One of the most important things to remember when you are looking to start a business is that you don’t need to worry about having the perfect plan, but you need to make sure you have an effective execution strategy.
You will find tons of resources out there trying to tell you that you need to take specific steps to start your own business, but the problem is that they don’t tell you how to execute those steps!
We are here to cover the basics of starting your business and show you how to do them effectively! Starting with selecting a name, researching it on relevant platforms, deciding which business structure to choose, setting up your bank account and credit card system, and even what to expect when dealing with attorneys throughout the process.
Coming up with a name
Coming up with a name for your business is a great place to start. It is easy to overthink the name of your business and spend too much time on it. The name is essential, but it isn’t the most significant part. You want to choose a catchy name that people will want to be associated with and describes what you are doing and the services you offer.
We know that there are many company names out there that have absolutely nothing to do with the products or services they offer. For everyone who is a fan of The Office, we all remember Jim stating at one point that when he tells people he works at Dunder Mifflin, they think that he works at a company that sells muffins, mufflers, or mittens, but they sell paper. Now, I realize The Office is fictional, but it is an excellent example of confusing business names. Big well-known companies can often get away with it, but it’s challenging to build off a name that doesn’t represent what you are doing.
Step 1: United States Patent Trademark Office
Once you come up with the name, your next step is to check the name’s availability and all the IP things. You can do this by going to the United States Patent Trademark Office (uspto.gov). The website is pretty typical of a government website because it isn’t that user friendly.
Step 2: Trademark Research
Once you get to the website homepage, you click the “Trademarks” tab, and this takes you to the “TESS” system (Trademark Electronic Search System). Choosing the word form option is the simplest way. Once you put in the name you are searching, make sure that you are selecting the operator “and” because if you choose “or” it will explore both of the terms and every variation of it, which means thousands of irrelevant results.
The strongest mark is a standard character mark; no matter what the font is, you own the name.
It is crucial for you to do all of your own research on these types of things because when it comes down to it, nobody will know your brand as well as you do, nor are they going to care about it as much as you do. When it comes time to get a lawyer, you want to be able to present a package of your findings, what conflicts you think may arise, and ask for their professional opinion. If you are looking to have them do all of the work, they could easily miss things, or it could end up being extremely expensive.
Step 3: Social Media Platforms
If you can find a name available on all relevant social media platforms and secure it, that is an ideal situation. However, if someone uses the name already, don’t be afraid to try different small variations such as symbols or underscores. If your name is available on social media platforms and USPTO, you can create your lawyer’s package.
Step 4: Website
Even though social media has taken over the internet, having a .com is still an essential part of owning a successful business. This is your real estate on the web, and with everything going online, you don’t even need to have a brick and mortar to scale a business. Most seven-figure apparel brands are 100% internet-based today, and you get to grow to that size without even having more than an office or a laptop with internet access.
Like everything else, you need to do your research to find out which website names are available.
To obtain a website, you will need to go to something called a Registrar. You can use several different ones such as GoDaddy, but the bigger name ones are usually your best bet. They can be a little more expensive, but it is worth it because they never crash, and it is much easier to transfer domains between users on the same registrar if you ever want to sell. You will see tons of plugins, services, and different things you can use as your business grows.
You want your primary real estate to be as clean as possible with a .com. If you can get your actual business name.com, then you are set! The challenging part is that the good names are usually expensive, don’t exist, or are taken. If your name isn’t available, you can easily add a variation that still makes sense, such as adding “apparel” to the name’s end if you are an apparel company.
Depending on what you are looking to do, you can start with an umbrella company and have anywhere from 4–6 DBA’s under it at one time.
There is a ton of different ways you can do this, LLC, S-Corp, C-Corp, or Sole Proprietorship. 99% of the time you are looking for business advice, LLC will be your best bet. It has the simplest structure, gives you the most flexibility, you get more protection than a Sole Proprietorship without all the complications of S-Corp and C-Corp, and it is the best bang for your buck.
Step 1: How to set it up — legalzoom.com
Your best bet for this portion is to have someone do it for you. You can get either a business or regular lawyer or go to the courthouse and do it yourself, but this way, you end up with a lot of paperwork. It is easy to make errors when you do it yourself, and even with a lawyer, they are still human and can easily make mistakes. This is where legalzoom.com comes in because it is super easy, relatively cheap, and has their system down to a science, so it is more efficient and consistent. Something to pay attention to is that they will try and upsell you on things that you don’t necessarily need at the moment, so make sure you get the basics set up, and then you can add on as you need or as you grow.
Setting up a Bank Account
You will want to choose a bank that specializes in or has the capability of doing business banking. If you have multiple DBA’s, you will want to make sure each sub-company has its own bank account within the same bank to separate your financial structures and assets.
Like anything else, credit cards can be a great tool, or it can backfire. You want to make sure you are using it wisely and following your typical thumb rules, such as making sure you don’t carry a balance. American Express is an excellent option because it has ample cash back rewards on the things you will typically be buying, which can go toward your balance when you pay it off each month.
How much is this all going to cost?!
I am sure everyone is thinking, this is going to cost a ton of money just to get started. At this point, you are probably down anywhere from $500-$2,000, but you have a solid structure to build off. While there are so MANY more different subcategories of the things we covered today, you at least know the basics so you can get started or even start researching and planning. Nobody knows everything, so don’t be afraid to try something out and get started on your dreams!