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Get Ready

Startup Guide This small business guide is intended to serve as a roadmap for starting a business. It is both comprehensive and easy to use. It also includes numerous electronic links for additional information. Use this powerful interactive tool, with many supporting resources to help you start a successful business. Supporting Resources

Success Tools Online Business Planning Course Local SBA Resources Forms Have a Question? Small Business Training Network Library 10 Steps to Start a Business Business Matchmaking Online Network Training & Counseling Resources
Table Of Contents

Ask Yourself Is Entrepreneurship For You? On The Upside Getting Started How to Start a Small Business Getting Started Types of Business Organizations Sole Proprietorship Partnership Corporation Business Plan Outline Introduction Marketing Financial Management Operations Concluding Statement To Lease or Not To Lease: Things to Know Get The Answers Learn The Lingo Finding The Money You Need Financing Your Business Start-up Finding the Money You Need Borrowing Money SBA Loan Maturities Types of Business Loans How to Write a Loan Proposal General Information Business Description Management Profile

Market Information Financial Information How Your Loan Request Will Be Reviewed SBA Financial Programs Regulations Government Regulations and Your Business Business Licenses Certificate of Occupancy Business Organization Fictitious Business Name Protecting Your Idea Trademarks State Registration of a Trademark Federal Registration of Trademark and Patent Patents Copyrights Tax Information Federal Self-Employment Tax Business Insurance Sales Tax Number Other Considerations Unemployment Insurance Tax Immigration Act Health and Safety Workers' Compensation Minimum Wage Bar Coding SBA Assistance Financial Programs and Other Assistance The 7(a) Loan Guaranty Program How it Works Use of Proceeds Terms, Interest Rates and Fees Collateral Eligibility Maximum Size Standards What You Need to Take to the Lender What the SBA Looks for Special Loan Guaranty Programs 7(a) Program SBAExpress CAPLines The Contract Loan Program The Seasonal Line of Credit Program The Builders Line Program The Small Asset-Based Line The Standard Asset-Based Line The Export Working Capital Loan U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC) International Trade Loan Defense Loan and Technical Assistance (DELTA) SBA 504 Loan Program The Certified and Preferred Lenders Program The 7(M) Microloan Program

The Small Business Investment Company Program (SBIC) Community Adjustment & Investment Program Minority Enterprise Development Program Section 8(a) Program SBA Pre-Qualification (Pre-Qual) Pilot Loan Program Government Contracting Assistance Prime Contracts Program Subcontracting Assistance Program Certificate of Competency Program The Size Determination Program The Surety Bond Guarantee Program Eligibility Submitting an Application Application Review Fees The Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) Disaster Assistance Physical Disaster Business Loans Economic Injury Disaster Loans Loans for Homes and Personal Property Online Women's Business Center Building Management Skills With Information Local Sources Of Assistance SCORE Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) Women's Business Centers The Financial Six C's Character Capacity to Pay Capital Collateral Conditions Confidence Glossary Of Terms

Write a Business Plan

A written guide to starting and running your business successfully is essential. This plan will encourage loans, promote growth, and provide a map for you to follow.

Strategic Planning
Learn to strategize in order for your business to succeed.

Essential Elements Of A Good Business Plan For Growing Companies

Outlines how to write your plan.

Writing The Business Plan Detailed, step-by-step explanation to help write your plan.

Business Plan Workshop

An online workshop to help start and improve your business plan.

Using The Business Plan How to get the most out of your plan. Finding A Niche
A small, steady corner of the market could be your success story.

Business Planning FAQs

Answers to the most popular business plan questions.

A Business Plan: The Roadmap To Success

The SBA's guide to developing a comprehensive business plan.

Start Your Business

Starting a business requires you to complete a number of steps and make some key decisions. Though part of your overall plan, youll need to select a location, decide on a business structure, and obtain the necessary licenses and permits. In addition, determining which financing options will meet your short-term needs and long-term goals is crucial. Within this section, well provide information on these topics along with guidance on buying an existing business, copyright and trademark issues, and getting support from an outside expert.

Find a Mentor
Never think you can do it alone! One of the best ways to insulate yourself against business failure is to find and work with a mentor, someone with business experience who can guide and assist you.

Service Corps Of Retired Executives (SCORE)

Link to retired professionals who are available to give you advice.

Small Business Development Centers

Link to organizations to help your small business grow and prosper.

Network Of Training And Counseling Services

Link to these connections to help with professional training and counseling.

Finance a Start-up
All businesses require some form of financing. An integral component of starting a successful business is raising sufficient capital. There are many challenges here, but numerous resources are available to help you. General Financing And Accounting

Start-Up Costs
Plan for the initial expenses your business will have.

Estimating Costs
Learn to anticipate your initial business cost.

Breakeven Analysis
Know when your business breaks even and when you can expect a profit.

Financing Basics
How do you plan to finance your business? This is especially important for new enterprises.

SBA's Role
What the SBA offers to help your small business grow and profit.

Equity Capital
Learn about the pros and cons of offering stock.

What's A Surety Bond?

Learn what a surety bond is and if it can help your business.

Learn About SBA's Surety Bond Program

Detailed explanation about how this program operates.

Handling Finances
It is essential for the business owner to know how to manage his/her finances.

Personal vs. Business Finances

You must know your personal finances and credit before starting out on your own.

The Benefits Of Making Your Banker Your Friend

Cultivating a friendly relationship with your banker will benefit your business in many ways.

Borrowing Money
Know the essentials in borrowing money. Can your business afford it?

Fair Credit Reporting

Learn where your credit report comes from and how it affects your loan prospects.

Credit Scoring
Know how the bank uses a credit scoring system to determine their acceptance of your loan application.

Credit Factors
The basic elements examined in every loan application. Loan and Funding Information

Finding Capital
Know how to find various sources of capital to begin your business.

Small Business Investment Companies (SBIC) Program

Small Business Investment Companies (SBICs), which are licensed and regulated by the SBA, are privately owned and managed investment firms that provide venture capital and startup financing to small businesses. The above link will take you to SBA's Investment Division's home page, where you will also find reference to the Small Business Investment Act.

Federal Grant Resources

A list of federal resources that could give your business a grant.

Basic Requirements
The basic requirements for a business to receive an SBA loan.

Eligibility Size Standards

Required size standards for a business to receive an SBA loan.

SBA's 7(a) Loan Program

Explanation and requirements of the SBA's most basic and used loan program-the 7(a) loan.

Applying For A Loan

Help in writing a loan proposal.

Loan Proposals
Develop and organize your loan proposal.

Loan Package Checklist

Make sure you have everything you need in your loan proposal.

SBA Loan Programs

Learn which program is right for your business.

Details about the SBA's Microloan program.

Certified Development Company (504) Loan Program

Detailed explanation about the SBA's (504) loan program for a non-profit Certified Development Company to assist in the economic development of its community.

Export Working Capital

A program designed to create short-term working capital for exporters.

Export Express
Program designed to help small businesses receive export financing.

International Trade Loans

This program is designed to help businesses in international trade overcome competition from imports.

Delta Loans
Loans that help small contractors transition from defense to civil contracts.

Community Adjustment and Investment Program (CAIP)

Program designed to help businesses in communities negatively affected by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Communities Eligible For CAIP Funding

(PDF File) A listing of all communities which have been designated as eligible for funding under the Community Adjustment and Investment Program (CAIP).

Employee Trusts
Loans that help provide financial assistance to Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs).

Pollution Control Loans

Pollution Control loans are 7(a) loans with the special purpose of pollution control.

CAPLines Loans
Helps small businesses get their short-term and cyclical working capital.

Certified Lender Programs

Get a loan from a certified lender who knows the policies and procedures of the SBA.

Preferred Lender Programs

This program helps speed up the loan application approval process.

Community Express
Program that serves geographic areas of mostly low and moderate income.

Secondary Market Programs

Program designed to make lending to small businesses more attractive.

Asset Sales
SBA's initiative to take advantage of the private sector's efficiency by selling its portfolio of loans and other assets in order to help manage its overall credit exposure.

How To Prepare A Loan Package

Create the best loan package for your business.

Never Take "No" For An Answer

Learn why your loan application was rejected and take steps to correct those reasons.

SBA Loans FAQs

Get answers to the questions frequently asked about SBA loans.

USDA: Farm Loans Direct

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency's Online loans and services.

USDA: Farm Labor Housing Loans And Grants

Provides capital financing for the development of housing for domestic farm laborers.

USDA/FAS: Financing Promotions And Exports

The USDA Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) offers funds for marketing U.S. products overseas.

USDA: Rural Business Cooperative Service

A variety of USDA rural business development and grant programs.

Name Your Business

There is more to naming your business than just coming up with something that sounds good and you happen to like. Thought must be given to state and local requirements and making sure you dont infringe upon the rights of someone elses business name. Legal Requirements And Implications

Picking a name for your business requires much more than just creativity and a working knowledge of your target market. First you'll need to decide which business structure you will use, since each structure has its own peculiarities. For example, many states require a sole proprietor to use their own name for the business name unless they formally file another name as a trade name, or fictitious name. Read more about How Business Structure Affects Business Names. Similarly, you will need to determine whether your trade name will be the same as the full legal name of your business. Of equal importance is finding out whether your name or a very similar name is being used by another business, and if so, what rights they may or may not have to use the name in the area where you do business. Keep in mind that some businesses only file trademarks within their locality, so it's possible that the same name can be used elsewhere. Here's some information on Trademark FAQs.
Search And Registration Trade names can be registered through state Secretary of State offices, and for wider marketplace protection, through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO Trademark Search). Businesses may use the USPTO's online system to search the federal trademark register to see if their proposed name is being used by a federally-registered business. Domain Names For many businesses that operate on the Web, trade names are synonymous with domain names, such as and Domain names are not registered through state or local government; rather they can be obtained through numerous online businesses, most of which will allow you to conduct a name search prior to purchase to make sure your chosen name isn't taken.

Choose a Structure
Choose A Structure Many factors must be considered when choosing the best form of business ownership or structure. The choice you make can have an impact on multiple aspects of your business, including taxes, liability, ownership succession, and others.

Forms Of Ownership
The pros and cons of different types of ownership, including sole proprietorship, partnering, corporations, and limited liability companies.

Basic Structures
Brief descriptions of common business ownership structures.

Special Structures
Some structures are only available in some states.

Business Structures
If one of your employees causes an accident, can an injured person sue you and take your house, car, or savings account? Are you paying more taxes than you should on your business income? These are important questions that many small business owners ignore, yet the answers depend on the business' legal structure.

Protect Your Ideas

Innovations and new product ideas are valuable assets of a business. These assets need to be protected so that your rights are not infringed upon by others.

Product Basics
Learn to identify your product's unique features and benefits for your advertising campaign.

Protecting Your Ideas

Protect your ideas or inventions from others' infringement.

Copyright, Patent, And Trademark FAQs

Get the answers to commonly asked questions regarding copyrights, patents, and trademarks.

Patent And Trade Office FAQs

Specific information on trademarks, service marks, certification marks, and more.

Intellectual Property FAQs

Find out if your ideas can get a copyright or patent

Get Licenses and Permits

Most states and many cities and/or counties impose licenses and permits on a wide variety of businesses. The operation of your business will most likely require such a tax.

State Requirements
Make sure you research your state's requirements for business, including permits, licenses, and registration.

Federal Requirements
Make sure you know the federal requirements for your business, including specific licenses, Employer Identification Number (EIN), and registration.

Employer ID Numbers (EINs)

An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is also known as a federal tax identification number, and is used to identify a business entity.

Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) eApplication

No matter where you do business, you can apply for and receive a federal EIN from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) immediately.

Exporting FAQs
Answers to questions frequently asked about the exporting business.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) FAQs

Learn answers to important questions about the EPA and your business.

Application Process for Export Licenses

The Department of Commerce's Bureau of Export Administration online application process.

Become A Licensed Marine Merchant

Access information about U.S. mariner licensing and documentation requirements.

File A NAFTA Certificate Of Origin

Classify your export product and file a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Certificate of Origin.

File A Shippers' Export Declaration

AESDirect is the U.S. Census Bureau's free, web-based system for filing a Shipper's Export Declaration (SED).

Vehicle Importation Regulations

Learn the various aspects of the vehicle importation regulations. Some of the topics include importation and certification FAQs, vehicle importation guidelines, and temporary vehicle importation guidelines.

Successfully managing a business requires specific management skills in addition to knowledge of key business practices. Within this section y

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ll walk you through a host of important topics to manage your business including: marketing basics, setting prices, filing your business taxes, legal considerations, forecasting

egal considerations, forecasting for future growth, and financing options.

Managing Your Business

Successfully managing a business requires specific management skills in addition to knowledge of key business practices. Within this section youll learn about leadership traits, decision-making skills, and how to manage your employees. Additionally, well walk you through a host of important topics to manage your business including: marketing basics, setting prices, filing your business taxes, legal considerations, forecasting for future growth, and financing options.

No man or woman is an island, especially in the business world. You need other people to help carry out your business vision; this requires the ability to lead and influence others.

Leadership The essential elements in leadership. Important Structures For A Successful Meeting List of some of the essential structures that make a productive meeting. You Can't Do It All: Learning To Delegate
Delegating does not mean to simply hand out assignments; it means finding the best resources to most effectively achieve a task. Thus, delegating is one of the most important skills an entrepreneur can have.

What Is Your Management Action Style? There are all different types of managers. See what type you are.

Mentoring One of the best ways to learn a business is to cultivate a relationship with an experienced entrepreneur. Networking
Networking occurs when there is a planned event or gathering with the primary goal of connecting with others.

Roundtables Roundtables are informal group discussions among professional people who voluntarily serve as information and support resources for each other. Staying Informed And Up-To-Date Cultivate your own methods for staying abreast of developments in your field and blocking out the excess information.

Leadership Traits
Specific personality traits that help identify a leader.

Change Management: It Starts At The Top

As a result of today's rapidly changing world, an owner must possess strong change management skills.

Leading vs. Managing

Are you a leader or a manager?

Business Ethics
A basic guide to the ethics of the business world.

Make Decisions
One of the best decisions you can make is to learn how to be a good decisionmaker. This requires commitment, understanding, and skill. It will be worth the effort.

Are You A Good Decision Maker? Learn steps to becoming an effective decision maker and avoid common mistakes. Making Time Ways to help you manage time more effectively and become more productive. Decision-Making FAQs Answers to common questions regarding decisions Market and Price
Good marketing is critical to the success of your business. Marketing has many dimensions, including market research, customer service, advertising, targeting, packaging, pricing, e-marketing, and others. Investing in a good marketing plan will generate excellent returns. Marketing

Understanding Marketing Basic definition and discussion of marketing. 100+ Marketing Ideas Multiple ideas your business can use to improve marketing. International Sales The international market is an excellent business opportunity. Customer Service
Customer service is an essential skill for a business of any size and type.

Marketing Basics
Basic ideas of marketing, including strategy, research, and target marketing.

Competitive Analysis Knowing your competition will help improve your business. Target Marketing
Appealing to a small group of consumers can mean success for your business.

Marketing Plans Like a business plan, a marketing plan is an essential guide. 15 Foolproof Ideas For Promoting Your Company
Ideas to promote your company within the community.

High-Impact Marketing Programs That You Can Implement By Next Thursday

Highly effective ways to improve your business' marketing program. Tradeshow Marketing Face-to-face customer contact is often one of the best ways to market your services or products. eMarketing The online marketplace is busier and stronger than ever. Marketing FAQs Answers to frequent questions about marketing.

Advertising And Public Relations The separate characteristics of advertising and public relations. Advertising Primer
Make your advertisements effective and appealing to consumers.

How To Improve Your Yellow Pages Advertising Get the most out of your Yellow Pages ad. Advertising And Public Relations Guidelines In All Forms Of Media The Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) rules and regulations of advertising and public relations in all media forms. Online Advertising Regulations The FTC's guide to online advertising. Online Advertising The U.S. Department of Commerce's guide to online advertising.

Market and Sell


Written vs. Implied Warranties Link to the different types of warranties and how they affect customers. How To Write A Warranty Link to a guide on writing a warranty. eCommerce FAQs Answers to questions commonly asked regarding eCommerce.