How to Start a Business

Embarking on a new venture with a small business? Discover the essential starting points and key strategies for achieving success. Before diving in, it's crucial to thoroughly prepare yourself while also acknowledging that unexpected challenges are likely to arise. Adaptability is the key to running a thriving business in an ever-changing landscape.

The journey to starting your own business begins with conducting comprehensive market research. Delve deep into your industry, understanding its dynamics and the demographics of your potential customer base. This knowledge forms a vital foundation for crafting a robust business plan that aligns with market needs and demands.

Beyond merely offering a product or service, it's crucial to establish and nurture your brand. Building a loyal following of individuals who are genuinely interested in what your business brings to the table is paramount. By cultivating a strong brand identity, you can create a lasting impact and foster a community around your business.

This article caters to anyone aspiring to learn the art of starting a business. While the endeavor may entail hard work, breaking down the launch process into manageable steps can alleviate the challenges. Instead of aimlessly spinning your wheels and wondering where to begin, you can follow the proven methods employed by successful entrepreneurs. If you're eager to embark on your entrepreneurial journey, utilize this comprehensive 10-step checklist to transform your business idea from a mere concept into a tangible and thriving entity.

Begin Your Business Journey: Steps to Success

Polish and Elevate Your Idea 

If you're considering starting a business, chances are you already have a concept in mind or a specific market you want to tap into. Take a moment to research existing companies in your chosen industry. Study the strategies employed by current industry leaders and identify opportunities for improvement. 

If you believe your business can offer something unique or deliver existing products or services more efficiently and affordably, then you've honed a solid idea and are ready to develop a comprehensive business plan.

Define Your "why." 

"Always start with why." Understand the purpose behind your business venture. It is crucial to differentiate between whether your business serves a personal need or addresses a market demand. By focusing on meeting a need in the marketplace, your business's potential scope, will always surpass that of a venture driven solely by personal motives.

Explore Franchising 

Consider the option of opening a franchise with an established company. Franchises come with a pre-established concept, brand recognition, and business model. All you need is a suitable location and the necessary funds to kick-start your operations.

Engage in a Brainstorming Session for Your Business Name 

Regardless of the path you choose, it is vital to comprehend the reasoning behind your idea. Entrepreneurs should not develop a business plan or brainstorm a business name before solidifying the value proposition of their idea.

Define Your Target Customers 

Take the time to contemplate who your customers will be and why they would choose to purchase from or hire your services. Ask yourself why you want to work with these customers. Is it driven by a passion to simplify their lives or to bring art and color into their world? Identifying these answers will help refine your mission. Additionally, determine how you will deliver value to your customers and how to effectively communicate that value in a way that inspires them to pay for your offerings.

During the ideation phase, ensure that you iron out the crucial details. If your idea lacks passion or a viable market, don't hesitate to brainstorm and explore alternative concepts. Tip: To refine your business idea, delve into your "why," identify your target customers, and choose a compelling business name.

Small business experts often recommend gathering demographic information and performing a competitive analysis to gain a deeper understanding of the opportunities and limitations within your market. A successful small business often distinguishes itself through differentiated products or services, enabling you to communicate unique value to potential customers.

Craft a Comprehensive Business Plan

Once your business idea takes shape, it's crucial to address several important questions: 

These critical inquiries can be effectively answered by creating a well-structured business plan. Rushing into business without thoughtful consideration of these aspects can lead to costly mistakes for new entrepreneurs. Identifying your target customer base is essential. Who will be the buyers of your products or services? Without evidence of demand for your idea, it becomes futile to proceed.

Conduct In-Depth Market Research

Conducting thorough market research is a vital step in crafting an effective business plan. This process involves conducting surveys, organizing focus groups, and delving into SEO and public data. Market research helps you gain insights into your target customers—their needs, preferences, and behaviors—as well as understand your industry and competitors. 

Consider an Exit Strategy

While compiling your business plan, it is wise to consider an exit strategy. Having a clear idea of how you plan to eventually exit the business forces you to look ahead to the future. It is important to consider an exit plan. Too often, new entrepreneurs are so enthusiastic about their businesses that they believe that everyone will be their customer, neglecting to spend time developing an exit strategy. 

Just as an airplane shows you the exits or a movie theater points out the fire exits, new business leaders should have predetermined exit routes. Failure to plan an exit can result in diminished company value and strained family relationships.

A well-crafted business plan helps chart the course for your company, providing insight into future challenges and outlining the necessary resources to sustain it. When you're ready to put your ideas into writing, take advantage of free templates to guide you in this endeavor.

Evaluate Your Financial Situation

Embarking on any business endeavor incurs costs, so it's essential to assess how you will manage those expenses. Do you have the necessary funds to finance your startup, or will you need to seek financial assistance? If your plan involves leaving your current job to focus on your business, do you have savings to support yourself until you start generating profits? It's crucial to determine the estimated startup costs for your venture.

Many startups fail because they run out of money before becoming profitable. Therefore, it's wise to err on the side of caution and overestimate the required startup capital. Generating sustainable revenue may take time, and having sufficient financial resources is vital during the initial stages.

Conduct a Break-Even Analysis

A break-even analysis is a valuable tool to gauge your financial needs. This vital component of financial planning helps business owners determine when their company, product, or service will become profitable.

The formula is straightforward:

Fixed Costs ÷ (Average Price Per Unit minus Variable Costs) = Break-Even Point

Every entrepreneur should utilize this formula, as it reveals the minimum performance required to avoid financial losses. Additionally, it provides insights into the sources of profitability, allowing you to set production goals accordingly.

Performing a break-even analysis serves three primary purposes:

Assess Profitability: 

Determine the amount of revenue needed to cover all expenses. Identify which products or services generate profits and which ones result in losses.

Price Setting: 

When determining prices, consider fixed rates, variable costs, and overall expenses. Analyze the cost of physical goods and labor.

Data Analysis: 

Evaluate the volume of goods or services required to achieve profitability. Explore ways to reduce fixed costs, lower variable costs per unit, and improve sales. 

Monitor Your Expenses

Exercise caution when it comes to spending during the initial stages of your business. Understand which purchases are essential for your business and avoid overspending on unnecessary luxuries or extravagant equipment that does not align with your business goals. Consistently monitor and track your business expenses to ensure you remain on track.

A lot of startups tend to spend money on unnecessary things. We worked with a startup with two employees that spent a huge amount on office space that would fit 20 people. They also leased a professional high-end printer that was more suited for a team of 100; it had key cards to track who was printing what and when. Spend as little as possible when you start, and only on the things essential for the business to grow and succeed. Luxuries can come when you're established.

Tip: Utilizing accounting software can streamline expense tracking. Read reviews of the best accounting software to find a suitable platform for your needs. Our top recommendation for small businesses is Intuit QuickBooks Online. 

Consider Funding Options

Startup capital can be obtained through various means. The ideal funding method depends on factors such as creditworthiness, the required amount, and available options.

Business Loans: 

Seek financial assistance through a commercial loan from a bank as a starting point, although securing such loans can be challenging. If a bank loan is not feasible, explore small business loans offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) or alternative lenders. Consider the best business loan options for your specific needs.

Business Grants: 

Grants are non-repayable funds, but competition for them is usually high, and they often come with specific conditions. Look for grants tailored to your situation, such as grants for minority-owned or women-owned businesses, as well as government grants.

Angel Investors: 

Startups requiring significant upfront funding can seek investment from angel investors. These investors can contribute several million dollars or more to your business in exchange for an active role in its management.

Equity Crowdfunding: 

Another option is launching an equity crowdfunding campaign to raise smaller amounts of money from multiple backers. Crowdfunding has proven beneficial for numerous companies, and various reliable platforms cater to different business types.

Choose the Right Business Bank

When selecting a business bank, consider its size. Smaller community banks are more attuned to local market conditions and are willing to work with you based on your overall business profile and character. Unlike big banks that focus on credit scores and are more selective in lending to small businesses, smaller banks aim to build personal relationships with their customers. 

They are more likely to assist you if you encounter problems or miss a payment. Additionally, smaller banks often make decisions at the branch level, resulting in quicker turnaround times compared to larger banks where decisions are made at higher levels. 

When choosing a bank, consider the following questions:

Ultimately, the right bank for your business depends on your specific needs. Document your banking requirements to narrow down the options, and schedule meetings with various banks to inquire about their services for small businesses. 

Key Takeaway 

To ensure financial stability, perform a break-even analysis, carefully monitor expenses, explore funding options, and choose a bank that aligns with your business needs.

Limited Liability Company (LLC): 

Among the most common structures for small businesses is the limited liability company (LLC). This hybrid structure combines the legal protections of a corporation with the tax benefits of a partnership.

Ultimately, the choice of business entity depends on your specific needs and long-term business objectives. It is essential to familiarize yourself with the available legal business structures. If you find it challenging to make a decision, seeking guidance from a business or legal advisor is a wise step.

Did you know? 

Selecting a legal structure for your business, such as a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or LLC, is a critical aspect of establishing your enterprise.

Establish Your Legal Business Structure

Before officially registering your company, it is crucial to determine the legal structure it will assume. Your business structure has legal implications that affect everything from tax filings to personal liability in the event of any unfortunate events.

Here are the main options to consider:

Sole Proprietorship: 

If you intend to run the business independently and assume full responsibility for all debts and obligations, you can register as a sole proprietorship. Keep in mind that this choice directly impacts your personal credit.


As the name suggests, a partnership involves two or more individuals who are personally liable as business owners. Collaborating with a business partner who possesses complementary skills can be advantageous and help your business thrive.


If you wish to separate your personal liability from that of your company, it's worth considering the pros and cons of incorporating, such as forming an S corporation or a C corporation. While each type of corporation has its own guidelines, this legal structure generally treats the business as a distinct entity from its owners. 

As a result, corporations can own property, assume liabilities, pay taxes, enter into contracts, and engage in legal disputes like any individual. Corporations, especially C corporations, are particularly suitable for new businesses planning to go public or seek funding from venture capitalists in the future.

Complete Government and IRS Registration

Before you can legally commence your business operations, it's necessary to obtain the required business licenses. This involves registering your business with the federal, state, and local governments. Several important documents must be prepared as part of the registration process.

Articles of Incorporation and Operating Agreements 

To establish your business as an official entity, government registration is essential. Corporations need to file articles of incorporation, which include details such as the business name, purpose, corporate structure, stock information, and other relevant company information. Similarly, some limited liability companies (LLCs) may need to create an operating agreement.

Doing Business As (DBA): 

If you don't have articles of incorporation or an operating agreement, you must register your business name. This can be your legal name, a fictitious DBA name (if you are a sole proprietor), or a name you have chosen for your company. It may also be wise to consider trademarking your business name for additional legal protection.

Most states require DBA registration. If you are operating as a general partnership or a sole proprietorship under a fictitious name, you will likely need to apply for a DBA certificate. Contact your local county clerk's office or visit their website to inquire about specific requirements and associated fees.

Employer Identification Number (EIN): 

After registering your business, you may need to obtain an employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS. While sole proprietorships without employees are not required to have an EIN, it can be beneficial to apply for one to keep your personal and business taxes separate or to simplify matters if you decide to hire employees in the future. The IRS provides a checklist to determine whether you need an EIN, and you can register for one online at no cost.

Income Tax Forms: 

Fulfilling your federal and state income tax obligations requires filing certain forms. The forms you need depend on your business structure. Check your state's website for information on state-specific and local tax obligations. Once you have set up everything, utilizing the best online tax software can assist you in filing and paying your taxes quarterly and annually.

Don’t rely solely on a PayPal account and social media platform, emphasizing the importance of establishing a solid foundation for your business to avoid future complications.

Federal, State, and Local Licenses and Permits: 

Certain businesses may require federal, state, or local licenses and permits to operate legally. To obtain a business license, visit your local city hall. You can use the Small Business Administration's (SBA) database to search for licensing requirements based on your business type and the state you operate in.

Additionally, specific trades or professions may require professional licenses for businesses and independent contractors. For example, a commercial driver's license (CDL) is necessary for operating certain types of vehicles. It's essential to check with your city and state to determine if you need a seller's permit to collect sales tax from customers. The requirements and names of permits can vary from state to state. You can register for a seller's permit through the state government website(s) where you conduct business.

It's important to note that the specific requirements and regulations, as well as the names of licenses and permits, differ across states. Familiarize yourself with the regulations in your particular location.

Key Takeaway: 

Register crucial documents like articles of incorporation or operating agreements, a DBA, an EIN, income tax forms, and any applicable licenses and permits as part of the government and IRS registration process.

Key Takeaway: 

Prior to officially launching your business, make it a priority to purchase the necessary insurance coverage. Consider workers' compensation, unemployment insurance, general liability insurance, and professional liability insurance to protect against potential risks and ensure the smooth operation of your business.

Obtain an Appropriate Insurance Policy

When preparing to launch your business, it's crucial not to overlook the importance of acquiring the right insurance coverage. Dealing with unexpected incidents like property damage, theft, or customer lawsuits can result in significant costs, making it essential to ensure proper protection for your business.

While various types of business insurance should be considered, there are a few fundamental plans that most small businesses can benefit from. If your business will have employees, it is necessary to purchase workers' compensation and unemployment insurance.

Depending on your location and industry, you may require additional types of coverage. However, it is generally recommended for most small businesses to obtain general liability (GL) insurance or a business owner's policy. GL insurance provides coverage for property damage, bodily injury, and personal injury involving yourself or third parties.

If your business offers services, you may also want to consider professional liability insurance. This type of coverage protects you in case you make mistakes or fail to perform your professional duties adequately.

Purchasing the right insurance policy is a crucial step in safeguarding your business. While there are various insurance options available, carefully assess your specific needs and consult with insurance professionals to ensure you have appropriate coverage.

Assemble Your Dynamic Team

Unless you intend to run your business alone, it's crucial to attract and hire a talented team to kickstart your company. Entrepreneurs should devote the same level of attention to the "people" aspect of their businesses as they do to their products.

Identifying your founding team, recognizing existing gaps, and determining how and when to address them should be your top priorities. Equally important is establishing how the team will collaborate effectively. Defining roles and responsibilities, allocating tasks, establishing communication channels, providing feedback mechanisms, and establishing effective remote collaboration strategies can save you from future headaches.

Building a successful team requires thoughtful consideration and strategic planning. Here are a few steps to guide you along the way:

Identify key positions: 

Determine the critical roles that need to be filled within your organization. Consider the skills, expertise, and qualities required for each role.

Recruit strategically: 

Develop a recruitment plan and leverage various channels to attract top talent. Utilize job boards, professional networks, and referrals to expand your candidate pool.

Conduct thorough interviews. 

Screen candidates carefully and conduct interviews that assess their qualifications, experience, and cultural fit. Consider involving key team members in the interview process to gain multiple perspectives.

Foster a positive work culture: 

Create an environment that encourages collaboration, innovation, and growth. Offer competitive compensation, benefits, and opportunities for professional development.

Provide clear expectations. 

Clearly define the roles, responsibilities, and expectations for each team member. Establish effective channels for communication and ensure that feedback is regularly given and received.

Embrace diversity and inclusion: 

Build a diverse team that brings a range of perspectives and experiences to the table. Encourage an inclusive work environment that values and respects all team members. 

Remember, your team plays a pivotal role in the success of your business. By selecting the right individuals, establishing effective collaboration, and fostering a positive work culture, you'll lay the foundation for a thriving and dynamic team.

Key Takeaway: 

When building your company, invest time and effort in assembling a strong and capable team. Give careful consideration to identifying key positions, recruiting strategically, fostering a positive work culture, providing clear expectations, and embracing diversity. A talented and cohesive team will contribute significantly to the growth and success of your business.

Enabling multiple customer payment types: 

Offering a variety of payment options ensures you can cater to the preferred format of your target customers. Compare different options to find the best credit card processing provider that offers competitive rates. Small business credit card processing can directly contribute to increased revenue and a broader customer base.

Selecting Your Valuable Partners

Running a business can be an overwhelming endeavor, and it's unlikely that you and your team can handle every aspect on your own. This is where third-party vendors come into play. Companies across various industries, be they HR or business phone systems, exist to collaborate with you and enhance the operations of your business. 

For instance, utilizing a business phone system allows you to design an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system that efficiently directs callers to the appropriate representatives.

When searching for B2B partners, it is crucial to exercise caution and choose wisely. These vendors will have access to your most vital and potentially sensitive business data, making trustworthiness a critical factor. In our comprehensive guide to selecting business partners, our expert sources recommend inquiring about a potential vendor's industry experience, track record with existing clients, and the growth they have facilitated for other businesses.

While not every business requires the same type of vendor, there are common products and services that are essential for almost every business. Consider the following fundamental functions that are necessary regardless of your business type:

Streamlining customer payments: 

Implement a state-of-the-art point-of-sale (POS) system to provide a seamless interface for sales transactions. The best POS systems integrate payment technology, which often overlaps with credit card processing, with features like inventory management and customer management. This is especially crucial if your business involves selling products rather than offering services.

Managing finances: 

While many business owners handle their own accounting functions at the start of their business journey, as your company grows, it becomes advantageous to hire an accountant or choose the right accounting software provider. These professionals or software solutions can save you time and ensure accurate financial management.

Remember that selecting reliable vendors is a critical decision that can impact the efficiency and security of your business operations. Take the time to evaluate potential partners based on their expertise, reputation, and ability to help your business thrive.

Key Takeaway: 

In the process of establishing your business, it's essential to forge partnerships with reliable vendors. These partners can assist you in various aspects of your operations. Prioritize trustworthiness and consider the fundamental functions required for any business, such as enabling multiple customer payment options, implementing a robust point-of-sale system, and managing finances effectively. By carefully selecting your vendors, you can enhance your business's performance and establish a strong foundation for future growth.

Establish Your Brand and Promote Your Business

Before you can begin selling your product or service, it's essential to build your brand and cultivate a following of enthusiastic individuals who are ready to engage with your business when you open your doors, whether literally or figuratively.

Company website: 

Take your business reputation online and create a professional company website. In today's digital landscape, many customers turn to the internet to gather information about a business, and a well-designed website serves as digital proof of your small business's existence. It also offers an excellent platform for interaction with both current and potential customers.

Social media: 

Utilize social media platforms to spread the word about your new business. It can serve as a powerful promotional tool, allowing you to offer exclusive coupons and discounts to followers once your business launches. Your choice of social media platforms should align with your target audience and industry.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM): 

Implement an effective CRM system that allows you to store and manage customer data, enabling you to enhance your marketing efforts. An intelligently crafted email marketing campaign can do wonders for reaching customers and nurturing relationships with your audience. Building a carefully curated email marketing contact list is crucial for achieving success in this area.


Develop a unique and memorable logo that embodies your brand's identity. Utilize this logo consistently across all your platforms to help people easily recognize and associate it with your brand. It is essential to keep your digital assets up-to-date with relevant and engaging content related to your business and industry. Many startups mistakenly view their websites as costs rather than investments. However, in today's digital age, this mindset is a significant mistake. Small business owners who understand the critical importance of establishing a strong online presence gain a competitive advantage from the start.

Creating a comprehensive marketing plan that extends beyond your business launch is crucial for building a loyal clientele. This ongoing process is just as vital as delivering a quality product or service, especially in the early stages. Ask customers to opt into your marketing communications.

As you build your brand, seek permission from your customers and potential customers to engage with them through marketing communications. The most effective way to accomplish this is by utilizing opt-in forms of consent. These forms allow individuals to provide their consent for you to contact them with further information about your business. Opt-in forms are commonly used in e-commerce to request permission for sending newsletters, marketing materials, product updates, and more.

Opt-in forms serve as an initial step in establishing trust and respect with potential customers, and they are also legally required. The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, sets specific requirements for commercial email communication. This law applies not only to bulk emails but to all commercial messages whose primary purpose is promoting a commercial product or service. Violations of this law can result in fines exceeding $40,000 per email.

Tip: Develop a well-planned marketing campaign that leverages multiple channels, such as a compelling company website, engaging social media presence, informative email newsletters, and effective opt-in forms.

By building a strong brand and implementing a comprehensive marketing strategy, you can establish a solid foundation for your business and attract a loyal customer base.

Remember, growing your business is an ongoing process that demands perseverance, flexibility, and a willingness to learn from both successes and setbacks. By embracing change and continuously refining your strategies, you can steer your business towards sustained success.

Fostering Business Growth and Adaptability

After your initial launch and sales, you mustn't rest on your laurels as an entrepreneur. To achieve profitability and sustain your business, constant growth is essential. This requires dedication, time, and effort, but the rewards will reflect the energy you invest.

One effective approach to driving growth is to collaborate with established brands in your industry. 

Reach out to other companies and propose mutually beneficial partnerships, offering them promotion in exchange for a free product sample or service. Another strategy is to form alliances with charitable organizations, where you can volunteer your time or contribute products to raise your brand's visibility.

While these tips can facilitate your business launch and set the stage for growth, it's crucial to acknowledge that there is no perfect plan. Despite thorough preparation, unforeseen challenges are inevitable. To build and maintain a thriving business, adaptability is key. You must be ready to adjust and pivot in response to changing circumstances.

Frequently Asked Questions About Starting a Business

Q1: What are the essential requirements for starting a business?

The four fundamental requirements for starting a business include choosing a business name, determining the business structure, obtaining a business registration certificate, and acquiring the necessary licenses. These legal and regulatory steps must be taken before launching your business. While securing external funding and creating a business plan are beneficial, they are not mandatory prerequisites.

Q2: How can I start a business without any capital? 

It is possible to launch a successful business without initial startup funds. Focus on developing a business idea that leverages your skills and offers something unique to the market. While working on your new venture, consider maintaining your current job to reduce financial risks.

When you're ready to embark on your business plan, explore creative funding options. Pitch your idea to potential investors to raise capital, utilize crowdsourcing platforms like Kickstarter, save a portion of your earnings each week, or explore loan opportunities from banks and financial institutions. For inspiration on starting a low-cost business, check out our list of budget-friendly business ideas.

Q3: What is the easiest type of business to start? 

The easiest businesses to start are those that require minimal upfront financial investment and little specialized training. One such example is a dropshipping business, where you don't handle inventory directly. Instead, a partner company manages inventory, packaging, and shipping on your behalf. To begin, create an online store by selecting products from the partner's catalog. This eliminates the need to purchase, store, or track inventory. 

Q4: Which businesses can be started from home? 

In the era of remote work, numerous online-only businesses can be established from home, especially those that don't involve physical inventory. Copywriting services, online tutoring, and dropshipping ventures are among the options. Consider your skills, passions, and the existing market demand to identify a suitable home business opportunity.

Q5: When is the best time to start a business? 

The ideal time to start a business varies for each individual. It's crucial to dedicate sufficient time and attention to the launch, so choose a time when you can commit fully. For seasonal products or services, start your business one quarter before the busy season. Spring and fall are popular launch seasons for nonseasonal businesses, while winter is less favored due to new owners often preferring their LLC or corporation approval to coincide with a new fiscal year.

Remember, the right time to start a business is when you have adequately prepared and are ready to devote your energy to its success.