Tips on How to Start a Small Business in Oregon in 2022

Tips on How to Start a Small Business in Oregon in 2022

Everything You Need to Know About Starting a Small Business

In order to become a successful entrepreneur in Oregon, it’s important to first understand how to start a small business.

While some of the steps to bring your small-business idea to market will depend on the type of industry you choose and the products or services you will be providing, every business will need to follow these essential steps:

  1. Identify your business idea.
  2. Research your idea.
  3. Refine and test your idea.
  4. Set up your business.
  5. Write your business plan.
  6. Get your finances in order.
  7. Choose a business location.
  8. Build your website.
  9. Find your customer base.
  10. Prepare for challenges.

Read on to learn more.

Identify Your Business Idea

When considering how to start a small business, it’s important to remember that a great business starts with a great idea. However, even in the ideation stage, there are several approaches you can consider.

When developing your small-business ideas, you can take something you’re passionate about—like a hobby—and turn it into a business. For example, if you love puzzles and care about quality and design, you might consider manufacturing your own brand of puzzles. If you love to bake, perhaps you have a dream to open your own bakery.

Another way to approach your small-business idea is by solving a problem. Perhaps your area is growing in tourism but doesn’t have enough accommodations. If you have extra space at your home or can buy an investment property, this may be an opportunity for you to explore hospitality as a business venture. Finding a need in your community is a fantastic place to start.

You can also generate small-business ideas through brainstorming. Write down any idea that comes to mind—big or small—and refine your idea in the next phase.

No matter how your business idea comes to mind, remember to be realistic about the demand and scalability of your potential business.

Research Your Idea

The next step in how to start a small business is to do some market research and take a hard look at the demand for your business idea in order to ensure that it’s viable before you spend time and money developing your business.

Questions you should seek answers to during this phase include:

  • Is there a need for this product or service?
  • What is currently available in the market?
  • How competitive is this industry, and who are my top competitors?
  • What is needed to turn my idea into a reality?

Conducting market research for your small-business idea will be helpful when you begin writing your business plan.

Refine and Test Your Idea

Testing your idea is a crucial aspect of starting your business. You can provide your service to a few people and get valuable feedback on how it’s working. If you are manufacturing a product, you can create a prototype and learn what works—and, just as importantly, what doesn’t. You can also find out how much potential customers might pay for your product or service. From there, you can refine your business idea.

Set Up Your Business

Next, it’s time to set up your small business, which has several steps within this phase.

You will first want to choose a business name. It’s important to choose a business name that is available for use in Oregon, which you can check through the Oregon Secretary of State’s website. Businesses can also obtain a federal trademark, so it’s a good idea to search the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for similar business names to yours.

Next, you will need to choose your business structure. Your business structure will influence your registration requirements, your tax responsibilities, and your personal liability. Choosing the right business structure will provide the right balance of legal protections and benefits.

Common business structures include:

  • Sole proprietorship
  • Partnership
  • Limited liability company (LLC)
  • C corporation (C corp)
  • S corporation (S corp)
  • Benefit corporation (B corp)
  • Close corporation
  • Nonprofit corporation
  • Cooperative

Once you have identified your business name and business structure, you can apply online for your business’s federal employer identification number (EIN) through the IRS and register your business in Oregon. This will allow you to apply for the necessary business licenses and permits.

Write Your Business Plan

Writing a business plan is a crucial step to starting any business. It’s a foundational tool that helps to map out your plan for success and guides you through the stages of beginning and operating your business.

There is no right or wrong way to write a business plan—it simply needs to meet your needs and the needs of your business. It can cover anything from high-level overviews about various aspects of your business to more detailed information such as your operational plans and finances.

Topics you may consider including in your business plan include:

  • Executive summary
  • Overview of the company and its objectives
  • Market analysis
  • Company organization
  • Overview of services or products
  • Marketing and sales strategy
  • Logistics and operations
  • Financial projections

You should think of your business plan as a living document, designed to be reviewed and adjusted over time.

Get Your Finances in Order

Being able to manage your finances well will be critical to the success of your small business. One way to get off to the right start is to ensure that you separate your personal and business expenses.

Open a separate business checking account, which can be used to receive payments and to pay for business-related expenses and overhead. LLCs, partnerships, and corporations are required by law to have a separate bank account for business. While sole proprietors are not legally required to have a separate account, it’s highly recommended, and your future self will thank you come tax season!

You may also want to consider opening a business credit card and will be required to do so if your business structure is a corporation or an LLC. Building credit is important for having the ability to secure future funding should you need it.

You’ll then need to develop a bookkeeping system and set up important processes, such as how you’ll get paid by your customers.

At this stage, consider your knowledge, skills, and abilities to:

  • Keep accurate records
  • Analyze timely financial reports
  • Prepare sales forecasts and budgets
  • Track and analyze key financial indicators
  • Structure debt effectively

If you’re unsure about how to manage the day-to-day bookkeeping and accounting responsibilities for your business, you should know that the Oregon SBDC offers resources and ongoing classes for small-business owners to get a handle on their finances and accounting basics, including the Small Business Management Program, which provides a combination of a classroom setting and one-on-one coaching to help make you and your business more successful.

Additionally, businesses will need to secure external business financing through a line of credit, a small-business loan, or other means. The Oregon SBDC’s Capital Access Team can help you access the funding your business will need through specialized business advising.

Choose a Business Location

If you are planning to operate a brick-and-mortar business, choosing a business location is one of the most important decisions you will make before launch, because it will determine the taxes, zoning laws, and regulations your small business will be subject to.

Consider your business’s target market, your personal preferences, and the costs, benefits, and restrictions of different government agencies.

Costs that can vary significantly by location include:

  • Standard salaries
  • Minimum wages
  • Property values
  • Rental rates
  • Business insurance rates
  • Utilities
  • Government licenses and fees

Additionally, local zoning ordinances, taxes, and government incentives will also vary.

Build Your Website

Regardless of what type of small business you’ll be operating, having a website as part of your online presence will be important in building your credibility with your customer base.

As you prepare to build your business website, the first step is to obtain a good domain name. That means finding a URL that is easy to spell, as short as possible, and memorable. Be sure to research the domain name to see if a similar web address already exists. Additionally, check with the USPTO to ensure that you haven’t included any registered trademarks.

Your website should clearly showcase your business products or services in an memorable and engaging way that drives results. Beautiful graphics that are compressed and optimized for fast loading, easily accessible calls to action (such as “Buy now” or “Call now” buttons), and an intuitive navigation system should all be considered as you create your site. Implementing search engine optimization (SEO) practices to ensure that search engines index and rank your website will also help with your business’s visibility.

Find Your Customer Base

Now that the groundwork of how to start a small business has been laid out, it’s time to find your potential customers.

Before you can build your customer base, you will need to know who your ideal customers are. Develop a plan for acquiring customers by understanding how your typical customer would find a product or service like yours. This may include building a presence on social media, using email marketing, working with local newspapers, or finding in-person networking opportunities.

It’s also helpful to research successful competitors to see where they advertise and other strategies they use, as those may be beneficial for your own business efforts.

Prepare for Challenges

When you’re learning how to start a small business, one thing to keep in mind is that there will always be unforeseen obstacles. The market and technology are constantly changing, and the most successful entrepreneurs are ones who are flexible and willing to adapt to their customers’ needs.

As a new business owner, you may also learn that there are aspects of your business that you aren’t sure how to manage. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! The Oregon SBDC is here to support entrepreneurs as they prepare to start their own businesses and can provide crucial business advising at no cost.

No matter the type of challenge you may be facing with opening your small business, the Oregon Small Business Development Center Network can help you turn your small-business idea into a reality! Connect with your local SBDC to learn more at OregonSBDC.org.

How to Use SBDC Small-Business Mentoring to Start or Grow a Business

How to Use SBDC Small-Business Mentoring to Start or Grow a Business

Advising and mentorship at the Oregon Small Business Development Center Network

A business mentor is an experienced and trusted adviser who can provide support and advice when it’s needed. Whether they’re starting or growing your small business, entrepreneurs can benefit from small-business mentoring and can put a small business on the right track toward success.

Luckily, finding an experienced small-business mentor is as simple as connecting with the Oregon Small Business Development Center Network.

Free advising services

Our mission at the Oregon SBDC is to provide expert advice, training, and resources for small-business owners through 20 conveniently located centers throughout Oregon.

One of the many benefits of connecting with your local Small Business Development Center is the free advising services for business owners.

Tap into the insight of our knowledgeable team of advisers, and receive valuable small-business mentoring through this no-cost service.

Advising is confidential and can cover a variety of topics, including:

  • Strategic planning
  • Business support
  • Understanding and analyzing business financials
  • Hiring and scaling your operations
  • Intellectual property concerns

Our advisers understand how to start a small business in Oregon—and how to scale it when you’re ready. They can support you with individualized advice at every stage of your small-business venture.

Starting a company

It’s one thing to have a great business idea and another to actually start a business. Often, first-time entrepreneurs are unsure where to begin.

The Oregon SBDC has several tools available that help to streamline the process of creating and running your business, and one such tool is LivePlan.

This business planning software can simplify:

  • Creating your business plan
  • Budgeting and forecasting
  • Tracking performance

With customizable functions, hundreds of sample plans, and the ability to connect to other accounting software like QuickBooks, LivePlan can help you plan, fund, and grow your business.

As part of our small-business mentoring services, small-business owners can access this valuable software through their adviser.

Growing your business

If your small business is ready for growth, the Oregon SBDC can help guide you through the process of expanding it to the next stage.

GrowthWheel is a visual toolbox for decision-making and action planning for start-ups and small businesses, designed to build your business in a simple, action-oriented process that stays true to the way most entrepreneurs think and work.

It tackles the ongoing challenges that businesses across industries face in each stage of their life cycle and helps to map out business decisions.

The best part? It’s available at no cost to clients who work with our advisers as part of the benefits of small-business mentoring through the SBDC.

Understanding your market

When you work with a small-business mentor at the Oregon SBDC, their expertise in your local area will help you understand the market in which you operate.

For a more in-depth look, the Network’s Market Research Institute provides customized research reports and market intelligence for established businesses that anticipate growth.

Small-business owners will have access to data that will help them:

  • Identify opportunities
  • Better understand the competitive landscape
  • Refine business plans
  • Make smarter, more informed business decisions.

Based on your individual needs and goals, the institute’s market research report will encompass a range of topics and market analyses for a customized marketing plan with no direct cost to you!

Your adviser can help you understand and create a plan around your custom report, from industry trends and statistics to geographic analysis and supply chain information.

Finding and securing financing

When it comes to funding for your business, you want to ensure that any advice you receive is relevant to you and will help you succeed.

The Oregon SBDC’s Capital Access Team (CAT) is made up of specialized advisers located throughout the state who provide expert advice on accessing capital to foster economic growth and resilience.

When you connect with the CAT, you’ll be mentored by experts to help you:

  • Assess readiness for funding to determine next steps
  • Advise on business planning and projections to be “funder-ready”
  • Discuss and advise on different finance strategies
  • Provide financial analysis and feedback as needed
  • Advise on funding package documentation
  • Assist clients with funder relations and connections

The Capital Access Team has helped Oregon businesses successfully access more than $255 million in capital since its founding in 2010.

Small-business mentoring is available at each of our 20 Centers. To learn more about our network and how we can help you start a business or grow your existing small business, visit www.OregonSBDC.org.

6 Strategies for Successful Business Planning

6 Strategies for Successful Business Planning

Running a small business is never easy. Whether you’re just starting out or have been running your own company for years, whether you have a few loyal clients or a whole lot, whether your overhead is minimal or substantial, running a successful and profitable business takes a lot of work—rewarding work for sure, but hard work nonetheless.

Luckily, there are some ways to make it easier. While the Oregon Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has loads of resources—some we’ll tell you about here—that can help small-business owners, the best step you can take to improve your odds of success is to plan properly. In this article, we’re outlining six strategies you can implement for successful business planning.

1. Start Planning Early

It’s never too early to start planning. Never. Whether you have an idea you want to turn into a business, you have a business ready to launch, or you already have a successful business and are thinking of what to do next, a strategic plan is crucial.

The Oregon SBDC is here to help with your business planning at any stage. From startup to scaling, our advisers have the tools to help you build a solid foundation for your business. Tools like LivePlan simplify business planning, budgeting, forecasting, and performance tracking for our clients.

GrowthWheel is another tool our advisers use that provides a visual toolbox to help business owners make better decisions and take action in their businesses. Both of these tools are offered free of charge exclusively to Oregon SBDC clients.

2. Set Your Goals

Your strategic business plan needs to include more than just ideas. While the vision of a business is an important component, a key factor to success is setting SMART goals—specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.

Oftentimes a big goal is tied to several smaller goals you need to achieve along the way. For this reason, some business owners set goals by month or quarter, while others set goals for the year. The right timeline to choose depends on you and your business goals.

3. Identify Your Staffing Needs

When people think about goals for businesses, they typically think about financial targets they want to hit, potential physical expansions, new strategies for upcoming product launches, and the like. But another factor that merits consideration and forward planning is your business’s future staffing needs, especially in today’s climate.

If your business goals include expanding your operations, the number of full-time, part-time, and/or contracted workers will likely change. The cost and time it will take to hire for your staffing needs requires planning.

4. Understand Your Financials

Awareness of your business and personal finances is a vital part of successful business planning. Even if you’re “in the black” and seeing profits, understanding your finances is important when making decisions and planning for the future of your business. And this means knowing more than just what’s in your bank account.

Understanding how much money is coming in and going out each month, product costs, the cost to manufacture, the cost of goods sold, labor costs, fixed and variable costs—these are all numbers you need to know so you can make decisions for your business. Your financial indicators are the drivers of your business, and if you don’t understand them, it can be easy to make a costly mistake.

5. Put Together Your Marketing Plan

A marketing plan may sound like the kind of thing that only big businesses with their own massive internal marketing departments need to do. But small, local businesses need a marketing plan, too. And just like any other part of running a business, your marketing requires a carefully thought out and meticulously detailed plan.

From the channels you will use to the creative you want to deploy to your monthly marketing budget—write it down. Building and implementing a successful marketing plan can help your business grow exposure and revenue.

6. Evaluate the Previous Year

When you’re running a small business, there are times when you’ll need to look back in order to move forward. Looking back can be fun, especially if you’ve experienced growth in your business and can count your wins over the year. It can also be hard, if you’ve experienced a challenging year that didn’t live up to your expectations.

How to Write a Business Plan for Your Oregon Startup

How to Write a Business Plan for Your Oregon Startup

If you’re not sure how to write a business plan for your Oregon startup, it’s pretty simple once you know the general structure it should have. As for why you should take the time to write a business plan, well, think of it as a framework to guide you through the stages of beginning and operating your business.

Plus, a business plan shows people that you’re prepared with a plan for the future of your business, and that’s important for everyone from potential investors to employees to partners.

A well-written business plan is just one tool for building a successful business, but it’s a really important one for the foundation of your business.

There’s no right way or wrong way to write a business plan for your Oregon startup. The most important thing is to craft a document that meets your needs and the needs of your business. Here are some things you might consider including in your plan.

Executive Summary

An executive summary is an eagle’s eye view of the company—think of it as the CliffsNotes version of your business plan. It should include:

  • An outline of the company’s goals
  • An outline of the company’s goals
  • A summary of the products and services the company offers
  • A brief description of the market the company serves
  • A projection of the company’s potential growth
  • Basic info about your leadership team and employees, as well as the business’s owners
  • Any plans related to asking for financing or pitching the company to investors

Overview of Company and Objectives

Now, it’s time to dive in and talk about the problem your company solves. Who do you serve and how do you meet their needs? What advantages do you have that will make you a success? It’s time to boast about your strengths and what makes your company a valuable addition to the business landscape.

If you’re already in operation, it’s a little easier to talk about what you do and how you do it. If not, summarize what you hope to accomplish and how you’ll get it done. This is where you should talk about goals, listing milestones with specific steps you’ll be taking in the future.

Market Analysis

Here’s where you let all that market research shine to show you understand what businesses similar to yours are doing. What are their strengths, and why do their businesses work? What are you doing better, and what are you bringing to the market that doesn’t already exist?

Summarize your market demographics and talk about how those demographics fit into what your business sells. Give an overview of your target market’s purchasing habits, buying cycles, and willingness to adopt new products and services. What is the trajectory of your target market—is it growing, stable, or in decline? Quantify your market with as many details as you can.

Ideally, you’re focusing on segments that can support the growth of your business. It’s much easier to serve a market you can define than to have nothing but a vague idea of who your market is.

Company Organization

Describe your type of business—are you a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a corporation, or a limited liability company? Mention your registered agent here, as well (if you have one).

Next, create an organizational chart that shows who holds each position in the company and how their experiences are a key part of the business. If you want, you could include resumes or key stats for each member of your team (this could be helpful if you are presenting the business plan to a possible investor).

It’s also helpful to include a breakdown of what each member of the team does—a basic job description works well here.

Overview of Services or Products

What is your service or product? What is the lifecycle of that service or product? Discuss how what you sell benefits your customers. How is it different from what’s already on the market? If no market for your product or service currently exists, define the opportunity for entering the market and explain why you believe people want what you will sell.

Do you have any research or development in progress? If you’re planning to offer new products or services, give an overview of the timeline and implementation needed to make that happen.

Last, list any trademarks, patents, or copyrights the company owns.

Marketing and Sales Strategy

Your business’s marketing and sales strategy will evolve to fit the needs of your business and your offerings as you grow and as marketing trends change, but it’s good to have a starting point. This section should discuss how you’ll attract customers, retain them, and upsell them. Here are some important talking points when discussing a marketing and sales strategy:

  • What’s your budget for marketing?
  • How will you know if your marketing is successful and how will you adapt if it isn’t successful?
  • What platforms will you be on and how are they relevant to your audience?
  • What will you do for advertising and how will you get the word out?
  • How will you measure return on investment (ROI)?
  • Do you need people to promote your products? How will you form these partnerships?

Logistics and Operations

Provide an overview of the workflows you need to run your business smoothly. Cover all the components you think you need for your planned business operations (or document them, if you’re already in operation), including things like:

Facilities: Where will you work? Do you have actual retail space, and where is it?
Suppliers: For products, where do you get the materials you need for production (if you produce them yourself)?
Production: How are your products produced? How will you handle spikes in demand?
Equipment: What equipment do you need to run your business?
Inventory: Do you have an inventory management system?
Shipping: Do you have a fulfillment process for shipping products to customers?

This section of your business plan shows that you have a solid understanding of your supply chain and have a plan in the event of any spikes in business or sudden growth.

Financial Projections

Here’s where you talk about the projected financial success of your business. If you’re already up and running, include income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow documents. You may also want to include any relevant information about capital expenditures.

If you’re just getting started and don’t have historical information, you may want to get more specific with your projections. You could project quarterly or even monthly information for your first year after starting the business.

A Final Note

Know that although a business plan is an important map, it isn’t meant to be perfect or permanent. It’s designed to be reviewed and adjusted regularly so you can stay on track. Without this baseline, it will be much more difficult to adjust and have a historical reference for making decisions. A business plan shows you where you’re going and where you’ve already been, and that’s key for building a successful business.

If you have any questions about how to write a business plan for your Oregon startup, get in touch with your local SBDC at OregonSBDC.org.