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5 questions to start with … before you start up a business

You have a brilliant business idea and a passion that drives you. You’ve studied your market, done the math and decided your idea could be profitable. Maybe you’ve even scoped out a location, enlisted team members and dreamed up a “sticky” slogan.

Good news – you’re innovative, smart and creative. (Yay!) But now for the hard part.

80% of new businesses fail in the first 18 months. Why? A new venture has to pull off a pretty neat trick: Convince enough people you’re solving a problem for them in such a compelling way that they’ll stop giving their time and money to someone else … and hand it to you instead.

But with the right idea, the right plan, and the right next steps, you can make it happen! Mylo’s expert guides have 5 questions that will help you navigate the startup maze:

1) How long can I wait to make money?

If your business idea has virtually no startup costs, overhead or setup time, you’re lucky! (Are you hiring?) Most businesses take at least 3 years to earn a profit. It’s good to have a realistic idea of when you’ll be in the green.

If you haven’t put together a really solid business plan, now’s the time. You can get a head start on plans for a wide variety of businesses by finding a template at Bplans.com. (Warning: what you write today may look like science fiction after a year in business – that’s okay. Give it your best shot now.)

A few things to ballpark:

  • Startup costs
  • Operating costs
  • Time before you can actually start selling
  • Ability to pay yourself (recommended!)
  • A cushion for unexpected costs (unless you have a really phenomenal Magic Eight Ball)

2) How do I get the word out?

You probably know your business should have a website. But that doesn’t mean people will find it. You’ll need to let the world know in as many ways as you can.

There’s actually a good deal of marketing you can do for free – or on the cheap:

  • Tell people you know and people you meet. (Think trade shows and networking events.)
  • Look for online directories in your industry where you can list your business.

  • Reach out through social media and other forums where your potential customers are likely to hang. But don’t just promote your business. You can make a personal connection by posting interesting articles on your website (Hint: also helps search engines find you!), sharing fun content and commenting on other people’s posts.

If you decide it’s worth it to pay for ads, make sure they’re in front of the right people (Facebook and other channels let you filter who sees what) - and try to track where business is coming from so you can revamp your strategy as you discover what works best.

Want to read more? Check out The Ultimate Guide to Startup Marketing and 7 Creative Strategies for Marketing Your Startup on a Tight Budget

3) How do I protect my investment?

Setting up an LLC (Limited Liability Corporation) can be a great idea for a startup. It helps ensure you won’t be held personally responsible if your business is sued. Let’s say you’ve launched a smoothie shop, and a customer slips and falls on a spilled Merry Berry. You won’t have to pay out of your own pocket for his medical expenses.

But if you don’t have business insurance, that single slippery smoothie could bankrupt your business. The right insurance coverage helps your business stay on top of the game. You have lots of options (Property, General Liability, BOP, Umbrella, Workers Comp, Cyber Insurance …) and you can tailor coverage to your specific business.

Friendly, honest disclaimer: this is the part Mylo’s licensed agents would love to help you with!

4) What about licenses and taxes?

Good news: Some businesses require very little licensing. But you’ll want to ask an expert. Nothing sinks a business faster than operating illegally. Luckily it’s easy to find help setting up your legal business, obtaining other licenses you need and figuring out what taxes you’ll need to pay. Our expert friends at LegalZoom can help with everything from setting up your LLC to getting your trademarks to property deeds, work visas, patents and more.

Another place to check is your local city hall. They’ll be able to tell you exactly what permits are required in your location, if any.

5) And the million dollar (or at least a few thou!) question: How do I get the money I need?

You might already have money to get started. And it might be a good idea to fund your business yourself if it’s a small, inexpensive startup. But if you have large startup costs, it’s wise to find investors so you’re not taking on all the risk.

Important: every type of investor (even your beloved Aunt Cheryl) will have specific expectations about what they’re getting out of this, so do your homework on what you’re willing to pay out … or what control (if any) you’re willing to give up!

Some top funding sources to look into:

  • Friends and family (often a good place to start until you build your credibility)

  • Small business bank loans

  • Incubator/accelerators (organizations that provide free resources to startups, including office facilities, consulting and seed funding)

  • Crowdsourcing (campaigns to solicit money from multiple people who pledge to pre-buy your product or donate in other ways)

  • Other businesses (you can offer to barter your services for theirs)

  • Angel investors (individuals who invest their own money in startups)

  • Venture capital investors (groups who usually invest in the growth phase of businesses)

  • Small business grants (government funds to support new technologies and important causes, such as education, medicine and social needs)

If being your own boss sounds great – and you’re committed to working harder, moving faster and thinking bigger to make your dream a reality – then Mylo’s friendly licensed agents can’t wait to help you protect what you’re building!

We’ll make that part easy. Just give us a call!

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