Step 1: Plan Your Business Idea
Without a game plan your business idea is as vulnerable as a lobster inadvertently crawling ashore on Kennebunk beach. As the saying goes, nobody does lobster like Maine and no serious entrepreneur tangles with the 21st century marketplace unprepared. Get off on the right foot, no bib required.
Take Action: Check out our 100% free Business Planning Guide designed to get you from A-to-Z as pleasantly as possible. Plus, we provide access to tons of other great tools along the way.
Don’t know what kind of business to start?
Our friends over at howtostartanllc.com have compiled a massive list of business ideas, ranging from personal styling to axe-throwing businesses.
If you’re having trouble finding the perfect business idea for you, we encourage you to check them out!
Step 2: Choose Business Structure & Register
Before you can officially register a business in Maine and protect your personal assets like house and car in the process, you’ll need to choose a business structure.
Most entrepreneurs form an LLC because it has all the benefits of a Corporation without the disadvantages like double taxation, board of directors or corporate officers. However if you're trying to take your company public or raise substantial outside capital, you should probably form a Corporation.
Take Action: Since this step is so important and expensive if it's not done correctly, we highly recommend investing 10 minutes to go over your options through our business structure comparison guide. You'll get a better idea of the advantages and disadvantages of each while building a solid legal foundation for your business.
Step 3: Tackle Maine Tax Obligations
Maine has its share of tax incentives, subsidies, credits, reimbursements, and what have you. Your next step is to do your homework, well, unless you have a tax attorney in your bucket, and leverage these benefits.
Take Action: To get you started head on over to Maine.gov’s Business Taxes section where you have an assortment of user-friendly options. There’s also a great Business Answers system that takes you through some steps to help you find what you need. If that doesn’t work, they have a number to call as well as email.
Step 4: Obtain Licensing/Permits
Chances are, if you’re reading this you’re considering a brick and mortar location. There are states with cheaper fees if you intend on being 100% online. That said, the regulatory environment in Maine can be challenging primarily because of the geography. Why? Coastal areas aside, there are like 6,000 lakes! So you’ve got two good options here:
- For DIY’ers bookmark Maine.gov’s Business Licensing section or approach it through their searchable index of Resources by Profession.
- If you need help with this step, a Business License Package is awesome. They determine everything required on Federal, State, County and Municipal levels, get the forms, and provide step-by-step filing instructions.
Step 5: Separate Your Personal and Business Assets
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
Now that you’ve made it through registering and setting up taxes and licensing for your business, you’ll need to take steps to protect your personal assets and establish your business as an independent entity.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
You can go a long way in protecting your assets with these three steps:
- Open a business bank account.
A business bank account separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection. A designated business bank account also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
To open up a bank account for your business, you’ll need to obtain an EIN (Employer Identification Number). You’ll use your EIN in place of your social security number so that this account is completely separate from your personal finances. After this, start doing your research on various business bank accounts. Local options and national banks, like Chase, both have their perks.
Get $200 when you open a business checking account with Chase. Learn more
- Get a business credit card.
A business credit card helps you separate personal and business expenses. A business credit card will also build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise capital later on.
- Designate an authorized representative.
Make sure all documents are signed by a representative of your LLC and not by you (or other LLC members) directly. This will help separate you from liability incurred by the LLC.
- Keep your accounting and bookkeeping up to date
Make sure to sync up your banking and credit card accounts with an accounting software like QuickBooks as soon as you get the chance. It’s never too soon to start organizing your business’ finances!
Step 6: Pick A Stellar Maine Location
Just remember, it’s blueberries, blueberries, blueberries. No wait, sorry, location! And you’ve got plenty of great options, from the classic New England-style cities like Portland to the summer vacationing lifestyle of Ogunquit; from the Jewel of the Maine Coast (Camden) to entertainment towns like York.
Take Action: We know picking a spot can be tough if it doesn’t somehow happen naturally through your personal/professional networks. If you’d like to brush up on everything that goes into making this decision, refer to our friendly guide on How to Choose the Perfect Location.
Step 7: Finance Your Startup
Whether you opt for more conventional financing options or debt free routes like CrowdFunding, Maine has an incredible assortment of networks and support for startups. One place to check out and start digging is Maine Angels.
Take Action: The email course we mentioned in Step 1 really comes in handy here because planning and finances go together like the smell of salt and chowder. You can also browse our guide on How to Finance a Business to start generating ideas.
Step 8: Design & Publish A Business Website
In order to be taken seriously, you need to have a business website. It can be as simple (an easy and responsive one-page) or as complex as you want (an extensive ecommerce store), but we believe they’re no longer optional. Who can argue with it when modern consumers and professionals turn immediately to Google, online social proofing, and their smartphones to investigate EVERYTHING?
Take Action: If you could use some help in this department the first step is finding the right platform. We highly recommend checking out Wix or Weebly since they are the easiest to use while having the best prices. Zero tech-skills required.
Step 9: Market Your Business
Chances are you’re not a marketing guru, but more of an innovator. The trick then is learning to adapt your inner-creator to better understanding not only your product but your ideal customer/client/user. Not in a cliché sense, but a very real and tech-savvy-personal way.
Take Action: As has always been the case, the ideal marketing strategy is the one that’s designed in a way your product or services sells itself. Or, these days, your fans and followers do most of the marketing for you. Start optimizing and invest time into understanding your customers' wants and needs.
Step 10: Continue Learning & Stay Inspired
Once you’re lording over the previous steps like a magnificent pine tree and managing your business in the state of America’s first chartered city (York, 1641), keep Startup Savant in mind for a reliable stream of useful and insightful entrepreneur-friendly info. All of our information is totally free and designed to get you where you need to be.