In August 2014, it seemed Deanna S. Walker’s whole world had come undone. At the age of 47, she was unemployed for the first time in her life: Her job of 17 years laid her off. A single mother of two sons, she was hurt and afraid. But, for the sake of her sons, Walker knew she had to move forward. She asked God, “Now what?” Her epiphany came. While she seeks full-time employment, she is considering starting her own business. The name is DCJ Creative Business Solutions and will specialize in finance and accounting.
“I would start part time to build up a name for myself and clientele,” explains Walker. “The hope is to grow the business while being employed and still be able to save money toward the venture without having the strain of jumping in without a clear cut plan.”
Whether you are unemployed like Walker, working full-time or part-time, a student or a stay-at-home mom, you can become a Sister CEO by starting your own business this year. To assist you, ESSENCE.com has assembled a high-powered, All Sister CEO Task Force as well as the U. S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to provide tips on how to start your own company.
Consider the W. Factor: Take a self-query. Ask the “who, what, when, where and why” questions. Why do you want to start your own business? Where will it be? Is this what you love doing? Will you work from home? What will you sell? Do you have the skills necessary? Walker has already created a name and has already carved out her niche area in her mind. “She should create a life plan to get a clear idea of her big picture goals for her personal and professional life. She needs to figure out what she really wants and why she wants it so she can start a business that aligns with her personal vision,” says Melinda F. Emerson, founder and president of Quintessence Group and author of Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months. “Her ‘Why’ story is important because it’s where her motivation will come from on the hard days of business ownership.”
Formulate the Business Plan: This document will include your company’s description, research of your industry, specific product(s) you sell, marketing strategy, funding requests and financial projections. “A business plan is your blueprint and gives you initial directions for your business,” says Cheryl Broussard, Broussard Enterprises, LLC principal and author of Sister CEO: The Black Woman’s Guide to Starting Your Own Business and The Jet Set Girl’s Guide to Building a Million Dollar Online Empire. “Every successful Sister CEO I’ve interviewed started out with a business plan.” To help create a simple business plan, go to her website to request an easy-to-use form called The Sister CEO One Page Game Plan®.
Choose the Legal Structure: Once you have formed your business, there are two important steps to take: (1) register your business name (Doing Business As) with your state and (2) determine your legal structure. Decide whether it will be sole proprietorship, corporation, S corporation, partnership, Limited Liability Company (LLC), nonprofit or cooperative. “Setting up the appropriate legal structure is important because it directly affects the liability exposure of the person(s) starting the business,” says Fawn B. Dyer, owner of Law Office of Fawn B. Dyer LLC. “In addition to liability considerations, one must also consider the tax implications of each of the possible structures. Some structures may prove more tax advantageous than others.” Check out these websites: www.legalzoom.com, www.llc.com and www.myincorporation.com.
Handle Your Taxes: Once you’ve registered your business, you will be assigned a tax identification number which is commonly known as EIN. “Although an EIN is not required for all business entities, most lenders require this information and it’s also necessary to open business accounts,” says Nakeicha Adams, CEO of N Adams Finance. “The IRS offers a page just for businesses. You can find business events, video portals for businesses and a guide to how to start and operate a business.” Go to the Small Business Self-Employment Tax Center on www.IRS.gov for this information.
Identify Women’s Resource Organizations: To explore financing options and training programs, reach out to the SBA. Its Women’s Center for Business Ownership offers a wealth of information on learning centers, laws, licenses, loans, venture capital, referrals to other organizations and much more. “One of the first stops for a woman starting her own business should be to visit our resource partners via online or in person,” advises Carol R. Wilkerson, Deputy Director/Team Leader of the SBA Press Office. “One of our great resources for women business owners is the Women’s Business Center. With more than 100 locations, WBCs promote the growth of women-owned business through programs that address business training and technical assistance, and provide access to credit and capital, federal contracts, and international trade opportunities.”
Create an All-Encompassing Marketing Strategy: According to Shani T. Godwin, president and CEO of Communique´USA, Inc., women should consider key factors. Firstly, understand what you are selling, what makes it unique, why customers need it and who your competitors are. Secondly, know the customers you are targeting and other options available to them. Then develop a 30, 60 or 90-day plan initially. Eventually, you should develop an annual plan. “Having a well-defined and written marketing strategy is a key ingredient to growing a successful small business,” says Godwin, marketing guru to major clients such as Chick-fil-A, Party City, Safeco Insurance and Monarch Beverage Company. “Because things change quickly in a small, growing business, not only will a marketing strategy ensure you stay focused on your overall goals, it will ultimately save you time and money in the long run.”
Seek Various Resources with Local, State and Federal Entities: There are many programs and resources accessible to micro businesses, startups, underserved and disadvantaged groups. Go to SBA.gov and search Environmentally-Friendly “Green” Business, Online Business, Home-Based Business, Minority Owned Business, Self-Employment, Veteran Owned Business and Woman Owned Business. Look into states offering incentives such as START-UP NY. It assists you in starting, relocating or expanding a qualifying company in a tax-free zone. Check out government surplus items such as cars, real estate, furniture, computers and office equipment to save money.
Websites with Resources for Starting Your Own Business
Take Our Cool “How Well Do You Know Your Client” Quiz
By Shani T. Godwin, President and CEO of Communique´ USA, Inc.
“We recommend our clients get a clear picture of their target audience by clearly describing them from head to toe,” says Godwin. “For fun, take out some white paper, crayons or colored pencils and draw a picture of your ideal customer. You should be able to easily describe and recognize them.”
1. What do they look like?
2. Are they male or female?
3. What are their ethnicity, age and income?
4. Where do they shop?
5. What do they like to buy and do for fun?
The Six-Step Guide to Transitioning from Employee to Entrepreneur
By Melinda F. Emerson, Founder and President of Quintessence Group.
1. Life Plan – Figure out what you want out of life and build your business around that.
2. Financial Plan – You have to have money to support your family, household and to launch the business.
3. Skills Assessment – Evaluate the skills you have and those needed to run your business.
4. Marketing Plan – Figure out who is going to buy from you and why. What makes you unique?
5. Business Plan – Think things through and write your plan.
6. Launch While Working – Start your business while you are still working to allow you to save money.
Leslie E. Royal is a Personal Finance Writer and the Creator of Leslie’s Lane, a Consumer Information Blog.