You’ve come up with a brilliant idea and are ready to venture out and start your own business in Hawaii. Whether you are experienced in your field or if the whole idea is completely new, getting your business setup can seem a little overwhelming. This guide is designed to help you through the process. It is aimed at those who want to start a small business in Hawaii, but the same system works just about everywhere.
Get Advice and Choose Your Business Structure
If you have never started a business before, it can be difficult to know where to start Where do you file and register your name. What is the best structure for your business? How do you write your articles of organization if you choose an LLC? Even most colleges don’t teach the actual steps to start a business as part of a business degree.
Luckily, there is an office whose main purpose is to help entrepreneurs start small businesses: The Small Business Development Center (SBDC). On the East Side of Hawaii, the SBDC is located at 100 Pauahi St. Suite 109, in Hilo. They are just past the Longs Drugs after turning off Kilauea. On the Kona side, they are at 73-970 Makako Bay Drive, Suite 108.
They are extremely helpful and knowledgeable about all the processes and documents you will need to get your small business started. They can discuss the different business structures- sole proprietorship, partnership, and LLC. Let you know what documents you need to fill out, where you can find them, and even help you draft your business documents.
They can point you to a number of resources and offer advice on your business. They also run monthly seminars on topics such as starting your business, winning government contracts, and patents.
You can find more information on the SBDC here.
Claim Your Name
Now that you have spoken with the SBDC and have a much better understanding of the process of starting your business, it is time to claim your business name.
There are a number of ways to choose your business name. Ideally, you want it to be something that is memorable. You also want it to project a specific image about your company and products.
One way is to choose your company name based on keywords your potential customers will search for when looking for your product or service online.
Choosing a general name makes sure that people will easily understand what your business does, but it also makes it more forgettable and more difficult for your customers to differentiate from other companies.
Another possibility is to choose a name that is not common. Maybe even a word from another language. Choosing an uncommon word can make it more memorable. For example, many people believe that Ghiradelli is a European chocolate brand even though it is made in the US.
Create Your Website
Whether you are selling a service or a product, your website will likely be the first representation of your business a customer sees. It must be a good representation of your business. The web is the one place a small business can look just as big, professional, and sophisticated as large corporations. Your website allows you to show your customers who you are, what you are about, and what to expect.
When designing your website, you need to think carefully about its purpose and your customers. One error many businesses make is to design the website they want rather than the website their customers want. Your website can show your personality, but ultimately, its function should be designed for the customer’s benefit and ease of use. You can find more detailed information on designing your website and how to use personas here: Designing your Website.
Your website design will vary depending on your industry. Your customers will have different preferences, but ease of use and simplicity should always be considered.
Setup The Technical Stuff
Depending on your type of company, requirements range widely. At a minimum, you will need a billing service and an email account. A Gmail account will work, but an email attached to your domain name ex. firstname.lastname@example.org looks more professional. A CRM (Customer Relations Management) software is also highly recommended. A CRM will track all correspondence you have with each customer and also let you know when to follow up. There are several free ones available. My personal favorite is Hubspot CRM. You will probably also want something that allows you to edit word documents and excel files.
Email- Setup an email with your domain name (this can be done through your hosting) and forward to your online email of choice.
Accounting and Invoicing
- Zipbooks-Free accounting and basic invoicing
- Freshbooks– Accounting and Invoicing (has 30-day trial)
- Xero– Accounting and invoicing
- Quick Books-One of the oldest and most popular (has 30-day trial)
CRM (Customer relations management)
Hubspot– Free with a great feature set
Inspiration has a time limit. Your idea may seem less important to you tomorrow or doubt may set in. Get started while the idea is still fresh in your mind.
Take the first step today. Sketch a business plan, make an appointment at the SBDC, or write down your business goals along with completion dates. Taking the first step is what separates someone with a good idea from someone with a successful business.