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Starting a Business

Business Development

Starting a business requires you to complete a number of steps and make key decisions. You’ll need to select a location, decide on a business structure and obtain the necessary licenses and permits. Determining which financing options will meet your short-term needs and long-term goals is also crucial. The links below provide information on these topics and more.

Getting Ready


Entrepreneurship offers many rewards, but you must be prepared and committed. Take the time to determine if you are ready for entrepreneurship with this online quiz. It will be time well spent!

Is Entrepreneurship For You?
Would you be able to manage your own enterprise?

Do You Have What It Takes?
Learn if you’d be effective in running your own business.

Checklist For Starting A Business
Use this list to make sure you have the essentials covered.

Starting A Business FAQs
Read about the basic questions commonly asked when starting on your own.

Glossary Of Terms
Get to know the specific terms of the professional business world.

Small Business Start-Up Guide
Help in getting your business off the ground.


Writing a Business Plan


A business plan is a written guide to starting and running your business successfully. A comprehensive business plan will encourage loans, promote growth and provide a map for you to follow.

Strategic Planning
Learn to strategize in order for your business to succeed.

Essential Elements Of A Good Business Plan For Growing Companies
Outlines how to write your plan.

Writing The Business Plan
Detailed, step-by-step explanation to help write your plan.

Business Plan Workshop
An online workshop to help start and improve your business plan.

Using The Business Plan
How to get the most out of your plan.

Finding A Niche
A small, steady corner of the market could be your success story.

Business Planning FAQs
Answers to the most popular business plan questions.

A Business Plan: The Roadmap To Success
The SBA’s guide to developing a comprehensive business plan.


Financing Your Business


All businesses require some form of financing. An integral component of starting a successful business is raising sufficient capital. Numerous resources are available to help you.

General Financing And Accounting

Start-Up Costs
Plan for the initial expenses your business will have.

Estimating Costs
Learn to anticipate your initial business cost.

Breakeven Analysis
Know when your business breaks even and when you can expect a profit.

Financing Basics
How do you plan to finance your business? This is especially important for new enterprises.

SBA’s Role
What the SBA offers to help your small business grow and profit.

Equity Capital
Learn about the pros and cons of offering stock.

What’s A Surety Bond?
Learn what a surety bond is and if it can help your business.

Handling Finances
It is essential for the business owner to know how to manage his/her finances.

Determining Credit Worthiness
You must know your personal finances and credit before starting out on your own.

The Benefits Of Making Your Banker Your Friend
Cultivating a friendly relationship with your banker will benefit your business in many ways.

The Basics of Borrowing Money
Know the essentials in borrowing money. Can your business afford it?

Fair Credit Reporting
Learn where your credit report comes from and how it affects your loan prospects.

Credit Scoring
Know how the bank uses a credit scoring system to determine their acceptance of your loan application.

How Loan Applications Are Evaluated
The basic elements examined in every loan application.

Loan and Funding Information

Finding Capital
Know how to find various sources of capital to begin your business.

Federal Grant Resources
A list of federal resources that could give your business a grant.

Basic SBA Loan Requirements
The basic requirements for a business to receive an SBA loan.

Eligibility Standards
Required size standards for a business to receive an SBA loan.

SBA’s 7(a) Loan Program
Explanation and requirements of the SBA’s most basic and used loan program—the 7(a) loan.

Applying For A Loan
Help in writing a loan proposal.

Loan Proposal Outline
Develop and organize your loan proposal.

Loan Package Checklist
Make sure you have everything you need in your loan proposal.

SBA Loan Programs

Learn which program is right for your business.

Microloans

Details about the SBA’s Microloan program.

Certified Development Company (504) Loan Program
Detailed explanation about the SBA’s (504) loan program for a non-profit Certified Development Company to assist in the economic development of its community.

Export Working Capital
A program designed to create short-term working capital for exporters.

Export Express
Program designed to help small businesses receive export financing.

International Trade Loans

This program is designed to help businesses in international trade overcome competition from imports.

Delta Loans
Loans that help small contractors transition from defense to civil contracts.

Community Adjustment and Investment Program (CAIP)
Program designed to help businesses in communities negatively affected by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Communities Eligible For CAIP Funding
(PDF File) A listing of all communities which have been designated as eligible for funding under the Community Adjustment and Investment Program (CAIP).

Employee Trusts
Loans that help provide financial assistance to Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs).

Pollution Control Loans
Pollution Control loans are 7(a) loans with the special purpose of pollution control.

CAPLines Loans
Helps small businesses get their short-term and cyclical working capital.

Certified Lender Programs

Get a loan from a certified lender who knows the policies and procedures of the SBA.

Preferred Lender Programs

This program helps speed up the loan application approval process.

Community Express
Program that serves geographic areas of mostly low and moderate income.

Secondary Market Programs

Program designed to make lending to small businesses more attractive.

Asset Sales

SBA’s initiative to take advantage of the private sector’s efficiency by selling its portfolio of loans and other assets in order to help manage its overall credit exposure.

How To Prepare A Loan Package

Create the best loan package for your business.

Never Take “No” For An Answer
Learn why your loan application was rejected and take steps to correct those reasons.

SBA Loans FAQs
Get answers to the questions frequently asked about SBA loans.


Buy a Business


Once the decision is made to start a business, often the next decision is either to buy an existing business or start a new venture from scratch. There are advantages and disadvantages to both options.

Buying A Business
The pros and cons of buying an existing business versus starting fresh.

Choosing A Business
Finding a profitable business to buy.

Purchase Research
Before making the final purchase, examine the business carefully. Use of a qualified attorney is important.

Determining Value
Know the elements to examine when calculating a business’ value.

Sales Agreement

Essential elements that should be on the final sales agreement.

Due Diligence
Know the legal aspects of owning a business; includes zoning laws, permits and the environment.

Closing Checklist

Make sure you and your attorney review the final points of the sale.

Buying A Business FAQs
Learn the answers to commonly asked questions regarding buying a business.


Buy a Franchise


Business franchising offers many opportunities. This form of ownership has helped many entrepreneurs get started in business and succeed.

Franchising Overview
Get a general description of franchising.

Consumer Guide To Buying A Franchise
How to examine and buy an existing franchise.

Franchising Strategy

Learn to research your perspective franchise and examine its possible problems.

Associations And Forums
The American Franchisee Association (AFA) is a national trade association of franchisees and dealers with over 7,000 members.

Buying A Franchise FAQs
Answers to questions frequently asked when buying a franchise.


Name Your Business


There is more to naming your business than just coming up with something that you happen to like. Thought must be given to state and local requirements and to making sure that you don’t infringe upon the rights of someone else’s business name.

Legal Requirements And Implications

Picking a name for your business requires much more than just creativity and a working knowledge of your target market. First you’ll need to decide which business structure you will use, since each structure has its own requirements. Read more about How Business Structure Affects Business Names.

Similarly, you will need to determine whether your trade name will be the same as the full legal name of your business. Of equal importance is finding out whether your name or a very similar name is being used by another business and, if so, what rights they may or may not have to use the name in the area where you do business. Keep in mind that some businesses only file trademarks within their locality, so it’s possible that the same name can be used elsewhere. Here’s some information on Trademark FAQs.

Search And Registration

Trade names can be registered through the state Secretary of State’s office, and for wider marketplace protection, through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Businesses should first use the USPTO’s online system to search all state and federal trademark registers to see if their proposed name is being used.

Domain Names

Domain names are not registered through state or local government. They can be obtained through numerous online businesses, most of which will allow you to conduct a name search prior to purchase to make sure that your chosen name isn’t taken. You can check the availability of domain names at GoDaddy and Network Solutions, among others.


Choose a Structure


Many factors must be considered when choosing the best form of business ownership or structure. The choice you make can have an impact on multiple aspects of your business, including taxes, liability, ownership succession and others.

Forms Of Ownership
The pros and cons of different types of ownership, including sole proprietorship, partnering, corporations and limited liability companies.

Basic Structures
Brief descriptions of common business ownership structures.

Special Structures
Some structures are only available in some states.

Business Structures
If one of your employees causes an accident, can an injured person sue you and take your house, car, or savings account? Are you paying more taxes than you should on your business income? These are important questions that many small business owners ignore yet the answers depend on the business’ legal structure.


Protect Your Ideas


Innovations and new product ideas are valuable assets of a business. These assets need to be protected so that your rights are not infringed upon by others.

Product Basics
Learn to identify your product’s unique features and benefits for your advertising campaign.

Protecting Your Ideas
Protect your ideas or inventions from others’ infringement.

Copyright, Patent And Trademark FAQs
Get the answers to commonly asked questions regarding copyrights, patents and trademarks.

Patent And Trade Office FAQs

Specific information on trademarks, service marks, certification marks and more.

Intellectual Property FAQs
Find out if your ideas can get a copyright or patent.


Get Licenses and Permits


Most states and many cities and/or counties impose licenses and permits on a wide variety of businesses. The operation of your business will most likely require such a tax.

State Requirements
Make sure you research your state’s requirements for business, including permits, licenses and registration.

Federal Requirements
Make sure you know the federal requirements for your business, including specific licenses, Employer Identification Number (EIN) and registration.

Employer ID Numbers (EINs)
An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is also known as a federal tax identification number, and is used to identify a business entity.

Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) eApplication
No matter where you do business, you can apply for and receive a federal EIN from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) immediately.

Exporting FAQs
Answers to questions frequently asked about the exporting business.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) FAQs

Learn answers to important questions about the EPA and your business.


Choose a Location


Choosing the right location for your business can be a major factor in its success or failure. A good location may allow a struggling business to survive, but a weak location could mean trouble for even a very well-run business. Make sure you know all the legal restrictions of your place of business.

Commercial Leasing
How to get the best commercial lease for your business.

Leasing Checklist
Essential elements that should be on your lease agreement.

Zoning Overview
Types of zones and their specific regulations.

Zoning Problems

Sometimes a lawyer can help you get around zoning regulations.

Home-Based Business FAQs

If your business is home-based, look at the answers to these common questions.

Home-Based Business And Government Regulations (PDF file)
Home-based businesses face daunting restrictions from both the federal and local regulations described in this research report released by Advocacy.


Lease Equipment


Sometimes leasing, rather than buying, equipment can be the best option for your business. There are many variables that should be considered, including costs, use restrictions, legal parameters and more.

 

Should You Buy Or Lease Your Equipment?

Leasing operating equipment, such as computers, vehicles and machinery, often makes more sense than buying. However, while favorable leases are often good bets, unfavorable ones can easily sink an emerging venture. While doing your legal homework can help prevent bad deals, it’s always a good idea to have a lawyer look over a lease before signing it. Learn more about:

Buying vs. Leasing

Is your lease likely to be deemed a purchase for tax purposes by the IRS? If so, leasing may not give you a tax advantage. If not, you may be able to deduct payments on the leased equipment. IRS Guidelines.

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