It’s been a while since I’ve done a work-related post that wasn’t a photoshoot, so today I wanted to list the first 10 things I did when I started Ellie & June. A few months ago I did a post called My Starting Toolkit. I focused namely on my background and what competencies I had (and didn’t have) starting this little venture. Today’s post is different in that I’ll be listing the first several things that I actually did do; and my list may surprise you.
I’m skipping ahead and assuming there’s already a clear value proposition and path for funding. Disclaimer: that’s A LOT to skip over. Those pieces are unquestionably the most imperative components of starting a business. But today I don’t want to write about fundamental market analysis or how to write a business plan or forecast financials. I think there’s a TON of guidance for that stuff already out there. Today, I want to address the person that has a great idea, has a little bit of cash saved, and might be thinking “What do I do now?!”
Now, keep in mind that the first steps you take will depend solely on your business and its growth plans. Regardless, I hope there is something anyone who is starting a business can take away from this little list. Here we go!
1) Conscientious Naming
Naming a business is harder than naming a band (which is harder than naming a baby 😉 ). I’m not here to tell you that the first step in creating a business is coming up with a name (duh), I’m here to remind you that whatever you decide, you should be cognizant of the subsequent steps you’ll be taking with that name. Is there a domain available for it? Social media accounts (if applicable)? Is it already trademarked by someone? It’d be a huge disappointment to come up with a fantastic name and start building a brand only to discover it’s not available legally.
2) Bought a domain and pulled down all social media accounts
If you’ve got a name and it’s available across all of these platforms, my best advice is to pull it down faster than a piece of free pie. If a domain is available, you’re talking a small amount to claim it. Social media accounts are free. Decide later on not to move forward? Okay, you’re out maybe $30.00. I made sure these minimal-effort pieces were done before I went forward with anything legally.
As a side story, don’t give up along the way when and if you hit little bumps. My store’s current domain was actually already taken, but there was no website built on it. I searched the public database for the owner’s information, and contacted him directly to negotiate a price for ellieandjune.com. I kept the first domain I pulled (www.ellieandjuneboutique.com) and now it redirects it to the store’s live site www.ellieandjune.com 🙂
3) Created a Business Entity
I knew early on I wanted the business to be its own “person”. It would have its own identity, its own bank account, its own credit, etc. You can find an overwhelming amount of information about different business structures online, but I incorporated the business right away. As a side note, legally creating an entity typically needs to occur to open a business bank account anyway. Banks will ask for an EIN number (analogous to a SSN for individuals) to open the account, and to get an EIN you’ll need a legal business entity. Incorporating your business will probably be your first real investment for the business. The costs will vary depending on where you’re incorporating (you don’t have to do it in your state if you have a registered agent), but I’ve seen it as high as $500.00.
4) Filed for an EIN
An EIN is an Employer Identification Number assigned by the IRS for tax purposes. After I created the business entity, I filed for said EIN number 🙂
5) Opened a Business Checking Account
Opened said business checking account after I had my EIN!
6) Synced the business account with accounting software
In my opinion, the sooner this gets done the better. The quicker I could transfer a little money into the business account, the quicker I could account for all of my business expenditures from one place and with accounting software. This is ideal for a number of reasons, but especially for tracking, reports, and overall organization. Yes, this can be done later on down the road, but it could get really messy unless you were really organized. You may also find yourself in manual journal entry hell.
As another side note, if you’re thinking big and imagine yourself on Shark Tank or in front of any other investor(s) in the future, having a segregated account and clearly documented expenditures from the start is truly imperative; and from a compliance perspective, it really is best practice.
7) Filed for a resale ID
In my business, this is necessary to be a retailer and to do business with wholesalers. If you’re producing something, I can’t think of a reason to have one 🙂
8) Registered for a Trademark
This is a lengthier legal process, but if you plan on being around for a while, it’s not a step you should overlook in the beginning. You never know if someone else out there is already working hard to establish a brand under your chosen name, and heaven forbid they beat you to trademarking it. Look at TESS (Trademark Electronic Search System). You’re looking at a cost similar to the incorporation.
9) Stamped my own Business Card, created a splash page, and set up an email
A lot of people assume the first thing you do when you start a business is build a website. While it was definitely one of the first projects I undertook, I was buying products way before I had a full-blown website live. What I did do however was create a simple “Coming Soon” splash page. I created an email account through my hosting company and I made about 100 stamped business cards with this etsy stamp. When I hit my first trade show, it was most important to me that I had a real business entity to put on the purchase orders, a business debit card to do business with and track expenses with, my resale certificate in hand if needed, and a basic business card with functional email and a website that said “Hey, I’ll be here soon”. I would have been really embarrassed if I had a killer website but didn’t have any proof of incorporation/EIN or my resale ID when they asked for it (and they did).
10) Went to my first show and put in my first wholesale order
The rest is history!! Just kidding, that was only like 9 months ago 😉