Starting a business is an exciting time. You have a great product, service, or idea. You have the fortitude and wherewithal to be your own boss. So now what? How do you actually go about starting a business in Wisconsin? We're here to help you get started.
Keep These Tips In Mind When Starting A Business In Wisconsin
1. Make a plan
One of the first things you should do is develop a business plan. This is your roadmap for success and forces you to take a good, hard look at your product or service, your industry and competitors, how you will grow the business, and how your company will be structured. If you plan to seek a business loan or bank funding to get your business off the ground, the lender may require you to provide them with a business plan to help them decide whether or not to approve your financing request. If you plan to found your business debt-free your plan will help you determine if you are financially ready to start a business, as well as how much money you will need to get started and to cover your cashflow.
Not sure how to get started on a business plan? See tip #3.
2. Take care of legalitiesNext, you'll need to determine your business structure. The way you structure or set up the business has legal and tax implications so you want to make certain you choose the very best option for your needs. Examples of business structures are: Sole Proprietorship, LLC, Cooperative, Corporation, Partnership, and S Corporation. We recommend consulting an attorney and/or business accountant to make sure you're set up with the right choice.
If you are operating the business under anything other than your legal name, you'll need to register it with the Wisconsin Department of Revenue. However, first you need to check the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions to make sure your chosen business name hasn't already been taken. Keep in mind, though, that just because someone in the state hasn't registered a name doesn't mean it's not being used. You might also want to check the federal trademark database to be sure.
Finally, make sure you have all of the appropriate permits and licenses you need to operate your business. Not all businesses need to be licensed in Wisconsin. Visit the state Department of Safety and Professional Services to see if your business will need a license or not.
Again, a tax advisor, accountant, or attorney can help you with all of these steps.
3. Find mentors, training, and resourcesNo man (or woman) is an island. All of the most successful businesspeople will tell you they had help getting where they are. Don't be shy about asking for or seeking out help as you learn to be a business owner! There are plenty of people, programs, and resources out there that can help you at every stage of the process. Check out the Entrepreneurial Training Program (ETP) offered by Small Business Development Center at UW campuses statewide. They even offer $1,000 grants to make it easier for you to participate. In addition to providing a ton of helpful information, ETP helps participants through the process of creating a business plan.
SCORE is another great program that offers free small business advice by experienced business leaders. Mentorship programs as well as workshops can help entrepreneurs increase their chances of success.
There are even niche support organizations like small business incubators. Look to local colleges and universities, local Chambers of Commerce, and local government agencies for help breaking into niche markets or industries.
Visit https://openforbusiness.wi.gov for more advice on starting a business in Wisconsin.
4. Line up professional help
We've mentioned several times already the need to consult attorneys and tax advisors as part of the business formation process. These professionals are well worth their cost since they will ensure the legality of your entire business. At a minimum, you'll want to discuss business formation with a tax advisor and get help setting up the business. Many attorneys and accountants work on an as-needed basis so you don't need to worry about retaining services you don't need.
Learn more about the benefits of asking for help in our blog post "To Achieve Success as a Small Business Owner, Learn When To Outsource."
5. Find a location
You will likely already have an idea of where you want to establish your business. To narrow down your choices, think about your needs, the number of employees you'll have, the type of business you are running (zoning laws may apply), and local competition. The U.S. Small Business Administration offers several tips for choosing a location for your business.
Not all businesses require formal office space, some can be successfully run from home. However, it's not always ideal to meet with clients in your home office. If this is the case, look into the possibility of co-working spaces like World HeadQuarters in Appleton. This type of shared office space allows entrepreneurs, freelancers, and independents to work in a professional environment without the need to rent solo office space. For a small fee you can book a space to network, work by yourself, or hold a meeting. These shared office situations are ideal for freelancers, start-ups, and creative professionals
6. Determine funding sources
Some businesses take quite a bit of capital to get off the ground. If you don't have that capital available to you already, you may consider loans and lending programs. You can find loans for all sorts of things like real estate, equipment, and general business operations. Your first stop may be your local bank, but options are also available through the Small Business Administration and at the state and local government level.
Specialty loans exist for certain groups or businesses. The Wisconsin Women's Business Initiative focuses exclusively on women-owned business, for example. You can also find loan program for minorities, specialty businesses, and for business development in certain geographic regions.
You can also choose to run your business debt-free. This technique, known as Bootstrapping, initially focuses on keeping expenses low, so that you can cover expenses with your own cash and the proceeds from your business. Bootstrapped businesses are carefully managed to prompt growth while ensuring that expenses don't out pace revenue.
Harness Your Entrepreneurial Spirit
As this list demonstrates, you'll need to be practical and pragmatic, but also creative, approachable, and determined when starting a business in Wisconsin – all highly entrepreneurial characteristics! Our best advice is to not let anything derail you from your dreams of being a business owner. It may take more time and effort than you expected, but the rewards will be well worth it!