October is National Women’s Small Business Month! As of 2015, 9.1 million business in the United States were owned by women, 2.9 million of which are owned by women of color. These businesses generate $1.4 trillion dollars in sales. This has been a huge increase from years past. So basically, women are kicking ass in business! More women than ever are striking out on their own.
Are you one of them? Obviously, you’re not alone, so I want to help you get started.
Narrow in on your idea
Get clear on your vision. What do you want to bring to the world with your business? What are you dreaming to do with your life? The more specific you can get, the better. You don’t necessarily have to write a business plan at this point, but you should know exactly what you want to do with your business.
Come up with a name
You need an official business name in order to legally start a business. This name will be on your legal paperwork, on any business bank accounts or credit cards you open, and on your tax forms. You’ll probably also use it on your website and other public platforms. So make sure you like it! I personally could not come up with a name that I trusted I’d like long-term. I didn’t want to end up changing the name later on and possibly losing some of my audience. That’s why I ended up just using my own name. I know my name won’t change (even after I get married), so I trust that there won’t be a reason to change it.
Make sure the name you choose reflects what your business is meant to do. And make sure you’ll feel proud and excited to introduce your business to strangers.
Do you have a business? What was your name-choosing process? Share in the comments!
Decide what kind of entity you want to be
Do your research and see which would work best for you. I’m personally registered as an LLC, because I’m the only person working for me so far. Plus, being an LLC protects my personal assets if anyone takes legal action against me as a business owner.
Register your business
I found this part to be really easy in the District of Columbia. I went online and registered my LLC and paid about $200 up front. That initial fee is then owed again every two years (at least in DC). These rules and fees can vary by state and type of business, so do your research.
I also had to hire a registered agent, who will serve as the recipient of any legal documents for my business. If someone decided to sue me, the paperwork would be served to my registered agent, who would make sure it got to me. This ensures you won’t miss any important paperwork if you move, etc. The one I chose only costs $49 a year, and I haven’t had to contact them yet.
Open a business bank account
It’s very important to separate your business finances from your personal finances. This helps with planning, taxes, and tracking expenses. I would recommend that you open at least one savings account for your business as well. I have one for taxes and one for regular expenses. It’s important to have backup money for your business, just like you would for your personal expenses.
There are many banks to choose from. Fees and perks vary. If you’re looking for an account that doesn’t have fees, check out this list.
Sign up for free business counseling
The Washington, DC Women’s Business Center offers free one-on-one business counseling. They can help you come up with a business plan, answer any questions you have, and give advice on your business approach. I went to a few sessions when I first started my business, and it was very helpful.
Not in DC? There are women’s business centers all over the United States. Visit this site to find yours!
Register as a woman-owned business
As of now, the federal government is required to contract with a certain percentage of woman-owned businesses. You can even apply for specific grants or contracts because you’re a woman who owns a business. But in order to qualify for all these things, you first have to register your business as woman-owned.
To be honest, I haven’t found this to be a very straight forward process, and I haven’t registered my business as such just yet. But if you’re interested in doing it for yours, find more information at the Small Business Administration. (And if you figure out how to make it happen, let me know!)
Now, get started!
I know you’re probably thinking something like “I’ll start my business later, when I’m ready.” Or “I’ll start my business when I’m more confident or more of an expert.” The excuses probably go on for days! I know they did for me. But the truth is, you’ll never be fully ready to take a leap and do something brave like starting a business.
There’s no such thing as perfection, and you only get really good at something once you’re actually doing it. So start writing blog posts, start soliciting clients. Put yourself out there! Don’t hold yourself back out of fear. Good luck, and let me know how it goes!
Certified Financial Education Instructor. Feminist and financial coach for women. Founder of Money Circle.