A lot of people bank on the spirit of the growing entrepreneurial economy and gig business model, but that won’t always take you as far as you’d like to go when opening a business. That being said, if you follow the right path, meet with the right people, and take the right steps, your dream of owning your own business could be within reach.
Step One: Build Out Your Business Plan
It’s important to organize your ideas, goals, and overall plan of action before you bring your business idea to potential lenders, advisors, and investors. It doesn’t have to be incredibly detailed, but the more comprehensive, the better. There are a few key points you’ll want to hit as a bare minimum:
- Mission and Vision: What drives your business? How will it lead your plan of action?
- Any important copyright or patent information. You’ll want to be sure you have this secured before bringing your ideas to others. To not only protect yourself, but also to be sure you haven’t taken someone else’s idea.
- Target Market and background research. You need to prove you know who you’ll be selling to and how you’ll go about doing that. It’s also important to consider competitors in your market to map out marketshare goals.
- Estimated expenses and financing needs. Lay out all of the expenses you’ll need for your initial start up. Consider things like a location or office, office supply, any tools you may need to create a product, etc. Every business is different and will have unique expenses, so do your research!
- Organization and management structure. Are you flying solo? Do you have a business partner? How many employees will you have to hire? Flying by the seat of your pants when it comes to human resources and how you set up your business is not a good business practice.
- Goals, Objectives, and Plan of Action: What do you want to accomplish? What moves will get you there?
Investor and lenders want to know that you have a clear vision of where your business will go and that you have a concise plan of action to get you there.
Step Two: Seek Advisement
The best thing you can do as an entrepreneur is find someone else to believe in your dream. Though you typically imagine opening a business as a lonesome journey, it doesn’t have to be that way. There are organizations that can provide advice and mentorship at low- to no cost.
Southwest Virginia is very lucky to have a budding economy and an endless stream of resources waiting to lend a helping hand to inspired individuals. You can find guidance and resources for anything from continuing education, planning and advisory, office space, and more. Our Resource Round Up for Small Businesses is a helpful resource to find the best organization to get you the help you need.
Step Three: Choose Your Business Structure and Register
Part of your business plan should be deciding the structure of your business. Not only will it govern how your business is run, but it will also influence your personal and tax liability. Here are your options according to Business One Stop, run by the state of Virginia:
- Sole proprietorship: Owned by a single person or a couple. You will be personally liable for business debts.
- Partnership: You will share profits, losses, and management duties with your partner and will be equally liable for debt.
- Limited liability company, or LLC: You’ll have limited legal liability, but will still be personally liable for taxes.
- C corporation: A totally separate legal entity where taxes are filed separately from the individual owners.
- S corporation: These businesses are not taxed as a separate legal entity but do protect owners from legal liability.
You can get guidance from your local Small Business Development Center to help you navigate the decision and registration process. Once you’ve settled on your structure, you’ll need to register your business with the state to receive your tax ID number.
Step Four: Get Your Finances in Order
In order to protect yourself and your personal finances, you’ll want to make sure all of your business finances are managed separately. A HomeTown Bank business banker can help you decide which business checking and savings accounts would best support your business, budget, and cashflow. They’ll also help you consider additional options like a business credit card and taking advantage of our Merchant Servicesto streamline your cash management.
The best part about using a local bank for your business? You’ll know the money you’re bringing in stays in the area and will eventually circulate back to you through the spirit of shopping local!
Step Five: Build Out The Essentials
Once you have your finances in working order, it’s important to make sure you have the right place and people to support your business. If you’re a one person operation, you might want to consider hiring a helping hand, depending on the type of business you’re running. Leverage your network to find qualified individuals to join you in your venture. Then, put them to work in helping you get things ready for launch!
Beyond the people and places, you’ll need your permits and licenses that are essential to your operation. From food permits to healthcare options for employees, your mentors should have your back in guiding you through this process. Just make sure these details are taken care of before your official opening or you’ll face some hefty fines and possible threat of closure.
Step Six: Make the Big Announcement!
The final piece of the puzzle is marketing your business. Hopefully, you’ll have a built in stock of advocates through your family and friends, but word of mouth can only get so far. You’ll need to plan out your marketing efforts to metaphorically shout from the mountain tops that you’re open and ready for business. Here are a few key strategies to do so:
- Build your online presence: With various web building platforms like Squarespace and Wix, building your website could take as little as an afternoon. You’ll also want to set up a social media presence. If these tasks seem daunting, support local and hire a local business to help!
- Get signage: The best way to let your community know you’re there is by investing in some eye catching signage!
- Advertising: If it fits in your budget, consider some print, outdoor, or digital advertising to boost the awareness of your presence in your community.
- Events: Hosting a grand opening at your location is the best way to get folks in your door. Reach out to your local Chamber of Commerce to get help coordinating the big day and get a crowd from the business community!