Category: Game Published on Friday, 15 October 2010 00:42 Written by Monique McIntosh Hits: 1714
Nothing seems more swaggarific than self-employment during these trying times. So we at Swagga Kings are introducing our Swagga Business Guide – an advice series for the budding entrepreneur.
Do you dream of developing an independent music label? A graphics design company? A wig-making factory for Nicki Minaj? Whatever your thing, let us know what you want to learn about business, and we’ll do the legwork to find out what you need.
For now, here are the basics of starting a business – for those having less trouble with wig designs and more with discerning the difference between a Chapter C and a Sub Chapter S Corporation.
1) Find out what people want
Although rainbow wigs might be absolutely swaggerific to you, your potential customers might not agree. So do your research. What do people want? Small business ventures begin best with niche markets. Business stalwarts would recommend conducting marketing surveys to find neglected consumers.
Don’t have a flock of marketing researchers? Take advantage of social networking and fan websites. Read what your friends and your community are talking about. Also look at smaller social networking sites dedicated to the specific interests you want to cater to.
2) Get a plan
A business plan outlines what you plan to do, how to plan to do it and why people would want to buy your stuff. For the entrepreneur with no trust funds, a business plan becomes essential when fishing for capital by proving your potential profitability to financers.
Even if you don’t need outside funding, a business plan spells out in capital letters all the stress-inducing elements you need before your business can become a reality. There is nothing like a properly researched document to give you a reality check.
Several websites offer templates for business plans. Check out www.sba.gov – a government website dedicated to helping small businesses plan their ventures.
3) Find a name
Deciding on a business name, or “fictitious name” seems deceptively easy. We’ve all had those drunken nights throwing around names for our dream ventures. But beware. Naming your business is like naming your child. Imagine your customers as bratty children on the playground, ready with bad and careless monikers. A business name needs to be proofed against awkward nicknames and remain appropriate as your business develops. It needs to be easy to remember, but still distinct.
To prevent playground clashes over business names, make sure that your chosen name has not been trademarked by other companies. Otherwise, you could be violating trademark laws and get slapped with hefty fines. The Thomas Register, http://www.thomasnet.com/, and the U.S. Patents and Trademark online database, http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/index.jsp, provide great sources for present business names. You can still keep your name if another business has it, as long as you sell different products or are not in the same region.
Depending on the different state laws, you might have to register your chosen fictitious name. Consider registering your name as a trademark, which will give you legal exclusivity. Find out more about trade marking in the U.S.A at http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/basics/index.jsp
4) Chose a business structure
Choosing the structure of your business is the most important part of initial preparations. A structure defines who is in charge – who earns the spoils and carries the responsibilities when things crash and burn. The following describes the most common structures:
- Sole proprietor: A sole proprietor is as it sounds - when you and you alone rule
- Partnerships: Partnerships split responsibilities among two or more persons, buddy-style. Members of partnerships decide how profit and liability are divided.
- Cooperatives: Cooperatives are a group that operates on the principle of one member, one vote – each member invests equal capital, has equal voting power and liability, and reaps profits equally.
- Non-profit: Usually philanthropic in nature, non-profits return their earnings to the organization’s efforts instead of passing profits to investors.
- Corporations: The ownership is split among shareholders, but when legal disaster strikes, it’s the corporation and not the shareholders who are held responsible.
- Limited Liability companies: The mutant child of business operations, limited liability has the benefits and drawbacks of both partnerships and corporations. Members of a limited liability have similar liability protection of shareholders. But, like a partnership, members can decide how the profits are split. You can look at the legal definitions and exceptions to these Government-recognized structures at http://www.business.gov/register/incorporation
5) Find funding
With all the political talk about the value of small businesses to healthy economies, more funding is available for those demonstrating efficient and promising business plans. Your local commercial banks may offer loans specially designed for small business ventures. State governments and non-profit development agencies might offer more competitive interest rates. The Small Business Administration, the most prominent of such government agencies, focused solely on small business operations. SBA loans are offered through participating commercial banks, but with more merciful interest rates. You can find local banks offering SBA loans at http://www.sba.gov/about-offices-list/2
6) Give the government its due
Businesses are hard enough to run without Uncle Sam breathing down your back. Be sure to respect your obligations to the government.
First off, many businesses require an EIN, or employer ID number, so the government can identify you as a distinct entity. You can find out if your business needs an EIN at http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=98350,00.html. If you do, you can apply for free online at the www.irs.gov website.
You will also need to register for state taxation before you start running your business. Taxes vary from state to state, so you need to check which taxes could apply to you at the IRS website, at http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/
Then there are licenses and permits. Federal, state and even local authorities may demand licenses and permits before you can open shop. You can research on what potential papers you would need at http://www.business.gov/register/licenses-and-permits/
Even though it’s required, there’s nothing like papers to give your business an air of legitimacy.
So those are the basics. The next few articles will focus on each of these aspects in detail. Remember to respond and give feedback on what you want to see in this series.