by federal and state tax agencies, issues your tax ID number (EIN), is used by banks and legal purposes. It also identifies who has the liability. Most states require you to register a legal entity name by filing a request or an application.
Registering for a domain name protects your business website address.
A trademark protects ownership of your business name, logo and brand (i.e. catchphrase, colors, sounds) at a federal level.
Doing business as (DBA also called a fictitious name statement) is filed (typically a sole proprietor in most states) with your city, county or state to let people know who owns the business. For example, Dan Garner has a donut shop on Main Street doing business as Dan’s Donuts. Similarly, a trade name is how the consumers identify your business (typically an LLC or Corp). For example, Garner Corp owns a donut shop on 5th Ave. called Dan’s Donuts. Read What is a DBA for more info.
This is not the same as registering your business as a legal entity (i.e. LLC, Corporation, or partnership). Read more about the various business entities here and the difference between a Sole Proprietorship and Single-Member LLC here.
COMPLETE YOUR BUSINESS REGISTRATION AND LICENSE REQUIREMENTS
Each city, county and state will have their own business registration and license requirements. Even home-based businesses may need a license or permit so make sure you do your research.
START HERE FOR LICENSE, PERMITS AND TAX REQUIREMENTS: For links to state specific requirements, visit this IRS website to be directed to the correct state and local agencies.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCE: SBA.gov's Business Licenses and Permits Search Tool also allows you to get a listing of required federal, state and local permits, licenses and registrations you'll need. You can also read When Do I Need a Seller's Permit post.
SET YOUR BUSINESS HOURS
These are the hours your customers will expect you to be available for business. Unless your business is staffed 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, list proper business hours.
SET UP YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS
Depending on the type of business you own and where your ideal clients spend time, consider LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, Reddit and Yelp for business.
SET UP OR INVEST IN A CLIENT DATABASE
As a new business owner, you may not need to invest in a robust CRM (Client Record Management system). However, you do need a database (Access, Excel, etc.) with the ability to record client information and use unique identifiers for clients that will be important to your business tracking and marketing.
SET UP A BOOKKEEPING SYSTEM
Use Quicken, Quickbooks, Excel Spreadsheet or hire a bookkeeper to set up and track your income and expenses.
TALK TO YOUR CPA
Let him or her know you are starting a business.
TALK TO YOUR INSURANCE AGENT
You will want to ask about business insurance for protection against damaged property, lost wages, injuries, worker’s compensation, disability and lawsuits.
APPLY FOR A SELLER'S PERMIT LICENSE
If you are selling or leasing products (wholesale or retail), apply for a Seller's Permit License. This is a license issued by your state that allows you to (a) sell items wholesale or retail and (b) issue resale certificates to suppliers. The resale certificate allows you to purchase items from suppliers that you will sell in your business without paying sales tax (which is a huge savings)! Visit this IRS website to be directed to the correct state and local agencies. For more information, read the When Do I Need a Seller's Permit post.
FILE FOR AN EIN
After you register your business, you may file for an EIN (Employer Identification Number) through the IRS. You aren't required to do this step unless you plan to hire employees, open a bank account at specific banks, or for privacy (you don't want to put your social security number on business documentation).
Read this blog post Do I Need and EIN for Business and visit your state's website to identify whether you need to get a state tax ID number in order to pay state taxes.
GET A BUSINESS PHONE NUMBER
You can sign up for a free Google Voice number, use a mobile or internet based VoIP provider (voice over IP), or one of the many apps like TextFree or LINE. Watch these videos to set up Google Voice.
SET UP YOUR BUSINESS E-MAIL
Because fast and secure email services are so critical to your business, you’ll want to consider your options. Some domain registrars or web hosting sites will offer free e-mail or you can add on the service for a monthly fee. Gmail is another free option and Gmail for business is part of Google Workspace, which starts at $6/month.
CREATE A BUSINESS LOGO
A logo is part of your business brand. It is a visual representation of what your business stands for. It can consist of text and a design, or just one of those two elements. It’s best to keep it simple and select fonts and color(s) that will remain consistent with your brand. You can create your own logo with software such as Adobe or Canva, hire a graphic designer, or purchase a pre-designed logo on sites such as Etsy.
Business cards do not have to be the traditional 3.5” x 2” paper cards. Before you order a traditional business card, read this post on Catchy Business Cards. The possibilities are endless and the opportunity to creatively market your business is right here!
OPEN BUSINESS CHECKING & SAVINGS ACCOUN TS AS WELL AS A BUSINESS CREDIT CARD.
Keeping your business finances separate from your personal income saves a lot of time and headache when it comes time to file for taxes. You may want to open multiple accounts to be able to separate the funds into taxes, expenses and profits.
FIND NETWORKING GROUPS
Networking is a form of business marketing and it allows you to develop professional contacts with others in your community and industry. Some business owners make the mistake of using networking as an opportunity to give their sales pitch and are frustrated with their results. Read more about networking with intention here. Check your local Chamber of Commerce, Meetup groups, Rotary International, LeTip, BNI, LinkedIn, professional associations, alumni groups, professional conferences and volunteer organizations for opportunities to make connections.
FIND A MENTOR
Experienced entrepreneurs have likely made a mistake (or two) and can help you reduce those financial mistakes, expansion missteps and marketing fails. If you don’t know anyone who can be a mentor, look at the Small Business Development Center, SCORE, the Office of Veterans Business Development, the alumni network from your college and LinkedIn.
SET UP A COMPLETE GOOGLE BUSINESS PROFILE (FORMERLY GOOGLE MY BUSINESS)
Remember to use the exact spelling, spacing, punctuation and capitalization of your business name. Make sure your hours, phone number, website, address (or service area) are set and match the info on your website. Google Business is a powerful tool in business marketing and it aids in helping small businesses grow so make sure you set it up correctly. Read the blog for more information on setting up your Google Business Profile.
Now, celebrate all you’ve accomplished so far - small business startups are a lot of work! Continue to read through our pages for more helpful information on business marketing and how to grow your small business. Leave questions or comments below!
What my Clients are Saying
Diane Luna, Designer | www.dianelunadesign.com
"I can’t tell you how much I loved our strategy consult! You gave me the exact clarity I was hoping for and it was perfectly digestible! I have such great direction from you, thank you thank you! I look forward to meeting again in 60 - 90 days…"