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How to Start a Small Business (July, 2024)

Updated: Feb 25

Mr. Fan Yang, Ph.D. Economics

© International Foundation for World Freedom


Starting a small business can be an exciting and rewarding venture. Regardless of whether you are a new immigrant or a refugee, it's important to have a solid plan and take the necessary steps to set up your business for success. In this article, we will provide you with a guide and valuable tips to help you navigate the process of starting your own small business.


1. Have An Idea


The first step in starting a small business is to come up with a solid business idea. Take some time to brainstorm and explore different opportunities. Conduct market research to gain insights into potential customer needs and market demand. It's important to choose a business idea that aligns with your passions and interests since running a business requires a significant investment of time and resources.


Once you have a business idea, evaluate its feasibility. Consider if there is a market for your product or service and if people would be willing to pay for it. Assess the potential profitability of your idea and determine if it is worth pursuing. Additionally, ensure that your idea is viable and can be implemented successfully. Aim to make your business idea as unique as possible to differentiate yourself from competitors, increasing the likelihood of success.


2. Make A Business Plan


A well-crafted business plan is essential for the success of your business. It serves as a roadmap, outlining your business concept, products or services, target market, and strategies for growth over the next few years.


When developing your business plan, there are several key areas to cover.

  • Your cost of operation: understanding your expenses will help determine your pricing strategy and ensure profitability.


  • Your potential market: how many customers are likely to use your products or services, and what price are they willing to pay?


  • Your competition: If existing competitors have a strong market share and offer similar products or services, breaking into the market may be challenging. Differentiate your business by offering unique value or addressing unmet customer needs.


  • Your budget: Develop a budget that outlines your planned expenditures for marketing, equipment, and other operational needs. This will help you allocate resources effectively and track your financial performance.


For guidance on writing a comprehensive business plan, you can refer to this helpful resource: https://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Business-Plan


Additionally, consult the U.S. Small Business Administration's (SBA) 10-part checklist for starting a business to ensure you have covered all the necessary steps: https://www.sba.gov/business-guide/10-steps-start-your-business


3. Determine the legal structure of your business


Before launching your business and completing the necessary paperwork, it is crucial to determine the legal structure that best suits your needs. The choice of structure will have important legal and tax implications. Here are some common options to consider:


  • Sole Proprietorship: A sole proprietorship is owned and run by one person, and there is no distinction between the owner and the business. You have full responsibility for the business' profits, losses, debts, and liabilities.


  • Partnership: A partnership involves two or more individuals sharing ownership and responsibility for the business. Partnerships can be beneficial for pooling capital and expertise. Each partner typically has an equal share in the profits, liabilities, and management of the business.


  • Corporation: A corporation is an independent legal entity owned by shareholders. This structure is generally more appropriate for larger businesses due to the complexity of legal requirements and corporate governance.


  • Limited Liability Company (LLC): An LLC is a business structure that provides the benefits of a partnership while protecting the personal assets of its members. With an LLC, members enjoy limited liability, which means their personal assets are typically safeguarded from legal actions or debts incurred by the company. For instance, if the LLC faces a lawsuit, the personal assets of the members are usually not at risk.


When deciding on the legal structure, consider factors such as the level of personal liability, taxation, management control, and future growth plans. It is advisable to consult with a legal or tax professional to understand the specific implications for your business and make an informed decision.


4. Set up company


After you have developed a great business idea, created a clear business plan, and determined the legal structure of your company, it is time to start setting up your company. Here are some key steps to follow:


Step 1: Form the necessary legal structure. Each structure has its own requirements and complexities. You can find detailed information on how to form each type of structure on the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) website: https://www.sba.gov/business-guide/launch-your-business/choose-business-structure.


Step 2: Obtain a tax identification number. This number, also known as an Employee Identification Number (EIN), is used for tax purposes to identify your business. Applying for an EIN is a simple process and can be done online on the IRS website: https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/apply-for-an-employer-identification-number-ein-online.


Step 3: Register your business name. If you are not operating the business under your own name, most states require you to register a "Doing Business As" (DBA) name for tax and legal purposes. The registration process can be completed through your state government or county clerk's office. Check the specific requirements for your state online.


Step 4: Obtain a business license. Depending on the location of your business, you will need to obtain a business license from the city or county where you operate. Typically, you can find the necessary forms on your city's website. The forms will require information about your business type, address, number of employees, EIN, and possibly revenue details. Keep in mind that licensing requirements may apply to online and home-based businesses as well.


Step 5: Inquire about additional required permits. Different cities or counties may have specific permit requirements for certain types of businesses. These could include permits for home-based businesses, commercial alarm systems, or permits related to alcohol or firearms. Contact your local government's permitting bureau or chamber of commerce for guidance on any necessary permits.


Step 6: Establish a bank account for your business. It is important to keep your business and personal finances separate to avoid complications with the IRS. Having dedicated bank accounts for business transactions simplifies accounting and ensures compliance with tax requirements.


Step 7: Seek advice from a small business lawyer or accountant. While setting up a sole proprietorship may be straightforward, if you are forming an LLC, corporation, or partnership, it is advisable to consult with a professional. They can guide you through the necessary paperwork and help draft important partnership documents, ensuring legal compliance and clarity in ownership arrangements.


5. Manage your finance


Most businesses require capital to start. Money is typically required to purchase supplies and equipment, as well as keep the business operational for the period before your business becomes profitable.


Do you have investments or savings? If so, consider using a portion to fund your business. You should never invest all your savings into a business due to the risk of failure. In addition, you should never invest money put aside for emergency savings (experts recommend having three to six months of income put aside for this purpose), or money you will need over the next few years for various obligations.

6. Fund your company


Option 1: Talk with your bank. If you have a positive relationship with a bank, inquire about the business start-up loans they offer. This can be a convenient option since the bank already has access to your financial records and may be more willing to invest in your business.


Option 2: Get local investors. Look for individuals in your community who may be interested in investing in your business. They could be local business owners or successful individuals who have a vested interest in seeing local businesses thrive.


Option 3: Explore venture capitalists or angel investors. Venture capitalists are companies, and angel investors are high net worth individuals who are willing to invest in high-risk ventures in exchange for a stake in the company. They often bring valuable expertise and contacts to the table.


Option 4: Approach friends and relatives. People who have known you for a long time may be more willing to invest in your venture and support you during the initial stages. Make sure to communicate the risks involved and that the investment is considered as risk capital.


Option 5: Consider crowdfunding. Websites dedicated to crowdfunding can help you raise the money you need to start your business. This approach allows you to gather interest in your product or service, build a customer base, and receive funding without paying interest.


Evaluate each option based on your specific needs and circumstances. It's important to carefully consider the terms, risks, and benefits associated with each funding option before making a decision.

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