Congratulations! You’ve opened a business! Now what!?
Whether you’re opting to make something from home; provide something creative like graphic design; or offer services like house cleaning, construction or catering, or you’ve opened a brick-and-mortar shop, you likely have a to-do list a mile long and a list of questions that’s even longer.
Going from “I have a great idea” to “I have a business” is a significant step. Here are six things to help you get your small business started.
1. Determine your structure
LLC. S Corp. Partnership. Cooperative. Running something solo, starting a family business or going into business with a partner – everyone’s structure may be different based on your needs. Getting a business structure in place can help remove some of the emotion from decision-making down the line, offer essential legal protections, and generally keep things moving in the right direction. And don’t worry; most of the time, you can change the structure if circumstances change.
How do I set up a legal structure for my new business?
The SBA (Small Business Administration) has a great primer on business structures or you can review the five types of business structures from Business News Daily. If you have a business attorney, they can help you draft paperwork. LegalZoom also offers lower-cost self-filing with the option of speaking with attorneys as needed.
2. Budget for permits and licenses
The days of lemonade stands, babysitting for neighbors and mowing lawns for some extra cash are now the days of profit and loss statements, quarterly earnings and expense logs. You might have budgeted for supplies and materials, but don’t forget any required permits or licenses to keep your business on the up and up. These can vary greatly depending on the type of product or service you offer and how you structure your business.
How do I know what my small business needs in California?
The CalGOLD Permit Assistance Tool on the California state website helps you understand the required permits. UpCounsel also offers online legal services and resources, including this helpful guide to California’s small business laws.
3. Zhuzh your business into a brand
Looking professional from the jump can help set your business apart. Consider each of your business touch points – from first impression to post-sale or service follow-up – and make sure each shine.
How do I make a brand for my business?
A graphic designer is often the first step for a business owner looking to develop a brand. Graphic designers can help you think through a visual presence. Why? Along with a name, your logo and other brand elements – like colors and fonts – can help create a consistent experience that wows. Asking friends and businesses with brands you like who they worked with is a great start. If you're looking to work with someone local, our Small Business Directory offers a section on business services. Sites like Upwork and Fiverr also offer affordable freelancer services. Want to go the DIY route? Canva offers many design templates, tools and even this brand-building guide.
Most businesses can benefit from some kind of website – whether it’s to share case studies, showcase products or give prospective customers a place to reach you. You don’t need to spend tens of thousands of dollars — sites like Squarespace or Shopify can help you create a website in just a few hours or days. Some website-building products even help you create an email, sell products online and optimize your site for SEO. Forbes has this handy resource on things to consider as you make your business ready for the web.
4. Keep personal and business finances separate
“I’ll get to it!” Many business owners continue to use their personal accounts long after they begin making money on their new ventures. Sometimes that delay is out of inconvenience or fear that added fees for a second account will hurt their bottom line.
Even if your revenue is small, there are several smart reasons to get that business bank account up and running. Having an accurate snapshot of your transactions — both what you’re earning and what you’re spending — gives you a realistic view of your business at a glance. Legally, separating your personal accounts and business accounts and setting up an LLC or other recognized entity ensures your personal assets aren’t up for grabs should you run into legal issues. It can also make everything much simpler for you or your accountant come tax time.
How do I set up a business bank account?
Your accounts can include checking, savings and potentially a business credit card. We’d love to learn more about what you need. Schedule an appointment to connect with an expert.
5. Get comfortable with self-promotion
Many of us have a hard time bragging. When you join the ranks of small business owners, bragging is part of your job description. Big marketing budgets may be outside your current budget, so get creative when it comes to getting the word out.
How can I start promoting my small business?
There are free things you can do right away. Setting up a presence for your business on social media platforms — Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn is a great start. But be sure to choose platforms you’re comfortable with and will consistently post to. Link those profiles to your new business website and be sure to include ways to contact you (email, DM, or a phone number).
Offering yourself as an expert on topics for podcasts, seminars, workshops and other educational opportunities can also help get your name – and your business name – out there. Discounts, promos on a product or service and flash sales are also popular options. Check out Indeed’s ideas for promotion.
Did you know Fremont Bank has a Small Business Directory? Yup! This directory was designed to contribute to the success of our business clients by increasing their visibility and encouraging us all to support local businesses.
6. Get financial support made for small businesses
You’ve probably heard this adage “You have to spend money to make money.” It certainly rings true for many business owners — some expenses just can’t be avoided to get your business off the ground. You may, though, be able to seek out funding that doesn’t come from your own savings account.
What types of financial support are there for small business owners?
Business loans and lines of credit are options to access money that eventually need to be paid back. The SBA offers business loans with flexible terms, lower down payments and more accessible qualifications.
Business lines of credit can be a smart option to help stabilize the fluctuations in cash flow many businesses face. Not sure what kind of line of credit you may need or want? We have a quick guide here to help bring clarity.
Federal, state and local governments, foundations and even private companies offer small business grants. The process can be time-consuming, with stiff competition, but grants provide funding that doesn’t need to be repaid. Indeed explores how to find and apply for business grants, but it’s worth also checking with your local chamber of commerce.
Bonus: Remember to take time for yourself. It's important to recharge.
What else do you want to know?
Fremont Bank is built to support locally owned, Bay Area businesses. Consider us your go-to for business accounts, financing, and treasury management. Send us a note with questions and we’ll be sure to get back to you right away.