Start a new business
From writing a business plan to setting up a website, a new business venture can move from concept to opening with a to-do list. — Rawpixel/Getty Images

Considering starting a new business? There's a lot to think about and your to-do list can be overwhelming. Don't worry, we've got you covered with this 20-point checklist covering everything from validating your concept to opening for business.

1. Test your concept.

Before you dive in, test your business idea to make sure it’s based on a valid market need. Perform competitive analysis to make sure your product or service doesn’t already exist. Find out if there’s a solid customer base who will want what you have to offer.

2. Build a business plan.

A business plan is necessary for when you apply for funding, as well as to guide your operations. The goal of your business plan, according to the Small Business Administration, is to:

  • help find financing,
  • show you’ve vetted the market, and
  • fully detail your execution strategy.

[Read more: The Definitive Guide to Writing a Startup Business Plan]

3. Work on your sales pitch.

Hone in on what makes your business different from everyone else’s. When you’re just starting out, you must craft an elevator pitch that articulates what sets you apart and why investors and customers should care. A great sales pitch will explain what you do or sell, to whom, and why in two to three sentences.

4. Find funding.

There are many sources of funding for new businesses. Some business financing options include:

Many entrepreneurs also bootstrap their venture using their personal finances or ask their friends and family for initial capital. Use your business plan to decide what option is right for you.

5. Decide on a business structure.

Sole proprietorship, limited liability company (LLC) or nonprofit: the way you structure your business entity has tax and liability implications. No matter which business structure you choose, if it’s more complicated than a sole proprietorship, you will need a lawyer to help set it up correctly. Consult an expert from the start to avoid any tax complications down the road.

6. Get the right licenses and permits.

Some businesses, like restaurants and cafes, need specific licenses to operate. Depending on where you operate and your industry, you may need several permits and licenses. Check this list from the SBA to find out what, if any, you need to procure.

7. Open a business bank account.

Even when you start a sole proprietorship, it’s critical to keep your business and personal finances separate. Open a separate bank account for your new entity to keep your cash flow organized and trackable for when it comes time to do your taxes.

[Read more: 5 Easy-to-Start Business Ideas]

8. Organize your accounting.

Anticipate tax time and set up your accounting system to make April that much less stressful. Organize your expenses and income into three categories: business income, inventory costs and other expenses (like payroll, rent and other overhead). Find and hire an outside accountant or buy an accounting tool to help you stay organized as you grow your business.

9. Develop your product.

Does your business idea revolve around a new product? Some entrepreneurs need help getting their concept made into a physical prototype. Work with a partner who can take your initial idea, work on a design and get it manufactured for distribution through a partner or online store.

10. File a copyright or patent.

Once you have a solid plan for your product or service, protect your intellectual property with a copyright or trademark. You can file to protect the rights to your company’s name, logo, content, creative ideas or original creations, in addition to a product design or service offering.

Many entrepreneurs are starting to put the wheels in motion to bring their business idea to life.

11. Decide where to sell.

There are many companies that launch online before moving into a physical retail space. Warby Parker, Glossier, Casper and Everlane are all companies who were founded as online-first retailers. Launching online can be a good way to keep costs down, but there are some serious benefits to having a brick-and-mortar location.

12. Negotiate a lease.

Should you decide to open a storefront, you will need to find real estate property. That usually means negotiating a business lease. Make sure you know how much space you need, carefully vet the neighborhood and read the contract thoroughly before signing.

13. Get the right insurance policies.

The insurance policies you need will depend on the size of your company (i.e., how many employees you hire) as well as your assets and liabilities. Here are a few policies you might need:

14. Set up a website.

Your website is crucial to help customers learn more about your brand. Build a business website that tells your story to build excitement before your grand opening and to help people learn about your product or service. Even entrepreneurs who don’t intend to sell online need a website with their store hours, location and phone number, at a minimum.

15. Register your business.

New businesses may need to register with their state government, the federal government or may not need to register at all. Generally speaking, if you want to file for trademark protection or if you need a federal tax ID, you will need to register with the federal government.

16. Get the right tools.

When you’re just getting started, you don’t need a lot of fancy technology to start selling. But you do need some basics, like a POS system, wireless internet and telephone service.

17. Set up your social media channels.

Social media is how many customers discover new brands. Create Facebook, Instagram and Twitter profiles for your business. These platforms are where you can share news about your upcoming grand opening, launch your products and generate buzz.

18. Hire an employee.

If you have the budget, it’s time to bring an employee on board. Find someone you can trust to delegate part of the day-to-day operations so you can continue to focus on the big picture. This might be a manager, a partner or your first hourly worker who can oversee the store.

19. Advertise your grand opening.

Ready to meet your first customers? Make sure they know you’re about to open for business. Advertise your grand opening on your social media channels and in local media outlets, like your town newspaper. You might run an opening day discount or promotion to improve foot traffic or work with an influencer who can quickly spread the word about your brand.

20. Open your doors for business.

Congratulations, you’re ready to go. Good luck selling!

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Watch Now: CO— Blueprint, 7/1

Check out the video from our CO— Blueprint event that took place Wednesday, July 1, 2020, where the panel discussed everything you need to know about planning through uncertainty.



Published December 12, 2019