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Small business roadmap to launch

A roadmap to launching your own small business

The steps between a big idea and a fully operational small business can feel overwhelming, but we're here to help.

The roadmap below outlines all the steps you'll need to take on your journey to launching your own small business. There is no one-size-fits-all checklist that works for every entrepreneur, but our hope is that this resource can act as a guide.

How to use this roadmap

This roadmap gives a high-level overview of what it takes to launch a small business in New York State. Each stage is broken down into different actions you should consider taking and includes many useful tools and resources. Refer back to it as you bring your business idea to life.

We're here to support you on this journey

As you work through each stage, know that we're here to help. Reach out any time to ask questions or get feedback on your plan, sign up for our Accelerate: Business Plan Intensive, or get guidance through our business counseling program.

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Prepare yourself for the entrepreneurial journey

Before you take action, make sure you're ready to be an entrepreneur. The lifestyle of a small business owner can be intense: working long hours, worrying about finances, and facing new challenges daily, all while trying to balance your other responsibilities. You'll need to be constantly learning and stretching, and will often find yourself far outside of your comfort zone. For some, this sounds like a nightmare, and that's okay; entrepreneurship is not for everyone.

On the other hand, some people thrive in this kind of lifestyle and find tremendous satisfaction in the personal growth that being a business owner demands. They relish the ability to set their own schedules and be their own boss, and find these kinds of perks outweigh the challenges. It's important to be honest with yourself and decide if this journey is right for you.

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Develop & clarify your business idea

Once you are ready to move forward on your small business journey, it's time to clarify your business idea, including what product you're making or service you're providing, to whom, and how. This is a good time to do market research, a competitive analysis, and start working with a business counselor.

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Determine if your business is viable

The next step is to validate your business idea by determining if your target market cares enough about your thing to hand over money for it. A lot of new entrepreneurs skip this step because they're scared their idea might not work. That's understandable, but it's much better to find out your idea isn't viable now vs. a year from now, when you've invested much more time and money.

4

Create a business plan

Now that you're confident in what you'll offer, it's time to get serious about planning. The most traditional way to do that is to create a formal business plan - a detailed document that outlines every aspect of your business and how it'll work. This document is essential if you'll be applying for a bank loan, and can also be used to secure retail space, bring on additional business partners, and more. A business plan also gives you a strategic plan to work towards, and helps you model out different approaches and what they'll mean financially.

The process of writing a business plan is incredibly valuable in its own right, because it will force you to make decisions about everything from your marketing and sales strategies to your operational needs. It's a challenging undertaking, but many entrepreneurs find that writing a business plan is a worthwhile investment into their future success.

5

Secure financing, if appropriate

In creating your business plan in the previous step, you'll have outlined your initial startup costs as well as your ongoing monthly expenses. You'll need to decide how you'll cover those costs, either by bootstrapping (investing your own time & money and creatively leveraging other resources) or trying to access external capital. That can take several forms:

The ability to access the necessary capital a business needs is the single most important factor in whether or not that company survives. In this stage, know what you need, and make a plan to get it.

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Build your team

When deciding who you'll need on your team, consider both advisors and employees. For advisors, you should make sure you have a BAIL-IT team - Banker, Accountant, Insurance agent, Lawyer, and IT professional - to help advise you and answer questions as they arise.

Then, identify the key hires you'll need to make in order to execute your business plan. Decide when you'll bring them on, what their responsibilities will be, and whether they'll be an employee, contractor, or consultant.

7

Create your marketing and sales strategies

Next, you need a strategic plan for acquiring new customers. This will include marketing, how people first become aware of your business and offerings, and sales, how you'll convince them to buy. You will also need to define your business' brand and start building it with intention.

8

Officially form your business entity

You're almost there! Now you'll decide what kind of business structure you'll form, if any. Will you operate as a sole proprietor, or form an LLC or corporation? Should you make the S-Corp election? Both your lawyer and accountant should be consulted as you choose which structure is right for your business. Once you've decided on an entity type, take the steps to make it official by filing the correct paperwork with the state and federal government.

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Set up your bookkeeping and manage your financials

With your business operations beginning, make sure your financial house is in order. You'll need a business checking account, debit card, and credit card, as well as a bookkeeping system. This will allow you to create financial statements which are required for filing taxes, applying for loans and grants, and giving you insight into how yoru business is doing.

The ultimate goal of financial management is to have a clear and detailed view of your business's financial health and use that information to make strategic decisions.

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Work to your plan, evaluate, and iterate

You are officially a real-life business owner! Take a moment to celebrate all you've accomplished. But the work isn't over -- it never is when you're an entrepreneur! From here, you'll continue to work toward your goals, learn from your experiences, and make changes to your business. Make it a habit to sit down and reflect on how things are going and adjust your plans accordingly.

WISE Women's Business Center is here to support and guide you at any stage of your entrepreneurial journey. We're here  answer any questions you have, help you learn new skills, connect you with external experts, and provide opportunities to meet and learn from other women business owners. Get in touch anytime by emailing wisecenter@syr.edu or calling us at (315) 443-8634.