The first few weeks of starting your first startup can be one of the most thrilling times of your life. Buzzing with eagerness and anticipation, you can’t wait to start imagining new and exciting ways to grow your startup into a booming business. However, before you can get on with the fun aspects of owning your own business, you have a few essential tasks to complete first, even if they are a bit boring. Below is a list of crucial first steps you must take before your startup starts rolling.
1. Do Your Research
Before you can think about forming your startup — before you even think of a name — you have to make sure your idea is viable in the real world. You need to do extensive research into your prospective market. There’s a lot of information you need to glean before you can start running your business; like:
- Are there customers for your startup’s product?
- Who are those customers? How old are they? What is their average income level?
- Can you maximize your customers by altering your product or distribution area?
- Who are your competitors? What products do they sell? How profitable are they?
- Can you limit your competitors by altering your product or distribution area?
The more extensive you make your initial market research, the more certainty you’ll have in your startup’s success.
2. Find Your Funding
For most entrepreneurs, this is the absolute hardest task in starting a business. You need money to make money, but finding money can be both boring and arduous — and sometimes, it feels quite a lot like begging. Today, there are dozens of ways entrepreneurs can find viable funding, both traditional and non-traditional. Some of the likeliest options include:
- Loans. From banks or credit cards, this capital is usually easy to secure with good planning, but it can be a nuisance to pay off.
- Investors. There are many people looking to invest their money for a stake of your profits, but you will have to prove your worth.
- Grants. The government awards money to entrepreneurs for creating jobs and improving the economy.
- Crowdfunding. The internet loves to give money to good ideas, but with a saturated online market, it might be difficult to be heard.
To mitigate any feelings of supplication you may develop, you should prepare ahead of time by documenting what capital you have and researching what capital you’ll need.
3. Hire Your Team
You might already have a shortlist of old friends and coworkers whom you want to bring on board, but there are probably important positions you haven’t thought about. Startups aren’t all brainstorming and creativity; you need regular professionals like accountants and attorneys to keep your company up and running. Of course, you need to find people you can trust to stick around while the business gets going, which might be tough to do with strangers. You can use your alumni network or LinkedIn connections for recommendations.
4. File Your Paperwork
Another slightly dull step of starting a business is ensuring everything you do is entirely legal. You must file for your small business license (as well as any other licenses your idea requires, like food handling or contracting). Local laws vary on required certifications and licenses for various businesses, so it is wise to talk to an attorney before opening your doors.
You should also ensure that any products you produce are not already patent protected; in software, this can be a particularly daunting task, considering the large numbers of litigious patent trolls waiting to capitalize on your company. While you are deep in intellectual property law, you might also want to consider registering for a trademark to safeguard your brand from possible copycats.
5. Get Your Website
Last, but certainly not least, you absolutely must construct your online presence. In the digital age, having your business visible on the web is critical to success; most consumers don’t know where else to find their desired products or services. Purchase the domain you want right away. Your website should be detailed and informative — not to mention trendy and eye-catching — and your social media accounts should be active and engaging.
At the outset, you probably don’t need to hire an expensive web designer to organize your site; most website builders are easy to use and customize to your needs. However, as your small business grows, you may consider adding more complex, fully customizable features to suit your customers’ needs.
Want to learn more about the startup process? Check out OMI's channel specifically for Small Business and Startup Classes.