To start a business, you need more than just a dream. To put the wheels in motion, you’ll need to:
- Use the time you have available. It’s good to have a balance of ambitious and realistic with your business aspirations.
- Identify a business idea. This could come from your personal interests, a market opportunity, an experience—anywhere, really.
- Validate your business idea. This is where you identify if your idea is viable or not. Are people willing to spend money on this?
- Find a business name. A strong name should be short and simple, memorable, and original.
- Make a plan. Your business plan is critical for keeping your business on track, as well as securing partners, investors, lenders, and more.
- Understand business finances. Open your business bank accounts, secure funding, and set up strong bookkeeping and accounting processes.
- Develop your product or service. The fun part! This is where you bring your product or service idea to life.
- Pick a business structure. Your business structure influences taxes, operations, personal liability, and more. Choosing the right structure is about balancing the legal and financial protections you need with the flexibility offered by different options.
- Research licenses and regulations. Your business is subject to the laws governing businesses in your area, as well as laws and regulations specific to your industry. It’s important to understand this to avoid bigger problems down the road.
- Select your software systems. Accounting, email, ads, project management—you need an entire tech stack to run your business.
- Find a business location. Identify where you can open up shop based on space, retail needs, and fulfillment needs.
- Plan workload and team size. If you plan to do all of the work yourself, you’re limited by the time you have available to invest. If you plan on hiring help, you’ll need to account for those costs—as well as the time involved in finding and onboarding freelancers or employees.
- Launch your business. Leverage your network, build buzz with promotions, and test paid ads to get word out about your newly launched business.
How to come up with business ideas
There are many ways to come up with good business ideas of your own. You or someone you know might have a poor personal experience with a company—and you know you can do better. Or maybe there’s a complete gap in the market: for example, demand for a specific product but no one meeting it. Other ideas come from everyday moments, in the shower or right before you fall asleep.
How to brainstorm business ideas
If you’re feeling stuck for business ideas or want to come up with more, there are a few ways to brainstorm even further. Write down all your ideas. Keep a brainstorming board, be it tactical or digital, and plaster your ideas there whenever they come to mind. Then revisit it with fresh eyes. There’s power in numbers, too.
Recruit help from colleagues or friends and family to brainstorm new ideas. Survey your existing customers or audiences and get their ideas. Look at what people are saying on social media or searching for online. Start with lots of ideas and then refine your list to the top ideas to explore further.
How to legally protect a business idea
Entrepreneurs have a few options when it comes to legal protection of their small business ideas, both now and in the future. The right one depends largely on the types of businesses you’re talking about.
- Copyright. Copyrighting protects your intellectual property, meaning that others can’t use it without your permission. This applies to text, art, photography, music, graphic design, and similar mediums.
- Trademark. Trademarking is another intellectual property protection. Essentially, you “own” a word, phrase, logo, symbol, or design—preventing others from using it.
- Patent. This is applicable for inventions—a patent prohibits anyone else from making, selling, or using your invention in their business for a period of time.
- Confidentiality and non–disclosure agreements (NDAs). These legal documents prohibit people from sharing information as outlined in the NDA.
- Non–compete agreement. If you hire employees or contractors, you can have them sign this document, which prevents them from working with direct competitors.
- Work–for–hire agreement. Another document—this one only for employees—that means any work they do during their term of employment belongs to the employer instead of the individual.
How to get funding for a business idea
One of the toughest but most important parts of starting a business is finding the money to get your idea off the ground. There are a few ways to get funding for your business idea:
- Small business loans. Shopify Capital offers both loans and grants to businesses, making it a great place to start.
- Merchant cash advances. If you’re in a bind and need fast cash, you can apply for cash advances through a bank or Shopify Capital.
- Investors. Lots of investors look for the next big thing—the types of businesses that go viral. Craft a pitch for your business idea to present to investors.
- Crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is similar to getting investors, except you need lots of investors who are each willing to make a small financial commitment.
- Fund it yourself. It’s not realistic for everyone, but low-investment business ideas make it easier to come up with the cash yourself. Just be aware of the risks involved.