Q. I want to start a business. I know what I want to open (clothing store, bookstore, music store, furniture store, lighting store, photography studio, cafe…you get the picture) but I don’t know where to start. Help me!
A. I know, it all seems overwhelming the number of things you need to do to get your business off & running. Hopefully this helps!
1. Get a name for your business.
Don’t fret! This DOES NOT have to be the final name you put on your store. You need a name so you can get your reseller tax ID (if you buy something with the intent of reselling it, you want this–it means you don’t pay sales tax on it since you will be collecting sales tax on it when you sell it). If you have a name, great, if not use your own or use one you’re pretty sure you like. You also need a business name in order to being working with wholesalers. No business name and you won’t be able to get catalogs or place orders. Also make yourself some basic business cards with this name & your personal contact information. You can get free business cards from www.vistaprint.com and since these won’t be a part of your permanent store identity, you don’t want to invest much into them.
2. Create a business plan.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from sources that can find the information you’re looking for more quickly. Sometimes it pays to hire someone to do initial research on locations, the market and the local economy rather than trudging through miles of internet sites and books. Having a business plan means you will have a much better idea of your target market, budget and what financing you may need to pursue. It also means you already have a polished document ready to take to the bank.
3. Learn to live & breath your target market/demographic.
You want to know what they like to do, listen to, drive, where they eat, what shows they watch..you get the picture. The better you know them, the better you can serve them.
Start a file on wholesalers, merchandisers and other people you want to work with. Clip magazine articles & pictures that you feel represent something you want in your store. From colors & fabrics to lighting & merchandise, write it all down! By the time you open, you’re likely to have all the key items in one place and ready to go!
5. Buy the essentials
If you KNOW you are going to do this, start buying the basics. Since you have time, you are much more likely to be able to sniff out deals and save some cash on essential things like your cash register and other non-inventory items.
6. Do hands on research.
Go to stores that you think might be like what you want, head to a trade show, soak up information at a conference…Each of these trips will inspire you, grow your knowledge and build a network of talent that you can readily access. Going to a merchandise mart is a great way to meet vendors and narrow down companies you think you’ll want to work with.
7. Investigate the competition
Again, hit the pavement…even virtually. Shop online stores if you think you may want one. The idea is to gather up as much exposure so you know what you want to and don’t want to do in your store. Take notes!
8. Read Read Read.
Readers are Leaders. You want to read up on every aspect of your business since it’s likely you’ll be running it. 🙂 From taxes to employees to marketing and customer service, you want to know what to do, how to do it and how to do it well. At this point, you are your business so you have to be in command of everything from writing good business letters, sending appropriate emails, being professional on the phone, placing adverts. So until you hire some help, it will pay off to be prepared to handle all the tasks you will be undertaking from filing sales taxes and finding your COGS (Cost Of Goods Sold) to hiring.
Don’t jump in. Live with your business concept, name & information for a bit. Ask yourself the deep questions before running in headlong. You don’t need to take a sabbatical, but do spend some time thinking about this since it is a big decision that will impact your entire life and financial stability.
A few questions to ask yourself:
- Am I okay with how this will change my life?
- Am I willing to work hard (and even harder) to make this work?
- How will this change my life?
- Is this going to help me get where I want to go? (or think I want to go?)
- How long can I do this alone? (here I mean running the day to day business–you need support even if it’s not through having employees)
- Do have I support at home?
- If this doesn’t work out, how will it impact my life? Will I lose my home? Car? Can I sell the business? Can I break even?
There is so much to ponder as you begin the process of starting a business.
A few recommendations for starting your business right the first time
hire a CPA to deal with at least the taxes for the business. Tax law is complicated–let a professional handle it.
If you can, outsource anything you don’t want to do or just don’t have the skill to do. Sometimes you can trade, but regardless, it is always cheaper to have a professional (or someone with oodles of talent) to do something that you would have to invest tons of time into. Like designing an ad–find a marketing student and an art student. Get the marketing student to figure out your message and the art student to design it. Chances are, it will be faster and better than what you would have cobbled together. Putting out poorly done marketing is usually worse than doing none at all–it puts a bad face in people’s faces. Not a good first impression.
Remember all that about reading? Make sure you put a few start-up books on your list. They will help you with things you’ve never even thought of.
I hope this helps you get started with building a business. Owning your own business isn’t a cake walk and doing your homework will always pay off in the end. In business, there’s no extra credit, no late grades, and no one to take your test for you.
If you like what you’re reading but need more answers, I’m available for 1 on 1 mentoring sessions. Just visit the “Say Hello” Tab to get started!