Want to start a business? – Part 1 – first 5 steps

Springfield SBDC

Springfield's SBDC

1. Talk to the SBDC

My first recommendation to anyone wanting to start a business — before they do anything else — is to sit down with a certified Small Business Counselor at a Small Business Development Center (SBDC).  Centers typically have counselors with special knowledge and expertise in particular areas.  They will help flesh out a business idea and help a person talk through the viability of concept, the steps needed to move forward, any gaps in making the idea a reality, etc.  They will provide healthy doses of reality to excited entrepreneurs and do what they can to make them succeed.  In addition, they have in-house resources  like subsidized office space, financing, minority/women-owned business certification, and many more.

>> Springfield SBDC – home page

>> Springfield SBDC – free biz counseling  ::  Springfield SBDC – counselor bios

2. Talk to SCORE

Many people haven’t heard of SCORE, but it’s a pretty powerful, FREE resource available to people wanting to start a business.  Headquartered in DC, “SCORE is composed of 10,500 volunteer business mentors, both working and retired, who counsel businesses from 389 chapter offices throughout the country. SCORE volunteers hail from every facet of the business community. Some have worked at large corporations such as Kodak, Xerox or Boeing. Some have served in our military or worked for the local or federal government. Others have spent years cultivating their own small business.”  Dayton has a SCORE office, and Columbus does as well.  I recommend BOTH the SBDC and SCORE as a way to get two different perspectives and more input.  

>> Dayton SCORE – homepage  ::  Dayton SCORE – counseling

>> Columbus SCORE – homepage  ::  Columbus SCORE – counseling

3. Get entrepreneurship training

There are many organizations that provide free or low-cost training that I would highly recommend.  The SBDC offers a free monthly Business Startup Workshop (next one Dec. 4), plus workshops on tax and other subjects.  SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) has offices in Dayton and Columbus and has many events (as well as business counseling), covering topics such as business startup basics, marketing, business planning, strategic planning, and basic accounting with software apps.  You may even want to check out such organizations as Aileron, a non-profit created by Clay Mathile, former owner of the IAMS Company, to fuel entrepreneurship.

>> Springfield SBDC – events

>> Dayton SCORE – events  ::  Columbus SCORE – events

>> Aileron homepage  ::  Aileron services (programs, workshops, events)

4. Create a business plan

SBDC can help counsel on this, and there are several good online resources that will help you do it for free (at least assist with the concepts).  This includes the SBA, Microsoft (in conjunction with SCORE), SCORE templates (many more resources), bplans.com, nebs.com, planware.org, etc.  There are also many fee-based software programs that are available as well.  After you get one complete, run it by the people at SBDC and SCORE.

>> SBA “How to Write A Business Plan” page  ::  SBA business plan template program

>> SCORE templates  ::  Microsoft download 

>> bplans.com templates  ::  nebs.com templates  ::  planware.org templates

5. Get your permits + licenses

(As a preface, SBDC and SCORE can help you with this as well.) There are (basically) three different levels of regulation: local, state, and federal.  Some of the permits will depend on the legal form of business entity you will have (which SBDC, SCORE, accountants and attorneys can help with).  If you have a business plan that’s been reviewed and feel comfortable with it in essence, you may start spending some money here with professional and legal advice.  There are, though, a number of things you can do for free.

5a. State of Ohio

The State regulations can be taken care of through the 1st Stop Business Connection (either online or over phone).  They provide a free, tailored info kit, which contains all the basics.  It will cover many topics as well as things like registering the business with the Secretary of State, establishing Workers’ Comp coverage (if there are employees), registering with the Ohio Dept. of Taxation if collecting sales tax, and establishing an Unemployment Compensation Tax  Account.  Many of those things can be done online as well.

>> 1st Stop Business Connection  ::  Ohio Business Gateway (with links to everything mentioned above)

5b. Federal

Most of federal regulations for most businesses are tax-related; hence, the IRS. 

>> Great IRS resources on starting a business  ::  EIN application online

5c. Local

Locally, there are different layers of government (municipality, township, county), with different permits and jurisdiction.  The most common county permit is the local version of the Vendor’s License, and it’s available from the Clark County Auditor online (and the app is online).  As far as taxation, the Springfield SBDC and/or the local jurisdiction (for municipal income tax), should be able to assist you.  You should, of course, check with your local jurisdiction, based on where you will be located, on any other permits or licenses you will need.

>> Clark County Vendor’s License  ::  Clark County tax table with links to jurisdictions

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