Starting a business in Oklahoma is easy, just follow these 11 steps
Step 1: Make A Plan For Your Business
Your first step building a serious business in The Big Friendly is to come prepared. And don’t worry, the conventional 50-page plans of old aren’t necessary anymore. However you will want to get the basics in order broken into critical sections like our pitch, executive summary, financials (pretty graphs & charts), management setup, basic segmentation/demographics, etc.
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. We also recommend reading our review of the best business plan software. Our top pick is LivePlan.
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: Register Your Oklahoma Business
Your next major task is going to be registering your business with the state of Oklahoma. Before you can do that, though, you have to figure out what type of business structure you want to form: an LLC, S corp, C corp, or sole proprietorship. Then, you can read our detailed guide on naming your business. Let’s take a quick look at each of the business structures:
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: Determine Your Tax Obligations
With a low cost of living, low business costs, and great earnings growth Oklahoma’s economy helps you get the most out of your money. It’s also exceedingly startup-friendly and easy to navigate. Should you work with a professional? Sure, if that would make you feel better. But note that the resource below is a great place to start and has everything you'll need.
Step 4: Obtain Necessary Business Licenses And Permits
After registering your business with the state, incorporating, and syncing with the tax system it’s time to handle any licensing or permitting issues. Don’t worry, this part of the process is like a quick bull ride when it’s your first rodeo. As long as you’ve prepared and got your boots on, you’ll be fine.
- For DYI’ers head over to the Oklahoma Dept. of Commerce website and check out their Business Licensing & Operating Requirements.
- If you need help with this step, a Business License Service is what we recommend. 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 five 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.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Startups and Entrepreneurs review to find the best online bank, eCommerce banks, the best for tech startups, real estate investment banks, and 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!
A good business credit score will help establish your business’s fundability. It can help with many things, including credit cards that are issued in your business’s name and score instead of depending on your personal credit score, better interest rates on loans, higher lines of credit, and more.
Step 6: Choose A Location For Your Business
The state’s a pan with Oklahoma City sitting directly in the center. Everything else, aside from Tulsa, Broken Arrow and Norman are essentially suburbs. And again, everywhere you go you’ll find a great cost of living and lower tax burden than in many other states. Not to mention plenty of chicken fried steak and local brews.
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: Fund Your Business
Here’s a quote from the Oklahoma Cherokee cowboy, Will Rogers himself, “Why not go out on a limb? That’s where the fruit is.” Hard to argue with that. It’s the 21st century and Oklahoma is as good a place as any. Question is, how hungry are you and how much fruit can you carry? When it comes time to kick the capital levels up a few notches, you’ve got plenty of options at your disposal. Don’t be shy.
Take Action: The email course we mentioned in Step 1 really comes in handy here because planning and finances go together like sunsets and ice cream. You can also browse our guide on How to Finance a Business to start generating ideas.
Step 8: Create Your Business Website
No one’s saying your business website has to be as engaging as a gentle float along the Bricktown canal, but your brand does need one. Maybe all it requires in the beginning is a simple landing page, or maybe a streamlined ecommerce theme? These days there are quicker, less expensive ways to get a great site up and running through affordable business website builders.
Take Action: If you could use some help in this department, we highly recommend looking into a business website builder like GoDaddy or Weebly. They’re both very easy to use and will give you a professional website in less than a few hours.
Step 9: Market Your Business
Absolutely, we’re big fans of digital marketing around here and understand the power of tech-communication tools. But, we also haven’t forgotten the power of forming solid relationships with strategic partners. This takes more than blogs, social media updates, and paid advertising. It means getting clear of our comfort bubbles, reaching out, and forging bonds.
Take Action: Start getting involved and networking. Consider contacting the Oklahoma Small Business Development Center and taking them up on any of their services that sound good. Why not leverage marketing help directly from people who work with the local entrepreneurial communities?
Step 10: Build Your Business's Brand
Now that you’ve taken care of all the essentials above, it’s time to work on building your brand!
There are an abundance of factors that impact your brand image, but two of the significant ones are your business logo and website. When you're ready to design your brand logo, keep the following ideas in mind:
- Capture the essence of your business. When thinking about a design, you should choose something that reflects the nature or mission of your company.
- Differentiate yourself. Check out the colors and shapes used by your direct competitors and consider heading a different direction to help you stand out in the market.
- Make it memorable. Select a sleek, bold design that will leave a lasting impression in people’s minds.
- Hire a professional. This is a very important step for your business, so it’s worth investing a few bucks to get your logo professionally done. (Sites like Fiverr can be great for this.)
You can also use our free logo maker tool to make one yourself! No design experience necessary!
Another hugely important aspect of your brand image is your business website — but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to build a website from the ground up. A simple way to craft a professional, inviting website is to use an existing web-building platform. These services can save you a ton of time and money involved in building a website from scratch.
Step 11: Continue Learning And Stay Inspired
At this point it's about keeping your feet planted on the ground, your mind focused on objectives, rallying around and adapting your business plan, and staying motivated during the rough times. Feel free to throw Startup Savant into your toolkit because we know exactly where you're coming from and we're here for you, partner.