Start a Business

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STARTING A BUSINESS? HERE’S HOW

Before You Begin

Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur? Turning your creative idea into a business takes more than just time and money. It’s about preparation and good planning. Before you start your business plan, access your personal strengths and weaknesses. Are you a self starter? Will you be able to handle the tasks at hand – dealing with the public, becoming the decision maker, staying organized and on top of issues when they arise? With careful thought and planning, you will have a better understanding of whether or not your business will be successful.

Small Business Association – Information on starting a business including a checklist, facts and questions, glossary of business terms, and a small business start-up guide.

 

Protect your idea. What makes your product different from competitors in your customers mind? Why do you think it will be successful? Does your product need a trademark or patent? Research your product and protect your idea.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office – File a patent application, which excludes others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention in the United States or importing the invention into the United States. To get a U.S. patent, an application must be filed in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

 

Online Resources

Tennessee Small Business Development Center – The TSBDC offers free, one-on-one assistance assistance to help business owners grow and develop successful, thriving businesses.

TN Smart Start Guide – This popular resource is a comprehensive guide for small businesses and would be entrepreneurs who want to know more about how to start and grow a business in Tennessee. Topics include selecting a business, setting up your business, the business plan, getting funded, business assistance and training, taxes and insurance, responsibilities and regulations, and many other great resources and contacts.

State of Tennessee Business Resources – Your one-stop business resource.Get your business up and running online. Decide on a business name, file a business charter, obtain a state tax ID number, obtain an unemployment insurance number.

Williamson County Business License – Step-by-step flow chart on how to obtain a license

Limited Liability Company – Online tool to file for an LLC with the State. If forming a limited liability company is right for you, use this online tool to complete the required paperwork to file the necessary formation documents and pay the filing fee.

Tennessee Dept of State –A one stop business resource to help with deciding on a business name, filing a business charter, obtaining a state tax identification number and obtaining an unemployment number.

TN SBA – State branch of the Small Business Administration. Includes information on planning, starting and managing your small business. Also includes an exit strategy.

Nashville Entrepreneur Center – Connect with nearby entrepreneurs and get the critical resources to accelerate your business at the Nashville Entrepreneur Center.

Small Business Administration – The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is a federal organization with information and help with all things business related.

Social Security Administration – Business Services Online (BSO) enables organizations and authorized individuals to conduct business with and submit confidential information to the Social Security Administration.

U.S. Dept of Labor The Department of Labor fosters and promotes the welfare of the job seekers, wage earners, and retirees of the United States by improving their working conditions, advancing their opportunities for profitable employment, protecting their retirement and health care benefits, helping employers find workers, strengthening free collective bargaining, and tracking changes in employment, prices, and other national economic measurements.

TN Dept of Labor – Functions as the state branch of the U.S. Department of Labor. Provides services as listed above.

U.S. Patent Office – For over 200 years, the basic role of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has remained the same: to promote the progress of science and the useful arts by securing for limited times to inventors the exclusive right to their respective discoveries (Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution).

Business.gov – The official business link to the U.S. government. Information on starting a business, register, licenses and permits, taxes, expanding your business and more.

USDA Dept. of Agriculture Departmental Administration – The mission of the OSDBU is to provide maximum opportunities for small businesses to participate in USDA contracting activities by establishing and attaining small disadvantaged business program goals.

U.S. Dept of Commerce – The historic mission of the Department is “to foster, promote, and develop the foreign and domestic commerce” of the United States. This has evolved, as a result of legislative and administrative additions, to encompass broadly the responsibility to foster, serve, and promote the Nation’s economic development and technological advancement.

TN.gov – Provides information and links for doing business in the State of Tennessee.

Williamson County and City License

For information on starting a business in Williamson County, please contact the County’s business tax office and codes department. If you are locating within one of the cities, use the contact list below to find the appropriate city.

Click here for the New Business License Form. You will need two copies: one to give to the county clerk and one to give to your respective city when you apply.

Williamson County Administrative Office
Business Tax Office: (615)790-5732
Codes Dept: (615)790-5725

 

City of Brentwood
Business Tax Office: 615-371-0060
Codes Department: 615-371-2204

City of Fairview
Business Tax Office: 615-799-2484 Ext.7
Codes Dept: 615-799-1585

City of Franklin
Business Tax Office: 615-791-3225
Codes Dept: 615-794-7012

City of Nolensville
Business Tax Office: 615-776-3633
Codes Dept: 615-776-6683

City of Spring Hill
Business Tax Office: 931-486-2252 Ext. 245
Codes Dept: 931-486-2252 Ext. 212

City of Thompson’s Station
Business Tax Office: 615-794-4333
Planning Department: 615-794-4333

 

State of Tennessee

Tennessee SmartStart – A guide to starting a small business in Tennessee.

 

Federal

U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Planner – Information and resources to help you at any stage of the business lifecycle

BUSINESS PLAN

Creating Your Business Plan

The business plan is the truth serum to your idea. It will either make or break your plan to start a business by revealing its true potential. The creation of a plan also helps uncover the important details you may have otherwise overlooked. Who are your customers and how will you attract them? How are you going to manage your inventory and cash flow? Creating a business plan will help you organize your thoughts, test your true desire to start the business and allow everyone involved to be more in tune with one another.

 

Resources to Help with Your Business Plan

Small Business Development Center – The Small Business Planner includes information and resources that will help you at any stage of the business life cycle.

SCORE – Business Plan Template – Provides counseling services by way of questions and answers to small businesses.

Business Owners Tool Kit – Various articles and topics related to starting or maintaining a small business.

Why Business Plans Don’t Deliver – Wall Street Journal article from 2009 on the top 5 common flaws of business plans and how to fix them.

YOUR BUSINESS STRUCTURE

Will you be financing a start-up, buying a business or buying a franchise? Each structure has different monetary requirements in the beginning process and throughout the life of the business.

 

Starting a business

If you are starting your own business it’s possible, depending on the type of business, to get going on little to no money. But on the other hand, another type of business may require overhead and purchasing of equipment or space. It is important to evaluate your start-up costs – those that will be one time costs (equipment, etc.) and those that will be recurring (rent, utilities, etc.). Check out http://business.usa.gov/.

Funding – Information about equity financing, debt financing, and pitching your plan to investors.

 

Buying a Business

Purchasing an existing business generally saves time and money; not to mention the fact that the business will probably already have cash flow, inventory and existing customers. The downfall? The initial purchasing costs. Finding a thriving business for a reasonable price can be difficult, but there are several resources available to help in your search.

Small Business Administration – Information on buying a business from start to closing.

Entrepreneur.com – Where and how to look for a business to buy.

 

Buying a franchise

Franchising is a great way to start a business if you are concerned with the risk involved in starting your own business. As a franchise owner brand/trademark owner, the franchiser will provide you with his business expertise on marketing, management, financing, and training among other things. Though you are purchasing a business with instant name recognition, you still need to bring your entrepreneurial spirit and motivation for success to the table to make the location thrive. If you are interested in owning a franchise, attend a seminar about that particular franchise, interview other owners, research, get expert advice.

Small Business Administration – Pros and cons of buying a franchise and how to do it.

Federal Trade Commission – Learn about franchise opportunities and how to follow through to the franchise agreement.

 

Name Your Business

Once you come up with a good, creative name for your business, you must research state and local requirements to be sure you aren’t infringing on someone else’s name. At this time, you must also decide what the structure of your business is going to be.

Tennessee Department of State – Business Name availability.

Small Business Administration – Legal requirements for naming your business, search and registration information, help with domain names.

 

Choosing a Business Structure

Research and take careful consideration when selecting your business structure. Once it is decided, it will determine your taxes, liability and ownership succession. It’s always a good idea to consult an accountant or attorney when deciding what type of ownership is best for your business. When deciding on a structure, your vision and business plan will be taken into account.

Small Business Association – Choose a structure for your business using information and guidelines provided by the SBA.

IRS.gov – Information on each business structure.

 

Getting Your Business License or Permits

The type of business license you get is determined by the line of business and business structure. It’s always best to check with the state licensing authorities to determine the requirements for your business.

Tennessee License – The state of Tennessee has a useful website that will guide you through the entire business start-up process from naming it to getting your business license.

 

EIN Number and Sales Tax License

In the state of Tennessee, each business is required to have an employer identification number (EIN number). This can be acquired from the Dept of Revenue. If your business will be collecting sales tax, then you’ll also be required to have a sales tax license.

 

Williamson County and City License

For information on starting a business in Williamson County, please contact the County’s business tax office and codes department. If you are locating within one of the cities, you will need to contact both the county and respective city to obtain all the information needed to start a business.

 

Taxes: What you should pay and how

The type of business you operate and its structure will determine what taxes you pay and how you pay them. IRS.gov is a great source to help walk you through the taxes you should be paying.

State of TN Dept. of Revenue Tax – Latest news from the Tennessee Dept of Revenue and information regarding taxes and online tax filing.
State of TN Dept. of Revenue New Business – Find out what taxes you must pay and registration requirements in Tennessee.
TN Dept of Revenue Frequently asked questions about taxes – Department of Revenue FAQ page.
TN.gov – Sales tax, tax forms, overview of business tax, online tax registration, tax workshops, etc.
Small Business Administration (taxes) – The U.S. Small Business Administration’s guide to all things taxes.
Internal Revenue Service (taxes) – Information filing and paying your federal business taxes

 

Insurance: Protect yourself and your business

Insurance is often necessary when starting your business for protection against the unexpected for you and your business. Without proper insurance, an accident, lawsuit or natural disaster could potentially end your healthy business operation.

SBA.gov – Decide what type of insurance will be best for your business and view frequently asked questions about insurance.

 

Creating Your Business Website

Creating Your Website – Learn how to create a website for your startup.

FUNDING YOUR BUSINESS

Before you seek funding you should ask yourself, “Do I need the money or can I run on what I already have? What is the risk of my business? What will the money be used for? How does the industry look? Does the need for money co-inside with my business plan? These are all questions a lender may ask you when you’re requesting a loan.

Click here to learn about managing small business debt.

 

Types of Financing:

  • Equity financing – Most small or growing businesses use limited equity financing. Much of this money may come from friends, relatives, customers, or colleagues but the most common source of equity funding comes from venture capitalists (wealthy risk takers, government sources or financial institutions).
  • Debt Financing – Banks, savings and loans, the Small Business Administration (SBA), and commercial finance companies are a few options for those seeking debt financing.

 

Pitching Your Plan to Investors

Before you pitch your idea to the venture capitalist or a bank, you must have a well thought out process and plan.

Entrepreneur.com – 6 Steps to the Perfect Pitch. Notes from Entrepreneurship class at Belmont University’s Scarlett Leadership Center.

Perfecting the Pitch – Venture capitalists offer advice on what they look for-and what turns them off. (Wall Street Journal, July 13, 2009)

 

Local Venture Capitalists

Click to open a printable PDF of venture capitalists in the Nashville area.

Nashville Capital Network– NCN is a collaborative initiative of Vanderbilt University, Nashville Technology Council, Nashville Health Care Council, and local investors, as well as local business and professional leaders. NCN strives to promote entrepreneurial education and economic growth by being the hub for early stage capital formation in middle Tennessee.

Venture Nashville Connections – Nashville-based TTDC has contracted with Nashville Capital Network, the six-year-old firm that has attracted more than 50 local angels, for a five-month push to develop educational content and programs for investors and entrepreneurs statewide.

Angel Capital Group – ACG links networks together through one source so that capital and resources can be efficiently utilized to best aid as many entrepreneurs in finding start-up and seed capital as possible and to provide investors with a diversified capital investment process to mitigate risk.

SBA Loans – SBA provides a number of financial assistance programs for small businesses including 7(a), 504 and disaster assistance loans.

TNInvestco – Information for new or small businesses interested in TNInvestco funding.

Pathway Lending – Pathway Lending offers flexible financing programs to entrepreneurs and business owners to spur economic growth in communities across Tennessee with an emphasis on underserved markets.  Also, check out their small business resources.

What are 1099s?

Debt.org – Sources of financing for small business.

MARKETING YOUR BUSINESS

Focusing on what the customer wants is critical to successful marketing efforts. Once you have a product people want, set your price, let others know about your product through public relations and advertising and make it available to them for purchase. It is a good idea to create a marketing plan to help guide your marketing efforts. It should include your market research, location, customers, competition, how you plan to position yourself against them, the product or service you are offering, pricing, advertising, and promotion.

Here are some helpful resources:

Entrepreneur.com – Broad-based information about many facets of starting and operating a small business.

Business.gov – The official business link to the U.S. government for new and existing businesses. A guide for marketing your small business.

Social Media Marketing

More than 300 million active users spend more than 8 billion minutes a day posting 45 million status updates on Facebook. More than 65 million people on Facebook and 80% of Twitter users are connecting via handheld devices allowing them access to you and your company anywhere at anytime. Of the 200 million bloggers out there, 54% post content and tweet daily. Youtube.com has reached 1 billion views per day. Do you see the value of social media marketing? Not only has it proven to increase company and brand exposure, social marketing is free, fairly simple, customizable and can be updated as frequently or as rarely as time permits.

 

Some of the most popular social marketing sites:

Twitter – Allows users to post a micro-blog of up to 140 characters on their profile page. Other users can view your tweets by following your page. You can also start or join a conversation with other bloggers or send a direct message to another tweeter.

Facebook – Used by millions of people daily to keep up with friends or colleagues, upload an unlimited number of photos, share links and videos, and learn more about the people they meet. You can also create a fan page for a business or organization or send invitations to events among other things.

LinkedIn – The world’s largest professional network with more than 50 million members and continuing steady growth. LinkedIn is a place to connect with colleagues or trusted contacts and exchange knowledge and ideas.

Stats provided by Socialnomics.net and Facebook.com

 

Useful links about social marketing:

Socialnomics – A Social Media Blog. Visit Socialnomics on YouTube.com.

Social Media Revolution – YouTube video on the effects of social media

BUSINESS NETWORKING

Finding a mentor, networking with other entrepreneurs, participating in roundtables and researching are all great ways to share your vision.

Nashville Entrepreneur Center – Find out what events are happening in the Nashville area with the Nashville Entrepreneur Center’s event calendar.

Tennessee Workshops – Lists upcoming workshops for self-employed and small businesses. Also provides a link to the IRS workshop for taxes and small businesses.

SBA Training – A virtual campus providing quality and targeted online training to meet the information needs of prospective and existing small business owners.

Free online entrepreneurship classes – Provides links to courses available at MIT – Sloan School of Management, Carnegie Mellon, U.S. Small Business Administration, Trump University, Business Week, Kutztown University and MyOwnBusiness.com.

SCORE – Free and confidential small business advice. SCORE, “Counselors to America’s Small Business,” is a nonprofit association dedicated to educating entrepreneurs and the formation, growth and success of small business nationwide. SCORE is a resource partner with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

Tennessee Small Business Development Centers – The Tennessee Small Business Development Center (TSBDC) offers free assistance to help business owners grow and develop successful, thriving businesses.

Small Business Television – Provides videos with subjects of interest to small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Center for Entrepreneurship at Belmont – The Center for Entrepreneurship is designed to prepare those students who believe they have what it takes to pursue an entrepreneurial career. Named as one of the Top 10 schools in the nation with an emphasis in Entrepreneurship by Entrepreneur Magazine and one of the Top 25 Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Programs in the country by Princeton Review.

Owen Entrepreneurship Center at Vanderbilt – The OEC brings together entrepreneurs, business managers, investors, faculty, and Vanderbilt Business School students to share innovative ideas and build productive relationships. Click here for a list of White Board sessions, a short presentation of a venture idea by an entrepreneur or potential entrepreneur to a group of people willing to criticize, encourage, or add to an idea.

MTSU Dept of Communication and Entrepreneurship – The Entrepreneurship Program at MTSU integrates professional areas from throughout the Jennings A. Jones College of Business. Areas include communications, marketing, management, economics, finance, accounting, information systems, and research.