Whether you're starting an online business or a brick-and-mortar model, figuring out how to start a business takes time and research. Starting a business involves planning, making important financial decisions and completing a series of legal activities, such as choosing a business structure. Before you can decide how you want to structure your business, you need to know what your options are. Each business structure has advantages and disadvantages, and choosing the right one depends on your unique situation. The most common ways to organize a business include, limited liability company (LLC), corporation, nonprofit corporation, partnership, limited partnership, limited liability partnership, and sole proprietorship. LLCs are a popular choice for small business owners because they offer personal liability protection with great tax and management flexibility, while incorporating a business protects your personal assets and is preferred by outside investors. LegalZoom has all the resources you need to start a business and maintain it. Whether you want to form an LLC or trademark a business name, LegalZoom offers services to help you get it done fast and affordably. LegalZoom can also help you obtain the necessary business licenses and permits for your new business. Get the peace of mind you need when starting a business by letting LegalZoom take care of the details while you focus on the parts of your business that matter to you the most.
An important step in forming a new business is to determine the type of business structure that you will use. There are several business structures to choose from, including sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, limited liability company and limited liability partnership. Each has advantages and disadvantages as well as tax consequences of which you should be aware. You must decide which of these structures best suits your business objectives and needs. The Secretary of State cannot advise you on choosing a business structure. For help in making this decision, you may wish to consult a tax practitioner, accountant or attorney.
Branding, services, promotions, products, pricing, prints, blogs, advertising, research and social media -- all of this is marketing. With all the marketing options out there, it can be difficult for small businesses to know what to do. Marketing is a concentrated effort to do push your brand across a variety of platforms and hope that enough makes it through to your customer. Customers need to hear your message several times, so brand, brand, brand! Here are some simple steps to help you market your small business:
The MBDA does not directly loan money, but it does provide resources for members of minority groups who are trying to start a business. They have business centers around the country where entrepreneurs can seek mentorship and guidance as they start their business. These business centers are located in areas with a high amount of minority-owned businesses. You can go to MBDA.gov/businesscenters to find one in your area where you will be advised on everything from writing a business plan so you can apply for funding to marketing your business.
While it can be tempting to pick a lower-priced option to lower your risk, it’s important to make sure you aren’t compromising too much based on finances. Instead, consider a loan or other method of financing that can help you get you started. Some franchising companies run their own franchise financing programs to help franchisees get in the door.
Banks and credit unions are traditional sources for small business loans, and they’re a good place to start. Especially with small institutions, you’ll be able to meet with a lender who can guide you through the process. Larger banks might take a more hands-off approach. To improve your chances of getting approved, ask about SBA loans, which reduce the bank’s risk and feature interest rate caps. The loan process at banks and credit unions can be slow, so be prepared for a long process and a thorough review from the bank.
After speaking with several Brokers to help with our SBA loan, Karen was the only one who took her time and explained in full detail what our best options would be. The process was so easy, in less than 48 hours after submitting the application to the Bank we had a firm approval and we we’re ready to close on the loan in less than 10 days. I worked in the Mortgage Industry for 20 years and I’m VERY impressed with the service Karen provided us. This couldn’t have been any easier!!!!!!!!
Tom's roles have included time as a writer, editor, journalist, videographer, presenter, educator, web designer, layout artist, and public relations executive. Since 2006, he's freelanced for publications and private clients including the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Apple, Nature.com, and the San Francisco Chronicle. A frequent traveler, he moved from his native US to the Netherlands in 2016. Connect with him at http://tomgeller.com.
Tenant improvements. Your new space may need some improvements or alterations (a new paint job, new carpeting, a reconfiguration of the space). Which party will pay for these improvements depends on how tight the commercial office space market is in your city. Most form leases stipulate that the tenant can’t make any alterations or improvements without the landlord’s consent. Ask for a clause that says you can make alterations or improvements with the landlord’s consent, and that the consent won’t be unreasonably withheld, delayed, or conditioned. Often, you are able to negotiate a “tenant improvement allowance,” which is an agreed-upon sum of money that the landlord will provide for the improvements and alterations you would like to make.
3. Leverage social media. Let’s face it, everyone is on social media these days, and the majority of traffic still occurs on Facebook. If you are not using Facebook for your business, create a page today. You are leaving an opportunity on the table if you don’t. There has been a shift the past few years with more and more retirees joining the social media world. I guess they realize that if they want to keep up with their kids, grandkids, friends and neighbors, they better get with the program. In fact, retirees are often my best brand ambassadors and help promote our events.
If it does not exist, create it. If you have an idea-ideas or skills, think of how to use your ideas or skills to create a business and to put it out there to see what it can attract and what you can create. Many successful businesses started with an idea and that idea has become a success “from one person business to global corporations”. Failure is an attempt at success, if you don’t give up and modify each attempt, then each attempt can become a success.
More than anything, focus on consistent, repetitive branding. Many marketing professionals believe in the “rule of seven," which means people need to hear or see your message at least seven times before taking any action. In today’s world of constant connectivity, you must make sure you’re seen and heard. The most common reason that people do not buy your product is that they do not know about it yet.
SBA loans of five- to six-year maturities can provide short-term working capital and equipment. Real-estate loans can run for 20 years or more. About 10% of all SBA loans go to franchisees, with the size running between $250,000 and $500,000, and maximum of $2 million. Most of that money is for franchise entry fees, improvements or working capital. Borrowers must be creditworthy, typically must contribute some equity, and are expected to repay the SBA loan out of the franchise’s cash flow.
If you want to separate your personal liability from your company's liability, you may want to consider forming one of several types of corporations. This makes a business a separate entity apart from its owners, and therefore, corporations can own property, assume liability, pay taxes, enter into contracts, sue and be sued like any other individual. One of the most common structures for small businesses, however, is the limited liability corporation (LLC). This hybrid structure has the legal protections of a corporation while allowing for the tax benefits of a partnership.
6. Create local awareness and establish a network. Join chambers, business associations, community groups, etc. Find ways to get involved. Networking is a great way to capture business leads as long as you don’t come on too strong. It allows you to meet new contacts and create more brand awareness and new referrals. Sponsor sporting events, nonprofit events or anything that is for a good cause. Get your name out there while also being a good community steward. Give away SWAG (promotional items with your business name, logo and contact info on them). T-shirts are a great example of free walking advertisements for your business.
If you do have people in your life who could invest in your business, getting a loan from friends and family is sometimes an option. Of course, for many entrepreneurs who are just starting out and in need of cash, this just isn’t a possibility. Either the amount they need is too high, or their circle of friends and family is small or possibly strapped for money themselves. It’s possible that your friends and family will think it’s too risky because of your bad credit as well.
Starting a small business doesn't have to require a lot of money, but it will involve some initial investment as well as the ability to cover ongoing expenses before you are turning a profit. Put together a spreadsheet that estimates the one-time startup costs for your business (licenses and permits, equipment, legal fees, insurance, branding, market research, inventory, trademarking, grand opening events, property leases, etc.), as well as what you anticipate you will need to keep your business running for at least 12 months (rent, utilities, marketing and advertising, production, supplies, travel expenses, employee salaries, your own salary, etc.).
If you are under age 59 and your IRA is one of your largest assets, you still may be able to take advantage of this avenue without accruing the 10-percent penalty associated with early withdrawal. By taking Substantial Equal Periodic Payments spread over a minimum of five years, based on your life expectancy, and a set of annuity tables published by the IRS, you can eliminate the 10-percent penalty, although the money is still taxable.
These Small Business Workshops are being offered solely as a courtesy to TD Bank Customers. The information is supplied on an "as is" basis and should be used at your own risk. Neither TD Bank nor the authors or providers of the content of the workshops make any representation or guarantee as to the accuracy and/or reliability of such content nor shall any of the foregoing parties or their employees be liable for any loss or damages suffered as a result of any use of such content.
Our course starts at the very beginning with setting up QuickBooks for your business. We cover how to record your income and expenses, how to manage bank and credit card transactions and how to run financial statements. There are a total of 39 tutorials in our QuickBooks course spanning seven lessons. Each lesson has been broken down into bite-sized tutorials. Each QuickBooks tutorial includes a video where we demonstrate the concepts presented in each lesson.
Small business owners are passionate about their ideas and tend to get excited about the little details, leaving the financials alone in the back of their business plan. It’s a mistake to put your financial information as an appendix or otherwise in the back because “it says that finance is not important,” advises Shelton. Your lender wants to feel comfortable that you have a plan for managing your finances, including paying back your loan, so keep your financial information up front in your business plan.
SmartBiz (see our review) is a viable online loan option for franchise owners that want the security and low-interest rates of an SBA-backed loan, but with the ease and speed of an online loan. SmartBiz is the #1 marketplace for SBA 7(a) small business loans online, offering an SBA/online loan hybrid with low interest rates and long-term repayment terms. However, this lender is only an option for established franchises — you’ll need at least 2 years’ time in business to get a working capital or debt refinancing loan, and 3 years to be eligible for a commercial real estate loan.
Small businesses have a tougher time getting approved due to factors including lower sales volume and cash reserves; add to that bad personal credit or no collateral (such as real estate to secure a loan), and many small-business owners come up empty-handed. Getting funded takes longer than other options — typically two to six months — but banks are usually your lowest-APR option.