5 tips for starting your own business
(BPT) - There’s no doubt the pandemic has hit small businesses hard. Even in its early weeks, February to April 2020, the number of active businesses plummeted by 22%, according to a report from the National Bureau of Economic Research. And unfortunately, the consequences of the early shutdowns impacted minority-owned businesses even harder, with Black-owned businesses seeing a 41% drop, Latinx businesses 32%, Asian businesses 26% and women-owned businesses 25%.
Does that bad news mean that now is the wrong time to consider starting a new business? Not necessarily. Opportunities exist for small businesses today, including support and funding for start-ups — and especially for minority business owners.
If you want to start a small business, here are steps to get you started.
1. Do your research
First, make sure you understand the current market for your business. This step is crucial to turn an idea into a full-fledged business plan.
Ask questions like:
Ask other business owners about their challenges and rewards to explore whether this is a good option for you. Use market analysis tools recommended by resources such as the Small Business Administration (SBA) to get to know the market for your business.
2. Write a business plan
No business can find funding, investors or partners without a solid business plan. Learning to write a comprehensive plan also forces you to fully think through every aspect of your proposed idea. The SBA is a great resource to research types of business plans.
Enlist the help of other business owners during the process if you can to understand how their plans helped them and what to avoid.
3. Fund your business
Every business needs capital to get started. Your business plan’s financial section should provide a clear idea of the capital you need to launch. Most businesses rely on multiple financial sources, including:
SBA loans can be a good option. For example, Huntington Lift Local Business is a small-business lending program focused on serving minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses. Huntington is a top SBA 7(a) lender that has developed creative lending options and other features to help bring relief, recovery and growth to small businesses across the Midwest.
With Huntington's program, businesses can secure SBA-guaranteed loans from $1,000 and up to $150,000 with:
“The economic uncertainty sparked by the pandemic has highlighted the need for increased financial opportunity for everyone starting or sustaining their small businesses,” said Huntington’s SBA program director, Maggie Ference. “Everyone deserves a shot at success, and our program delivers a new solution to customers when they need it most, whether for a startup or an established business looking to grow.”
4. Develop a marketing plan
Creating a brand identity and communicating it well is crucial to success. Consider hiring or contracting marketing services to help you choose your business name, create a logo, build your website and develop a strategic marketing plan to get the word out about your business.
5. Take care of business
Dotting the Is and crossing the Ts is necessary for any business. Details include choosing your business location and registering your business, applying for all the required licenses and permits, including federal and state tax IDs — plus opening your business bank account. Also, consulting an accountant with experience helping small businesses can ensure you have your business and financial ducks in a row.
Starting a small business is a daunting challenge, but it can also be a rewarding opportunity. Taking the time to fully explore and utilize all the resources at your disposal can help ensure that your new business will be a success.
Entrepreneurship is alive and well, even if the face of small business is evolving with the times. Autonomy in management and making dreams a reality are the reasons most cited by entrepreneurs looking to open a small business. This action plan can help you get you on your way to launching a successful start-up.
Be Your Own Boss
7 tips to help you launch a successful business
(Family Features) Entrepreneurship is alive and well, even if the face of small business is evolving with the times. Autonomy in management and making dreams a reality are the reasons most cited by entrepreneurs looking to open a small business.
However, how Americans are choosing to open small businesses is where there may be a shift.
“Consumer habits are changing,” Pittaway said. “That’s forcing Americans to consider how they open small businesses, whether it’s focusing more on e-commerce than actual store fronts or focusing on selling to a local community or region instead of a broader national audience.”
Starting Your Own Start-Up
“We understand the challenges of small business owners and offer products and services designed specifically to help and support small businesses,” said Tim Davis, president of The UPS Store, Inc. “Small business owners are unparalleled in their passion for their businesses, and understanding that aspiration is critical to running a successful small business.”
This action plan from the experts at The UPS Store can help you get you on your way to launching a successful start-up:
1. Analyze your target audience.
2. Determine a legal structure.
3. Establish your premises.
4. Determine your budget and expenses.
5. Develop a business plan.
6. Set up a marketing plan.
7. Be competitive.
With a carefully structured action plan, you can turn your start-up idea into a successful business. Find more tips for your small business at TheUPSStore.com.
Pitch your small business like a Pro
When you’re launching a small business, there could be any number of reasons you may need to pitch your idea. You may be courting an investor, recruiting talent or even starting to market your product or service. Brevity is often essential, so learn how to concisely pitch your business like a pro with these tips:
Draw out the essentials. Reduce your pitch to a few digestible bites. Make sure you have an intro that is brief enough to get someone’s undivided attention then elaborate on your points, such as your top competitive advantages, and provide more detail about your business as a whole.
Come to entertain. Add an entertainment factor to make your pitch engaging and memorable. Of course, you need substance to go along with style, but keeping your audience focused and doing something to stand out is essential.
Anticipate questions. Prepare yourself to reassure concerned investors and flesh out subjects you may have kept brief for your presentation. Make sure to practice your answers so you sound confident. Grabbing attention is important, but you need to be able to back up your spiel.
Know your audience. This is the cardinal rule of communication. Make sure you do your homework and know who you are addressing. This shows you value your listener’s time and feedback. Furthermore, insight about his or her philosophy in doing business can be extremely valuable during a pitch.
Practice until it hurts. Take the time to practice your entire pitch, including answers to likely questions, until you know it inside and out. The more comfortable you are, the more likely you are to win someone over in a meeting.
Have the materials to back it up. A written document is your chance to leave a lasting impression and elaborate on your major selling points. It’s also a chance to show your professionalism, so be sure to proofread carefully and package the information for a polished presentation.
Find more resources to help get your small business off the ground at theupsstore.com/smallbiz.
Photos courtesy of Getty ImagesSOURCE:
The UPS Store
(BPT) - A challenge for any entrepreneur is getting access to capital. If you’re like many, you’re constantly looking for ways to reduce expenses and free up cash flow so you can be ready for anything, whether it’s a slow season or an opportunity to expand.
When tax season rolls around, you’re already taking a deep dive into your expenses and income for the past year. Don’t stop when you file. With all that information at your fingertips (and fresh in your mind), it’s a great opportunity to take a big-picture look at the health of your business and make sure it’s running as efficiently as possible.
Use the following tips to take your tax preparation efforts a step further and boost your cash flow in the upcoming year.
Dust off your business plan: No doubt when you started out in business, you were eager to put your vision to paper. Most entrepreneurs get busy with the day-to-day pressures of deadlines, and that vision can recede into the background. Schedule some time with your board members or business partners to revisit and update the business plan. Now that you understand the realities of your market, you should have plenty of ideas on creating the 2.0 version of your enterprise. When finished, it’s important to not allow it to gather dust again. Set goals and schedule check-in meetings with your team to make sure everything’s on track.
Update your budget: The nature of entrepreneurship is being agile in the face of change. Market trends, price changes from vendors and suppliers, effects of new laws and ordinances, even road construction are variable forces that can send anyone’s budget into a new direction. That’s why your budget isn’t ever going to be a spot-on prediction. Think of it as a plan. If you stay on top of it, you can spot the trends early and make adjustments right away so you can reap the full advantage — or head off problems before they become unmanageable.
Check your credit score: If you’re planning to raise capital to expand or make improvements in the next year, checking in on your credit score is an important first step you can take several months before you apply for the loan. Even if you have a business credit score, certain business loans still require a look at your personal credit score, especially if you’re a sole proprietorship. Visit Your.VantageScore.com to find free resources to learn your credit score. There’s also helpful information on what factors influence your score and things you can do that can help increase it over the coming months to help you get the best rate possible.
Create a tax strategy: The tax break Congress passed in December will save small business owners 20 percent on their tax bill this year. In the coming year, small business owners have many opportunities to capture more tax savings with the right plan and strategy. For example, if you’re planning a large equipment purchase, you may find yourself in a better tax bracket in 2019 if you time it before Dec. 31, rather than waiting until the following year as planned. Have a meeting with your accountant to discover more ideas.
Pay down debt: One way to use the windfall of your 20 percent tax savings is to pay down revolving loan debt. Doing so is a great way to raise access to working capital should you need it down the line. Depending on the source of credit, reducing your credit-to-balance ratio is one factor that could raise your credit score. Before you do so, make sure you have enough cash flow to meet your expenses.
Improve accounts receivable: If your business extends lines of credit to your customers, it may be worthwhile to implement a credit check policy on all new customers. Knowing they’re creditworthy before the fact can help you create the appropriate plan for them and protect your business. Credit reporting is also an effective way for even a small business owner to let customers know they are serious about collecting what’s owed. In the end, you’ll get paid faster and increase cash flow.
The life of an entrepreneur means things can change drastically on a dime. A thorough check-in with your finances can put you in the best position for success. To learn more about the tools and solutions offered by VantageScore, visit Your.VantageScore.com.
Creating a business from the ground up is no small endeavor. From planning to financing to putting standard business services in place, there’s a lot to tackle. To overcome these obstacles, franchising is an ideal solution for many aspiring business owners. While it provides the advantages of business ownership, franchising also offers numerous benefits, such as these.
Build a Business Your Way
(Family Features) Creating a business from the ground up is no small endeavor. From planning to financing to putting standard business services in place, there’s a lot to tackle. All of that is in addition to operating the day-to-day business.
To overcome these obstacles, franchising is an ideal solution for many aspiring business owners. It provides the advantages of business ownership, but with the added support of a recognized brand and an established method of doing business. Partnering with a franchise like The UPS Store offers numerous benefits.
Flexibility. Opening a franchise allows you to enjoy the freedom and flexibility of making your own business decisions and being your own boss, while working toward your goals of personal and financial independence at your own pace.
Start-up resources. Getting a new business off the ground requires a wide range of activity, from site selection and lease negotiation to hiring and training staff. A franchise can help you navigate these early decisions and needs with a deep pool of experience and knowledge to help overcome the hurdles you may encounter.
Training. Even a well-educated business owner has room to learn. With a franchise, you have the opportunity to receive in-depth training in areas such as business operations, technical systems, human resources, marketing and financial management.
Networking opportunities. Connecting with other franchisees at area meetings, regional conferences and national conventions helps you stay informed of industry trends, discover new tools and resources, and develop lasting relationships with fellow franchisees. The result is a peer group that has intimate knowledge of your business model that can serve as a valuable resource as your business grows.
Product development. Part of developing your business is understanding your customers’ needs and introducing new products and solutions. As a franchise owner, you can contribute insight to the process but focus on running your business while development experts dedicate themselves to researching and innovating new products and services that can help you better serve your customers.
Marketing support. Many franchises conduct national advertising campaigns to build brand awareness, while regional efforts and local store marketing can build excitement in your market. A layered marketing plan extends the reach of your marketing budget and lends credibility to your business.
Financing assistance. Funding your franchise according to your unique goals and background can help eliminate many of the financial pitfalls that those without experience or industry expertise may encounter.
Learn more about franchising and the options available to aspiring small business owners at TheUPSStoreFranchise.com.
A Milestone Accomplishment
A focus on small business is driving big results for one national retailer. The nation’s largest franchise system of retail shipping, print and business service centers, The UPS Store, Inc., is now 5,000 locations strong.
“The UPS Store network is made up of dedicated individuals and families who are committed to serving small business owners, customers and their communities,” said Chris Adkins, vice president of franchise development for The UPS Store. “We look forward to welcoming more franchisees into our network as we continue to challenge ourselves to find new ways we can bring convenience and value to our customers.”
Over the years, the retail concept has expanded to include a range of solutions for small business owners, creating a one-stop shop for small-business support. Small business owners can find resources such as notary services, shredding, mailbox and locker rental, and, in some cases, even inventory management solutions, as well as the packing and shipping services that business and non-business customers alike can utilize.
5 Tips for Creating a Business Plan
Once you’ve settled on a business model that meets your needs, developing a business plan is an essential next step. These five tips can help you get started:
Photos courtesy of Getty Images (women with clipboard, man with open sign)SOURCE:
The UPS Store
(BPT) - Small businesses still struggle to obtain credit; nearly half of those who applied for credit in 2016 didn’t get all the funding they sought, and 17 percent of those who didn’t apply for financing skipped it because they didn’t think they could get what they needed, according to the Federal Reserve Banks’ Small Business Credit Survey. However, a growing number of small businesses are turning to alternative sources of financing.
“The process for accessing and receiving funding can be slow and cumbersome and alternative forms of lending are greatly helping to improve the availability of financing for small business owners,” says Jacqueline Reses, head of Square Capital. "Ensuring that the financial system is more inclusive and addresses the needs of small business owners who may have been previously underserved by traditional lenders is paramount."
The Federal Reserve study has shown steadily increasing numbers of small businesses, with annual revenues of less than $1 million, seeking financing through non-traditional sources such as online lenders. In 2014, just 18 percent applied to online lenders, while in 2016, 21 percent did.
As the alternative lending industry continues to grow, small business owners should keep five points in mind when evaluating loan offers, Reses says:
Total payback amount of a loan
Knowing how much a loan is going to cost isn't always easy. For a small business owner, being able to see exactly how much you will need to repay and accounting for that in your budget is crucial, and you should always look for transparency. Total payback amount is the dollar value that represents all costs, so business owners know exactly what they will owe over the life of the loan.
Businesses should look for this when they assess loan offers. Assessing offers solely on other metrics like APR may not always provide a fair or easy comparison.
The ease of repayment is also important to consider and there are some unique options available to small businesses looking for flexibility when it comes to repayment. With Square Capital for example, a fixed repayment amount is automatically deducted from the business’s daily card sales processed through Square until the loan is repaid, enabling the business to pay more when things are busy and less if things slow down. Businesses also have the opportunity to repay early and without penalty at any time before the end of the loan term.
Traditional small business loans can take weeks to process from the time you collect all the paperwork to apply, to the time you actually get approved, to when you see the money in your account. Yet, according to the Fed's survey, the majority of small businesses that applied for credit in 2016 did so in situations where time was a factor; 64 percent wanted to expand their business or take advantage of a new opportunity, and 45 percent needed the money to cover operating expenses.
While some funding sources have a reputation for being faster to approve, getting the money can still take time small business owners don’t have. Others have been able to tackle both of those challenges. For example, Square Capital can see the health of a small business based on its sales and transaction data, allowing it to evaluate the business's stability and actual ability to repay over time. With this unique insight, it can assess eligibility for a loan and deliver offers right to the small business owner. From there, an application takes as little as a few clicks to complete and once approved, funds are deposited as quickly as the next business day.
Business owners may know how much they need, but be less aware of what size loan they can afford. It's important to accept a loan offer that your business can repay within a reasonable time period while also helping it grow.
Square Capital's ability to use unique data to assess the eligibility of a business for a loan also enables it to provide access to loan offers tailored to a business's cash flow, reducing the risk of businesses borrowing more than they can afford to repay. Loans are sized based on a reasonable projected payback period so that a small business can use its funds to grow and not be stuck in debt for extended time periods.
Before applying for credit from any lender, it’s important to do your research. Know how they present their offers, look for transparency and flexibility that puts the borrower first and understand customer satisfaction and lender dependability. Working with a trusted brand is important to many small business owners and should be to you as well.
While online lenders are opening up access to the financing small businesses need to run and grow, it's important to do your homework and carefully determine which financial partner best meets the needs of your business. To learn more about small business loans through Square Capital, visit www.squareup.com/capital.
Like any idea, the great ones come when you formulate a plan and turn that idea into action. Starting your own business can be stressful and demanding, but also both personally and professionally fulfilling. Getting a business up and running takes planning, smart financial decision-making and backing, and stacks of paperwork, but these tips can help guide you through the development stage and help you ready your idea for unveiling.
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