A would-be entrepreneur faces many new and sometimes daunting tasks that are necessary to set up a business. Fortunately, there are several different places an individual starting a business can turn to for assistance.
Business Plan Assistance
It is realistic to expect help in creating a business plan to be in the form of guidance regarding what a business plan should contain. Very little provided assistance takes the form of actually writing the plan for an entrepreneur, but some organizations provide software programs or online tools that can assist with the process.
Entrepreneurs have a few resources they can turn to for help:
- Small Business Administration (SBA): This government agency's website contains articles about what a business plan is and what it should contain. The agency also offers a Build a Business Plan tool that helps users create a plan for their specific type of business and goals.
- Bplans.com: This company's website provides information about what a business plan is and what it should contain. It offers some free software to assist users in creating a plan, but also sells a full software program for that purpose.
- SCORE: This organization additionally offers an online workshop focusing on creating a business plan. The webinar discusses the purpose of a business plan, the preparation to create one, and the supporting document necessary to compile a thorough plan.
Funding assistance comes in two main types: a direct link between entrepreneurs and lenders or advice on where to look and how to apply for financing.
Connecting Entrepreneurs and Lenders
This assistance helps match your future company's financial needs to lenders that provide funding to your type of business.
- Entrepreneurs can find local help by turning to angel investors, which are individuals or groups of individuals willing to invest funds into a new business for a stake in your business. The "angel" determines the amount they will loan and the loan terms. The Angel Capital Association provides a list of angel investors in states and areas of the United States.
- SBA Loan Programs: This agency provides a variety of types of loans to new businesses. Some loans are for a dedicated purpose, such as fixing equipment, while others are for general purpose, such as helping new businesses that meet special requirements get off the ground. The agency's website also offers a Loans and Grants Search Tool that allows users to find offered financial assistance for which they may qualify.
- AngelList.com: This website allows entrepreneurs to solicit funds online by detailing how much they need and their business plan.
Detailing How to Apply for Financing
With this type of assistance, it is reasonable to expect help understanding the types of financing that are available, the main components of that financing, and how to apply for that financing. This type of assistance usually does not provide help actually finding lenders.
- Entrepreneur.com provides advice about the basics of micro-loans and asset-based loans, as well as the basics of business startup financing. Its assistance is mainly information-based, meaning that it does not directly connect entrepreneurs to lenders.
- Inc.com provides guidance regarding the types of assistance available, where to find that assistance and how to apply for assistance.
- SCORE's website contains an in-depth article about the types of funding available and how to find that funding.
Local Assistance for Funding
Entrepreneurs seeking either type of help can find local assistance through Offices of Economic Development. These offices are located in cities throughout the nation and provide financing or assistance finding financing. The Economic Development Association offers a directory of offices and the states those offices cover.
Business Formation Assistance
Some businesses require establishing a legal entity to operate, meaning a Limited Liability Company (LLC), Professional Corporation (PC), or similar entity. Assistance in business formation can be in the form of advice about what type of entity to establish, how to establish that entity, or help creating the entity.
With the former two types of assistance, it is reasonable to expect guidance about what each entity includes and how it protects its members. The latter type of assistance provides the same help but also assists entrepreneurs in establishing the entity according to legal requirements, meaning filing the correct paperwork with the necessary state or federal agency.
Entrepreneurs can find local assistance through their secretary of state's office, which manages most business entity setup and operation. Local Secretary of State's offices provide information about the types of entities recognized in the state and how to create those entities to assist individuals in creating one.
An attorney or local business entity-startup company can also provide entrepreneurs with local assistance. This type of assistance normally costs money, however. Prior to hiring a company, check into its background and customer reviews.
Entrepreneurs can also look to:
- SCORE offers an "Incorporation Wizard" tool that assists users in determining which type of entity they should establish.
- SBA's website presents guidance about the most common ways to structure a business, what those structures mean and how they protect the owner, and how to create those structures.
Obtaining Licenses and Permits
Depending on their service or product, some businesses may be required to be licensed or permitted prior to beginning operations. Usually, permitting and licensure requirements are set by the individual states. Assistance regarding permits and licenses typically takes the form of explaining the types that are available and how to apply for them, and usually does not help entrepreneurs determine or apply for the permit or license they need.
Entrepreneurs can turn to their state's business license and permitting office for specific information on the types of licenses that are available, the types of license or permit a business may be required to have, and how to apply for either.
Entrepreneurs can also look to:
- The Company Corporation offers a free webinar titled "Business Licenses 101" that details the types of licenses available and how to apply for those licenses.
- SBA's website details the common types of permits and licenses a new business might need. A separate article covers this information for home-based businesses.
Accounting System Assistance
Assistance setting up an accounting system for a new business can come in the form of providing advice on how an entrepreneur can do so on their own or actually setting up the system for the entrepreneur. With the former assistance, it's reasonable to expect instruction about the types of systems that are available and the benefits and drawbacks of those systems. With the former, it's reasonable to expect that same assistance plus help creating the system and a tutorial regarding its operation.
Entrepreneurs can find local assistance through the National Association of Accountants. This association's website allows users to search for an accounting professional, who likely can help setup an accounting system.
Entrepreneurs can also turn to:
- SBA provides advice on how to set up a payroll system for a new business. The 10-step process includes everything from investigating system options to maintaining payroll tax records. The SBA also provides assistance about creating and managing an accounts payable system.
- IRS Publication 583 provides information regarding what new business owners need to know regarding income taxes, payroll, business expenses, and recordkeeping.
Starting Your New Business
The multitude of available free help for setting up a new business means that there's likely a type offered that is perfect for you and your needs. Don't be afraid to obtain multiple forms of help.