Outlook: Business & Economic Development

An entrepreneur’s guide to starting a business

Posted March 13, 2014, at 1:45 p.m.

Entrepreneurs work hard, very hard.

And that’s just to get a business started.

For the Mainer wanting to turn a great idea into a business, following these steps will make the process easier.

Develop a business plan

A business plan is a tool to organize your thinking, develop your identity, plan a strategy for finding and keeping clients, and show where money should (and does) go. A business plan can also help secure funding.

Writing one, though, can feel daunting. There are free resources available, including the Maine Small Business Development Center; Women, Work and Community; and SCORE.

Last fall, I took the New Ventures program offered in Bangor through Women, Work and Community. This 10-week, 60-hour course taught the skills I needed to be a better business owner and assisted me in the process of writing a business plan. I also learned much about my business, my abilities, and other entrepreneurs in the state.

A business plan is like a blueprint for your business. It’s a must have.

The professionals

Develop a team of professionals. No business owner can, or should, do it all alone — and there are four professionals every business owner needs to rely on:

• A banker will help you develop a financial plan, set up an account, and help your business work towards its financial goals.

• An accountant knows how to maximize deductions, assist in preparing items like 1099s, and keep you on track for self-employment tax. If you hate bookkeeping, invest in a bookkeeper, too.

• A lawyer who specializes in business law.

• A commercial insurance agent can write a commercial policy and explain all parts of your business. This is a non-negotiable item for any business owner.

Business registration

Register the business with the state and town. Every business should be registered with the state, especially if the business is selling a good or service. A business owner must file business taxes and remitting use and sales tax.

If your business is not a sole proprietorship, you will need an Employer Identification Number (also known as EIN). It’s free to file for an EIN.

If your business requires local zoning approval or licenses, get these before opening the days.

Find a business location and financing

Remember that business plan? Check it especially if you need a location or additional financing to get started. Prepare your financial sheets and meet with your banker. Know what you need to buy, not just what you want. There are financing programs in place that can help women especially.

If you’re operating out of your home, like I do, you may not need to find a location or get additional financing. A line of credit might be better in the short term.

Marketing

Polish your marketing plan, network with peers and friends, and prepare to open. A strong marketing plan is essential in business. Network with people who offer similar services or who will help your clients, but don’t sell to them. Educate your contacts about you and your business and start building rapport.

Check these resources about starting a business in Maine:

• Small Business Administration: sba.gov/content/women-owned-businesses;

• Women, Work and Community: womenworkandcommunity.org;

• SCORE: scoremaine.org;

• Coastal Enterprises Inc.: ceimaine.org;

• Small Business Development Center: mainesbdc.org;

• Business Answers: maine.gov/portal/business;

• Maine Stream Finance: mainestreamfinance.org/;

• Eastern Maine Development Corp.: emdc.org.

Debra Bell owns Bell Imaging & Design in Hermon.

 

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