Starting a business is a formidable task. But there's something special about starting a business in your local community. When you're a part of the fabric of the town or city you live in, you have a unique opportunity to make a real impact — both on the local economy and on the people who live there. Of course, starting a local business comes with its fair share of challenges. But if you're up for the task, we've got some tips to help get your Columbus area venture started.
Build Your Roadmap to Success
The first step in starting any business — local or otherwise — is to build your business plan. What product or service are you offering? Who is your target market? How will you reach them? Answering these questions (and more) is essential to getting your business off the ground.
Doing some market research is a good first step in getting your business plan together. Find out who your potential customers are and what needs they have that your business can address. Once you have a good understanding of your target market, you can start developing the blueprint for your company’s success.
Since a business plan is such a crucial element to launching a successful venture, many budding entrepreneurs utilize business planning software to help them get up and running. There are dozens of options to choose from, so referencing a list of top contenders is worth the time. When using this type of resource, review each software’s features, pros and cons, and customer score.
Calculate Your Startup Costs
Next, you'll need to calculate your startup costs. This includes everything from the cost of renting or buying commercial space to the price of inventory and equipment. If you're not sure where to start, try using an online startup cost calculator.
Once you have a rough estimate of your startup costs, it's time to think about how you're going to finance your new venture. If you don't have the savings to cover all of the costs outright, don't worry — there are plenty of options for small business loans and other financing options available. Nav reports that the best banks for small business loans include Bank of America, Capital One, and Wells Fargo; take a look at their comprehensive review of these and other institutions, which offers company history insight as well as the features you’ll receive when you open a business account with them.
Register as an LLC
When it comes time to officially register your business, we recommend doing so as an LLC (limited liability company). This type of company offers protection for your personal assets in case your business is ever sued. Of course, there are other types of businesses you can register as — like a sole proprietorship or partnership — but we think an LLC is the best option for most small businesses.
Luckily, registering an LLC is relatively straightforward. You can even do it yourself online without hiring an attorney via an online formation agency. Not every formation company is worth the modest investment — read the reviews of the most popular options on the market, paying close attention to their TrustPilot scores and client feedback, to choose the agency that works best for your needs and budget.
Market Your Venture Affordably
Once you've registered your business and figured out your finances, it's time to start marketing! Luckily, there are plenty of affordable (and even free) marketing strategies available to small businesses. For example, online tools like Google My Business make it easy (and free) to create and manage a listing for your business on Google Maps and Google Search.
Other affordable marketing tactics include blogging, email marketing, and social media marketing — all of which can be done without breaking the bank. Just remember: when it comes to marketing, consistency is key. So pick a few strategies that work for you and stick with them!
Keep Close Track of Your Finances
Last but not least, be sure to implement sound accounting practices. This means keeping track of all income and expenses related to your business as well as filing quarterly taxes (if applicable). Staying on top of your finances may not be the most exciting task in the world but it's essential for keeping your business in good standing, both with the IRS and with potential investors down the line. Plus, there are plenty of great accounting software programs available that make managing business finances easier than ever. Take a look at a breakdown of the pricing, features, and pros and cons of the best accounting software options for small businesses so you can find the best program for you.
Starting a new business is always a risk, but starting a local business right here in the Columbus area comes with its own set of unique challenges (and opportunities). By following these tips and taking advantage of the resources and opportunities available to you through your Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce membership, you can give yourself the best chance possible for success in today's competitive marketplace. Good luck!Photo: Pexels