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Small Business

Deciding to start a business can be one of the most exhilarating decisions you make in your life. But there are a lot of moving parts and many different elements to consider. There are basic steps required to start a business successfully. Take one step at a time, and you'll be on your way to small business ownership.

All businesses start from a common point - an idea. You may have dreamed of starting your own business for years, or inspiration may have hit you unexpectedly. Regardless of the source, the first step of starting your own business is coming up with a business idea.

You've identified your big idea, now it's time to balance it with a little reality. Are you really ready to start a business? The next stage of research you conduct in your small business start-up process will help you figure out if your business idea has potential.

In order for a small business to be successful, it must solve a problem, fulfill a need or offer something the market wants. There are a number of ways you can identify this need, including research, focus groups, and even trial and error. Don't forget to ask yourself some questions, too, about starting a business before you take the plunge.

You need a plan in order to make your business idea a reality. If you intend to seek financial support from an investor or financial institution, a formal written business plan is a must. Even if you don't anticipate seeking financial support, a simple business plan can give you clarity about what you hope to achieve and how you plan to do it. In general, your business plan should outline your business goals and the motivation behind them, as well as your plan for reaching your goals in terms of marketing and funding.

Starting a small business doesn't have to require a lot of money, but it will involve some initial investment. There are a number of ways you can fund your small business, including: Small business loans, Small business grants, and Angel investors. (An angel Investor or angel is an affluent individual who provides capital for a business start-up, usually in exchange for convertible debt or ownership equity.) You can also attempt to get your business off the ground by bootstrapping, using as little capital as necessary to start your business.

Starting a new business is incredibly risky

Tough economic times can inspire a lot of creativity when it comes to new business ideas. After all, starting a new business is incredibly risky.

If you’ve ever been to a hostel or hotel infested with bed bugs, then you know how terrible those little mites can be. Well, Tony Abrams made a fortune by inventing barriers to keep the bedbugs from biting. His business, Bed Bug Barriers, creates and sells barriers that go underneath the legs of a bed. These barriers trap the bedbugs as they attempt to crawl into the bed to bite sleepers. Think it’s crazy? He’s made millions with this idea.

I know what you’re asking: why on earth would someone want to rent a chicken? Well, some people who are interested in urban farming want to get chickens. However, that’s a big step. What if they don’t like caring for chickens? Then, they’re stuck with a coop and several chickens they don’t want. This is where Rent-A-Chicken comes in. This husband and wife team in Traverse City, MI will bring you everything you need to care for a brood of hens for the summer. For $250, you can see whether or not you really want to try raising chickens on your own. In fact, there’s another business just like this in Australia called Rent-A-Chook. Wacky? Yes. Useful? You bet.

Here’s the situation: You and your friends were up all night partying. Now, you’re suffering from a horrendous hangover, you’re dehydrated, and your apartment is trashed. The thought of having to make yourself something to eat and then clean up that colossal mess is just too much to handle. So what do you do? You call the Hangover Helpers. These two college guys in Boulder, CO help their hung over clients crawl back into the land of the living with as little pain as possible. The guys show up at your house armed with a breakfast burrito and Gatorade for you. They then clean every room where the party happened. This includes cleaning dishes, pots, and pans, and recycling all of your beer bottles. Think this idea is too crazy to actually work? These guys have already been featured in Forbes Magazine, on CBS, and on the talk show, Regis and Kelly. They have enough business to keep them busy as long as they want.

Have you ever intentionally broken a plate? I’m talking about when you’re stressed or angry, and you just hurl the thing across the room and watch with a real sense of pleasure as it smashes against the wall. Feels pretty good, right? You might even feel the stress or anger leak right out of you. Well, that’s the whole idea behind The Smashing Place. This business, located in Tokyo, allows clients to come in, buy a plate or a cup of their choice, and smash it against a concrete wall. They can swear, stomp their feet, or do anything else they want to relieve stress. I have a feeling a business like this would really take off in a place like New York.

When Josh Opperman’s fiancee left him after a three-month engagement, he was crushed. All she left him was the fancy engagement ring he’d worked so hard to save up for. However, when he took the ring back to the jeweler to return it, he got a nasty shock. They only offered him $3,500 for the ring he paid over $10,000 for. Yikes. So he started I Do, Now I Don’t to get even. I Do, Now I Don’t is a website that allows people to sell their engagement rings (or any other fancy jewelry) to other users for way less than going to a jewelry store. Think of it as the Craigslist for fine jewelry. The site has been an incredible success and has been featured on CNN, The Today Show, Fox News, and in The New York Times.

If you’ve ever had a pet while living in an apartment, then you know how painful it can be to take them out for potty when it’s 10 degrees with a fierce wind. Or maybe you work long hours and always have to rush home to let them out. Or maybe you’re a senior citizen and it’s hard to make multiple trips in and out of your home. Well, all these reasons are why The Pet Loo was invented. The Pet Loo is a square of fake grass, which sits atop a simple waste containment system that you put inside your home or apartment. It’s just like a mini-backyard where your dog can relieve himself. Although The Pet Loo is based in Australia, similar businesses have sprung up here in the States. Good idea? No doubt. In fact, people are putting their Pet Loos in their laundry rooms, their basements, on balconies, and even in their grass-less backyards.

This highlights a vital element that can’t be overstated; every successful business needs to provide value to people in some way.

Your small business can be a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a limited liability company (LLC) or a corporation. The business structure you choose will impact many factors from your business name, to your liability, to how you file your taxes. You may choose an initial business structure, and then reevaluate and change your structure as your business grows and needs change.

Your business name plays a role in almost every aspect of your business, so you want it to be a good one. Make sure you think through all of the potential implications as you explore your options and choose your business name. Decide on a name for your business. It can create immediate credibility and help you develop a good rapport with the Better Business Bureau. Once you have chosen a name for your business, you will need to check if it's trademarked or currently in use. Then, you will need to register it. A sole proprietor must register their business name with either their state or county clerk. Corporations, LLCs, or limited partnerships typically register their business name when the formation paperwork is filed.

Paperwork is a part of the process when you start your own business. There are a variety of small business licenses and permits that may apply to your situation, depending on the type of business you are starting and where you are located. You will need to research what licenses and permits apply to your business during the start-up process. Most small businesses do not require any licenses other than a vendor's license. Your city will require that you pay sales tax from sales made in your area. Licenses will be required if you decide to incorporate.

Setting up your place of business is important for the operation of your business, whether you will have a home office, a shared or private office space, or a retail location. You will need to think about your location, equipment, and overall setup, and make sure your business location works for the type of business you will be doing.

Small businesses run most effectively when there are systems in place. One of the most important systems for a small business is an accounting system. Your accounting system is necessary in order to create and manage your budget, set your rates, conduct business with others, and file your taxes. You can set up your accounting system yourself, or hire an accountant to take away some of the guesswork.

Once your business is up and running, you need to start attracting clients and customers. You'll want to start with the basics by writing a unique selling proposition (USP) and creating a marketing plan. Then, explore as many small business marketing ideas as possible so you can decide how to promote your business most effectively.

Once you have completed these business start-up activities, you will have all of the most important small business bases covered, and be ready for small business success. There are many small businesses you can start from home. The key is to find either a product or service that is in high demand or be a visionary about future needs. The amount of competition will also be a consideration as will any potential capital outlay. Business startups can stem from an inkling about an existing idea, or be completely unrelated to your career.

Use an existing skill to start a business. For example, if you have been in management, marketing or worked with computers, start consulting. There is always a high demand for management and marketing consultants. And computer experts can work with IT departments or design web pages. Special skills can be implemented for a new career. Writers can freelance, karate experts can teach self-defense, handymen can bid for residential and commercial projects, and ballet dancers can teach their art from home. Experts in particular fields can start a seminar business.

Fill a need for specific services. People are busy today. They need their dogs walked, watched and groomed. Other services include lawn care, snow removal, appointment setting, organizing closets, cleaning and plant care. Focus on commercial locations such as offices for similar services. Start a window washing business or start a recycling business. Recycling centers buy paper, plastic, glass bottles and aluminum. Collect newspapers in your area each week and trade them in for cash. Just put up fliers in the neighborhood, create some recycling boxes and start your business.

Eventually, your business will start to grow. If you are a dancer working out of the house, you may need to set up a studio nearby. Consultants may need an office and eventually have to hire employees. The Small Business Administration has loans available, but you will need to put together a detailed business plan for expansion. You can also find business grants, tap into your retirement or use your credit card.

In order for a business to be successful, it must be efficient. Efficient workers lead to sizable cost savings by employers and more profitable operations. Efficiency doesn't only refer to how hard someone works, but it also refers to the efficiency of their surroundings, and how well the individual is capable of working in his environment. If efficiency can be improved simply by spending $1000 on three new computer monitors, then the investment should be made. If the extra equipment increases productivity by 5%, then it would pay for itself within a few months.

If employees must be hired, it is often a good idea to have them dress professionally at all times. Professional attire is proven to increase productivity. Although employees may not be pleased with having to dress professionally, they will soon find that it is easier to concentrate on work.

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