You’re inspired. You’ve got a great idea for a new business and you’re ready to get started. Here's what you need to know to help make your new business idea a reality.
#1 Do Research
Conduct a Personal Evaluation
Starting a new business is a tremendous undertaking. You need to know yourself and your situation. Your passion alone will not be enough to start and run your own business. There will be many challenges, responsibilities, and demands along the way. Seriously and honestly answering these sort of questions can help you determine if you have what it takes and can help you figure out what you need to work on before diving in.
- Why do you want to start a new business?
- What skills do you have pertaining to your new business idea?
- What do you know about the industry?
- How much capital do you have to risk? Starting a new business has a price. Determine if you can cover the cost. Will you have enough money to sustain yourself and your family until you turn a profit?
- Realistically, how much time will you be able to invest?
- Do you have the support of your family?
Analyze your Business Idea
After you’ve personally evaluated yourself and your situation, it’s just as important to evaluate your business idea and the industry you’d like to go into. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- One of the best ways to figure out if your business idea is a good idea is to talk to people. Get to know the people in your target audience and ask them about their needs and whether or not your product/service solves that need. How does your business idea measure up?
- Perform general Google searches
- Conduct market research
- Determine your market size - is there a demand or need for your product/service? How urgently do people need it?
- Make a list and research your competitors
- Speak to people already working in that industry
- Build a support network
- Participate and join industry organizations
- Join your local chamber of commerce. Here’s a list of local chambers of commerce in Huron County.
- Get involved with a local organization
- Huron County YPN (Young Professional Network)
- Read books and articles related to your business and industry
- Find relevant resources (websites, industry magazines, etc.)
- Take a class or two
Once you’ve determined that your business idea is relevant and you want to learn more, the Huron County EDC can get you in touch with a Michigan Small Business Development Counselor. The MSBD counselor can provide even more tools and guidance to help you learn more about starting and running your own business, in addition to building a business plan, conducting market research, and more.
#2 Create your Business Plan
After you’ve analyzed yourself and your business idea, it’s time to develop your plan. Building a business plan will help you come up with the goals, strategies, and action steps to start and run your new business. Many times, a formally written business plan is required to obtain outside financing. However, not all business plans need to be formal. Some businesses choose to build a lean startup plan. This plan is fast to write and contains key elements only.
Before you skip ahead of this task, be aware that your business plan will be the roadmap to starting and running your new business. Without it you will be blindly building your business and likely missing important steps along the way.
As you gather more information about your business and customers it will be just as important to refine and adjust your plan accordingly. There are many tips and tools available online to help you build a well-thought out business plan. Alternatively, the Huron County EDC can get you in touch with a counselor from the Michigan Small Business Development Center who can help you build your business plan at no cost.
For more information on how to write your plan, visit the U.S. Small Business Administration online.
#3 Make it Legal
It is likely that you will have already addressed these steps at some point during your business planning, however, if not, it will be important to do so before opening your new business. Here’s what you should consider to make your new business legal:
- Decide on a business name and research availability for that name
- Determine your business formation. Spend some time getting to know the pros and cons of each business formation to figure out which formation is best for your new business. Here are the main business formations:
- Register your business as a business at the Huron County Clerk’s office. The cost is $10 and requires a notary signature.
- Iron out the legal details of your new business - will you need an attorney?
- Consider city, county, state regulations as well as the permits and licenses you may need to operate
- Determine what you will need for insurance.
- Will you need an accountant?
- Apply for and obtain an Employer Identification Number - EIN
#4 Finance Your New Business
Depending on the size of your new business venture, you may need to get financing from an outside source. Most small businesses begin with private financing (credit cards, personal loans, help from family, etc). Before you seek financing from an outside source, you will need to match your new business’ needs to the appropriate financing option listed below.
The main types of investment and lending options include:
- Commercial (banks)
- The Small Business Administration (SBA)
- Friends and family
- Venture capital
- Angel investment (similar to venture capital)
#5 Set Up Shop
This is often the most anticipated step on the journey of starting a new business, but it can also be the most challenging. To set up shop, you will need to consider these tasks and others along the way.
- Find the right location: consider price, visibility, access to parking or transportation, distribution of competitors and local, city, or state rules and regulations that could set barriers for your business.
- Contact a local real estate agent to learn more about the property
- Buy inventory
- Set Prices
- Grand Opening
Finding the right employees for your new business can be quite the undertaking. Here are a few tips to help you get started. If you’re looking in Huron County, we’ve included a few location specific suggestions as well.
- Post on an online job board, like Indeed.com and others
- Look for mutual connections on LinkedIn or Facebook
- Use Facebook targeting features to promote the position you want to fill in the feeds of people who match the skills, region, and even hobbies you’re looking for
- Provide incentive for current employees to find new talent
- Try a grassroots approach by creating flyers and posting them in your community
- Here is a list of local companies, groups, and media that can help you find employees for your new business.
- Check alumni networks and get in contact with local schools and colleges. Here are few resources for employers from tech schools and colleges in Michigan.
- For even more options, look beyond your location. Some positions can be filled remotely. Your labor market will grow exponentially if you look beyond geographic limitations.
Make it easy for candidates to learn more about and apply for the position you are offering. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to put the information and the application online, like on your website.
#6 Brand Yourself & Build an Online Presence
You’ve probably already started thinking about your brand in the planning phase. You may have even made some decisions on branding and advertising for your new business. Branding is important for businesses of all sizes and should be established before advertising your new business. Branding is what gives your new business an identity and it’s what sets you apart from your competition in the minds of your customers. In short, your brand is the way your customer perceives you.
Branding goes beyond just a logo. Your brand will define your entire customer experience and includes everything from your logo, your website, your social media experiences, to the way your customers experience your staff. A good brand is a well thought out strategic plan. Here are some tips to help you build a brand and online presence for your new business.
- Get a professional logo designed and secure the art files (these will be important for creating marketing materials moving forward)
- Claim and set up social media pages and online listings
- Use your logo and brand elements consistently across customer facing outlets: think signage, business cards, marketing materials, your website, and across social media platforms like Facebook, and online listings like Google My Business.
- Have a professional website created to give your target audience a place to learn more about you, your brand, how you can help them, and how they can reach you. A professional website should effectively communicate the value you provide your customers in the form of well-written copy (content) and professional high resolution photography.
We hope this article helps you identify some of the key activities needed to make your new business idea a reality. The Huron County EDC has some great resources available at no cost to you, and can help steer you in the right direction. Contact the office by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you need help with branding and building an online presence for your new business, Business Soil would be happy to connect and learn more. You can find our contact information at the link below.
This article was written by Paula Mausolf, Project Manager at Business Soil. Business Soil is a local small business development company that helps local businesses develop an online presence, brand and marketing strategies, and more. To learn more, visit businesssoil.com.