By Wendy Klug, VBOC of the Dakotas Director and Julie Hinker, VBOC Veterans Business Specialist
About the VBOC
The Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) program is designed to provide entrepreneurial development services such as business training, counseling, and resource partner referrals to transitioning service members, veterans, National Guard, and Reserve members and military spouses interested in starting or growing a small business. U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has 22 organizations participating in this cooperative agreement and serving as VBOCs.
Are you thinking about starting a new business? Do you have an amazing idea and are ready to get started? Well, what are you waiting for? Just go to the bank and tell them you have an idea that is going to make you big bucks. They will give you money right there and you will be on your way, right? If only it were that easy.
There are many steps to starting a small business. It takes months to get all your ducks in a row! So, how do you get started? Before we get into the grits of a basic startup checklist for starting a business, let me start by telling you that you don’t have to be on this journey alone. You have a team of Small Business Administration advisors located in your state that can help you at no cost. From assisting with a business plan that makes you bank-ready, to creating an in-depth marketing plan that helps you get off on the right foot, to choosing a business name that will represent your business, to helping you promote yourself to your ideal customer, the SBA team can help you achieve your dreams of starting that small business. Veterans Business Outreach Center of the Dakotas, North Dakota Small Business Development Center, SCORE, and Women’s Business Center are a team of experts to help see you succeed!
What’s next? Where do you start? While everyone will need to register their business with the secretary of state, not everyone will need to go to the bank for a loan. This makes it hard to come up with a list of items that fit everyone’s needs. Here are some of the steps, but do understand that it may not include every step! These steps are often done in conjunction with one another. Use this list to get started, but make sure you reach out to that SBA resource partner too! We will be able to tailor the list more specifically to your wants and needs.
Conduct Market Research
How do you know that someone would buy your product or service? How do you know that there aren’t a million others selling the same product or service? Market research will tell you if there’s an opportunity to turn your idea into a successful business. It’s a way to gather information about potential customers and businesses already operating in your area. Start by conducting primary research. Primary research is the first-hand collection of data where you go directly to a source instead of relying on existing information. Some of the ways to complete primary research include interviews, observational research, trials or experiments, surveys, and focus groups. You will also want to conduct secondary research where you identify and use existing information or research for analysis. We use IBIS World, a market analysis report which can show you industry research specific to your region and business. This report is free for all my clients.
“We are a team of business advisors that can help you get your business off on the right foot!”-Julie Hinker
Choose the Correct Business Structure
The legal structure you choose for your business will impact your business registration requirements, how much you pay in taxes, and your personal liability. This will be one of the most important decisions you make for your business. While I can guide you to information on the different legal structures, I am not able to tell you which one to pick. My best suggestion is to reach out to an accountant and ask them what they suggest. Choose an accountant that works with small businesses so they can tell you the “why” and “how” to choose LLC over sole proprietorship. They should also be able to talk you through tax deductions and how to prepare to pay business taxes.
Choose Your Business Name
It’s not easy to pick the perfect name. You’ll want one that reflects your brand and captures your spirit. Before you decide on a final name, run it by others to see what they think. Also, Google that name and see what pulls up on the web. For example, if you use the name McDonald’s because your last name is McDonald’s, it is going to be nearly impossible to rank higher than Big Mac advertisements. You’ll also want to make sure your business name isn’t already being used by someone else. We can help you see if your business name is available and go over some methods to make sure you are 100% sure of your business name during our advising sessions!
Write Your Business Plan
Business plans are like road maps. It is possible to travel without one, but that will increase the odds of getting lost along the way. A business plan will include information on your business structure, product, marketing strategies, market research, and finances, helping you define and focus on your business ideas and strategies. Your business plan will be a well-thought-out document that you put hours of work into. I have access to LivePlan, a business planning software program that helps you get the work done in half the time, which clients can access for no charge. Between using LivePlan for business planning and advising with SBA resource partners, you will develop an investor-ready business plan.
Find Funding for Your Business Venture
If you are looking to get financed through a bank, you will need a business plan in hand! They are going to look closely at your financial projections in your business plan along with the 5 C’s: capacity, capital, collateral, conditions, and character. Of course, going to a bank is not the only way to gain funding. I suggest working with your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC). They are local experts in your community that are aware of grant programs and other funding opportunities.
Register Your Business and Get Federal/State IDs
This is where everything starts to feel real! You now have the perfect business name and need to make it yours. You will need to fill out the correct paperwork with the state and possibly the federal government. You will also register for an EIN (Employer Identification Number). It’s like a social security number for your business. Several states require you to get a tax ID as well. This is the step that makes you a legit business with the state.
“Before you invest your valuable time, make sure you conduct market research. Nobody wants to put hours of work into a project that turns out to be a deadbeat idea.” -Wendy Klug
Apply for Licenses and Permits
If you are going to be starting a business that provides services to the public, you will want to make sure you find out if there are any special licenses, and permits you need. For example, if you are going to be running a bakery you will need to make sure you not only follow all health codes, but you will also need a building health permit, food service license, and more! The licenses and permits you need for your business will vary by industry, state, location, and other factors. You will want to make sure you understand exactly what you need when it comes to licenses and permits so you don’t become incompliant.
If you are looking to start a business, you certainly could use Google to help you get well on your way to preparing the paperwork you need to start your business. However, you can’t always trust what you read online—sometimes you just want someone there to share your ideas with who can help make sure you are on the right track. Remember at the beginning of this article how we told you there would be one important thing to remember? Here it is: you have a team of SBA advisors that are going to help you with your venture by offering confidential, no-cost business advice through advising sessions tailored specifically to your business venture.
Ready to get started? Just have a few questions? Reach out to us today!