I talk and work with entrepreneurs on a daily basis in my role at the Columbus Chamber. Whether talking to someone on the phone or meeting face-to-face, the questions tend to be the same. How do I get started? Is there funding available to support by business? How do I become a certified business and what does it mean?
In thinking about these and other questions, I wanted to provide a three-step process that can assist your business in getting started and prevent you from taking the “fire, aim, ready” approach. This process may save you tremendous time and valuable resources.
How to start a business. When starting a business, think about how you want the business to be organized. The most common business organization is a Limited Liability Company, or LLC. A LLC is a business entity combining elements of partnership and corporate structures and can be formed as a for-profit or non-profit entity. LLCs are more flexible than corporations and well suited for companies with only one owner.
You also will want to follow these steps as outlined by the Ohio Secretary of State’s office in the development of your business:
- • Register the business with the Secretary of State’s office
- • Contact the Internal Revenue Service to obtain your Employer Identification Number (EIN)
- • Open a bank account in the name of the business
- • Contact the Ohio Department of Taxation to determine your state and local tax obligations
- • Report newly hired and re-hired employees to the Ohio New Hire Reporting Center
- • Contact the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation if you have employees
- • Contact the Ohio Department of Job & Family Services regarding unemployment compensation accounts
- • Obtain all licenses and permits you need in order to operate your business
You should also develop your business plan. This is the strategic plan for your business and will outline what financing is necessary, the types of customers you want to attract, your competitive edge and marketing analysis. The plan becomes a living document for your business, and it should be your “go-to” when discussing your business outcomes with others.
How to finance your business. Contrary to popular belief, there is funding available for small businesses. Some resources for funding include crowdfunding, angel investors, community development corporations, State of Ohio’s small business credit initiative, friends and family. You will want to research multiple streams of funding and be willing to risk your own finances in order to attract additional funds. While there may be grants available for non-profit entities, there are few grant opportunities available for for-profit businesses. Know that you must have a plan on how you will pay back the loan, whether it is from a crowdfunding source or angel investor.
Women- and Minority-owned business certification. There are a number of entities that are interested in doing business with women- and minority-owned companies. To be considered for those opportunities, your business must be certified. To determine which certifications you are eligible for, you may visit the Columbus Chamber’s Diversity Bridge web portal at diversitybridge.org, register as a MBE (minority business enterprise) and take the pre-certification questionnaire. Your responses to the questionnaire will identify the certifications for which you are eligible. You can then start the process of certification and submit your completed certifications to the State of Ohio Department of Transportation and the City of Columbus.
For more information about entrepreneurship and the Chamber’s business resources, please contact Somers L. Martin, director of business development services for the Columbus Chamber, at 614-225-6919.