(Family Features) Like any idea, the great ones come when you formulate a plan and turn that idea into action. Starting your own business can be stressful and demanding, but also both personally and professionally fulfilling. Getting a business up and running takes planning, smart financial decision-making and backing, and stacks of paperwork, but these tips can help guide you through the development stage and help you ready your idea for unveiling.
Create a Business Plan
To get started, create a simple overview of the business you intend to start. This plan will be your roadmap moving forward and should include a mission statement, a company executive summary, a list of services and/or products offered and their costs, a target market analysis, an organizational structure, financial projections and expected cost of operations. Remember, this is a fluid process, so keeping it simple at the beginning may be beneficial in the long run.
Finance Your Business
Whether you plan on self-funding your business – be it through savings, credit cards or personal loans – or looking for other sources of start-up income, i.e. grants or venture capitalists, you’re going to need funding to get your idea off the ground. If you don’t have the capital to fund the venture yourself, look for investors who share your passion and that you believe you can work with or aid in the form of research grants or small business loans backed by the government.
Determine the Legal Structure
Decide on which form of ownership is best for you: sole proprietorship, partnership, Limited Liability Company, corporation, S corporation, nonprofit or cooperative. Owning your own business comes with federal tax obligations related to the type of business entity you establish. Often, during the infantile stages of your business, it can best serve you to register as a sole proprietor – which comes with less paperwork and upfront expenses. Acting as a sole proprietor does carry personal risks, however, so be sure to consult an attorney prior to finalizing the ownership structure.
Choose a Name and Location
Regardless of whether your business will be brick and mortar or online, deciding on a name that best suits your product or service and appeals to your intended audience is an important step. Once you’ve picked a name, select a location that offers opportunity for growth, proximity to suppliers, accessibility to customers and an acceptable level of competition, then check to see if the domain name is available online and make sure it is usable in your county and state. If it’s available, register it with the county clerk, secure the domain name and register a trademark at both the state and federal levels.
Register for Taxes, Licenses and Permits
When starting your business, you need to account for city licensing, state incorporation, business entity fees and more. Conduct a thorough search beforehand to determine applicable filing fees. In addition to fees, your business will have to pay certain state, local and federal taxes, including income taxes and employment taxes, based on the legal structure of your company. You’ll also need to obtain any licenses or permits, potentially including city or county business permits, liquor licenses or zoning variances.
Find more tips for starting and managing a small business at eLivingToday.com.
How networking can build your business
Business is built on relationships. For many entrepreneurs whose small businesses are thriving, successful networking is one of the most common threads.
Making connections and building relationships are among the most beneficial aspects of networking with other small businesses, according to more than half of the respondents in a survey by The UPS Store. This is especially true among younger business owners, who are more likely than their older counterparts to take advantage of networking opportunities with fellow small business owners.
Not only do they crave these connections, 61 percent of small business owners say they want to establish in-person relationships. Attending networking and meetup events is a great way for entrepreneurs to form new relationships, share experiences and celebrate their hard work. In honor of National Small Business Week, The UPS Store will offer several networking events to facilitate small business connections. The following tips can help small business owners make the most of networking events.
Practice your “elevator pitch.” When introducing yourself, be prepared to give a brief explanation of your business, boiled down to a couple of sentences. Be sure to include your business name, the solution you provide and anything that makes you unique. The key is to deliver enough context that others can engage in meaningful conversation, while keeping it succinct enough that you have plenty of time to listen. If you think your elevator pitch is perfected, submit a 90-second video describing the business or idea to enter The UPS Store national Pitch Off contest at theupsstore.com/pitchoff for a chance to win $10,000.
Embrace the competition. It may feel counterintuitive to forge a relationship with a direct competitor, but there’s some obvious benefit to trading notes with someone who is operating in your market from a similar vantage point. Remember, while neither of you is going to give up proprietary information, a respectful dialogue may get your wheels turning to think about solving a problem in a new way.
Represent your brand well. A networking event is intended to be social, but it shouldn’t be treated casually. You are every bit the face of your business in this setting as you are within your business walls. Dress the part and present yourself as you would to potential customers. Make sure you have updated business cards, as 75 percent of survey respondents said they are the most common marketing tool used to promote their business, and any other printed materials such as brochures or fliers that showcase your business.
Find networking opportunities and more ideas to grow your small business at theupsstore.com/smallbizsalute.
Photos courtesy of Getty Images
(Family Features) Winning a scholarship can be as competitive as gaining entrance to the college of your choice. While academic performance, extracurricular activities and character all matter, your success often boils down to discovering scholarships that fit your credentials and properly promoting your accomplishments.
These tips will help you prepare scholarship applications that get you noticed – and could get you some extra cash to help pay for school.
- Leverage relationships and seek nontraditional opportunities. There are a lot of scholarships out there, and the wider you cast your net the greater your chances are of winning. In addition to traditional avenues such as your basic online search and checking the bulletin board outside the financial aid office, reach out to your network. Ask family and friends about scholarships offered by the companies they work for and organizations they belong to. You may be surprised by all the organizations that offer assistance to deserving students. For example, Foresters, an international financial services provider, offers the Foresters Competitive Scholarship to its members and their immediate family members, which awards up to 250 tuition scholarships worth up to $8,000 each to students who demonstrate a commitment to community service and have a strong GPA. Learn more about Foresters scholarship opportunities at foresters.com.
- Showcase your passion, talent and potential. A compelling essay gives scholarship judges insight into what makes you special and unique. If you and another candidate are tied in objective criteria, such as grades, a well-written narrative can set you apart. Not all essays are the same, though; exercise caution to ensure that you are answering the question posed and demonstrating your knowledge of the sponsor, not just copying and pasting from another application. The essay is your opportunity to let your personality shine through in ways your transcript can’t. Showcase your passions and motivations, and be sure to reference volunteer work, extracurricular activities and other evidence that demonstrates your leadership skills.
- Prepare a checklist and gather materials ahead of time. Winning a scholarship often comes down to organization; you can’t win if you don’t complete the application by the deadline. Although each application will have its nuances, there are some standard details that nearly every scholarship requires. Gathering and assembling these materials ahead of time will make the tedious task of preparing each application easier, and it will help you avoid overlooking something important when a submission deadline is looming. Be sure to obtain extra copies of items such as transcripts that take time to process, and reach out early to request references and documents such as volunteer work affidavits.
With an organized approach, you could be on your way to winning scholarships that help ease your school debt and set you up for success.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
(Family Features) As the calendar turns over a new year, it’s a good time to take stock of your finances. Evaluating what missteps you made with your money in the past year, determining how you can correct those errors and setting a realistic budget will put you on your way to better financial health in 2016.
A top New Year’s resolution is putting money into a savings account each month, according to a recent survey of working adults by the Principal Financial Group. Leading money management priorities include paying down debt (28 percent), saving for retirement (25 percent) and building a savings account for emergencies (15 percent).
Achieving those goals starts with setting a budget that you can reasonably follow, said Kevin Morris, vice president of retirement and income solutions at The Principal. However, the group’s recent survey shows many Americans have plenty of room for improvement.
In 2015, workers reported that they blew their budget on dining out (24 percent), food/groceries (19 percent), entertainment (15 percent) and other consumer goods (15 percent), among other things. On top of that, employees’ top financial blunders included not saving enough (20 percent), accumulating credit card debt (11 percent) and spending outside their means (9 percent).
“It’s not surprising to see that American workers continue to blow their budget dining out,” Morris said. “It’s easy to spend $30 here and $40 there on a meal and not think twice about it. But what if they put that money toward something more long-term, like retirement? Or building up their savings? Over time, those pizza deliveries and nights on the town add up and can make a huge difference in your budget.”
Getting your financial house in order doesn’t have to be a burden. Follow these tips to establish a budget and begin building healthier money habits:
Account for incidentals. When listing all the people and places you owe money, it can be easy to overlook other expenses that really add up. Things like a work wardrobe, toiletries and personal hygiene items are necessary purchases that should be reflected in your budget.
Expect the unexpected. Even the best planned budget can fall apart when unexpected expenses arise. Ensure that you’re not only directing a sum of money to your savings account each month, but that you’re earmarking some of that money for emergency car repairs, an unplanned visit to the veterinarian or a critical home repair.
Don’t treat your budget like a bad diet. Like a crash diet, being too restrictive with your budget will leave you discouraged and exhausted. And maybe hungry. The key is to be honest with yourself about your spending. Look at your spending history – you might be surprised to see where your money goes. Be sure to set a reasonable budget each month that allows you manage your finances without falling off the wagon.
Leverage rewards. It may seem counter-intuitive to use a credit card for expenses you don’t need to buy on credit. But if you use a cash back rewards credit card for your regular essential purchases and even bills, you’ll have some extra income each month. Deposit those rewards in a savings plan or allocate them to help pay down debt each month. Just remember that this approach only works to your advantage if you pay the balance each month.
Research all your money management options. A solid budget is the foundation of a good money management plan, but the type of accounts you use can also influence your financial situation. A financial advisor can help you understand the benefits and limitations of various types of checking, saving and investment accounts, as well as other products to help maximize your savings and minimize debt.
Find more information to help guide your budget planning as well as the full Principal Financial Well-Being Index: American Workers study at principal.com.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Principal Financial Group
Encourage Kids to Trick-or-Treat
(Family Features) As kids set out with friends and neighbors on a quest for sweet treats and goodwill this Halloween, they can bring along a new gang – “The Peanuts Movie” gang, that is. This year, the iconic Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF campaign will celebrate its 65th anniversary by joining forces with another American favorite, Peanuts, which is also turning 65 this year.
“The Peanuts Movie” characters will encourage children to support Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF this Halloween by going door-to-door to collect donations for UNICEF’s lifesaving programs while they celebrate the spooky season.
Since 1950, American kids who Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF have raised more than $175 million for UNICEF to provide children around the world with medicine, nutrition, clean water, emergency relief and education.
Tools for schools
In addition to children’s efforts to raise funds, teachers of grade K-12 students can participate in the Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF School Challenge. This fall, teachers can enter a short essay (200-500 words) contest about encouraging global citizenship in the classroom and community. The top 15 entrants will receive $500 worth of Scholastic books. Entries must be submitted at trickortreatforunicef.org by Dec. 1, 2015 to be considered; teachers can also access lesson plans and other resources to engage their students on the website.
Other ways to participate
Families can participate in this year’s campaign through partners and supporters, including HSNi Cares, Key Club International, Claire’s and American Airlines.
HSNi Cares will raise funds to support UNICEF through all eight HSNi brands: Ballard Designs, Chasing Fireflies, Frontgate, Garnet Hill, Grandin Road, HSN, Improvements and TravelSmith. Throughout August and September, customers can make a donation online or over the phone at any HSNi brand. From Aug. 14 to Sept. 30, HSN will match all customer donations made on the HSN credit card up to $150,000. Exclusively on Chasing-Fireflies.com, customers can purchase one-of-a-kind “I Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF” tote bags. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF will receive a 30 percent donation from the purchase price of each bag through Oct. 31.
Claire’s will support Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF through retail stores nationwide and on Claires.com. From Sept. 24 through Oct. 31, customers can pick up a Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF box in Claire’s stores nationwide, which they can use to decorate and collect funds to support UNICEF. In addition, Claire’s will sell a Halloween Tote, donating 50 percent of the purchase price to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. The brand will also host an Instagram sweepstake (#clairesunicefsweepstakes) and give prizes for the most creative boxes.
To learn more or participate in the Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF campaign, visit trickortreatforunicef.org.
Marriage is a milestone in life; yet, many enter into the next phase without asking their spouse some vital questions about money.
If you are among the soon-to-be wed, consider starting a conversation using the questions below.
Couples who plan their expenses ahead of time are more likely to enjoy their earnings, and less likely to need credit repair intervention.
Men, women and weddings
Females are often portrayed as materialistic or over-the-top when it comes to their big day, but recent findings from an online Harris Poll tell a different story.
Surprisingly, the study found that twice the number of men stated they would or did go into debt to pay for their dream wedding.
The study also found that both men and women valued financial responsibility.
In fact, 91% indicated a preference for entering marriage debt-free as opposed to having a dream wedding.
“Marriage is a lifelong commitment built on trust, clear communication and honesty,” said John Heath, Directing Attorney for Lexington Law. “While some may find financial discussions unnecessary, understanding each other intimately in terms of what you both bring to the table – be it wealth or debt – will strengthen your relationship and help to avoid potentially serious friction to your marriage down the road.”
Discussing money matters
So how does one go into a marriage with a solid financial standing? Those soon-to-be-wed couples who converse openly about their finances are more likely to enjoy their big day with an understanding of their mate’s views on money. The experts at Lexington Law offer these questions every newly engaged couple should ask before the big day:
1. How do you view money?
This is a loaded question, but your fiancé’s answer will help you understand their perspective and how it aligns with yours.
Here are a few conversation starters on the subject:
• How do you budget your money?
• Are you meticulous about your bills and expenses, or are you comfortable to just “wing it?”
• What’s the most you would ever spend on a home, car, piece of clothing, etc.?
2. How should we budget for a family?
Kids are expensive, especially if you haven’t planned for them.
Talk to your partner about how many kids you would both like to have.
Plan for child living expenses and how they will impact your budget, i.e. clothes, food, activities, medical expenses, schooling, etc.
3. How should we communicate about money?
Some couples are content to let one person handle the finances, and others like to split up the bills and share household responsibilities.
Regardless of what you decide, it is important to have a plan in place before getting married.
4. What should we do when we disagree about spending?
You and your spouse won’t agree on everything. In fact, you may completely disagree on how to spend, save, and generally manage your money.
The question is: What should you do when these disagreements arise?
Avoiding the subject will put you at greater risk for financial (and marital) trouble.
There’s no easy answer for this one, but presenting the topic during your conversation is a good start.
5. Do you have any debts that I should be aware of?
Secrets aren’t the best addition to a marriage, especially when it comes to debt.
Be sure you and your soon-to-be put the credit cards on the table before walking down the aisle.
Marriage is a life partnership; start by dealing with your debt together.
You’ll head into your new life as a married couple with ease when you have an open and honest dialog about your financial situation.
For more tips for managing your money, or your credit, visit www.LexingtonLaw.com.
— Family Features