Seven Steps to Starting a Start-up

Unsure where to begin? Give our checklist a glance to help get focused and on your way to a financially awesome start-up.

Have an idea?

Every business begins with a big idea. Get to the core: what is the product or service you plan to offer? And have you done any market research to determine if it’s a viable idea that will fill a demand?

Say you want to open up the world’s best taco truck. Take a look around your market to evaluate the competition. If you’re noticing “world famous” tacos on every other street corner, the market is likely saturated and might be craving another type of cuisine.

Have a plan?

Sure, your business idea may be crystal clear in your mind, but have you actually articulated its execution? A written plan shows you’ve considered the idea from many angles and have solid action steps in place. A quick online search can pull up various free templates to get started, and if you need more assistance, you can visit your local Small Business Development Center.

In general, a plan will need to define your offering, target markets, start-up and operating costs, goals, team and experience, and financial projections. You might also include market research and a name for your venture. If relying on outside sources of funding, a comprehensive plan will be critical to communicating your capability and securing financing.

Have the cash?

And speaking of financing, how do you anticipate getting your business off the ground? Sinking your life’s savings into start-up costs may be off the table, so review the available options. Banks and the Small Business Administration offer help to fledgling companies in the form of loans. If you’re willing to give up some ownership, you may be able to secure an investor. Or, consider crowdfunding if the big idea is one with potential to resonate in the community.

Have your paperwork?

Long gone are the days of simply hanging a shingle. Be prepared to fill out a variety of forms for legal and tax purposes to ensure you’re operating on the up and up. You’ll need to make a number of decisions along the way, such as determining the business structure. Sole proprietorships can leave you open to personal liability, while a corporate structure keeps business interests separate from personal.

You’ll need to check state and local laws for requirements in terms of business licenses, permits or certificates, and registering with the IRS is a must. Head to a trusted banking partner to set up necessary bank accounts and learn of other services that could be available to business customers.

Have a location?

Real estate can be pricey, so take some time to find a location that provides the access you need at a price you can afford. Consider factors such as whether your business relies on heavy foot traffic, needs parking or must be close to main transportation routes. In some cases, it may be possible to operate from your home while building up the customer base.

Have insurance?

A home-based business with no employees and few assets beyond a laptop and phone may have insurance needs that don’t extend much beyond normal homeowners or renters insurance. However, a separate location with equipment or inventory will require some basic coverage to protect against losses, such as from theft, fire or civil disturbances. Also, adding employees means obtaining workers compensation and unemployment insurance at a minimum.

Have a team?

It takes a village to build a business. It’s impossible for one person to be an expert in all the intricate details behind running a company, from legal, finance and accounting requirements to marketing and advertising initiatives to sourcing and production issues. If you can’t afford to maintain a full-time staff, then look to freelancers or contractors to fill in when you need them.

Even with the basics covered, starting a business won’t always be smooth sailing. Keep your strong team within reach, be ready to adjust your plan to meet the market demands, and have some patience as you put your plan into action. With time and talent, your big idea could be the next big thing.