The most important preliminary step in starting your new business — regardless of your size, scale or trade — is creating a terrific business plan. Launching a company without a business plan is like hiking in the Ozark Mountains without a map.
You’re going to need something to guide you when you start feeling lost out there.
Among the issues you’ll tackle throughout the business planning process are:
You’ll also create a mini-pitch and USP (unique selling proposition) to communicate the mission of your business in a concise manner. The former should be one or two sentences, and the latter only a few words long.
Check out our definitive guide for an in-depth discussion of what to include in your business plan — we’ve only scratched the surface with the list above. Because this is such a pivotal point for your new venture, it’s also a great idea to take advantage of business planning software like LivePlan. They provide step-by-step guidance all along the way to help you craft a beautiful, thorough business plan in no time.
Once you’ve properly planned your business endeavor, it’s time to choose a structure for your business and get it registered with the state of Arkansas. There are quite a few forms your business can take, but here are the main four:
Choosing a business structure is a significant step for you (and your team, if you have one), so we advise putting in some research before settling on one. Read through our comparison guide to get a better sense of what each structure would mean for the future of your company!
Once you’ve selected the perfect structure for your business, you need to formally register it with the state (unless you decided on a sole proprietorship, that is) . This will require appointing a registered agent and filing Articles of Incorporation/Organization with the Arkansas Secretary of State.
You may be able to handle this on your own, but if you want to be certain all the paperwork is completely on-point, we recommend working with a lawyer or an online filing service like IncFile. Check out IncFile or one of our other top 7 incorporation providers to get an idea of what these services cost and all they have to offer.
To be totally compliant with the state of Arkansas, you need to acquire any licenses and pay any special taxes the state requires for your business activity.
Unlike many states, Arkansas does not issue general business licenses, so it’s possible you won’t need to apply for anything at all — but it’s still worth checking out the following resources to make sure:
Covering all your bases ahead of time will allow you to operate your business with peace of mind — risking fines or other legal repercussions simply isn’t worth it.
If you don’t have the time to do all this research independently — or if you’re well-aware that your business is going to need a whole bundle of special licenses — you might want to take advantage of a business license research service. This kind of service will do all the legwork for you, so all you’ll have to do is sign the forms and fill in a few details.
Your personal and professional finances should never intermingle, so now’s the time to get an EIN and set up a bank account specifically for your business.
Your EIN, or Employer Identification Number, is the federal government’s way of tracking your company’s financial activity — and it’s required to set up a legitimate business bank account.
Even if you’re running a sole proprietorship, this is an important step because:
When you’re choosing a bank, consider the benefits of local and national options. Local ones like Farmers & Merchants Bank may offer excellent customer service, while national banks may have better online features and more ATMs nationwide. To start off your research, read our review of Bank of America — they’re our favorite bank that operates in Arkansas.
As soon as you set up your business bank account, you ought to sync it with a reliable accounting tool. Whether or not you’re already working with an accountant, this is a great way to take initiative and begin managing your professional finances independently.
Now that you’ve set up a business bank account, it’s time to start pouring some money into it. The primary funding method you choose should be based on:
… and a few other factors. For instance, selling your car to fund your business isn’t the best idea for someone who only has one car that they need to get to and from work. However, selling assets may be the perfect fit for someone who has plenty they can part with.
To learn the basics of financing a new business, check out our funding guide. We go over 10 of the most popular funding options and the circumstances they best fit!
The business funding page on Arkansas’ Small Business and Technology Development Center website lists several seed-stage funding and angel investment opportunities. While many of them are specifically for technology-focused businesses, others offer funding for a variety of industries.
Arkansas’ SBTDC also provides free one-on-one business consulting where you can discuss what funding methods will work best for your business based on the criteria above. They have seven locations across the state, so there’s likely one near you!
It’s finally time to get back to the heart of your business. Building a brand is all about capturing your enthusiasm, your mission and your product/service and communicating it all with your audience in an effective way. There are several factors that play into your brand image, but a couple of the main ones are your business logo and website.
When you’re designing your logo, keep the following principles in mind:
Read our guide for a closer look at the dos and don’ts of business logo design!
When it comes to your business website, your logo isn’t the only thing that will impact your audience — the overall design of the website needs to be professional in appearance, too. We think the best way to go about this is to leverage a website builder like StudioPress.
This is a much easier — and cheaper — route to creating a professional website than building one from scratch. Check out StudioPress or some of our other favorite website builders to get an idea of what they cost, and what designs they have to offer.
Finally, it’s time to get going on a step that will never end, and one you’ve been doing in some capacity all along: marketing. Here are a few big-picture pointers for getting the most out of your marketing efforts:
There’s much more nitty-gritty stuff you need to learn in order to effectively market your business — especially if you’re heading the expedition — but the four points above are surefire ways to improve your marketing efforts.
There are tons of free or affordable resources out there for marketing your business in the modern moment. From scheduling social media posts to calculating ROI, digital tools have totally transformed the world of small business marketing. We include a list of our favorite tools, as well as a more comprehensive marketing discussion, in our definitive guide.