What You Need to Start a Business
When starting a new business, there are many important decisions to make and many rules
and procedures that must be addressed. While there is no single source for every state, the
following checklist and steps have been developed to assist you in starting your business.
Choose and Register A Business Name For some people business names come easily, for others
finding the right one is a major challenge. I have listed the basic steps to follow in naming
a business. There are multiple "rules-of-thumbs" that tend to be contradictory. Some insist
that a business name should be descriptive of the business and others suggest that being unique
in the best way to be remembered.
Keep in mind that your business name is an important part of your marketing effort. It
is a major component of how customers; perceive your business. Your business image is based
on this perception. So, it is critical that it reflect the image that you want your customers
to have of your business.
My tendency is to go with what your inner voice (gut) says is right for you. You are
the one who has to live with this business day and night for a long time to come. So choose
something you feel good about. One test might be to think about the name being splashed across
a major headline. How does it feel to see the name in print representing your business? If
it feels good, go with it.
If all else fails, there are businesses available that will help you determine the right
name. If you go this route, look for a good fit for you. You want this to reflect your concept,
not someone else's. Keep in mind this is one of the most important decisions you will make
about your business.
As part of naming your business, you may also want to design a logo for your business.
If creativity is not your strong suit, there are many businesses out there that can help you.
While this may seem excessive, you will never regret the time you have spent on this part of
setting up your business. This is the first and most critical part of marketing your business.
Do it right and your future marketing will be much easier to plan and implement.
Legal Issues. Picking a name for your business requires much more than just creativity
and a working knowledge of your target market. First you will need to decide which business
structure you will use, since each structure has its own peculiarities.
Of equal importance, is finding out whether your name or a very similar name is being
used by another business, and if so, what rights they may or may not have to use the name in
the area where you want to do business. Keep in mind that some businesses only file trademarks
within their locality, so it is possible that the same name can be used elsewhere.
Search and Registration. Trade names can be registered through the state Secretary of
States offices, and for wider marketplace protection, through the US Patent and Trademark office.
Businesses should first use the USPTO's online system to search all state and federal trademark
registers to see if the proposed name is being used.
Domain Names. For many businesses that operate on the Web, trade names are synonymous
with domain names. There are many online services available to check if your proposed Domain
name is available.
Select a Name and Legal Structure
• Sole proprietorship
• Limited liability corporation
Sole Proprietorship in general can be established with little or no formalities. However,
it will generally be necessary to obtain one or more local business licenses from the cities
and or counties in which you will operate, and in some cases, you might need a state license
as well. If you make sales of tangible property at a retail level, you will be required to
obtain a sales tax license for the collecting of sales tax.
No separate tax-form filing is required. You simply report that your business financial
information on standard tax forms is available for sole proprietorship. Doing business as a
sole proprietor is much simpler than operating as any other kind of business legal entity.
If you have no employees, you are not required to pay or withhold any employment taxes, withhold
any federal or state income tax from wages, or obtain workers' compensation coverage for yourself.