Experts agree that the first step to starting a business is with a good idea, and a good idea usually comes after you identify a solution to a problem in your own life.
If you already found the business idea that works for you — or you’re on the path to doing so — here we outline the essential steps on how to start a business, including funding, choosing a business structure and building your brand.
You can also check out our best small business loan guide to shop for funding options.
11 Steps for Starting a Business
1. Conduct market research
Market research provides context for your business idea – it gives you the necessary data to develop or improve an existing idea and make it successful.
Market research evaluates the following factors:
- Demand: Does your product or service satisfy a particular need?
- Market size: How many people would sponsor your business?
- Economic data: How many of your potential customers are employed? How much do they earn?
- Location: Can your business reach its target market? (aka where do your customers live and work?)
- Market saturation: Is your business idea similar to existing services or products, and if so, how many?
- Pricing: How much does your target customer pay for similar services or products?
Tools to conduct market research include surveys, questionnaires, focus groups, interviews, public records, commercial records and any internal data.
2. Write a business plan
The business plan serves as a road map for your business development. It’s a guide on how to start, structure, manage and grow your business. The business plan is also the tool that can help you get funding, investors, or even a new business partner.
Most business plans fall into two categories: traditional or lean.
Traditional business plans use a standard format and can include dozens of pages. This detailed plan consists of the following sections:
- executive summary
- company description
- market analysis
- organization and management structure
- service or product line
- marketing and sales
The traditional business plan is commonly used when presenting to private investors or traditional banks to secure funding, so many include a funding request and financial projections.
Lean startup business plans work best for entrepreneurs who want to start their business quickly or plan to change and redefine their business plan. This format summarizes key points about the business: purpose (product or service), targeted market, location and business structure.</…….