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The Importance of Market Research

Creating a business plan, legal requirements, exploring funding options, crafting a marketing strategy, managing and growing your business, how do i start a small business for beginners, how do i create a business plan, what are six ways to grow and scale a business, the bottom line.

  • Small Business
  • How to Start a Business

Starting a Small Business: Your Complete How-to Guide

From market research to managing growth

small business start up business plan

The U.S. is home to 33.2 million small businesses, which drive over 43% of GDP.   If you are looking to start a business, there are key factors to consider—from market research and creating a business plan to scaling your business. These factors are critical to your journey and can make a big difference no matter what stage of the process you are in.

Entrepreneurs who take concrete action can differentiate themselves from competitors, innovate, and grow. For successful entrepreneurs, the execution of the business is often what means the most. 

Key Takeaways

  • Starting a small business involves extensive market research of your target audience, competitors, and gaining a deep understanding of the industry.
  • It is important to build a comprehensive business plan that includes the product or service description, your target customers, financial projections, and all other key details.
  • Understanding the legal requirements of starting your business involves knowledge of business registration, permits, licensing, and other regulatory requirements.
  • There are various types of funding channels for starting a business, including financing it yourself, securing external funding from your network, and applying for government and corporate grants and loans. 

Being clear about your business goals involves doing your research. Successful entrepreneurs often do extensive research on their field. This includes understanding their prospective customers, the technical aspects of the industry, and the challenges other businesses are facing. 

Understanding how other players operate in an industry is important. Attending conferences, joining associations, and building a network of people involved in the field can help you learn how decisions are made. Often, comprehensive market research takes six months to a year. 

Understanding Your Target Audience

Knowing your target market is critical for many reasons. These are the customers who are most likely to purchase your product, recommend it to friends, and become repeat buyers. Apart from driving your bottom line, having a strong understanding of your target audience will allow you to tailor your offering more effectively, reach your customers more efficiently, and manage customer expectations.

Compiling demographic data on age, family, wealth, and other factors can give you a clearer understanding of market demand for your product and your potential market size.

It’s important to ask, “Why would someone buy this and part with their discretionary income?” or “Will someone love this enough to tell someone about it?” At the heart of these questions is understanding whether your business solves a key problem, as well as whether it delivers the “more” that connects to your audiences’ human emotions.

Assessing Market Trends and Opportunities

To find an advantage in a given market, look at key market trends in customer behavior and the business landscape. Explore the state of business conditions and consumer spending, along with the economic environment and how interest rates may affect financing and business growth.

Several resources are available to dive into market trends across industries, such as Statistics of U.S. Businesses and the U.S. Census Business Builder . To analyze the competitive landscape, and in turn, identify key opportunities, Porter's 5 Forces is a classic model to help businesses build their competitive strategy.

A business plan is a road map for achieving your business goals. It outlines the capital that you need, the personnel to make it happen, and the description of your product and prospective customers.

There are a number of models for creating a business plan. The Small Business Administration (SBA) , for instance, provides a format that includes the following nine sections:

  • Executive summary: This should be a description of your company and its potential for success. The executive summary can cover your mission statement, employees, location, and growth plan.
  • Company description: This is where you detail what your business offers, its competitive advantages, and your strengths as a business.
  • Market analysis: Lay out how your company is positioned to perform well in your industry. Describe market trends and themes and your knowledge of successful competitors.
  • Organization and management: Who is running your company, and how is your business structured? Include an organizational chart of your management team. Discuss if your business will be incorporated as a business C or S corporation, a limited partnership, a limited liability company, or a sole proprietorship. 
  • Service or product line: Here is where you describe how your business will solve a problem and why this will benefit customers. Describe how your product lifecycle would unfold.
  • Marketing and sales: Detail your marketing strategy and how this will reach your customers and drive return on investment. 
  • Funding request: If you're looking for financing, lay out the capital you’re requesting under a five-year horizon and where, in detail, it will be allocated, such as salaries, materials, or equipment. 
  • Financial projections: This section shows the five-year financial outlook for your company and ties these to your request for capital.

Having a coherent business plan is important for businesses looking to raise cash and crystallize their business goals.

Setting Goals and Strategies

Another key aspect of a business plan is setting realistic goals and having a strategy to make these a reality. Having a clear direction will help you stay on track within specified deadlines. In many ways, it allows companies to create a strategic plan that defines measurable actions and is coupled with an honest assessment of the business, taking into account its resources and competitive environment. Strategy is a top-down look at your business to achieve these targets.

Financial Projections and Budgeting

Often, entrepreneurs underestimate the amount of funding needed to start a business. Outlining financial projections shows how money will be generated, where it will come from, and whether it can sustain growth. 

This provides the basis for budgeting the costs to run a business and get it off the ground. Budgeting covers the expenses and income generated from the business, which include salaries and marketing expenses and projected revenue from sales.

Another important aspect of starting a business are the legal requirements that enable you to operate under the law. The legal structure of a business will impact your taxes, your liability, and how you operate.

Businesses may consider the following structures in which to operate:

  • Corporation
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC)
  • Partnership
  • Sole Proprietorship

Each has different legal consequences, from regulatory burdens to tax advantages to liability being shifted to the business instead of the business owner.

Registering Your Business

Now that you have your business structure outlined, the next step is registering your business . Your location is the second key factor in how you’ll register your business. In many cases, small businesses can register their business name with local and state government authorities. 

If your business is being conducted under your legal name, registration is not required. However, such a business structure may not benefit from liability protection, along with certain legal and tax advantages. Often, registering your businesses costs $300 or less.

Before filing, a business structured as a corporation, LLC, or partnership requires a registered agent in its state. These agents handle the legal documents and official papers on your behalf.

Businesses that are looking to trademark their product, brand, or business, can file with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Understanding Permits and Licenses

If your business conducts certain activities that are regulated by a federal agency, you’re required to get a permit or license. A list of regulated activities can be found on the SBA website, and includes activities such as agriculture, alcoholic beverages, and transportation.

There are many different ways to fund a business. One of the key mistakes entrepreneurs make is not having enough capital to get their business running . The good news is that there are several channels to help make this happen, given the vital role entrepreneurs play in creating jobs and boosting productivity in the wider economy.

Self-Funding vs. External Funding

Bootstrapping, the term commonly used to describe self-funding your business, is where companies tap into their own cash or network of family and friends for investment. While the advantage of self-funding is having greater control, the downside is that it often involves more personal risk.

External funding involves funding from bank loans, crowdfunding, or venture capital , among other sources. These may provide additional buffers and enable you to capture growth opportunities. The drawback is less freedom and more stringent requirements for paying back these funds.

Grant and Loan Opportunities

Today, there are thousands of grants designed especially for small businesses from the government, corporations, and other organizations. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce provides a weekly update of grants and loans available to small businesses. 

For instance, Business Warrior offers loans between $5,000 and $50,000 to small business owners. As another example, Go. Be. Elevate Fund offers $4,000 to grant recipients who are women and/or people of color business owners to help them grow their businesses.

When it comes to marketing, there is a classic quote from Milan Kundera: “Business has only two functions—marketing and innovation." In order to reach customers, a business needs a marketing strategy that attracts and retains customers and expands its customer base.

To gain an edge, small businesses can utilize social media, email marketing, and other digital channels to connect and engage with customers.

Branding Your Business

Building a successful brand goes hand in hand with building a great experience for the customer. This involves meeting the expectations of your customer. What is your brand offering? Is it convenience, luxury, or rapid access to a product? Consider how your brand meets a customer's immediate need or the type of emotional response it elicits. Customer interaction, and in turn loyalty to your brand, is influenced, for example, by how your brand may align with their values, how it shifts their perception, or if it resolves customer frustration.

Digital Marketing and Social Media

We live in a digital-first world, and utilizing social media channels can help your business reach a wider audience and connect and engage in real time. Given that a strong brand is at the heart of successful companies, it often goes without saying that cultivating a digital presence is a necessity in order to reach your customers. 

According to HubSpot’s 2023 report, The State of Consumer Trends, 41% of the 600-plus consumers surveyed discovered new products on social media and 17% bought a product there in the past three months.

Managing a business has its challenges. Finding the right personnel to run operations, manage the day-to-day, and reach your business objectives takes time. Sometimes, businesses may look to hire experts in their field who can bring in specialized knowledge to help their business grow, such as data analysts, marketing specialists, or others with niche knowledge relevant to their field.

Hiring and Training Staff

Finding the right employees involves preparing job descriptions, posting on relevant job boards such as LinkedIn, and effectively screening applicants. Careful screening may involve a supplemental test, reviewing a candidate's portfolio, and asking situational and behavioral questions in the interview. These tools will help you evaluate applicants and improve the odds that you'll find the people you are looking for.

Once you have hired a new employee, training is the next essential step. On average, it takes about 62 hours to train new employees. Effectively training employees often leads to higher retention. While on-the-job training is useful, consider having an onboarding plan in place to make the transition clear while outlining expectations for the job.

Scaling Your Business

Growing your business also requires strategy. According to Gino Chirio, executive vice president at the consultancy group Maddock Douglas, there are six ways that companies can grow their business to drive real growth and expansion:

  • New processes: Boost margins by cutting costs.
  • New experiences: Connect with customers in powerful ways to help increase retention.
  • New features: Provide advancements to your existing product or service.
  • New customers: Expand into new markets, or find markets where your product addresses a different need.
  • New offerings: Offer a new product.
  • New models: Utilize new business models, such as subscription-based services, fee-for-service, or advertising-based models.

With these six ways to grow a business, it is important to consider the risk, investment, and time involved. Improving your margins through new processes is often the most straightforward way to grow. Offering new features is also effective since it is tailored to your existing market with products you have already delivered.

By contrast, offering new products may involve higher risk since these have not been tested in the market. However, they may offer higher reward, especially if you have a first-mover advantage and release your product in the market before the competition.

A good place to start building a business is to understand the following core steps that are involved in an entrepreneur's journey : market research, creating a business plan, knowing the legal requirements, researching funding options, developing a marketing strategy, and business management.

A business plan is made up of a number of primary components that help outline your business goals and company operations in a clear, coherent way. It includes an executive summary, company description, market analysis, organization and management description, service or product line description, marketing and sales plan, funding requests (optional), and financial projections.

Business growth can fall into the following six categories, with each having varying degrees of risk and investment: new processes, new experiences, new features, new customers, new offerings, and new models.

Knowing how to start a small business involves the key steps of market research, setting up a business plan, understanding the legal requirements, exploring funding options, crafting a marketing strategy, and managing your business. 

For aspiring small business owners, these steps can help you successfully deliver your product or service to the market, and ultimately grow. While it can take a considerable amount of work, the payoffs are manifold: independence of work, personal fulfillment, financial reward, and following your passion.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce. " The State of Small Business Now ."

U.S. Small Business Administration. " Market Research and Competitive Analysis ."

U.S. Small Business Administration." Write Your Business Plan ."

U.S. Small Business Administration. " Choose a Business Structure ."

U.S. Small Business Administration. " Register Your Business ."

U.S. Small Business Administration. " Apply for Licenses and Permits ."

U.S. Small Business Administration. " Fund Your Business ."

U.S. Chamber of Commerce. " 52 Grants, Loans and Programs to Benefit Your Small Business ."

Ogilvy. " Behind Every Brand Is a Great Experience, and Vice Versa—Why Today's Customer Expects Synergy ."

HubSpot. " The State of Consumer Trends in 2023 ."

Training Magazine. " 2022 Training Industry Report ."

Harvard Business Review. " The Six Ways to Grow a Company ."

  • How to Start a Business: A Comprehensive Guide and Essential Steps 1 of 25
  • How to Do Market Research, Types, and Example 2 of 25
  • Marketing Strategy: What It Is, How It Works, and How to Create One 3 of 25
  • Marketing in Business: Strategies and Types Explained 4 of 25
  • What Is a Marketing Plan? Types and How to Write One 5 of 25
  • Business Development: Definition, Strategies, Steps & Skills 6 of 25
  • Business Plan: What It Is, What's Included, and How to Write One 7 of 25
  • Small Business Development Center (SBDC): Meaning, Types, Impact 8 of 25
  • How to Write a Business Plan for a Loan 9 of 25
  • Business Startup Costs: It’s in the Details 10 of 25
  • Startup Capital Definition, Types, and Risks 11 of 25
  • Bootstrapping Definition, Strategies, and Pros/Cons 12 of 25
  • Crowdfunding: What It Is, How It Works, and Popular Websites 13 of 25
  • Starting a Business with No Money: How to Begin 14 of 25
  • A Comprehensive Guide to Establishing Business Credit 15 of 25
  • Equity Financing: What It Is, How It Works, Pros and Cons 16 of 25
  • Best Startup Business Loans 17 of 25
  • Sole Proprietorship: What It Is, Pros & Cons, and Differences From an LLC 18 of 25
  • Partnership: Definition, How It Works, Taxation, and Types 19 of 25
  • What is an LLC? Limited Liability Company Structure and Benefits Defined 20 of 25
  • Corporation: What It Is and How to Form One 21 of 25
  • Starting a Small Business: Your Complete How-to Guide 22 of 25
  • Starting an Online Business: A Step-by-Step Guide 23 of 25
  • How to Start Your Own Bookkeeping Business: Essential Tips 24 of 25
  • How to Start a Successful Dropshipping Business: A Comprehensive Guide 25 of 25

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10 steps to start your business

Conduct market research.

Market research will tell you if there’s an opportunity to turn your idea into a successful business. It’s a way to gather information about potential customers and businesses already operating in your area. Use that information to find a competitive advantage for your business.

Write your business plan

Your business plan is the foundation of your business. It’s a roadmap for how to structure, run, and grow your new business. You’ll use it to convince people that working with you — or investing in your company — is a smart choice.

Fund your business

Your business plan will help you figure out how much money you’ll need to start your business. If you don’t have that amount on hand, you’ll need to either raise or borrow the capital. Fortunately, there are more ways than ever to find the capital you need.

Pick your business location

Your business location is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. Whether you’re setting up a brick-and-mortar business or launching an online store, the choices you make could affect your taxes, legal requirements, and revenue.

Choose a business structure

The legal structure you choose for your business will impact your business registration requirements, how much you pay in taxes, and your personal liability.

Choose your business name

It’s not easy to pick the perfect name. You’ll want one that reflects your brand and captures your spirit. You’ll also want to make sure your business name isn’t already being used by someone else.

Register your business

Once you’ve picked the perfect business name, it’s time to make it legal and protect your brand. If you’re doing business under a name different than your own, you’ll need to register with the federal government, and maybe your state government, too.

Get federal and state tax IDs

You’ll use your employer identification number (EIN) for important steps to start and grow your business, like opening a bank account and paying taxes. It’s like a social security number for your business. Some — but not all — states require you to get a tax ID as well.

Apply for licenses and permits

Keep your business running smoothly by staying legally compliant. The licenses and permits you need for your business will vary by industry, state, location, and other factors.

Open a business bank account

A small business checking account can help you handle legal, tax, and day-to-day issues. The good news is it’s easy to set one up if you have the right registrations and paperwork ready.

Now: Open shop

Congratulations! It's time to cut the big ribbon. Your business is officially open. Now, focus on managing and growing your business.

Free Small Business Plan Templates and Examples

By Kate Eby | April 27, 2022

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We’ve compiled the most useful collection of free small business plan templates for entrepreneurs, project managers, development teams, investors, and other stakeholders, as well as a list of useful tips for filling out a small business template.

Included on this page, you’ll find a simple small business template and a one-page small business plan template . You can also download a fill-in-the-blank small business plan template , and a sample small business plan template to get started.

Small Business Plan Template

Small Business Plan Template

Download Small Business Plan Template Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF | Google Docs  

Use this small business plan template to identify trends and demographics in the company overview. Highlight how your product or service uniquely benefits consumers in the offerings section, and note your proposed timeline, milestones, and the key performance metrics (KPIs) you will use to measure your success. This template has all the components of a standard business plan, from the executive summary through financing details.

Small Business Plan Sample Template

Small Business Plan Sample Template

Download Small Business Plan Sample Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF | Google Docs  

Use this small business plan sample template to draft the subsections and headings of the contents of your plan. This template provides editable sample text that shows you how to organize and create a ready-to-be-implemented business plan. This sample template helps remove the guesswork of what to include in a small business plan.

Simple Small Business Plan Template

Simple Small Business Plan Template

Download Simple Small Business Plan Template Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF

Use this streamlined, customizable, simple small business plan template to chart revenue, expenses, and net profit or loss forecasts with sample graphics. Order your small business plan with numbered subsections and list them in a table of contents. Supplement the plan with additional information in the appendix for a complete business plan that you can present to investors.

Small Business Plan Chart Template

Small Business Plan Chart Template Powerpoint

Download Small Business Plan Chart Template Microsoft PowerPoint | Google Slides

Use this small business plan chart template to plan and track month-by-month and annual business planning. The flexible color-coded bar chart simplifies tracking and allows you to customize the plan to meet your needs. Add tasks, track owner status, and adjust the timeline to chart your progress with this dynamic, visually rich small business planning tool.

Small Business Plan Outline Template

Small Business Plan Outline Template

Download Small Business Plan Outline Template Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF | Google Docs

Use this small business plan outline template to jumpstart a plan for your small business. This template includes the nine essential elements of a traditional business plan, plus a title page, a table of contents, and an appendix to ensure that your document is complete, comprehensive, and in order. Easily simplify or expand the outline to meet your company’s needs.

Printable Small Business Plan Template

Printable Small Business Plan Template

Download Printable Small Business Plan Template  Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF | Google Docs

This print-friendly small business plan template is ideal for presentations to investors and stakeholders. The customizable template includes all the standard, critical business plan elements, and serves as a guide for writing a complete and comprehensive plan. Easily edit and add content to this printable template, so you can focus on executing the small business plan.

Small Business Startup Plan Template

Small Business Startup Plan Template

Download Small Business Startup Plan Template Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF | Google Docs  

Use this small business startup plan template to draft your mission statement and list your keys to business success, in order to persuade investors and inform stakeholders. Customize your startup plan with fillable tables for sales revenue, gross profit margin, and cost of sales projections to secure your business's pricing structure.

Fill-in-the-Blank Small Business Plan Template

Fill-in-the-Blank Small Business Plan Template

Download Fill-in-the-Blank Small Business Plan Template  Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF

This small business plan template simplifies the process to help you create a comprehensive, organized business plan. Simply enter original content for the executive summary, company overview, and other sections to customize the plan. This fill-in-the-blank small business plan template helps you to maintain organization and removes the guesswork in order to ensure success.

One Page Small Business Plan Template

One Page Small Business Plan Template

Download One Page Small Business Plan Template  Microsoft Excel | Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF

This one page small business plan template is ideal for quick, simple presentations. Use this template to summarize your business overview, market analysis, marketing, and sales plan, key objectives and success metrics, and milestones timeline. Complete the fillable sections to educate investors and inform stakeholders.

One Page Small Business Plan Example

One Page Small Business Plan Example

Download One Page Business Plan Example Microsoft Excel | Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF

This one page small business plan example prompts you to list your vision, mission, product or service, team member names, roles, and relevant experience to promote your small business. Use the market analysis, marketing, sales plan sections to detail how you aim to sell your product or service. This small business plan features fillable tables for key objectives and success metrics. Plus, you’ll find space for your financial cost structure and revenue sources to show how your business will remain profitable.

What Is a Small Business Plan Template?

A small business plan template is a roadmap for defining your business objectives and detailing the operational, financial, and marketing resources required for success. Use a small business plan template to strategize growth, forecast financial needs, and promote investment. 

A small business plan template organizes and outlines the content needed to achieve goals for growth and profit, including marketing and sales tactics. As opposed to starting from scratch, using a template makes it easy to organize the information and customize the plan to meet your needs. 

A small business plan template includes standard business plan sections, as well as the following sections: 

  • Executive Summary: Summarize the key points in your small business plan in two pages or less to hold your reader's attention and promote buy-in. Write this section last to capitalize on your understanding of the small business plan.
  • Company Overview: Describe the nature of your small business, the industry landscape and trends, demographics, and economic and governmental influences. List your location, product or service, and goals to show what makes your small business unique.
  • Problem and Solution: Identify and explain the problem your product or service will solve and its costs. Propose and describe your solution and its benefits. Conclude this section with a summary of the problem and solution.
  • Target Market: Identify your small business's target market by researching your product and service to determine the most likely demographic. Explain your target market's motivations for buying your product or service.
  • Competition: Note the other competitor product or service offerings, pricing, and company revenues to understand how to outperform your competitors. Detail your small business's competitive advantages, based on research.
  • Product or Service Offerings: Describe your product or service, how it benefits your target market, and what makes it unique. Highlight how your product or service will outsell competitors.
  • Marketing: Detail your marketing plan with objectives and strategy, including goals, costs, and an action plan. A successful marketing plan reduces costs and boosts your product or service sales.
  • Timeline and Metrics: Break down your small business plan into smaller activities. Describe these activities (and the performance metrics you intend to use to track them) and list a completion date for each.
  • Financial Forecasts: Explain how your organization uses past performance and market research to inform your business's economic forecasts. Estimate growth and profits based on your informed assumptions.
  • Financing: List your funding sources and how you intend to use the funds to keep your company on track as it grows. Smart financing at the planning stage prepares your organization for unexpected challenges and helps to mitigate risk.

A small business plan template enables you to complete your business plan quickly and comprehensively, so you can achieve your goals and turn your product or service idea into a profitable reality.

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When teams have clarity into the work getting done, there’s no telling how much more they can accomplish in the same amount of time.  Try Smartsheet for free, today.

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Business startup checklist: How to launch a startup step by step

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Here, we'll walk you through all the things you need to launch a startup. And you can download our business startup checklist to keep you on track as you take your first steps as a new business owner .

Checklist for starting a business

Image of Zapier's business startup checklist

1. Write a business plan

A business plan will help you nail down your goals and expectations and give you a roadmap for getting your company off the ground. If you plan to pitch investors or apply for a business loan, you'll need a business plan—most won't even consider a pitch unless there's a business plan attached.

Parts of a business plan

Depending on the complexity of your business idea, a business plan can be as short as a page or as big as a thick, data-packed document. No matter how simple or complex, every business plan should have at least a few key parts:

An executive summary , or a top-level outline of everything in the business plan.

A business description , including your company's structure, industry, value proposition , background information, and both short- and long-term business objectives.

A market analysis that evaluates where your business stands in relation to competitors, target customers, and industry trends.

A description of your products or services.

Financial projections like pricing and sales strategy, profit goals, and investor details.

An operational overview laying out the logistical "how"s of your business, including logistics, distribution, and production plans.

Business planning software

If you have any basic business experience or know-how, you can probably get through writing a business plan on your own, but if you're feeling totally lost or if you just want something to help move you through the steps more efficiently, business plan writing software might be the way to go. 

BizPlan and Enloop are two examples of business plan platforms with reasonable monthly costs. IdeaBuddy is another platform that's meant to be used earlier in the process when you're still fleshing out ideas to help develop and refine your business concept, then guide you toward a formalized plan. 

2. Estimate your startup costs

Calculating your startup costs will help you appeal to investors and estimate when your new business will start to become profitable. 

Types of startup costs

To begin, you'll need to calculate your exact startup costs. These may include:

One-time startup costs: state business registration fees, lease deposits, etc.

Labor costs: your salary plus worker salaries

Overhead costs: monthly office rent, utilities, taxes, computer equipment, production costs 

Spreadsheets are your friend with planning business finances—and we have a set of business budget templates to help you estimate monthly and one-time expenses for your business.

Start saving

Just like homeowners need an emergency fund for when the roof starts leaking, you also need an emergency fund for your new business. How much you need depends on the size of your operation and whether you're keeping your current job or going all-in on your new endeavor. It takes most startups at least a few months (and usually more) to become profitable, so if your startup is going to be your main source of income, you'll need at least a few months of operating expenses plus your own living expenses stashed away.

Find funding

Skip the family loan and second mortgage. Better loan options include the Small Business Association , your local bank, or new types of online lenders .

You might even start a crowdfunding campaign to generate cash—which is also a good way to test out your business idea's viability. Remember, though, that your purpose isn't to raise money. Your purpose is to create a viable business with products or services that genuinely help your customers.

3. Register your business

Before we dive into the details of business registration, a disclaimer: what we're providing here is a basic overview of the general requirements for most businesses in the United States. If you operate internationally or work in some niche industry like long-haul tobacco and airplane fuel shipping , these guidelines are one hundred percent guaranteed not to cover everything you need to know about registering your business. 

Even if your company is fairly small, there may be specific requirements in your state or county that aren't covered here. No matter what, make sure you do your own research with local and state governments or consult with a lawyer to determine the legal requirements that apply to you.

Pick a business structure

Business structures boil down to four main types: sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies, and corporations. For legal and tax purposes, decide which type you'll operate under—though you can always switch to a different business type as your company grows.

Sole proprietorships: This is the simplest type of business to start and run. It means that you are the company, and all assets and debts of the company are yours too. This also means you'll be personally liable for all business obligations like lawsuits or unpaid debts, so this is the riskiest business structure. 

Partnerships: T hese are like sole proprietorships, except there's more than one owner. Co-owners typically structure their business relationship with partnership operating agreements. Partners split the company's legal and financial obligations and also share in the profits.

Limited Liability Companies and Partnerships (LLCs and LLPs): When you form an LLC or LLP, you work as a "member" of the company, along with any company partners. If the company goes into debt or gets sued, your personal assets are protected. Compared to corporations, there's less paperwork and smaller startup costs.

Corporations: When you incorporate, you create a separate legal entity that owns all of the assets and liabilities for the company. Corporations are usually more attractive to outside investors—you can "go public" with an initial public offering (IPO) and raise money through selling stock in the company. 

Illustration of hands shaking, a person working alone in an office and a group of three individuals representing the four business structure types

Choose a business name

Start by writing down every single name that pops into your head, including the ridiculous names ( bad idea brainstorms work!). This will get your creativity flowing. Plus, you can pull elements that you like from the throwaway names and incorporate them into your more serious ideas.

If you plan to register a trademark on your business's name, keep in mind what can't be trademarked:

Any person's name who hasn't given expressed permission

Swears or other offensive content

Government flags and insignia

Your name also needs to meet the U.S. Trademark Office's requirements for "distinctiveness," which just means your trademark needs to be unique enough to avoid confusion between yourself and other similarly named businesses.

Register your company

All businesses except sole proprietors with no employees must register with the IRS and obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN). This is your company's federal tax identification, which you'll use when paying taxes, opening a bank account, applying for business licenses, and hiring employees. 

You may need to register your business with your state government. Use the Small Business Administration's state lookup tool to find information for your state. Similarly, contact your local government office to find out if additional registrations or permits are necessary.

4. Open accounts and obtain permits

With your business plan in hand, it's time to lay the operational and financial groundwork to get your company off the ground. 

Open a company bank account

Even if you run a sole proprietorship and your business is just you, life will be easier if you have a separate bank account to manage your business finances. If you want to accept credit card payments either online or in person, look into credit card payment processing services .

Get licenses and permits

In certain industries, you'll need licenses and permits in order to operate legally. This usually applies in industries where there's a risk of damage to the customer—think construction, hair salons, and financial consulting. Some municipalities also require home-based businesses to hold a "home occupation permit," so make sure you find out what licenses you need before you open your doors, no matter what industry you're in.

Find out if you need a Sales Tax Permit

If you sell physical products and you operate in a state that collects sales taxes, you likely need to register for a Sales Tax Permit. Most states administer these permits for free or for a nominal fee.

Illustrated table showing the common types of business licenses and permits

5. Set up a financial accounting system

Money can get complicated very quickly, so you want to have an automated system for financial accounting, budgeting, and documentation before you start making any sales. 

Basic bookkeeping 101

There are a number of bookkeeping records that small business owners need to update on a regular basis to keep their business finances in order. These tasks include:

Income statements

Balance sheets

Cash flow statements

Bills and invoices

Quarterly financial statements

Tax returns

Unless you're very confident in your skills with an Excel spreadsheet, you should invest in accounting software or consider hiring a part-time bookkeeper . Check out Zapier's list of the best accounting software for small businesses for some apps to try out.

Understand your tax liability

Business taxes are very different from employee taxes. The biggest difference is that small businesses are required to file taxes quarterly instead of annually. You need to have enough cash on hand to remit payment to the IRS every three months, which can take some getting used to.

If you have employees, you'll also need to keep in mind that employee taxes are paid to the government by the employer. If you've ever looked at your own pay stubs, you'll know that each includes a record of what taxes were taken out of your paycheck. Those taxes aren't taken by the government directly—they're taken out by the employer, who is then responsible for sending employees' taxes to the IRS.

6. Buy business insurance

As soon as you hire employees, open a physical location, or begin to scale your business, you'll need liability insurance of some sort. General liability insurance covers you in case someone is injured on your property or as a result of your company's activities.

Additional policies that are common for new businesses include:

Professional liability: Covers you in case an error or omission on your part costs your clients money.

Workers' compensation: Covers medical expenses and lost wages for employees who are injured while working. 

Business interruption insurance: Helps replace lost revenue if your business is forced to close temporarily due to a natural disaster or other event.

Property insurance: Covers your physical property, from company equipment to office or warehouse space.

7. Create a management system

For a single-person business, a management system can be as simple as a set of to-do lists for keeping track of budgets and schedules. Larger businesses will need to formalize processes for managing workflows, finances, schedules, team organization, and more.

Management setup

When getting your management system up and running, focus on the essentials. At a minimum, you'll need a structure for managing:

Calendars and scheduling

Customer communications

Budgets, invoices, and other financial documents

Industry-specific KPIs

Purchasing and order fulfillment

If you're starting with a team, you'll also want to put together an organizational chart . Determining each person's responsibilities will help eliminate confusion and oversights.

Invest in branding and marketing

The fun part, of course, comes at the very end of all the operational logistics. Take some time to think through your marketing strategy before launching your business. At a minimum, you'll need to start with a website, a logo, and social media accounts.

Establishing a brand identity

Start by thinking through how you want to come off to others as a brand. Usually, your brand voice will align closely with the industry you're in—financial and legal firms tend to be serious and authoritative, while creative agencies need to be witty and innovative.

Consistency is far more important than trying for fancy, versatile, or expensive branding. A company with a simple, casual tone and one or two brand colors and basic designs will do far better than a company that tries out a different tone with each social post.

List of things needed to start a business

Starting a business doesn't need to be an overwhelming undertaking. With a bit of organizational planning and this business startup checklist , you can get your company up and running quickly. Of course, the more tasks you automate on this list, the smoother everything will run, and the quicker you'll be able to start making sales. Learn more with this small business guide to automation .

Related reading:

Start a business: 22 low-cost business ideas  

9 books every small business owner should read

11 small business advertising ideas for your business

The best free small business software

20 free proposal templates to ace your pitch

This article was originally published in October 2016 by Melanie Pinola and has also had contributions from Amanda Pell. The most recent update was in May 2023.

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Amanda Pell

Amanda is a writer and content strategist who built her career writing on campaigns for brands like Nature Valley, Disney, and the NFL. When she's not knee-deep in research, you'll likely find her hiking with her dog or with her nose in a good book.

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550+ Business Plan Examples to Launch Your Business

550+ Free Sample Business Plans

Need help writing your business plan? Explore over 550 industry-specific business plan examples for inspiration. Go even further with LivePlan , which harnesses AI-assisted writing features and SBA-approved plan examples to get you funded.

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Example business plan format

Before you start exploring our library of business plan examples, it's worth taking the time to understand the traditional business plan format . You'll find that the plans in this library and most investor-approved business plans will include the following sections:

Executive summary

The executive summary is an overview of your business and your plans. It comes first in your plan and is ideally only one to two pages. You should also plan to write this section last after you've written your full business plan.

Your executive summary should include a summary of the problem you are solving, a description of your product or service, an overview of your target market, a brief description of your team, a summary of your financials, and your funding requirements (if you are raising money).

Products & services

The products & services chapter of your business plan is where the real meat of your plan lives. It includes information about the problem that you're solving, your solution, and any traction that proves that it truly meets the need you identified.

This is your chance to explain why you're in business and that people care about what you offer. It needs to go beyond a simple product or service description and get to the heart of why your business works and benefits your customers.

Market analysis

Conducting a market analysis ensures that you fully understand the market that you're entering and who you'll be selling to. This section is where you will showcase all of the information about your potential customers. You'll cover your target market as well as information about the growth of your market and your industry. Focus on outlining why the market you're entering is viable and creating a realistic persona for your ideal customer base.

Competition

Part of defining your opportunity is determining what your competitive advantage may be. To do this effectively you need to get to know your competitors just as well as your target customers. Every business will have competition, if you don't then you're either in a very young industry or there's a good reason no one is pursuing this specific venture.

To succeed, you want to be sure you know who your competitors are, how they operate, necessary financial benchmarks, and how you're business will be positioned. Start by identifying who your competitors are or will be during your market research. Then leverage competitive analysis tools like the competitive matrix and positioning map to solidify where your business stands in relation to the competition.

Marketing & sales

The marketing and sales plan section of your business plan details how you plan to reach your target market segments. You'll address how you plan on selling to those target markets, what your pricing plan is, and what types of activities and partnerships you need to make your business a success.

The operations section covers the day-to-day workflows for your business to deliver your product or service. What's included here fully depends on the type of business. Typically you can expect to add details on your business location, sourcing and fulfillment, use of technology, and any partnerships or agreements that are in place.

Milestones & metrics

The milestones section is where you lay out strategic milestones to reach your business goals.

A good milestone clearly lays out the parameters of the task at hand and sets expectations for its execution. You'll want to include a description of the task, a proposed due date, who is responsible, and eventually a budget that's attached. You don't need extensive project planning in this section, just key milestones that you want to hit and when you plan to hit them.

You should also discuss key metrics, which are the numbers you will track to determine your success. Some common data points worth tracking include conversion rates, customer acquisition costs, profit, etc.

Company & team

Use this section to describe your current team and who you need to hire. If you intend to pursue funding, you'll need to highlight the relevant experience of your team members. Basically, this is where you prove that this is the right team to successfully start and grow the business. You will also need to provide a quick overview of your legal structure and history if you're already up and running.

Financial projections

Your financial plan should include a sales and revenue forecast, profit and loss statement, cash flow statement, and a balance sheet. You may not have established financials of any kind at this stage. Not to worry, rather than getting all of the details ironed out, focus on making projections and strategic forecasts for your business. You can always update your financial statements as you begin operations and start bringing in actual accounting data.

Now, if you intend to pitch to investors or submit a loan application, you'll also need a "use of funds" report in this section. This outlines how you intend to leverage any funding for your business and how much you're looking to acquire. Like the rest of your financials, this can always be updated later on.

The appendix isn't a required element of your business plan. However, it is a useful place to add any charts, tables, definitions, legal notes, or other critical information that supports your plan. These are often lengthier or out-of-place information that simply didn't work naturally into the structure of your plan. You'll notice that in these business plan examples, the appendix mainly includes extended financial statements.

Types of business plans explained

While all business plans cover similar categories, the style and function fully depend on how you intend to use your plan. To get the most out of your plan, it's best to find a format that suits your needs. Here are a few common business plan types worth considering.

Traditional business plan

The tried-and-true traditional business plan is a formal document meant to be used for external purposes. Typically this is the type of plan you'll need when applying for funding or pitching to investors. It can also be used when training or hiring employees, working with vendors, or in any other situation where the full details of your business must be understood by another individual.

Business model canvas

The business model canvas is a one-page template designed to demystify the business planning process. It removes the need for a traditional, copy-heavy business plan, in favor of a single-page outline that can help you and outside parties better explore your business idea.

The structure ditches a linear format in favor of a cell-based template. It encourages you to build connections between every element of your business. It's faster to write out and update, and much easier for you, your team, and anyone else to visualize your business operations.

One-page business plan

The true middle ground between the business model canvas and a traditional business plan is the one-page business plan . This format is a simplified version of the traditional plan that focuses on the core aspects of your business.

By starting with a one-page plan , you give yourself a minimal document to build from. You'll typically stick with bullet points and single sentences making it much easier to elaborate or expand sections into a longer-form business plan.

Growth planning

Growth planning is more than a specific type of business plan. It's a methodology. It takes the simplicity and styling of the one-page business plan and turns it into a process for you to continuously plan, forecast, review, and refine based on your performance.

It holds all of the benefits of the single-page plan, including the potential to complete it in as little as 27 minutes . However, it's even easier to convert into a more detailed plan thanks to how heavily it's tied to your financials. The overall goal of growth planning isn't to just produce documents that you use once and shelve. Instead, the growth planning process helps you build a healthier company that thrives in times of growth and remain stable through times of crisis.

It's faster, keeps your plan concise, and ensures that your plan is always up-to-date.

Download a free sample business plan template

Ready to start writing your own plan but aren't sure where to start? Download our free business plan template that's been updated for 2024.

This simple, modern, investor-approved business plan template is designed to make planning easy. It's a proven format that has helped over 1 million businesses write business plans for bank loans, funding pitches, business expansion, and even business sales. It includes additional instructions for how to write each section and is formatted to be SBA-lender approved. All you need to do is fill in the blanks.

How to use an example business plan to help you write your own

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How do you know what elements need to be included in your business plan, especially if you've never written one before? Looking at examples can help you visualize what a full, traditional plan looks like, so you know what you're aiming for before you get started. Here's how to get the most out of a sample business plan.

Choose a business plan example from a similar type of company

You don't need to find an example business plan that's an exact fit for your business. Your business location, target market, and even your particular product or service may not match up exactly with the plans in our gallery. But, you don't need an exact match for it to be helpful. Instead, look for a plan that's related to the type of business you're starting.

For example, if you want to start a vegetarian restaurant, a plan for a steakhouse can be a great match. While the specifics of your actual startup will differ, the elements you'd want to include in your restaurant's business plan are likely to be very similar.

Use a business plan example as a guide

Every startup and small business is unique, so you'll want to avoid copying an example business plan word for word. It just won't be as helpful, since each business is unique. You want your plan to be a useful tool for starting a business —and getting funding if you need it.

One of the key benefits of writing a business plan is simply going through the process. When you sit down to write, you'll naturally think through important pieces, like your startup costs, your target market , and any market analysis or research you'll need to do to be successful.

You'll also look at where you stand among your competition (and everyone has competition), and lay out your goals and the milestones you'll need to meet. Looking at an example business plan's financials section can be helpful because you can see what should be included, but take them with a grain of salt. Don't assume that financial projections for a sample company will fit your own small business.

If you're looking for more resources to help you get started, our business planning guide is a good place to start. You can also download our free business plan template , or get started right away with LivePlan .

Think of business planning as a process, instead of a document

Think about business planning as something you do often , rather than a document you create once and never look at again. If you take the time to write a plan that really fits your own company, it will be a better, more useful tool to grow your business. It should also make it easier to share your vision and strategy so everyone on your team is on the same page.

Adjust your plan regularly to use it as a business management tool

Keep in mind that businesses that use their plan as a management tool to help run their business grow 30 percent faster than those businesses that don't. For that to be true for your company, you'll think of a part of your business planning process as tracking your actual results against your financial forecast on a regular basis.

If things are going well, your plan will help you think about how you can re-invest in your business. If you find that you're not meeting goals, you might need to adjust your budgets or your sales forecast. Either way, tracking your progress compared to your plan can help you adjust quickly when you identify challenges and opportunities—it's one of the most powerful things you can do to grow your business.

Prepare to pitch your business

If you're planning to pitch your business to investors or seek out any funding, you'll need a pitch deck to accompany your business plan. A pitch deck is designed to inform people about your business. You want your pitch deck to be short and easy to follow, so it's best to keep your presentation under 20 slides.

Your pitch deck and pitch presentation are likely some of the first things that an investor will see to learn more about your company. So, you need to be informative and pique their interest. Luckily, just like you can leverage an example business plan template to write your plan, we also have a gallery of over 50 pitch decks for you to reference.

With this gallery, you have the option to view specific industry pitches or get inspired by real-world pitch deck examples. Or for a modern pitch solution that helps you create a business plan and pitch deck side-by-side, you may want to check out LivePlan . It will help you build everything needed for outside investment and to better manage your business.

Get LivePlan in your classroom

Are you an educator looking for real-world business plan examples for your students? With LivePlan, you give your students access to industry-best business plans and help them set goals and track metrics with spreadsheet-free financial forecasts. All of this within a single tool that includes additional instructional resources that work seamlessly alongside your current classroom setup.

With LivePlan, it's not just a classroom project. It's your students planning for their futures. Click here to learn more about business planning for students .

Ready to get started?

Now that you know how to use an example business plan to help you write a plan for your business, it's time to find the right one.

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How to Write a Startup Business Plan

May 28, 2022 - 10 min read

Yuvika Iyer

A startup business plan is an outline of your ideas and strategies for what you’ll need to do to start, manage, and even complete your startup’s mission. Creating one might sound simple enough, but because it’s a startup’s roadmap for success, it can be a complex document to create. 

Writing a business plan can make a world of difference for entrepreneurs who desire external funding. It involves determining your target customers, understanding what makes them tick, and figuring out how to reach them through marketing campaigns. 

In this blog post, we’ve explained why you should have a startup business plan, different types of startup business plans, and we’ve included 12 of the most effective tips for writing a startup business plan. If you’re ready to start with now, we have a product launch template to get you started quickly. 

What is a startup business plan?

A startup business plan is a written document that outlines your ideas and strategies for launching, managing, and eventually exiting your new venture. 

A well-constructed business plan can be crucial to the success of any entrepreneurial endeavor . As you prepare your proposal, keep in mind that it will evolve as you learn more about your market.

To start, create an outline of the most important items you'd like feedback on before writing anything down officially.

Then ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I want?
  • Why does my company exist?
  • How will I make money?
  • What are my long-term goals?

A detailed business plan helps you set milestones for measuring success. You can share the plan with investors who may want some reassurance on the viability of their investment in your company.

The best way to create a successful startup business plan is by including everything in an organized and easy-to-read document — marketing strategies, financial projections, team bios, timelines, and more.

What is a lean startup business plan?

A lean startup business plan is a method for developing products that relies on iterative experimentation to reduce uncertainty. 

It has been used by companies such as Google , Amazon, and Facebook in the early stages of their development, and involves testing your idea with real customers early in development.

Lean startups are less likely to fail because they have tested their product or service with live feedback from consumers. Doing this allows them to make changes quickly without wasting resources on something no one wants.

The goal is not to build an extensive business plan but rather a "lean" one that can be changed based on customer feedback and then re-evaluated in regular intervals until it reaches market potential — or fails.

A lean startup business plan is a strategy that focuses on getting a product in front of customers as quickly and cheaply as possible. Use the lean startup business plan to validate your ideas before wasting time and resources.

Why do you need a small startup business plan?

A small startup business plan is one of the most important steps in building a company. Apart from helping you to focus on company goals, it aids in obtaining feedback from potential partners and keeps the team on the same page.

The best thing about starting small? You can change course at any time! If you need help developing or tweaking your small startup business plan, use this guide for entrepreneurs to get started.

You've built a product and you're ready to take the next step, but what's your plan? First, you need a strategy in place. Do you know how much money it will cost, or where exactly that funding should come from? What about marketing strategies for getting customers in the door? 

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You’ll also need to find ways to retain them afterwards so they keep coming back again and again (and spending more).

product launch startup template

Obtain external funding

If you want to get funding from lenders or investors, you need a startup business plan. Lenders want to make sure they're investing in a company that will last and grow.

A well-organized idea shows passion for its purpose and outlines clear goals for helping customers. At the same time, having an exit strategy is also important.

Making a plan for when things don’t pan out as desired lets investors understand how much value there can be while giving customers (and yourself) peace of mind.

Understand your target market

One key piece of your business plan is knowing how to conduct a market analysis. To do this, consider the industry, target market, and competitors. 

Are there any market trends or competitor factors that can affect your business? Review them closely and get ready to make required changes to your business plan.

Prioritize high ROI strategies

In business, ROI is important. Any business that doesn’t generate as much cash as it burns is likely to fail.

With a startup business plan in place, the strategies with the highest ROI become crystal clear. You'll know exactly what to tackle first and how to prioritize the rest of your tasks.

Accelerate financial health

Business plans are not crystal balls, but they can help forecast your financial health. Planning for expenses is vital to keep operations steady and identify problems as soon as possible. 

Cash flow projections can help you see if goals are achievable or highlight upcoming issues that need correction before it's too late.

How to write a small startup business plan

Use this guide for entrepreneurs to develop or tweak a startup business plan. By following this easy six-step process, you'll soon have a clear path to startup success.

1. Clarify the startup vision, mission, and values

The first step to writing a startup business plan is understanding the startup itself.

Once you know what your startup does, ask yourself why. What is the startup's mission? What problem will it help customers solve? The startup's mission statement helps define its reason for existing.

It’s usually expressed in a simple sentence, but can also be written as a short paragraph.

Try to answer these questions: What does your startup do? How will it make money? How quickly do you hope it will grow? Are there any significant milestones or deadlines that need to be met?

2. Outline the executive summary

Now that you have an idea for your startup, its mission, and a vision in mind, it's time to write your startup business plan executive summary.

Keep it simple and precise. Begin by writing a one-sentence startup business plan introduction that showcases the core customer need/pain point and how you propose to solve it.

3. Develop startup goals and milestones

Next, write down the milestones and goals for your startup business plan. This is a crucial step that many entrepreneurs forget when they're starting out.

Do you want to focus on getting new customers? Or attaining a specific revenue number?  Without clear short-term goals, it can be hard to know how to prioritize startup tasks.

4. Write a company description

Answer the two fundamental questions — who are you and what will you do? Then, give an introduction to why you're in business.

Provide a summary of introspective goals, clarifying intangible aspects such as values or cultural philosophies. Make sure to mention:

  • Proposed business structure (limited partnership, sole proprietorship, incorporated company, or a general partnership)
  • Business model
  • Business vision and mission statement
  • Background information of your team members

small business start up business plan

5. Conduct market analysis

Choosing the right market is crucial to your organization’s success. There are different kinds of products and services that a business can offer and each has particular requirements for a successful market fit.

If you choose one that doesn't have a large enough customer base or is not profitable enough, your company may end up struggling for every sale.

Ensure that there is a clear market niche — an ideal audience of customers with a need or a pain point that your business can help solve.

6. Develop startup partnerships and resources

When you're launching a small startup, one of the most important things that your business needs is capital. There are several ways to get going on this front.

When thinking about sources of funding for startups , consider startup grants, startup loans, startup investors, and startup accelerators.

7. Write a startup marketing plan and startup budget

Your startup business plan is almost complete! All that's left is to create a startup marketing plan and budget. Your startup marketing plan will help you define your company’s target audience and brand image.

The startup budget is an integral part of any startup that helps you take the guesswork out of writing expenses.

Examples of startup business plans

Business plans differ based on the nature of the business, target market, competitive advantage, delivery of product/service, scope, and size.

Though the core business plan template remains the same, the content and flow change. Here is an example of an accounting firm's business plan:

Vision statement

At our company, ABC Accounting Services LLC, we work hard to provide the best service and build a strong team. Our vision is for this brand to be recognized as #1 throughout NYC by both smaller businesses and larger corporations.

Our values are reflected in all that we do: integrity (ethical behavior), service (giving top priority to clients' needs), excellence ("doing it right"), teamwork (working together).

Executive summary

ABC Accounting Services LLC is the premier accounting firm in New York City and will handle various financial services. We specialize in audits, bookkeeping, tax preparation/compliance work, and budgeting assistance with high-quality consulting.

Business structure

ABC Accounting Services LLC will be structured as an LLC — a Limited Liability Company in the state of New York. It will provide accounting, bookkeeping, taxation, auditing, and compliance-related services to small, medium, and large enterprises situated in New York City.

Marketing strategy and competitive advantages

Despite the fact that there are many established accounting services firms in our industry, we have a great chance of becoming successful because of the high demand for financial consulting. 

Often, small businesses don't need full-time employees but would rather hire an accounting service provider like us to handle their bookkeeping and tax returns on time every year.

It is best to find a unique niche or carve out your own market in the financial consulting services industry. If you're able to create an identifiable brand identity for your accounting business, then you will likely see less competition from other firms.

Startup milestones

ABC Accounting Services LLC will focus on delivering an exceptional client experience to grow the business and expand market share.

Startup business plan template

Here's a template you can follow when creating your startup business plan:

small business start up business plan

Top tips for writing a startup business plan

The following tips will help you create a compelling startup business plan without getting overwhelmed.

Know your audience

To write an effective business plan, tailor your language and level of detail to match the audience reading it. 

Have a simple and clear goal

If you have a goal of securing funding for your business, it will be an uphill task with lots of work and research.

Simplifying and breaking down bigger goals into smaller, actionable tasks will assist you in getting through them faster.

Spend time researching

Avoid assuming anything about your target audience, product/service, or the market need.

Spending adequate time and effort on research from primary and secondary sources will help you develop an accurate business plan.

Build a startup toolkit

The process of creation becomes easier if you have the right startup tools and software by your side. Pick the right ones that will help you in your journey.

Keep it precise

Short and easy-to-read business plans are best kept within 20 pages. If you have additional documents, consider adding them as appendices or provide a link if available online.

Ensure tonal consistency

Keep the tone consistent by having just one author write your startup business plan. Otherwise, be sure to edit it thoroughly before you finalize it.

Add reference points

All information regarding the market, your competitors, and your customers should reference authoritative data points.

Be ready to pivot

A business plan should be fluid and flexible. Think of it as an evolving document that will continue to change over time.

How to create a business plan with Wrike

A good business plan is a powerful tool and can be a key predictor of future progress, but simply filling in a startup business plan won’t help you achieve success. You need to create action steps with accountability that will help you reach your goals. 

Wrike’s project management software can help your organization deliver successful projects and maximize individual and team productivity, and our product launch template can help you turn your startup business plan goals into actionable steps. 

Start a free trial of Wrike today to see how it can help to simplify work, showcase progress to stakeholders, and achieve startup success.

Yuvika Iyer

Yuvika Iyer

Yuvika is a freelance writer who specializes in recruitment and résumé writing.

Related articles

How to Write a Business Case (With Example & Template)

How to Write a Business Case (With Example & Template)

A business plan is a straightforward document. In it, you’ll include market research, your overall goals for the business, and your strategies for achieving those goals.  But what is a business case and why do you need one if a business plan outlines everything else? A business case takes a closer look at a specific problem and how you can solve it. Think of a business case as the reason you create a project you’re going to manage in the first place.  The article provides a step-by-step guide on how to write a successful business case, including a checklist for identifying problems, researching solutions, and presenting to stakeholders. As a bonus, we’ll show you how to use Wrike to manage your product business cases with a requirements management template or implement them with a project scheduling template. What is a business case? A business case is a project you’ll assemble for identifying, addressing, and solving a specific business problem.  The key to a business case is the change it creates in your business. Developing a business case starts with identifying a problem that needs a permanent solution. Without that lasting change, a business case is only an observation about what’s going wrong. A complete business case addresses how a company can alter its strategy to fix that problem. Front-to-back, a business case is a complete story. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It typically looks like this: Beginning: Someone identifies a problem within the business and presents the business case to the key decision-makers. Middle: With the project go-ahead, the company launches an internal team to address the business case and deliver results. End: The team delivers a presentation on the changes made and their long-term effects. In short, a business case is the story of a problem that needs solving.   Examples of business cases The problem for many companies is that they can turn a blind eye to challenges that are right in front of their faces. This is even the case when the company has a compelling product to sell. Consider the example of Febreze. In the mid-1990s, a researcher at Procter & Gamble was working with hydroxypropyl beta-cyclodextrin. His wife noticed that his clothes no longer smelled like cigarettes, which was a frequent complaint. P&G had something of a miracle product on its hands. However, their approach was wrong. They initially marketed Febreze as a way to eliminate embarrassing smells. Predictably, the product flopped.  But P&G stuck at it. They had a potential business case on their hands: a highly marketable product proved difficult to market. What was going wrong? Working on the business case from beginning to end provided the answer. After some focus group testing, P&G found out that few consumers recognized the nasty odors they were used to. Instead, they learned to use a different business case for Febreze: it was a cleaning product now, a way to make the house smell nice when the floors are vacuumed and the counters are wiped clean. They gave it its own pleasant smell and fashioned it into a cleaning product. And because it worked so well, so did the campaign.  That’s an example of a business case overall. But let’s get specific: developing a business case is easier when you have a template to look at. Let’s build an example using a made-up company, ABC Widgets, and a hypothetical business case. Let’s call our business case example “Operation Super Widgets”: Business Case: ABC Widgets Section 1: Summary Briefly describe the problem and the opportunities.  ABC Widgets’ latest widget, the Super Widget, is suffering from supply issues, requiring higher shipping costs to procure the necessary resources, and eating into profits. We need to switch to a new supplier to restore the viability of the Super Widget. Section 2: Project Scope This section should include the following: Financial appraisal of the situation. Super Widgets are now 20% more expensive to produce than in the year prior, resulting in -1% profits with each Super Widget sold. Business objectives. To get revenues back up, we need to restore profit margins on Cost Per Unit Sold for every Super Widget back to 2020 levels. Benefits/limitations. Restoring Cost Per Unit Sold will restore 5% of sagging revenues. However, we are limited to three choices for new Super Widget suppliers. Scope and impact. We will need to involve supply chain managers and Super Widget project management teams, which may temporarily reduce the number of widgets we’re able to produce, potentially resulting in $25,000 in lost revenue. Plan. Project Management Teams A and B will take the next two weeks to get quotes from suppliers and select one while integrating an immediate plan to bring in new Super Widget parts for manufacturing within four weeks. Organization. Team Member Sarah will take the lead on Operation Super Widget Profit. Both teams will report to Sarah. This is a bare-bones example of what a business case might look like, but it does hit on the key points: what’s the problem, how can you fix it, what’s the plan to fix it, and what will happen if you succeed? How do you write and develop a business case? When writing your own business case, the above example is a good guide to follow as you get started with the basics.  But, once you’re more familiar with the nuts and bolts, it’s also worth being prepared for some potential roadblocks you could face along the way.  Challenges of writing a good business case Why don’t more companies create a business case? It might come down to a lack of good communication. Many people don’t even know how to write a business case, let alone present one. “The idea may be great, but if it’s not communicated well, it won’t get any traction,” said Nancy Duarte, communication and author who wrote The HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations. The key challenge, notes Duarte, is taking abstract business concepts (like lagging numbers) and turning them into an immediately recognizable problem. After all, if a company already had perfect awareness that it was making a mistake, it likely would find a way to stop the error in its tracks.  A business case is challenging because it usually means you’ll have to persuade someone that change is needed. And change can be difficult. In a thriving business, it’s especially problematic because it’s easy to point to the bottom line and say that whatever the company is doing is already working. How do you present a business case? The tips and examples above give you some nice remedies for creating a business case without the typical problems. But you’ll still want to present a business case with the straightforward proposals and numbers you’d associate with any new project.  Essentially, it all comes down to how well your business case can persuade the decision-makers. That’s why you shouldn’t just build a case off of raw numbers. The bottom line might be a compelling argument, but it’s not always what “clicks.”  If you’re presenting a business case, you’re a salesperson. And not every sale is a matter of precise logic. It’s also about emotion—the story of why something’s gone wrong and what needs doing if you’re going to overcome it.  The art of a good business case is the art of persuasion. Keep these specific points in mind as you craft one of your own: Point to an example of a bad business case and liken it to the present case. No one likes the idea of watching themselves walk into a mistake. Presenting an example of a business that made the same mistake your company is making and then translating it into the present moment is a compelling way to craft a business case that makes ears perk up. Build a narrative. Nancy Duarte pointed out that in one business case, a client convinced a CEO to follow through with a project by using simple illustrations. It’s not that the idea of adding illustrations to the business case was so great. It’s that the illustrations were able to tell a compelling story about why the case needed to go through. Distill the idea into an elevator pitch. Try this exercise: get your business case down to one sentence. If you can’t explain it any more simply than that, your business case might not be as memorable as it needs to be to sway decision-makers. Use analogies to drive the point home. Let’s say you discovered a problem in a growing business. Overall, revenues are good — but you’ve noticed an associated cost that has the potential to explode in the future and tank the business. But it’s not compelling to use dollars and cents when the business is doing so well. Instead, consider introducing the business case with a simple analogy: “Without repair, every leaky boat eventually sinks.” You now have their attention. Use the numbers to drive the point home, but not to make the point. If you’re presenting a business case to decision-makers, remember that it’s not only the logic of your argument that will convince people — it’s how persuasive you can be. Business case checklist Before you can check “learn how to write a business case” off your list, you have to know the essentials. Make sure you include the following elements in your business case checklist (and, of course, your business case itself): Reasons. This should be the most compelling part of your business case. You can tell a story here. And the most compelling stories start with a loss or a complication of some sort. What is the threat to the business that needs remedy? What are the reasons for moving forward? Potential courses of action. It’s not a complete story until we know the next chapter. A business case isn’t just about the problem — it’s about rectifying a problem through the solution. Recommend a few specific courses of action to help spur discussion about what to do next. Risks and benefits. Not every solution is going to be perfectly clean. There are going to be solutions with downsides. There are going to be costs along with the benefits. Make sure to include each of these to give a clear and complete picture. This is the time to manage expectations — but also the time to inspire action. Cost. What’s it going to cost to complete the project? The people making the decisions need to know the bottom line figure to assess which business cases to prioritize. Timeline. A good project isn’t only measured in dollars but in days, weeks, and months. What is the expected timeline for the business case? How quickly can the problem meet its solution?  With every business case, specificity is key. A vague timeline won’t help — a timeline with specific weekly milestones looks more achievable. To make your business case more compelling, always look for the specific details that tie your story together. Business case template A business case template is a document that outlines the key elements of a business case in a structured format. By using a standardized template, companies can ensure that all relevant information is captured and shared in a clear and consistent manner. Depending on the size of your business and the scope of your project, your business case template can be as detailed or as simple as you like. For a smaller project, you can use a one-pager to get started, detailing the main points of your project, which include: Executive summary: An overview of your project, its goals, and the benefits of completing it for your business Team and stakeholders: A list of the relevant people involved in your project, and their contact information SWOT analysis: An analysis of how your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats weigh up against your competitors Risk analysis: An overview of the kind of risks that are involved with your project and how you may avoid them Budget and financial plan: Details of your budget and where you may secure financing for your project Project plan: A schedule of how you plan to implement your project and what tasks are involved Let's see what that might look like. Executive summary   Team and stakeholders   SWOT analysis   Risk analysis   Budget   Project plan   How to write a business case with Wrike Wrike’s project management software can step in and turn a business case from the seedling of an idea to a full-fledged initiative.  The requirements management pre-built template can help you document and track project requirements in a structured manner. The template includes sections for capturing stakeholder requirements and business cases, as well as any constraints that may affect the project’s success. By using this template, you can ensure that all necessary requirements are identified and that potential issues are addressed early in the project planning process. If you want to move from the business case description to the actual implementation faster, consider using the project scheduling template. This template can help you create a detailed project timeline with milestones, identify task dependencies, and assign resources. By utilizing this template, you can ensure that the project is realistically achievable and meets all business needs, giving stakeholders confidence in the project’s success.

Operational Planning: How to Make an Operational Plan

Operational Planning: How to Make an Operational Plan

Learn how to create an operational plan that will help your business succeed. Check out our guide to everything you need to know about operational planning.

What Is a PMIS and How Does it Work?

What Is a PMIS and How Does it Work?

Discover how a PMIS can help your team deliver high-quality projects faster in this in-depth guide. Learn what is PMIS and how you can set one up.

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Do you want to increase the odds that your business startup will be a success? Download this step-by-step business plan template to lay the groundwork for your new business.

Writing a business plan allows you to carefully think through every step of starting your company so you can better prepare and handle any challenges. While a thorough business plan is essential in the financing process, it's helpful even if you don’t need outside financing.

Creating a business plan can:

  • Help you discover any weaknesses in your business idea so you can address them before you open for business
  • Identify business opportunities you may not have considered and plan how to take advantage of them
  • Analyze the market and competition to strengthen your idea
  • Give you a chance to plan strategies for dealing with potential challenges so they don’t derail your startup
  • Convince potential partners, customers, and key employees that you’re serious about your idea and persuade them to work with you
  • Force you to calculate when your business will make a profit and how much money you need to reach that point so that you can be prepared with adequate startup capital
  • Determine your target market and how to reach them

A detailed, step-by-step plan gives you a blueprint you can refer to during the startup process and helps you maintain momentum.

What this business plan template includes

Writing a business plan for a startup can sometimes seem overwhelming. To make the process easier and more manageable, this template will guide you step-by-step. The template includes easy-to-follow instructions for completing each business plan section, questions to help you think through each aspect, and corresponding fillable worksheet/s for critical sections.

After you complete the 11 worksheets, you will have a working business plan for your startup to show your SCORE mentor .

Business plan sections covered in this template:

  • Executive Summary
  • Company Description
  • Products and Services
  • Marketing Plan
  • Operational Plan
  • Management and Organization
  • Startup Expenses and Capitalization
  • Financial Plan

The Appendices include documents that supplement information in the body of the plan.  These might be contracts, leases, purchase orders, intellectual property, key managers’ resumes, market research data or anything that supports assumptions or statements made in the plan.

The last section of the template, “Refining Your Plan,” explains ways to modify your plan for specific purposes, such as getting a bank loan, or for specific industries, such as retail or manufacturing.

Complete the Business Plan Template for a Startup Business to create a working business plan for your startup.

Then, contact a  SCORE mentor  to review and refine your plan online or in person.

Quick Start Business Plan The aim of this module is to give you the tools, direction and ideas you need to build a business plan. If you're starting a business then a business plan is essential, because it forces you to think through your ideas and options.

10 Business Planning Tips for Starting a Business In this webinar, you'll learn 10 business planning tips to help you start your entrepreneurial journey on the right path.

Business Plan 101: Sales & Marketing The sales and marketing section of your business plan describes how you intend to sell your product. Learn what you should include in this section.

Copyright © 2023 SCORE Association, SCORE.org

Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.

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Business Plan: What It Is + How to Write One

Discover what a business plan includes and how writing one can foster your business’s development.

[Featured image] Woman showing a business plan to a man at a desk.

What is a business plan?

A business plan is a written document that defines your business goals and the tactics to achieve those goals. A business plan typically explores the competitive landscape of an industry, analyzes a market and different customer segments within it, describes the products and services, lists business strategies for success, and outlines financial planning.  

In your research into business plans, you may come across different formats, and you might be wondering which kind will work best for your purposes. 

Let’s define two main types of business plans—the traditional business plan and the lean start-up business plan. Both types can serve as the basis for developing a thriving business, as well as exploring a competitive market analysis, brand strategy, and content strategy in more depth. 

There are some significant differences to keep in mind [ 1 ]: 

The traditional business plan is a long document that explores each component in depth. You can build a traditional business plan to secure funding from lenders or investors. 

The lean start-up business plan focuses on the key elements of a business’s development and is shorter than the traditional format. If you don’t plan on seeking funding, the lean start-up plan can serve mainly as a document for making business decisions and carrying out tasks. 

Now that you have a clear business plan definition, continue reading to learn how to start writing a detailed plan that will guide your journey as an entrepreneur.  

How to write a business plan 

In the sections below, you’ll build the following components of your business plan:

Executive summary

Business description 

Products and services 

Competitor analysis 

Marketing plan and sales strategies 

Brand strategy

Financial planning

Explore each section to bring fresh inspiration and reveal new possibilities for developing your business. Depending on which format you're using, you may choose to adapt the sections, skip over some, or go deeper into others. Consider your first draft a foundation for your efforts and one that you can revise, as needed, to account for changes in any business area.

1. Executive summary 

This is a short section that introduces the business plan as a whole to the people who will be reading it, including investors, lenders, or other members of your team. Start with a sentence or two about your business, your goals for developing it, and why it will be successful. If you are seeking funding, summarize the basics of the financial plan. 

2. Business description 

Use this section to provide detailed information about your company and how it will operate in the marketplace.

Mission statement: What drives your desire to start a business? What purpose are you serving? What do you hope to achieve for your business, the team, and your customers? 

Revenue streams: From what sources will your business generate revenue? Examples include product sales, service fees, subscriptions, rental fees, license fees, and more. 

Leadership: Describe the leaders in your business, their roles and responsibilities, and your vision for building teams to perform various functions, such as graphic design, product development, or sales.  

Legal structure: Are you operating as a partnership or a corporation? If you’re registering a specific legal structure within your province or territory , include it here and the rationale behind this choice. 

3. Competitor analysis 

This section will include an assessment of potential competitors, their offers, and marketing and sales efforts. For each competitor, explore the following:

Value proposition: What outcome or experience does this brand promise?

Products and services: How does each one solve customer pain points and fulfil desires? What are the price points? 

Marketing: Which channels do competitors use to promote? What kind of content does this brand publish on these channels? What messaging does this brand use to communicate value to customers?  

Sales: What sales process or buyer’s journey does this brand lead customers through?

4. Products and services

Use this section to describe everything your business offers to its target market. For every product and service, list the following: 

The value proposition or promise to customers, in terms of how they will experience it

How the product serves customers, addresses their pain points, satisfies their desires, and improves their lives

The features or outcomes that make the product better than those of competitors

Your price points and how these compare to competitors

5. Marketing plan and sales strategies 

In this section, you’ll draw from thorough market research to describe your target market and how you will reach it. 

Who are your ideal customers?   

How can you describe this segment according to their demographics (age, ethnicity, income, location, etc.) and psychographics (beliefs, values, aspirations, lifestyle, etc.)? 

What are their daily lives like? 

What problems and challenges do they experience? 

What words, phrases, ideas, and concepts do consumers in your target market use to describe these problems when posting on social media or engaging with your competitors?  

What messaging will present your products as the best on the market? How will you differentiate messaging from competitors? 

On what marketing channels will you position your products and services?

How will you design a customer journey that delivers a positive experience at every touchpoint and leads customers to a purchase decision?

6. Brand strategy 

In this section, you will describe your business’s design, personality, values, voice, and other details that go into delivering a consistent brand experience. 

What are the values that define your brand?

What visual elements give your brand a distinctive look and feel?

How will your marketing messaging reflect a distinctive brand voice, including tone, diction, and sentence-level stylistic choices? 

How will your brand look and sound throughout the customer journey? 

Define your brand positioning statement. What will inspire your audience to choose your brand over others? What experiences and outcomes will your audience associate with your brand? 

7. Financial planning  

In this section, you will explore your business’s financial future. If you are writing a traditional business plan to seek funding, this section is critical for demonstrating to lenders or investors that you have a strategy for turning your business ideas into profit. For a lean start-up business plan, this section can provide a useful exercise for planning how you will invest resources and generate revenue [ 2 ].  

Use any past financials and other sections of this business plan, such as your price points or sales strategies, to begin your financial planning. 

How many individual products or service packages do you plan to sell over a specific time period?

List your business expenses, such as subscribing to software or other services, hiring contractors or employees, purchasing physical supplies or equipment, etc.

What is your break-even point, or the amount you have to sell to cover all expenses?

Create a sales forecast for the next three to five years: (No. of units to sell X price for each unit) – (cost per unit X No. of units) = sales forecast.

Quantify how much capital you have on hand.

When writing a traditional business plan to secure funding, you may choose to append supporting documents, such as licenses, permits, patents, letters of reference, resumes, product blueprints, brand guidelines, the industry awards you’ve received, and media mentions and appearances.

Business plan key takeaways and best practices

Remember: Creating a business plan is crucial when starting a business. You can use this document to guide your decisions and actions and even seek funding from lenders and investors. 

Keep these best practices in mind:

Your business plan should evolve as your business grows. Return to it periodically, such as every quarter or year, to update individual sections or explore new directions your business can take.

Make sure everyone on your team has a copy of the business plan, and welcome their input as they perform their roles. 

Ask fellow entrepreneurs for feedback on your business plan and look for opportunities to strengthen it, from conducting more market and competitor research to implementing new strategies for success. 

Start your business with Coursera 

Ready to start your business? Watch this video on the lean approach from the Entrepreneurship Specialization :

Article sources

BDC. “ Step 2—Prepare a winning business plan , https://www.bdc.ca/en/articles-tools/start-buy-business/start-business/create-effective-business-plan." Accessed November 13, 2022.

CBDC. " NEW fillable CBDC Business Plan ,   https://www.cbdc.ca/en/new-fillable-cbdc-business-plan." Accessed November 13, 2022.

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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

Creating a business plan for your startup: step-by-step guide

You’ve had a great idea for a startup or new business. Now you need to make sure it all makes sense and create a document that shows how and why your business will succeed.

small business start up business plan

Every company is unique and this will be reflected in its business plan. The steps below can be tailored to your requirements but should ensure the key elements are all included.

Step 1. Set out your stall

You may be clear about what will make your new business great, but you need to be able to communicate that to investors, customers and other stakeholders. An effective business plan will often start with a clear statement about what the business will do, and what product or service it will sell.

Step 2.  Set clear goals

Do you want to takeover the world or just a small corner of it? Is creativity, social impact or innovation more important than maximum profit? Decide on the business, financial and even personal goals you want to achieve in the short and medium term.

Step 3. Explain your product

Describe what your product or service will be, and what makes it unique or different. What are its limitations or downsides? How will you make, develop or source it?

Step 4. Introduce your customer and market

Who is your target customer and how big is your potential market? The better you understand the customer, the more likely you will create something they will buy. Market research is critical. Consider how you could test the market and assess demand with a Minimal Viable Product.

Step 5. Explain your sales and marketing approach

How will you make potential customers aware of your product or service? Marketing and advertising costs are often underestimated, especially in a crowded market with a lot of competition for customers. Will you have time to do the marketing yourself or will you need to hire staff or outsource tasks?

Step 6. Consider variable costs

These are the costs associated with the product or service itself, including manufacture, storage and delivery. For a digital business this could include development and testing.

Step 7. Estimate fixed costs

There will also be fixed costs that you will need to pay no matter how much you sell. These could include salaries and wages, National Insurance, tax, office costs, accountant’s fees, bad debts, interest payments and rates.

Step 8. Work out your pricing

Take the cost of the product or service away from the sales price and you have your gross profit. Subtract your overhead costs for the relevant time period and you’ll start to have an idea of how much you’ll need to sell to make a profit. There are various pricing models and you may need to experiment to find the right one for your business.

Step 9. Evaluate the competition

Identify other businesses that could compete for customers. Make a list of factors related to their product or service – everything from cost and service level to features and reputation. Assess your idea against the competition to spot risks and opportunities.

Step 10. Crunch the numbers

Financial calculations and forecasts are at the heart of a business plan. They could include capital requirements, profit and loss forecasts, cashflow forecasts, required assets and funding requirements. How much startup capital do you need and what runway will that give you before more investment or revenue is required?

Step 11. Decide on a legal structure and business organisation

Will you be a sole trader, limited company or set up a business partnership, perhaps with a co-founder? Do you need staff and will they be offered any equity?  What access to advice and expertise do you have – and what will you need to pay for?

Step 12. Assess the risks

With so much disruption and uncertainty it has never been more important to assess the risks your business may face. Be honest about gaps in the founders’ knowledge or experience and look to fill them. Work out contingency plans and stress-test your assumptions.

Step 13. Iterate your approach

A business plan should be an evolving document that reflects what you are learning and the data and insight that is being collected. The sections may need to be adapted or added to, depending on the nature of the business, its sales model and type of funding.

Step 14. Talk to Barclays Eagle Labs

The Ecosystem Managers at Barclays Eagle Labs are used to working with founders and entrepreneurs at the start of their business journey. They can advise you on approaches, considerations and next steps. Find your nearest Eagle Lab here.

Step 15. Find a business plan template to suit your needs

There are numerous business plan templates online with some specifically tailored for startups. No two are the same, so it pays to search widely and borrow from multiple sources to create the business plan that best fits your circumstances and concept.

This Barclays Business Plan Generator is a great first step in clarifying your business idea.

Barclays (including its employees, Directors and agents) accepts no responsibility and shall have no liability in contract, tort or otherwise to any person in connection with this content or the use of or reliance on any information or data set out in this content unless it expressly agrees otherwise in writing. It does not constitute an offer to sell or buy any security, investment, financial product or service and does not constitute investment, professional, legal or tax advice, or a recommendation with respect to any securities or financial instruments.

The information, statements and opinions contained in this content are of a general nature only and do not take into account your individual circumstances including any laws, policies, procedures or practices you, or your employer or businesses may have or be subject to. Although the statements of fact on this page have been obtained from and are based upon sources that Barclays believes to be reliable, Barclays does not guarantee their accuracy or completeness.

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It's All You Boo

Copy This Small Business Plan Checklist for Your New Startup

April 13, 2022 18 Comments

Want to make a small business plan checklist? Looking for the essential parts of a business plan?

Despite what sensationalized headlines want you to believe, only one in five businesses fail during the first two years of opening. While these numbers sure are a bit more refreshing than the urban legend of 50% failure rate, not everything is hunky-dory for startups . 

For a start, only one out of four businesses will make it to 15 years or more! What’s more concerning is that several businesses fail to take off due to preventable reasons – the primary one being the lack of a concrete business plan .

If you have an amazing small business idea , you cannot skip over than essential business planning stage. Whether that means doing market research, creating a cash flow statement, or identifying your target market, you have to create some sort of business plan outline.

In this post, we will take a look at how a solid and realistic business plan can be your business’s lifeboat, even as you navigate the choppy waters of entrepreneurship. When you’ve been in business for years to come, you’ll be happy you did!

Hey boo, Pin it!

What is a Business Plan? And Why Does It Matter?

If your business were a living entity, your business plan would be its very life force.

In other words, a business plan is a formal document describing a business and everything that contributes to its success . As such, it includes organizational goals and objectives, products or services, revenue and financing, operations model, leadership and staffing, and roadmaps for achieving results.

This business plan acts as the north star for your startup and lends direction to its progress. Hence, it should come as no surprise that startups that had a business plan grew 30% faster than those without a plan.

Further, a well-defined business plan rakes in the following benefits:

  • The process of writing down the business plan offers clarity of thought and ideas while determining the scope of your business, how it will operate, and the resources necessary for getting started.
  • Committing your ideas to paper also allows you to analyze them objectively . After running through them, you can weed out the ones that are not feasible and focus your energy only on the ones that seem practical.
  • While writing the business plan, you will have to research the market, your ideal customers, and your competitors – such insights will allow you to make smarter and more decisive decisions .
  • A clear understanding of your business and its offerings empowers you to form strategic partnerships that foster mutual growth.
  • The business plan lays the foundation for the company culture, which will instill confidence in new recruits as they become a part of your workforce.

Want a TL;DR version? You need a business plan to succeed! Use this post as your business plan template.

“To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.” – Leonard Bernstein

A Step-by-Step Guide: How to Write a Business Plan?

Writing a business plan can be intimidating – we get that. However, it is the absolute first step to starting a business . And so, the sooner you get it out of the way, the easier it is to graduate to the more thrilling aspects like checking out Northwest registered agent reviews or joining startup forums!

If you still find yourself staring down at a blank sheet while writing a business plan, here are a few steps to guide your business plan sections:

Step #1: Define the Vision, Mission, and Values

If you are serious about your startup, you would already have a solid understanding of what your startup aims to do and how it plans on doing it.

Dig in a little deeper, and you will understand why you do it as well. And at the core of all this soul-searching lies the mission statement of your startup .

It defines the primary purpose why your startup exists. On the other hand, all your goals and aspirations are encapsulated in the vision statement. And your values dictate the medium of achieving these goals.

Congrats on discovering the three main pillars that will drive your business startup!

Step #2: Identify SMART Goals

Sure, knowing the origin story of your startup is crucial. However, you should not lose sight of your destination. As such, you will also have to note down the business goals and milestones that represent the growth of your startup. 

Naturally, you may strive to be a unicorn, have a large client base, and have an impressive turnover – who doesn’t? But if you chase these objectives at random, you will fail to drive results.

And so, these goals have to be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Such an approach will make your goals realistic and tangible.

This step is especially critical if your new business is part of your exit strategy from your day job. You have to plan business goals and objectives if you ever want to successfully become your own boss .

“Plan for what is difficult while it is easy, do what is great while it is small.” ― Sun Tzu

Step #3: Invest Time in Research

What you have done so far is nothing far from introspection. However, a business does not operate in a vacuum; it is also a product of its surroundings and conditions. And so, you will have to direct a significant chunk of your research outward to understand external stimuli that can influence your startup .

You can deploy various tools and methodologies like industry research, surveys, questionnaires, benchmark analysis, etc., to understand more about the prevailing market conditions, who you are selling to, and who is offering similar products or services.

Step #4: Get Writing!

Once you have done all your homework, it is only a matter of putting all your thoughts, observations, and ideas to paper and forming a business plan!

Continue reading for a breakdown of all the essential business plan sections.

Step #5: Keep Editing

One of the greatest advantages of a business plan is that you can go into the elaborate details of how to run your startup. However, it’s important to remember that the goal isn’t to create a perfect business plan, but rather a realistic one.

One of the greatest pitfalls of a business plan is that you can go into the excruciating details of how to run your startup. Don’t spend too much time working to make it perfect, instead aim for making it workable.

To avoid falling prey to the latter, edit your business plan to keep it succinct and easy to read. The average length of any business plan is 15 to 20 pages. Also, maintain consistency in the tonality, voice, and style while drafting your business plan.

“Good business planning is 9 parts execution for every 1 part strategy.” ― Tim Berry

The Anatomy of a Small Business Plan for Startups

Now that you understand the process of creating a business plan checklist, it is time to round up everything that goes into it. This includes:

A. Executive Summary

An executive summary offers a high-level view of the business and caters to the requirements of those short on time. Think of it as the distilled version of everything contained in the business plan.

Typically, an executive summary is a page long and contains key points like:

  • What does your startup do?
  • What does it aim to do?
  • What does it sell?
  • What makes your offerings unique or different?
  • Who are your target customers?
  • How will you reach your target audience?
  • How much revenue do you generate?
  • What is the foreseeable revenue potential?
  • What is your pricing for the product/service?
  • Who is a part of the startup?

While the executive summary is the first section of your small business plan checklist, reserve writing it to the end. 

B. Industry Analysis

Industry analysis is a key section of your business plan. After all, it is the market that will determine the success of your business. 

Entering the right market at the right time allows startups to consolidate their presence and register an impressive growth trajectory. Doing quite the opposite may result in your startup tanking, no matter how unique and innovative your offerings may be.

The quickest way to adjudge whether your startup is a great market fit is by performing SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis. Such a visual representation can validate and justify your market-linked business decision and help in formulating future-proof strategies.

“Any time is a good time to start a company.”  ― Ron Conway

C. Customer Analysis

It is no secret that targeted marketing is the key to accelerated business growth- especially in the case of startups. However, before appealing to a niche audience, you need to understand who they are in the first place! 

And here’s where customer analysis enters the scene.

This portion of the business plan paints a vivid picture of an ideal customer – someone who offers maximum customer lifetime value (CLV). The simplest way to segment such customers is through demographic factors like their age, sex, location, level of education, behavior patterns, etc. You may even create multiple buyer personas if your product/services cater to a larger clientele.

D. Competitive Analysis

As the old saying goes, keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Including competitive analysis in your business plan allows you to acknowledge competition while also comparing and contrasting the similarities and differences, respectively. 

List down your competitors’ weaknesses and devise ways to overcome them while building your own strategies. At the same time, you can use this opportunity to highlight what sets your business apart and why customers should purchase from you.

E. Products and Services

This segment of the business plan should go into the details of the products and/or services that you offer. 

It may be tempting to ramble on about the features and specifications of your offerings that make them pop out. However, it will result in a loss of interest. A better approach to talking about the products and services is by presenting them as solution-centric. Talk about how your products or services can address customer pain points and improve their life. 

F. Marketing and Sales Plan

This portion of your business plan should talk about how you plan on marketing and selling your product and services. As such, it must answer the following questions:

  • What are you selling, and what makes it unique from similar offerings?
  • Where will you be selling the products/services?
  • What would be the cost and pricing model of your product or service? How did you reach this valuation?
  • How will you reach out and engage with your target audience?
  • What is your social media strategy ?

“Making a plan without the right tools is like making spaghetti without a pot.” – Unknown

G. Logistics and Operations Plan

The logistics and operations plan will contain all the workflows involved to translate concepts into reality. It indicates that you have a solid understanding of how your business functions internally and how it interacts with external supply chain players, such as vendors, suppliers, etc. This section must also include contingency plans that will come into effect if any workflow or processes fail.

H. Financial Plan

Even if you are sitting on the brightest and most innovative idea and putting in more than the requisite amount of time, effort, and money, everything boils down to the financial health of the startup . After all, customers want to transact with businesses that offer long-term value. Similarly, investors would be more interested in financially-sound businesses. And to build this trust, a financial plan would typically include the income statement, the balance sheet, and the cash-flow statement.

I. Management Team

Having a strong management team can be an indicator of success, so why not share these details in your business plan? Include the names and profiles of the core management team and talk about what they bring to the table.

J. Exhibits and Appendix

The appendix is simply a collection of auxiliary documents that did not make it to the main business plan. Such documents support any claims made in the business plan.

“Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans.” – Peter F. Drucker

The Ultimate Business Plan Checklist

To summarize, your small business plan checklist will contain the following:

  • Executive Summary
  • Company Overview
  • Industry Analysis
  • Customer Analysis
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Products and Services
  • Marketing Plan
  • Logistics and Operations Plan
  • Financial Plan
  • Management Team

Ready to Start Up Your Startup Journey?

A reliable small business plan checklist is a powerful tool for clarifying business strategies, managing resources, performing viability testing, and identifying potential roadblocks.

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Plus, it can help clinch external funding when it comes to it.

So whether you plan on creating a one-page pitch or something along the lines of lean business plans, do it either way to reap long-term results!

It’s great that you have a business idea for beginners , or a small business started already, but you also need a business plan. Get started!

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What’s in your small business plan checklist?

Matt

More About Guest Contributor 

Matt Horwitz is the founder of LLC University , a website that teaches people how to form LLCs. Matt is the leading authority in LLC education and is featured in CNBC, Yahoo Finance, Entrepreneur Magazine, and US Chamber of Commerce. Matt holds a Bachelor’s Degree in business from Drexel University with a concentration in business law. LLC University®, established in 2010, was the first company to create free LLC courses in all 50 states.

Last Updated on August 8, 2023

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70 Small Business Ideas for Anyone Who Wants to Run Their Own Business

Meg Prater (she/her)

Published: July 31, 2023

A good business idea may seem hard to come by, but with some planning and preparation, you can easily launch a small business to supplement your income — or become your own full-time boss.

Small business ideas symbolically showing the spirit of a small business

Maybe you already have an idea of the business you’d like to start. But while you might feel ready for a new venture and passionate about your idea, you might be looking for some direction.

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To help get you started, here's a list of small business ideas separated into a few sections:

Best Small Business Ideas

Best businesses to start with little money, home business ideas, easy businesses to start, how to start a small business at home.

The first step to becoming a successful entrepreneur is finding a business idea that works for you. In this article, you’ll find dozens of small business ideas you can start from home and scale up as your clientele grows. Let’s get started.

small business start up business plan

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Fill out this form to build your business plan today., what makes a good small business idea.

Not all small business ideas are made equal: Some require more effort and funding than others, while some can be launched with few resources — or resources you already have. As a potential small business owner, you’ll want to save as much money as possible on training, rent, supplies, and other necessities.

Let’s go over what makes a good business idea:

  • Requires little to no training . A good small business idea will ideally leverage your existing field of expertise and require little to no training. That will not only shorten your time-to-launch, but also lessen your expenses, since training courses can cost a significant amount of money. Plus, you’ll be more confident offering services that you feel prepared to deliver.
  • Requires low setup costs. Your business should be cheap to start. Maybe you only need to purchase a website domain or buy a desk for your garage.
  • Requires little hands-on inventory or supply management . A great business idea needs few supplies and little inventory management. If you want to sell physical goods, you can either try drop-shipping and manually make goods in small batches.
  • Is based online . The best small business ideas are based online and can be carried out from your personal computer. This will automatically lower your commuting costs and give you greater flexibility over your personal and work life.
  • Can sustainably be managed by few people . As a small business owner, you won’t have the funds to hire other people to help you run your business — at least not at first. A good business idea should give you the ability to run your business on your own.

Airbnb Co-founder, Brian Chesky, said, "If we tried to think of a good idea, we wouldn’t have been able to think of a good idea. You just have to find the solution for a problem in your own life."

If you’re like Brian and you’ve already thought about a solution for a problem you encounter in your life — or you’re on the path to doing so — then starting a small business may be in your future. It may also be for you if you dream of clocking out of your nine-to-five job for the last time and becoming your own boss.

Below, we include the absolute best ideas for you to start your small business — with resources and examples to help you get started.

1. Handyman

small business idea example: handyman

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Are you always fixing things around the house? Often on-call when friends need small projects completed? Create a website , conduct a competitive analysis to determine what your time and expertise are worth, and turn to the friends you’ve helped before for referrals.

A handyman business is a good idea if you’ve already built a robust set of skills to help others fix up their homes. Consider specializing in what you feel well-prepared to do — for instance, if you know your way underneath a sink and water system, then you might provide sink fixing services to start, then expand your offerings once you earn more skills.

No certifications are needed to become a handyman, and there are no special education requirements. You might need, however, a license if you’re planning to undertake jobs worth more than a certain dollar amount. Some states might not require this license.

To start your handyman business, we recommend the following resources:

  • Handyman License Requirements by State
  • The Most Requested Handyman Services
  • Association of Certified Handyman Professionals

2. Woodworker

Similarly, if you have a passion for crafting beautiful furniture or other home goods out of wood, that could be a small business niche for you. Get started by listing a few of your pieces on sites like Etsy . Once you build a following, consider starting a website, accepting custom orders, or expanding to refinishing work and upholstery.

A woodworker small business is ideal if you already have a passion for woodworking, as well as the tools to begin fulfilling orders as they begin to come in. Since delivering a well-made product is key to keeping your customers happy, you don’t want to be “training” as you create a custom shelf or a custom storage box. It’s recommended to have at least one year of experience as a woodworking apprentice.

To start a woodworking business, there are no special education requirements, but there are a wide range of woodworking training certifications online, so we suggest starting with a certification. The Woodwork Institute , YesTomorrow , and The School of Fine Woodworking are potential places to start.

3. Online Dating Consultant

Dating consultants usually charge for their time. They help people create successful online dating profiles, source possible matches from outside the typical online channels, and offer a level of personalization that a site like Tinder can’t. Think you’ve got a knack for the match? This might be the business for you.

Online dating consultants need to have strong communication and interpersonal skills, as well as heightened levels of empathy. The good news is that there are no special education or licensure requirements, though we recommend getting a certification such as IAP College’s relationship coach certification or Hart Academy’s online dating coach certificate .

To start an online dating consultant business, you’ll need a website that shares all about you and offers free dating resources your customers might benefit from. Once they download a resource, you can loop them in for a free consultation.

4. Sewing and Alteration Specialist

small business idea example: sewing and alterations

People will always need clothing hemmed and buttons mended — and you could be the person to do it. If you love sewing and have a sewing machine at home, start by offering simple services like those mentioned above and expand your repertoire to dressmaking and design as you build a customer base and demand.

You don’t need a special license or degree to begin a sewing and alterations business, but it’s essential to build your skills so you can take on more complicated projects. High-value clients will want to customize complicated items of clothing such as suits, pants, gowns, and dresses. That’s where you’ll see the highest potential for profits.

Altering these items require special skills, however. A few courses you might consider include:

  • International Open Academy's Tailoring Course for Beginners
  • Jackson Sewing Academy’s Basic Alterations Course
  • American Bespoke Tailoring Academy’s Programs

You’ll also need to shop for sewing supplies of all colors to accommodate your clients.

5. Freelance Developer

From building websites for other small businesses to providing technical support for certain projects, quality web development is in high demand right now. As a web developer, you'll naturally have a technical skill set. Distill your knowledge and expertise so customers who don't have your experience are able to understand what it is you'll be helping them achieve.

To help with this, test your messaging on friends and family who don’t have a firm understanding of the work you do. If they’re able to summarize what you do, your messaging is likely effective among people outside of your industry. You can start finding your first freelance contracts by visiting different freelance websites .

Unlike a few other options in this list, a freelance developer does need some training to launch a successful business and start taking on projects, but if you’re a beginner, don’t worry. There are plenty of boot camps to get you up to speed with either full-stack or front-end web development. Some of these boot camps are even offered through accredited tech schools.

Some boot camps you might consider include:

  • Coding Dojo
  • Fullstack Academy
  • Georgia Institute of Technology Coding Boot Camp

These vary in price, so be sure to do extensive research to find one that fits you and your budget.

6. Personal Trainer

Offer in-home consultations, personalized nutrition and exercise regimens, and community boot camps to get the word out. Don’t forget to populate an Instagram feed with inspirational quotes, free exercise videos, and yummy snack ideas as well — it’s a common way for fitness gurus to build their brands in our digital world.

If you choose to go this route, it’s OK to start small at first, then scale up. For instance, MOURfit is a personal training business in Indianapolis that started in a shared gym, then grew to a private gym that offers group fitness, personal training, and nutrition services.

To start a personal training business, you’ll need a certification. If you already earned a degree in an unrelated discipline, we recommend starting with the NASM-CPT certification , which is nationally accredited and only requires a high school diploma or GED. You can also get a Bachelor’s degree in physical and exercise science — here’s one example from Emory & Henry College .

7. Freelance Graphic Designer

Set your own hours, choose your projects, and build a portfolio and business you’re proud of. From website design to blog graphics and more, many companies seek out experienced graphic designers for support on a variety of projects.

The good news? There are no special education requirements for becoming a freelance graphic designer, though we recommend seeking a credential (like SAIC’s graphic design certificate or RISD’s graphic design certificate ) or an Associate’s degree in design so you can confidently present your portfolio and complete your first few projects.

If you’re just starting out with graphic design, try these tips and tricks that are ideal for beginners. If you’re more experienced but need to build your portfolio to attract clients, these prompts will get your creativity flowing in no time. We also recommend reviewing other people’s work on portfolio websites to get a feel for what is “trendy” and receive feedback as you grow your small business.

Free Download: How to Hire and Work with Freelancers

8. Life/ Career Coach

If you have experience navigating career, personal, and social transitions successfully, put it to good use as a life or career coach. Many of us are looking for guidance in our careers — and finding someone with the time to mentor us can be tough.

Life/career coaches don’t come cheap, but they are able to offer clients the intense and hands-on training and advice they need to make serious moves in their personal and professional lives. After all, everyone needs some uplifting advice from time to time.

To start your life/career coaching business with confidence, you can look for a certification program (like the Life Coach School’s or Diane Hudson’s ), then apply your skills as you acquire new clients.

small business idea example: Career Coach Nariah Broadus

A resume writing business is economical, has few overhead costs, and has few educational requirements. We still recommend having an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree and a few resume samples on hand. If you still feel that you need to brush up on your resume writing skills, you can take a course like Coursera’s or LinkedIn Learning’s .

Once you’ve gotten resume writing down, you can expand your business to include cover letter writing, and even offer career coaching services in conjunction with these services.

10. Freelance Writer

If you have writing skills , there’s someone out there willing to pay you for them. Write blog posts, magazine articles, and website copy galore — just make sure you have a body of work built up to share with potential clients. Even if you create a few sample pieces to have on hand, they’ll help exhibit your work and attract new business.

To become a freelance writer, it’s essential to choose a specialty. For instance, you might choose to only write for publications in the healthcare industry (maybe because you were previously a healthcare worker), or focus on lifestyle publications. Whatever the case, specializing will help you find your niche market and gain confidence as a new freelancer writer.

There are no educational requirements to freelance writing, but you do need strong writing skills. It also helps to enjoy writing. While a certification may beneficial, getting practice and writing every day is more important. Try these writing prompts to start.

11. Landscaper

Mowing, tree-trimming, and seasonal decor are all neighborhood needs. If you have or can acquire the equipment, a landscaping business can be a lucrative affair. It’s also a great choice if you enjoy doing it for your own home and have a good eye for landscape design.

The good news is that you can start small. For instance, you could offer your neighbors seasonal planting services and start with a few perennial plants, or simply offer mulching services.

To grow your landscaping business, you should consider taking some formal training. The following organizations offer courses:

  • New York Botanical Gardens

After completing a course and getting enough experience, you can apply for a certificate from a landscaping organization. While a certificate isn’t necessary to work in the field, it can build your credentials and help you make industry connections to take your landscaping business to the next level. The Association of Professional Landscape Designers offers one potential certificate you could pursue.

Some states require licensure, especially if you’ll be using pesticides and fertilizers. Be sure to review the requirements for your state.

Learn some of the basics now with this video on landscape design from Lowe’s:

12. Videographer

Video production requires you to have invested in the equipment up front, which can be quite expensive. But that’s also what makes your services so valuable. Make sure you have a reel of your work to share or create a website with several selections of your work available for interested viewers.

There are no educational or licensure requirements for starting a video production business. As with writing and other creative arts, though, it pays to specialize. Real estate videos differ radically from wedding videos, and wedding videos differ radically from in-studio interviews and testimonials. By specializing, you target a highly specific customer who’ll benefit the most from your services, and you can also skill-up more effectively in one shooting style.

While you can find general classes on videography, you should consider taking a class in the type of videography you’d like to do. For instance, you could take The Complete Wedding Videography Course , if that’s the route you’d like to take.

Hot tip: If you’re interested in specializing in video marketing, check out The Ultimate Guide to Video Marketing and download our starter pack below.

→ Access Now: Video Marketing Starter Pack [Free Kit]

13. Photographer

Start by conducting photo shoots for your family and friends. As you build a body of work, ask for referrals and reviews. Photography businesses often grow by word of mouth, so create a Facebook page where you can tag recent clients. Photos where you tag those clients will show up in their friends’ newsfeeds, where they can view your work. You can also ask them to leave reviews on your Facebook business page.

Like with a video production small business, you’ll want to specialize. Will you do product shoots or portraits? How about wedding or fashion photo shoots? Once you specialize, you’ll be able to create a body of work that most accurately represents your strengths.

There are no educational or licensure requirements for starting a small photography business, but we recommend investing in a few photography courses, especially if you haven’t used your camera in a while. Some courses you might start with include:

  • Cornell’s Digital Photography Certificate Program
  • New York Institute of Photography’s Course

From there, seek courses that help you build skills in your chosen specialty.

If you’re not sure where to start with freelance photography, take a look at Erica Clayton’s journey into the business below. Her advice? Give yourself a firm deadline to turn a profit.

14. Bed and Breakfast Owner

small business idea example: bed and breakfast

This is another business venture that will require you to research the correct licensure from your state, but it will be well worth it to see your dreams come true. Consider what guests will be traveling to your area and create special packages and themed stays that coincide with their interests in your locale.

To start a bed and breakfast business, you’ll need a physical business location and a small staff for maintenance, customer service, and upkeep. For that reason, we recommend it if you have startup funds to start your business. (Don’t have any? Here’s how to start crowdfunding to launch your new business .)

A successful bed and breakfast business will also need an SEO-optimized website with a hotel booking system. If you create your website on the WordPress platform, you can easily create a B&B website using a hotel booking plugin — so there’s no need to code the booking form from scratch.

With Airbnb and hotels stealing market share, the competition is tough in the bed and breakfast space, so we recommend providing a unique angle to the stay. As mentioned, the stays can be themed — maybe your B&B is a vintage home with all original furniture, or maybe you offer traditional fare from your homeland.

15. Clothing Boutique Owner

If you dream of building your own fashion empire, why not start with a local boutique? Build buzz with impressive clothing styles, inspiring social media accounts, and heavy community involvement. While you can open a physical store, you can easily start online — and if that proves profitable, you can open up a local shop.

There are a few ways you can start a clothing boutique. First, you can make the clothes yourself if you already have experience in fashion design or know how to sew, knit, and curate colors and patterns.

Alternatively, you can design certain aspects of the clothing — such as a graphic or a logo — then send it to be printed on-demand at a local print shop when orders come in.

Lastly, you can dropship the items from a warehouse you’ve partnered with. This method is less reliable because there’s less quality assurance for each item, especially if you never visit the warehouses yourself. Regardless of the method you choose, starting a clothing boutique is highly doable, and you don’t need to have a fashion degree (though it certainly helps).

Take some inspiration from Sleep Ova , a luxury loungewear boutique based in Los Angeles, CA.

small business idea example: sleep ova

16. Specialty Food Store Owner

small business idea example: specialty food store

Gourmet foods, cheeses, sake, wine — you name a food, there’s a specialty food store out there for it. Put your passion for exotic olive oils to good use and open a store like American Provisions where you offer the kind of expertise and selection your audience couldn’t dream of getting from their local grocer.

To start your specialty food store, you’ll want to curate and source the items from makers that you love and trust. Ask around your community to find local makers of the food you want to sell, and the makers will likely be open to a partnership, especially if they get a cut of the profits.

When it’s time to sell, you’ll want to find a physical location, but if that investment is too high, you can start by setting up stalls at food festivals and local markets. Or you can go the ecommerce route and sell the products through your website, taking care to carefully pack perishable items.

17. Food Truck Owner

Always dreamt of owning a restaurant but not quite ready to take the plunge? Test out your concepts with a food truck. It’s a great way to become familiar with food and restaurant licensing in your state, see what people like and don’t like, and build a ravenous following before ever opening or investing in a brick-and-mortar location.

Food trucks will require a larger investment, but thankfully, you can rent the truck itself — the Food Truck Group and Roaming Hunger are two potential leasers you could look at. The cost will be high, so we recommend renting one in preparation for an event such as a food festival or concert. There, you’ll get to test out the popularity of your cuisine and see if the food truck business is right for you.

Taco Nganas , a taco truck in Memphis, TN, started with one food truck and expanded to three, building a loyal customer base along the way.

18. Car-detailing Specialist

small business idea example: car detailing

The devil is in the details, and you can be too. Car-detailing services that travel to the client are convenient for busy people who can’t find the time to run through the car wash. With this business, your clients only have to pay and the service will be done for them before they know it. Just make sure you have the flexibility, transportation, and equipment to take your business on the road.

There are no educational requirements for car detailing, but you should still take a course such as Auto Finesse’s detailing training to learn core concepts and brush up on your skills.

To get your car detailing business off the ground, you’ll need an SEO-optimized website and a way for customers to book online with you. Before you take that step, however, consider listing your services on websites like Angi , Thumbtack , and even Nextdoor.com so you can get your first local clients.

Don’t have a lot of money to start your business? Check out the ideas below.

1. Translator

Speak a foreign language? Start a translation service. Consider specializing in a specific genre of translation, like medical or financial translation, as you might be able to fill a niche need in your community.

small business ideas: translator

To become a translator, you should have a rock-solid grasp of two languages — ideally, you’ll be near native level for both. You don’t need special credentials to become a translator, but a certification (such as from the American Translators Association ) will legitimize your business and help you get clients.

Prior to gaining a certification, you can also pursue an online certificate, which will teach you the basics of translation. Some providers include:

  • University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • The University of Arizona
  • University of Georgia

2. Garden Designer

Many people have the willingness to do the dirty work in their backyards, but few have the know-how to complete the first part of this process — designing and planning the backyard space. Draw up the designs for your clients’ outdoor spaces and let them do the actual digging.

But you can also offer installation services, or hire your own contractors to fulfill the design.

small business ideas: garden designer

To become a garden designer, you should seek at least one credential so you’re well-versed in the basics and prevent damage to a client’s landscape. The American Academy of Garden Design offers courses and certificates that start at $450. A cheaper option is New Skills Academy’s Garden Design Certification ($120).

Remember, the goal is to start a business for cheap, and a certification can have a high ROI after you book your first few clients for garden design.

3. Travel Planner

The time of the travel agent might be passing, but people are still looking for those with a knack for more nontraditional travel coordination. If you always plan the perfect vacations complete with beautiful hotels, the ideal location, and a bevy of delicious restaurants lined up for every evening, consider advertising your services as a more modern approach to travel planning.

You don’t have to only plan trips for individuals, either. If you’re experienced enough, you can even start a group travel company, like Art N Soul Escapes .

You can become a travel planner by first volunteering to plan a few trips for your family and friends. Try it and see if you like it. Once you feel like you’ve gotten a good taste, attend a travel planner program and get certified. Some options include:

  • The Travel Institute Training & Certification Program
  • Penn Foster Travel and Tourism Specialist Diploma

You can also seek employment at a travel agency first, then strike out on your own once you’ve learned the basics.

4. Home Inspector

A home inspector examines a house’s drywall, electrical wiring, energy efficiency, and structural integrity to find potential issues on behalf of a home buyer. Home inspectors work in the field. They visit homes in person and provide a written inspection report. Alternatively, some home inspectors offer virtual inspections, which may be a good fit if you’d prefer to work from home.

small business ideas: home inspector

Working as a home inspector requires certification and a great deal of expertise, but it can offer a flexible work schedule and stable income. Confirm the licensing requirements in your state before getting started with this type of small business. You’ll want to make sure you’re providing the best service to your clients by having all of your credentials in order.

To become a home inspector, you should invest in a certification program, such as:

  • International Association of Certified Home Inspectors
  • ATI Home Inspector Academy

Be sure to check local authorities and universities for a course.

5. Personal Chef

We all love to eat, but few of us have the time or energy to cook healthy, delicious meals. Advertise your services to local families and businesses alike. To save on start-up costs, consider scheduling certain groups of clients together — say, vegetarians — so you can cook larger quantities of the same dish.

You can also begin by selling food in batches at local farmer’s markets or via a food truck. Once you’ve generated some awareness, you can begin taking on clients. Alternatively, you can start a delivery meal prep service by cooking 5-7 days’ worth of meals for clients.

small business idea example: personal chef

Chef Paul’s mouth-watering dishes are available to clients across the country. His clientele niche consists of athletes, corporate businesses, and local gyms.

6. Property Manager

Many people maintain properties they don’t live in — often based in different cities or states. As a property manager, you can help a property owner ensure their home is well taken care of, handle small fixes as they arise, and serve as a liaison to renters. It’s helpful if you have a background in real estate.

This option is a great fit if you have stupendous organizational, administrative, and customer service skills. As a property manager, you’ll be handling everything from screening potential tenants to collecting rent.

To become a property manager, you must first complete coursework in your desired state. We recommend working at an existing property management company to get your foot in the door. Once you’ve learned the basics, you can then start your own property management business.

7. Massage Therapist

Soothe aching muscles and promote peace for your clients as a massage therapist. As a massage therapist, you’ll offer targeted, personalized care that’s an edge above in-shop or mall massage services. To start this small business, you should invest in customer service courses, as well as a massage therapy certification.

small business idea example: massage therapist

Be sure to look into training and certification courses in your city and state, and to invest in a portable bed to take on client visits.

8. Interior Designer

Similar to landscape design — there are many people who have the ability to buy the furniture and home decor they need to fill their rooms, but few who know where to start. It might take some time to build a portfolio, but documenting your projects and sharing them online can build a fanbase beyond your wildest dreams.

To start an interior design business, we first recommend trying your hand at decorating your friends’ homes and working with their vision and specifications. One big aspect of interior design is providing fantastic customer service and knowing how to fulfill a client’s design vision while employing your interior design expertise.

You can then take an interior design course to round out your knowledge, such as the one offered by The New York Institute of Art and Design .

Need inspiration? Check out Sandra Cavallo’s interior design Instagram account.

small business idea example: interior designer

9. Nonprofit Owner

If you dream of devoting your life to a cause you believe in, it might be time to start a nonprofit. You’ll need to incorporate your business and file for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status — and then you’ll be required to meet ongoing standards of compliance, but the payoff is making a meaningful impact on a cause you believe in.

The best thing is that you can begin a nonprofit easily from your home, even before filing for 501(c)(3) status. First, create a non-profit website (ideally with a .org top-level-domain). Define your mission and goals, and figure out how you’ll execute your non-profit activities. For instance, if you’re raising money to buy books for local schools, who will deliver them? Which retailer will you use? Start small, then expand.

Thereafter, apply for exempt status so that you’re not taxed like a regular business. The profit margins may be smaller, but the job is endlessly rewarding.

Whether you’re a math whiz, piano master, or Shakespeare aficionado, there’s someone out there who needs a little help in your area of expertise and is willing to pay for it. Advertise your services through local schools, community colleges, community centers, and even social media to get the word out and build a customer base.

To start a tutoring business, you should first gain experience educating others by either volunteering or even teaching friends and family. But you can begin straight away by listing your services locally and online and launching a tutoring website.

Be sure to define your niche. Will you be tutoring students in their homes? Or opening a local tutoring location? Which subject will you teach? Create handouts, use textbooks, and know which online resources will be best for your tutee’s learning style.

11. Consultant

If you have significant experience in or knowledge of a specific subject, consider becoming a consultant. Perhaps you’re an expert at hiring practices, have a knack for SEO , or have led multiple sales teams to six-figure success. Identify your expertise and market yourself as a consultant and charge the going rate.

Download Now: Free Consultant's Success Kit

Some consulting industries are more competitive than others, so be sure to complete your research prior to starting a small consulting business. One way to find out how competitive a consulting niche is by doing keyword search . If your target niche is highly searched or already is dominated by big companies, you may have a harder time breaking in. You can use keyword research tools to uncover keyword volume and local demand.

12. Event Planner

An event planning business is an excellent choice if you have great organizational and interpersonal skills, and it’s relatively cheap to start. You might choose to specialize in a specific type of event — like weddings or company meetings — or set yourself up as an event planner of all trades.

The good news is that event planners are always in demand. It’s not a job that can be easily automated, so this small business idea is set to thrive regardless of the digital landscape. To start, you’ll want to look for a platform that will easily allow you to advertise your availability, such as event planner directories like Eventective and WeddingWire .

If you’re highly organized, are detail-oriented, and have experience planning large events, it might be time for others to benefit from your skills.

13. Personal Assistant

Personal assistants help business owners and executives take care of administrative tasks. To launch a freelance personal assistant business, you should leverage networking opportunities on LinkedIn and attend small business events at local chambers of commerce. Most local business owners might not even know they need a personal assistant until you market your services to them.

If you’re an organized, highly-detailed person, the life of a personal assistant might be for you. Don’t want to be tied to one office or person all day, every day? Consider becoming a virtual assistant, which allows you a more flexible work environment.

To become an assistant, choose a niche — will you be helping women business owners specifically? Do you have a specific field of expertise, like bookkeeping? A website can also go a long way, and be sure to print business cards for you to hand out during networking events.

14. Consignment Shop Owner

If you have an eye for style but don’t want to invest in the inventory of a brand-new boutique, consider starting a consignment shop. It will allow you to curate a collection of clothing that matches your goals and aesthetic, without the overhead of a boutique selling entirely new garments.

The beauty of a small consignment business is that you can now start one online. You can sign up on a platform such as Poshmark , Depop , and even Etsy , then easily start selling your own used fashion from home.

Once you’ve defined your niche — such as vintage clothing, unique locally made art, or colorful shoes — you can begin sourcing new products from your local stores and thrift shops.

15. Caterer

If the personal chef gig is too restrictive for your schedule, consider catering instead. Pick your projects, work on fewer but larger events, and hone in on your time management skills.

Becoming a caterer is a natural step for those who are used to cooking for large events — for instance, you may have already catered your friend’s wedding, or brought a 20-person meal to a potluck (that counts, too!).

It’s essential that you have enough temperature-regulated storage for the meals prior to each event, and that you arrange for reliable, temperature-controlled transportation to and from your home kitchen. Alternatively, you can lower your costs by inviting customers to pick up their order at your home.

16. Gym Owner

Kickboxing gyms, yoga studios, CrossFit, oh my! Turn your passion for fitness into a community for others by creating your own gym — start one from the ground up, become an affiliate, or open a franchise location.

Available franchise opportunities include Anytime Fitness, Orangetheory Fitness, Pure Barre, Planet Fitness, Crunch Fitness, and more. Be prepared to take out a loan to finance your franchise — most agreements start with fees upward of $20,000. But the payoff can be tremendous due to brand recognition. You’ll have no trouble recruiting new members as long as you use local marketing strategies .

Alternatively, you can create a local studio, but ideally, it should be for a specific activity instead of general fitness. Yoga, pilates, bootcamp-style gyms, and martial arts perform well as independent fitness studios.

17. Boutique Agency Owner

What’s your specialty? Whether it’s marketing, social media, or PR, it might be time to start your own agency. Many other small businesses need this type of help but don’t have the resources or volume to necessitate a full-time position.

To start an agency, you would ideally have worked in your specialty for a number of years. You should also be prepared to interface directly with clients, fulfill their requirements, and temper their expectations (if they want results in an unreasonably short amount of time).

Consider building a small team and learn from other entrepreneurs who’ve successfully started their own agencies, like Duane Brown of Take Some Risk .

18. Coffee Shop Owner

Turn your caffeine addiction into something a little more lucrative. Opening a franchise or buying an existing shop are lower-risk entry points to the coffee game, but they usually require a little more cash upfront. Starting a shop from scratch requires more planning and work — but it also maximizes your earning potential in the future.

A coffee shop is an excellent fit if you already have a full-time remote job and wish to supplement your income with a small business. You can manage the coffee shop as you work at one of the tables, but be sure to have the budget to hire an experienced barista who can pick up the slack.

If you would like to open a coffee shop and run it full-time on your own, you’ll need to undertake barista training, understand worldwide coffee sources, and have excellent customer service skills.

19. Moving Company

A truck, moving equipment, manpower, and the correct permits and insurance are the building blocks of starting your own moving company . Before you buy your first fleet of trucks, however, start small with a moving van and keep your costs low.

Still sound like too much of an initial investment? Consider offering packing services only, which have a much lower financial barrier to entry. You can partner with moving companies and offer to do their packing, or have them refer clients to you.

You could even take a niche approach to the industry as Astro International has by offering international moving services.

small business idea example: moving company

20. Home Staging

If you have a flair for interior design, a staging service might serve as your creative outlet and professional calling. You can build a portfolio with little initial investment by staging homes using the owner’s existing furnishings and decor. Most stagers eventually build up an inventory of furniture as they become more established and network with area realtors.

To get your first home staging clients, you should first rely exclusively on networking. Find your local realtors’ association and attend their events with business cards handy. Once you’ve gotten your first clients and built your portfolio, you can begin posting your designs on your home staging website.

small business ideas: home staging

If you don’t yet have enough experience, be sure to pursue an interior design course before opening this small business.

These home business ideas give you a few more business options that are either based at home or online.

Frontend, backend, and every type of code in between, this skill requires no in-person interaction with your clients. But one skill you’ll want to carry over from the in-person world for this type of business is active listening. It can be easy to zone out while building a product, but developing a connection with the client is just as important as developing the code for their website.

If you keep the client top of mind when you can’t be around physically, you can ensure that you’re meeting their development needs with your coding work.

Download Now: 25 Free HTML & CSS Hacks

2. Vending Machine Owner

Since 2015, the growth rate for vending machine businesses has increased 1.4%. Even as social distancing restrictions are still in place, this business can still be lucrative if you choose the right locations. High-traffic is key — places like hospitals, schools, and community centers are smart places to start placing your machines to generate enough revenue to cover cost and turn a profit.

small business idea example: vending machine owner

3. Social Media Manager

Do you have a knack for social media? As a social media manager, you can use your skills to manage the social media accounts for companies and even individual people. Influencer marketing has become more common and many influencers rely on marketing agencies or employees to help them run their social channels.

→ Free Download: Social Media Calendar Template [Access Now]

4. Data Entry Clerk

Many businesses seek data entry clerks to help them enter information into their computer systems and spreadsheets. If you have strong computer and typing skills, this might be the business for you.

5. Audio or Video Editor

As of March 2021, there are 1.75 million podcasts available to listeners. For this reason, brands are turning to audio and visual content to connect with consumers. The catch is that many don't have the time to invest in the production of this content, or they don't have the skills to do it. Audio and video editors are in demand when it comes to producing quality content for hungry audiences.

6. Voiceover Artist

Speaking of podcasts and videos, many content creators recognize the value and level of professionalism that great voice talent can bring to a project. There are gigs out there for podcast intros/outros, narration for explainer videos, or even voice work for audiobooks. Learn how to get started with no experience from Kat Theo below:

7. Dog Walker, Groomer, or Trainer

Licensing and insurance will be the two most important factors in opening a dog walking, grooming, or training business, but your canine colleagues will surely make up for the initial red tape. To test the waters before jumping in, consider walking dogs through companies like Rover. Ready to run your own show? Consider a franchise like Dogtopia .

8. Candy Seller

If you grew up in a close-knit, southern neighborhood, you're probably familiar with the " Candy Lady ". This home business can be started by anyone who's trustworthy in the community. Aside from selling the most popular snacks, a candy seller can provide the neighborhood with fresh fruit and produce that may be harder to find if you live in a food desert.

Online Business Ideas

If you want a business idea that you can run entirely online, check out the ones below. These ideas are ideal for those looking for a passive income stream. In other words, you shouldn’t need to do too much manual work to launch these businesses from your home or preferred business location.

1. Become an online reseller.

To become an online reseller, all you need is some business savvy and some funds to invest in product stock from manufacturers — or, of course,the willingness to sell your own used items. Generally, this is a low-touch but high-performance way of creating a passive income online business.

Online resellers usually use a platform, such as Facebook Marketplace or Amazon Sellers, to sell either their own or manufacturers’ stock. The benefit of using Facebook Marketplace is that you can begin today with your own Facebook account, and simply list items that you already own.

Interested buyers typically drive directly to your home for pick-up — but if you’re not interested in human interaction, you can leave it outside and have the buyer pay via an online platform.

online business ideas: amazon seller

Amazon Sellers requires a little more up-front investment, but the yield is usually higher and you can turn your Amazon reselling business into a more passive income stream. Amazon allows you to buy stock from various manufacturers, which they then keep in their warehouses. When an Amazon user buys from you, Amazon will fulfill that order and then give you a substantial cut.

2. Try affiliate marketing.

An affiliate marketing business is a great fit if you already own a website or a blog you wish to monetize. We’ve already shared how blogging is a great business to start — if you’ve already bought a domain name and begun writing content, then using it to start your affiliate marketing business is a great option.

Affiliate marketers create blog posts and content that contain affiliate links. When a user clicks on that link, a cookie is added to their browser that tracks their activity for a specified period of time. If they make a purchase at the affiliate website, then you get a commission — usually recurring, if you’re selling subscription products.

There are countless affiliate marketing programs for you to start your online business. These programs come with many benefits, such as pre-made advertisements and lazy copy for you to use.

To create a viable affiliate marketing online business, you should choose the right blog niche , such as technology, household decor and organization, or fitness, and then find affiliate marketing programs that offer products your readership would be genuinely interested in.

3. Become a content creator or influencer.

Instagrammers, YouTubers, podcasters, and TikTokkers with more than ten thousand followers can eventually turn their accounts into a small online business that generates passive income.

As a content creator or influencer on social media, you can not only earn money from sponsored partnerships, but you can monetize your audience in other ways, such as creating Subscriptions on Instagram , allowing companies to advertise on your YouTube channel, or creating a paid-only newsletter.

online business ideas: content creator

Becoming an influencer or content creator takes hard work, but it can be a fun way to create a small online business, assuming you’re posting content that you enjoy creating. First, you should choose a niche, such as thrifted fashion, work-from-home hacks, or even industry tips. Then, you should learn how to become a social media influencer and digital creator , then create a social media content calendar .

Most importantly, have fun with this online business idea as you give it a try. The good news is that it has little overhead — all you need is a willingness to spend time on social media content creation.

4. Open a dropshipping store.

We’ve mentioned dropshipping a few times already, but this is such a great online business idea that it’s absolutely worth mentioning again. Dropshipping businesses don’t manufacture what they sell, or even buy stock from manufacturers in advance. Instead, wholesalers fulfill the order directly after a buyer places an order through your website.

Opening an ecommerce store can be forbidding for those who don’t want to deal with inventory management or supply chain logistics . Dropshipping is the best alternative.

The only thing you need is the willingness to invest in an ecommerce website builder and the ability to manage relationships with local or international manufacturers. From there, you need to only publish your site and advertise your brand via ecommerce marketing .

Learn how to start a dropshipping business here , with examples.

5. Sell print-on-demand products.

Print-on-demand (POD) is another way to start a dropshipping business, except it’s a little more frictionless because most POD services allow you to create a storefront right on their website, instead of you needing to look for a separate ecommerce site builder.

With a POD online business, you design unique artwork. The print-on-demand provider will allow you to place that design on t-shirts, hats, tote bags, phone cases, and more. You do not keep any inventory; instead, the POD provider will print it only after a buyer makes an order, then ships it directly to them.

online business ideas: print on demand shop

The only thing you need to start this small online business is a penchant for design and the budget to pay for a print-on-demand subscription (although most providers are free, and they simply take a cut of the sale). Get acquainted with design principles and color theory , and you can get started with this business in no time.

6. Become an independent author.

Think becoming an author is only for those who are extremely lucky? Think again. Whether you write historical epics or self-help guides, chances are that there’s a market to read your work, and you can now easily publish it online .

We recommend editing and proofreading your book, or hiring someone to do it, before self-publishing it. Then, it’s as simple as signing up on a self-publishing platform such as Kindle Direct Publishing or Barnes & Noble Press , uploading your file and cover, and pushing it live. You’ll enjoy benefits such as large royalties (up to 70%) and the ability to unpublish the book at any time, in case you find a typo or another change you’d like to make.

To get this online business idea off to a strong start, invest in an author website , spend some time doing social media marketing , and learn the basics of book marketing .

7. Sell downloadable digital products.

Downloadable journals, templates, art prints, designs… Some people would simply prefer to print these at home, instead of paying for the full price of the paper and the design. Downloadable digital products can be a profitable small business idea for those who are already design-savvy or who are willing to learn how to use an online design tool .

online business ideas: digital products

But if you’re not too crafty, you don’t need to create full-on journals or beautiful art prints, either; you can create templates for marketplaces such as Canva’s . There, people are able to customize a base design to their specifications, so you don’t have to worry too much about creating something specially beautiful — it’s more about functionality and customizability.

If you plan to create digital products that buyers can print at home, think about printing specifications, such as recommended paper size, paper weight, PPI (pixels per inch; a higher PPI results in better print quality), and so on. It’s essential to create a positive customer experience, even if users are ultimately responsible for what the final result looks like.

8. Publish a subscription-based newsletter.

We’ve already discussed becoming an independent author, but if long-form writing, such as novels, seems out of reach, you can always go for something much shorter and simpler: Newsletters. And the best part about paid newsletters is that you typically don’t need to have a separate website and blog; instead, you can sign up on a platform and begin publishing right away.

A website can, of course, benefit you, but the core of your revenue will come from the newsletter itself.

online business ideas: paid newsletter

With newsletter monetization platforms such as Substack or even Patreon , you can publish shorter content that features your opinion, experience, and expertise. We recommend pairing this small business idea with a robust social media marketing strategy , where your followers can learn more about you and be swayed to subscribe to a gated newsletter.

Choose a niche you’re passionate about, and this online business idea can feel less like work and more like a profitable hobby.

9. Create an online course.

If you want to monetize your expertise a little further for your online business, then creating an online course is the best choice.

To create a course, you’ll need to sign up on an online course platform such as WordPress or Teachable , sketch out a curriculum, film your lectures, and create worksheets and guides. You can be as hands-on or as hands-off as you’d like, but to make this online business as passive as possible, you’d ideally record all your lectures at once and allow users to access them by paying a premium fee.

If you’d like to try your hand at it first, you can try publishing a course on a platform such as Udemy and see if it feels viable to you. To become an online course teacher, you don’t need a specific level of education, but you should have a strong grasp on the material you’re teaching and a strong set of customer service skills to handle inquiries or course refunds.

10. Transcript videos, shows, and podcasts.

A freelance transcription business is an excellent idea for those who speak only one language and are passionate about improving communication. Transcribers listen to speech, write it out — usually verbatim — and deliver it to the original publisher in an organized document.

This small online business is a good fit for those who are looking for a part-time side business. You should be able to type quickly and have a good listening ear. Indeed has listed the top transcription companies where you can get your foot in the door.

Once you understand how the industry works, you can consider opening your own small transcription business and offering services on freelancer marketplaces such as Fiverr or Upwork .

Whether you’re looking to start your venture today or you simply don’t want to jump through the normal hoops of launching a small business, the below ideas are extremely easy to start — so easy, all you’ll need to do is sign up on a website or tell your friends about your services.

1. Vacation Host

Have you ever used a home-sharing service instead of a hotel? You could make a living by hosting visitors in your own home or renting out a room. Consider becoming a host with companies like Airbnb .

To become a vacation host, you don’t need any special skills except friendliness, courteousness, and agility (in case of guest emergencies or language barriers). A customer service course will prepare you to welcome guests and give them a pleasant stay.

You’ll need to invest in supplies and toiletries, such as new bedding and one-time soaps and toothbrushes, but the overhead is relatively small, and you can stop at any time.

2. Pet Sitter

Do you have a passion for pets? Consider becoming a pet sitter. While the pet's owners are away on vacation, either host their pet at your home or make visits to their home. Join a pet sitting service like Wag to get started.

small business idea example: pet sitter

If you start a pet sitting business, be sure to have some experience with dogs, cats, and other household pets. You should also choose a niche based on timing. For instance, do you prefer long-term arrangements? You can market yourself as an excellent vacation pet sitter. Do you only do single afternoons, or only on weekends? You can pull in clients by telling them you’ll take care of their pets during their dates or weekend trips.

3. Daycare Owner

Childcare continues to be in high demand. While nannies and nanny shares are popular right now, a good daycare is hard to find. Fill a need in your neighborhood by opening your own. And, as always, make sure you’re complying with your city and state’s zoning, licensure, insurance, and inspection requirements.

Home daycares are especially a good fit if you’re an experienced parent and have all supplies ready at home. But be warned that you’ll also need to buy more supplies to accommodate the additional children you’ll need to take care of.

We recommend getting a soft start with this business by advertising it first to your friends, families, and close neighbors. That way, you can better gauge whether it’s a good fit for you and whether you want to make the full investment.

If there’s a topic you have a heavy interest in, then there’s an audience out there with a heavy interest in it too. A blog can be used to build an online community whose engagement can be monetized. Affiliate marketing , sponsored content , and co-marketing are some ways to make money once your blog develops a following.

→ Download Now: 6 Free Blog Post Templates

Blogging is one of the most accessible small businesses to start, and there are countless niches to choose from. That said, because there are many blogs online, you’ll need to learn blog SEO and keyword research to ensure your audience finds you. That way, you actually make money out of your blogging efforts.

The great news is that a small blogging business has a ridiculously low overhead. All you need is a custom domain and your time for writing blog posts.

5. Home-Baked Goods Seller

Warehouse-made, store-bought chocolate chip cookies will never compare to a batch made with love in someone’s home. Simple desserts can be easily baked and packaged to sell at local events or around your neighborhood. Use custom labels and watch the word spread about your goods!

You can begin a baked goods business easily by opening a Facebook and Instagram profile. Facebook and Instagram are both excellent platforms to market your goods, show pictures of your previous baked products, and even showcase happy clients.

Build a loyal following slowly, and save on costs by asking clients to drive to your home to pick up their order. Choosing a niche can be helpful here, or baking in a specific style that can’t be found at grocery store bakeries. The overhead can be especially low if you already have most essential baking supplies.

6. Ecommerce Store Owner

Do you create, collect, or curate anything special? Consider starting an ecommerce store and turning your hobby into a full-time job. Whether you need somewhere to sell all that pottery you’ve been making, or an excuse to search for the sports memorabilia you love tracking down, an ecommerce store can make it financially viable for you to pursue your passion.

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Starting an ecommerce store is simple and easy. You can set up a shop using an ecommerce website builder , all of which start at a minimal monthly subscription (some even start at free). Be sure to take good photos of your products and write descriptive product pages .

If you don’t have inventory, you can always own an ecommerce store by using dropshipping . Instead of creating and shipping your products yourself, you’ll instead partner with a dropshipping website and have them mail out the orders directly to your client.

7. House Cleaner

With a low barrier to entry, house cleaning can be a great way to start doing what you love — soon. Consider advertising to homes in your neighborhood and get more bang for your buck by earning a few small businesses as clients as well. They’ll usually bring in a higher paycheck for a similar amount of work.

To become a house cleaner, you should be prepared to invest in cleaning supplies and accessories, or be willing to use your own. If you plan to serve small businesses, you should buy industrial janitorial supplies so you can get work done more effectively.

Need some inspiration? This small business cleaning service grew virtually overnight on Instagram after their content went viral during the pandemic.

small business idea example: go clean co

8. Packing Services Facilitator

Moving is always a pain, and many people hire the entire packing process out. As a packing services facilitator, you’ll be going to people’s homes and packing up their smaller items into organized boxes. To start this business, you must be comfortable with face-to-face contact and with manual labor.

small business ideas: packing services facilitator

You can begin this business by advertising in your own neighborhood. Once you’re ready to expand, consider partnering with a local moving service that will refer new clients to you. That way, you’ll have a steady stream of clients, and you won’t have to invest in a moving truck (the moving service will take care of that for you).

Business Ideas for Students

1. etsy shop owner.

Creating novelties by hand is a fun and unique way to start a small business, and you can easily sell them via Etsy . Whether you make jewelry, knitted comfort items, or even custom wigs , there’s probably a market for your products and an Etsy buyer who’s ready to purchase.

small business ideas: etsy shop owner

This idea is excellent if you’re already an expert in the craft you aim to sell. That way, you don’t need to pursue additional education or certification courses. Once you set up your Etsy store, which is free, tap into your audience with creative marketing on social media and optimize your website using keywords that describe the products you make.

2. Tour Guide

Love the local history of your city or state? Consider becoming a tour guide. Sure, you’ll need to conduct plenty of research to be able to do the job well, but that’s half the fun. Set yourself apart by offering tours that speak to a specific niche of your community’s history.

You can start a tour guide business easily. First, decide what your specialty will be. Some tour guides, like the ones at Freedom Trail in Boston , offer historical walking tours of their town’s most haunted spots while others curate guided foodie tours for guests to get a true taste of the city.

small business idea example: tour guide

Maybe you love the outdoors and are an experienced backpacker — you can then offer hiking tours. To begin, use a platform such as TripAdvisor or Airbnb, where you can sign up as a tour guide provider. Remember to launch a website, and to file for sole proprietorship status .

3. Online Class Instructor

Tutoring is often done in person and with one client at a time. Remotely teaching an online class offers more flexibility because you can teach multiple students from home. English is a common subject for online classes because of how many people want to learn it. But anything that you have a mastery over could be translated to a virtual class.

4. Small-Batch Goods Seller

Using organic, all-natural ingredients is more expensive, but worth it. There are many products you can learn how to make at home without any preservatives, chemicals, or toxins. Candles, soaps, shampoos, and moisturizers are some examples of goods you can create and tailor with custom scents. Try starting out making soap with this complete beginner’s guide to soapmaking:

5. Makeup Artist

Many people prefer to have a professional do their makeup because they may lack the proper products or just the skills. It may be for a special occasion, photoshoot, or video shoot, or another event. Being able to do a variety of different looks will make your business more attractive to more customers.

To run a successful makeup artist business, you’ll need to be social media savvy . Instagram in particular is an excellent platform to advertise your services and get new clients.

You should also consider honing in on a specific niche. For instance, you might do wedding makeup exclusively.

6. Professional Organizer

A lot of people struggle with clutter or disorganization in their homes and offices. It can be a large undertaking to create organized systems and habits. Grab a lot of storage bins and a label maker and get started!

To become an organizer, you’ll first need to have the chops: Is your own home organized? Do you enjoy making order out of chaos? Then, launch a website to market your services locally. Be sure to create local listings to ensure people find your business, including listings on Angi, Houzz, and Thumbtack.

Meg Golightly, founder at Gosimplified , has made this small business idea into a successful career.

Is your head buzzing with small business ideas yet? After all that brainstorming, you’ll need a practical plan to get started with your new small business.

  • Identify your small business idea.
  • Start as a side business or hobby.
  • Decide on your software.
  • Create a business plan.
  • Decide whether you'll be an LLC or sole proprietorship.
  • Create a business bank account.
  • Determine if your business idea works well from home.
  • Set up an office.
  • Get to work!

1. Identify your small business idea.

Whether you choose an option from the list above or have another idea up your sleeve, it’s important to have the experience, training, or skills necessary to be successful. Want to run a daycare but have never even visited a successful daycare center? Spend time conducting research to learn whether this is really the right fit for your experience, interests, and target audience.

2. Start as a side business or hobby.

Can you get your business off the ground as something you do in the evenings or on the weekends (a.k.a. a side job)? This allows you to make some mistakes, test the market, and understand whether your idea has legs before you quit your nine-to-five job and lose your primary income.

3. Decide on your software.

You’ve got a lot of things on your plate when first starting up. But one step that’s critical (and often forgotten by first-time entrepreneurs) is deciding on the software that can help you be more efficient as your business grows.

Every business is different — but almost all companies can use software to help with analytics, project management , accounting, bookkeeping, email marketing, and other basic day-to-day tasks.

One of the most important software tools every small business should utilize is a free all-in-one CRM platform to keep track of important customer information in one central database. It will help align your team and make sure you stay organized as your business grows.

4. Create a business plan.

No business plan? No business. Particularly if your small business idea requires investors, you'll need to draft up a business plan to provide an overview of your market positioning, your financial projections, and your unique competitive advantages. You can download HubSpot's free business plan templates for free to get started.

One-Page Business Plan Template

Download Free Business Plan Templates

Your business plan should include the following elements:

  • Executive summary — A high-level overview of your company and market placement.
  • Business model — Outline what your business does, who your business serves, and how your business is structured. You should include a description of what products and services you offer, and how they meet the needs of your customers.
  • Market condition — A summary of pertinent competitor information. Determine the strengths and weaknesses of your closest competitors.
  • Products and services — Use this section to describe your products and services in detail, and outline what differentiates your product from others in the market.
  • Operations and management — Outline your business’ organizational structure, key roles, and responsibilities.
  • Marketing and sales strategy — This section should describe how you will market and sell your product. Include information on your ideal customer, how you plan to position your offering, and your sales strategy.
  • Financial plan — Create a detailed outline of your business financials. Include your start-up costs, your initial financial productions, and how you anticipate generating funding.
  • Appendix — Once the above pieces are complete, end the document with an appendix summarizing your business plan.

Every business is different — but almost all companies can use software to help with analytics, project management, accounting, bookkeeping, email marketing, and other basic day-to-day tasks.

5. Decide whether you’ll be an LLC or sole proprietorship.

Two common legal structures for small businesses are limited liability corporations (LLCs) and sole proprietorships.

An LLC is a more complex business structure than a sole proprietorship and can include individuals, corporations, and other LLCs as members. Additionally, LLCs are not subject to a separate level of tax and offer the business owner liability protection and tax advantages. LLCs are formed on a state-by-state basis.

Sole proprietorships are businesses owned and operated by one person and are not identified as a separate entity from the owner by the government. While a sole proprietorship is the simplest business structure, sole proprietors are personally liable for their business.

Besides an LLC or sole proprietorship, there are a few other options for you to consider.

Sean Flannigan, Sendle's Content Manager, says, "While many small businesses might be best served by choosing an LLC or sole proprietorship, there are a few other options."

"Partnerships are great for businesses operated by several individuals. It hews most closely to a sole proprietorship in that the individuals take on the business liability and pay taxes on a personal level."

He adds, "To completely avoid personal liability, small businesses might choose to incorporate as a corporation, S corporation, or B Corp. S corporations avoid corporate taxation whereas B Corps must meet a threshold for public benefit and accountability."

Additionally, Flannigan says, "There are tons of great reasons to become a B Corp beyond just doing good business. All that said, many small businesses that aren't aimed at super-fast growth choose to go with an LLC to keep things simple while shielding owners from too much liability."

Learn more about choosing the right structure for your business from the Small Business Administration.

6. Create a business bank account.

Once you have a legally formed business and have been issued an Employer Identification Number (EIN), open a bank account specifically for your business. Having a business bank account is essential for keeping your personal and business finances separate which can help you gain an accurate picture of your business’s cash flow and financial health.

Additionally, keeping your personal and business finances separate makes bookkeeping and tax preparation easier.

Many banks offer business checking and savings accounts. Business checking accounts typically do not have a limit on the number of transactions that can take place, and issue a debit card that can be used for making business purchases. However, these checking accounts do not accrue interest.

Business savings accounts typically earn interest over time but have a limited number of transactions that can occur each month. When you’re just starting out, look for a business bank account that does not have a minimum balance requirement so you are not penalized for having low funds as you work to build your business.

7. Determine if your business idea works well from home.

Ask yourself whether your business idea will work well from home. Some businesses simply aren’t suited to be based from home. If you want to run a dog boarding center but live in an apartment without a backyard, you might want to consider a dog walking business instead.

8. Set up an office.

If your business idea is well-suited for being run from home, it’s still important you have a designated workspace. While a home office might not be possible, consider setting aside a corner in your living room or putting a desk in your bedroom for a space that inspires you and creates the conditions for success.

Need a more professional space? If you conduct client-facing work requiring you to be on video calls, no one wants to see your rumpled sheets in the background. Check out local coworking spaces for memberships that earn you access to conference rooms, desk space, and more.

9. Get to work!

You’ve put in the hard work and I’ve got good news — it’s only going to get harder. But most entrepreneurs will agree that the payoff of being your own boss, making your own hours, and working on projects that you’re passionate about will pay dividends for the rest of your life.

Starting a Small Business: FAQ

What are the types of small businesses.

The types of small business structures are sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies (LLCs), and corporations.

Which business type is best?

The best business type is a limited liability company (LLC). Operating as an LLC means that your personal assets are separate from your business assets. If your business goes bankrupt, your personal holdings won’t be affected. That said, it’s also one of the costlier types, requiring a fee paid to the state.

The easiest business type to start is a sole proprietorship. The main downside is that there’s no differentiation between you and your business.

How do I create a business idea?

To create a business idea, determine your skill set, work preferences, startup budget, and available resources. It’s important to strike the right balance between what you can feasibly offer and what you can feasibly afford in the short and long term.

We recommend starting with your skill set so that you can easily determine the niche in which you can effectively compete. For instance, if you have ample experience as a writer, you might consider starting a freelance writing business. But if you know you’d prefer to work with clients face-to-face, you might choose to start a ghostwriting business instead. That’s why it’s so important to take your work preferences into account, as well.

After that, take a look at your budget and determine the type of business you can start based on the resources at your disposal. For instance, you might not be able to afford a physical office or location, so a location-based business will likely not be a good fit. In that case, starting an online business is your best option.

What are some of the most successful small businesses?

Every small business has the potential to be successful and profitable, provided it’s backed by a strong product-market fit and a robust business plan . These two elements are essential. Maybe post-natal services are one of the most successful small businesses to launch, but if you live in an area with declining population or a large elderly population, then that small business idea won’t yield a high return on investment.

Think carefully about the market where you’re launching your business, and you’ll be more than likely to see lasting success.

What are the top growing small businesses?

top growing small businesses as reported by the bureau of labor statistics

The top growing industries are healthcare support, technology, personal care, food preparation, and community and social service. As such, launching a small business in any of these fields is bound to yield a high return on investment, but remember to take your target market into account.

Here are some small business ideas for each of those industries:

Healthcare Support

  • In-home care assistant
  • In-home elderly care provider
  • Psychological care provider
  • Pre-natal and post-natal support specialist
  • Freelance programmer or web developer
  • Freelance IT support specialist
  • Freelance cybersecurity expert

Personal Care

  • Hair stylist
  • Nail technician

Food Preparation

  • Personal chef
  • Food truck owner
  • Food delivery

Community and Social Services

  • Non-profit owner
  • Education specialist

Brainstorm Your Next Small Business Venture

Selecting a small business idea to work on is a personal decision. Money is important, but you’ll need more motivation than that to keep going. Bounce ideas off your friends and family until you reach the perfect idea that works for your schedule, fulfills your life’s passion, and makes financial sense. Don’t be afraid to ask for help throughout this process — and remember to have a little fun while you’re putting in the work.

Editor's note: This post was originally published in August 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Apply for a job, keep track of important information, and prepare for an  interview with the help of this free job seekers kit.

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How to start a small business at home in 2024

Blair Travers

Sierra Campbell

Sierra Campbell

“Verified by an expert” means that this article has been thoroughly reviewed and evaluated for accuracy.

Published 8:07 a.m. UTC Feb. 16, 2024

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Featured Image

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Starting a small business at home can help you turn your passions, skills or ideas into financial prosperity. There are some unique perks and challenges to consider when deciding to start a home-based business. 

You’ll also want to have a solid plan and follow some key steps to get your business off on the right foot. It’s helpful to know where you can find ideas, answers to your questions and other resources you need to run an at-home business successfully.

Should you start a business at home?

There are many factors to consider when deciding to start a small business at home. On the one hand, it’s important to make sure there is demand for your business. On the other hand, you want to be able to handle the amount of business you receive. Gauging things like demand, profit margins and the ability to scale your business early on can help you avoid trouble down the road.

Across the country, at-home businesses make up a large portion of small businesses. C.E. “Tee” Rowe is the president and CEO of America’s Small Business Development Centers (SBDC), which provides free or low-cost support for small businesses in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration. “Here at America’s SBDC, we have seen an uptick in home-based businesses that started during the pandemic but continues to date,” said Rowe. 

Pros of a home business

Here are some key benefits to starting a business at home:

  • Increased flexibility: Set your own hours, freeing you up for other commitments as needed.
  • Less commuting: Save time and money by skipping the drive to work.
  • Comfortable work environment: Design your workspace how you want it. After all, it is your home.
  • Money-saving perks: Pay lower startup costs compared to larger businesses by avoiding costs like renting retail or office space. Take advantage of tax breaks for at-home businesses.
  • Reduce risk: Protect yourself by limiting your liability and avoiding the cost and risk of maintaining commercial space.
  • Rewards for your hard work: Work hard for your business, and your business reaps the benefits instead of some other employer.

Cons of a home business

These are some of the disadvantages of starting a business at home:

  • Limited space: You give up part of your home, and even then, you may still need more space for your business.
  • Distracting work environment: Crying babies, barking dogs and loud neighbors can all be distracting when running a business at home.
  • Professional boundaries: Some people may feel awkward about meeting to discuss business at your home or a public location.
  • Increased mental health risks: Running a home business can feel isolating for some. A lack of social interaction, time outside, work-life balance or effective time management can also threaten mental health.
  • Growth restrictive: If your home-based business scales too rapidly, you may outgrow your workspace quickly. In this situation, success creates a problem for home businesses to solve.
  • Increased costs: Whether you’re paying new employee salaries or wages or forking over more money for higher utility bills, you may feel the financial squeeze.

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7 steps to start a home business

After considering the pros and cons, does the idea of taking the reins and starting a home business appeal to you? You’re not alone. 

“When we work with individuals seeking to start a home-based business, it is frequently based on a desire to control their own circumstance and success, which are great reasons, but it always needs to be thought out carefully,” Rowe explained.

Planning is key. From creating a business plan and determining your business structure to securing funding and setting your marketing strategy, there’s a lot to think through. Follow the steps below to get on the right track to starting a small business at home.

1. Find your niche

Plenty of successful at-home businesses arise from emotion: a passion to do what you love, a frustration with the status quo or excitement to seize on a timely opportunity.

If you’re struggling to find your niche, ask yourself:

  • What do you love to do that others may find challenging?
  • What is a need that no business currently has the right solution for?
  • What are you good at? What do people ask for your help with?
  • What high-demand skills or services do you have to offer?

2. Draft a business plan

Having a business plan is essential for running your business effectively. As Rowe pointed out, “Every business needs a solid, comprehensive plan to guide them to success. That plan needs to focus on skills, finance, revenue and marketing.”

A business plan outlines the direction of the business — its goals, strategies, structure, ways of measuring success and plans for dealing with things like change and risk. Simply put, it’s the roadmap to success for your business.

When creating your business plan, include key sections such as an executive summary, a business description, market analysis and financial projections. For more on what to cover, check out this step-by-step guide to drafting a business plan .

3. Select a business structure

According to the IRS, the most common business structures are sole proprietorships, partnerships , corporations and limited liability companies (LLC) . Each business structure comes with its own set of operational, legal, financial and tax considerations. 

A sole proprietorship is a business owned and operated by a single individual, while a partnership is jointly owned by two or more individuals who share responsibilities. 

In contrast, corporations — like C corporations and S corporations — are independent legal entities. C corporations limit shareholder liability but are highly complex. S corporations feature pass-through taxation, distributing income (and losses) to shareholders.

While sole proprietorship is a common structure for just starting out, LLC is another popular option for at-home businesses. It combines elements of a corporation and a partnership, offering limited liability to its members and the flexibility of pass-through taxation. Members of an LLC can choose to be taxed as a sole proprietorship, partnership, C corporation or S corporation.

4. Register your business and get an EIN

After you choose a business structure, you’ll need to register your business with state and federal governments. Select a business name , pay fees and provide required documents, which vary by state.

After getting registered with your state, you can then apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. Once you’re approved, you’ll receive this unique nine-digit number that is essential for all sorts of business purposes, from filing your taxes to hiring employees. 

Not all businesses need an EIN, such as sole proprietors and single-member LLCs with no employees.

5. Get any required licenses and permits

Depending on your industry and federal, state and local requirements, you may also need to obtain licenses and permits for your business. 

Here are some examples of licenses and permits you may need, depending on your business:

  • Occupational, professional or trade licenses.
  • Online business permits.
  • Sales tax permits.
  • Health department permits.
  • Safety permits.
  • Home-based child care licenses.
  • Zoning, signage, environmental and other permits to operate an at-home business, as required by local government, HOA or deed restrictions.

6. Obtain funding for your business

Many owners fund their businesses using their own savings. Self-funding is a viable choice if you can get up and running without much money, can come up with the needed funding from your own accounts or can ask for help from family or friends. 

You can also apply for a business loan . Banks will likely want to see a rock-solid business plan, strong financial projections, good personal and/or business credit history and any collateral you’ll use for your loan. If you are a good candidate for lending, make sure that shows in your application so that you can get the best funding and terms for your business.

If you don’t have much personal or business credit history, it may be easier to get a business credit card . This gives you benefits like payment flexibility, credit card rewards and essential early or emergency spending power. It will also help your business establish or strengthen its credit so you can get favorable terms on future loans and other credit.

7. Launch and market your business

You’ve planned out your business, defined its structure and gotten your business registered, licensed, permitted and even paid for. Now it’s showtime. For many who seek to start a small business at home, the launch is the most exciting part of the journey. You are now ready to conduct business.

It’s also important to get others excited about your small business — and keep them engaged. Here are some of the most common marketing strategies for small home-based businesses:

  • Social media marketing: Reach potential customers on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and X (formerly Twitter) by sharing engaging content and updates.
  • Business website: More than just a place to sell your products or services online, your business website should help users find what they want to meet their needs. It should also help achieve business objectives by offering features like payment services or e-commerce functionality .
  • Advertising: Platforms such as search engines and social media can help you reach your target audience.
  • Content marketing: Write blog posts, produce videos or create helpful graphics to explain what your business offers and to establish trust and authority.
  • Email marketing: To keep business coming back, build an email list to communicate using promotions, newsletters and updates.
  • Word of mouth: In the early stages, many small home-based businesses rely on word of mouth. You can also ask for customer reviews on platforms like Google and Yelp.

Weigh the costs and benefits when deciding on your marketing plan, so you choose what’s best for your business.

Top home business ideas

Check out these home business ideas to find the right fit for you:

  • Retail: Sell products you make — including crafts and customized gifts — or resell products you get for less than what you pay for them.
  • Case-based services: Open up an in-home daycare, provide home-based care for adults or even take care of pets by offering pet sitting and mobile grooming.
  • Events: Plan weddings and events. Create the perfect look as a makeup artist or stylist. Play music in a band or take your place on the 1s and 2s as a DJ.
  • Art and creative services: Capture the moment as a photographer, or maybe you’d rather bring your vision to life as an artist. More of a words person? Write, edit or translate content. 
  • Education: Teach the next generation how to do math, play an instrument or learn a new language. Provide adults with specialized training in arts and crafts, life coaching or test preparation.
  • Health and wellness: Become a personal trainer to get people in the best shape of their lives or a mental health counselor to help them find their inner peace.
  • Home and real estate: Transform homes by organizing, decorating or even staging. Produce virtual home tours for real estate agents, or become a realtor yourself.

Resources to start a business

For more resources and guidance on how to start a small business at home, check out these guides and articles:

  • Follow our step-by-step guide on how to start a business from the ground up.
  • Learn how to start an LLC if that’s your chosen business structure.
  • Discover how to start a business with no money so funding doesn’t hold you back.
  • Skip the overhead that comes with brick-and-mortar stores and find out how to start an online business .
  • Explore options to accept payments online and start making money in your sleep.
  • Find the cheapest payroll services to pay your employees and contractors.
  • Build a successful business by attracting loyal, repeat customers. 

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

The cost of starting a business at home varies widely and depends on several factors. Some businesses, including sole proprietorships, can get away with paying little to no money to start their business. Other home-based businesses, including those with manufacturing or inventory expenses, could have considerably higher startup costs.

Yes, you can use your home address to register a business. However, you’ll want to make sure that usage does not go against local laws, HOA bylaws or property covenants. It’s also a good idea to check with your mortgage and homeowners insurance companies to make sure that running a business out of your home does not introduce unforeseen headaches.

Blueprint is an independent publisher and comparison service, not an investment advisor. The information provided is for educational purposes only and we encourage you to seek personalized advice from qualified professionals regarding specific financial decisions. Past performance is not indicative of future results.

Blueprint has an advertiser disclosure policy . The opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Blueprint editorial staff alone. Blueprint adheres to strict editorial integrity standards. The information is accurate as of the publish date, but always check the provider’s website for the most current information.

Blair Travers

Blair Travers is a business writer and content strategist with over a decade of experience breaking down complex problems to help businesses move forward with confidence. He brings a wide range of technology, banking and retail expertise. Blair enjoys helping businesses figure out complex processes and make choices that are right for them. His work has been published in U.S. News & World Report and Carfax.

Sierra Campbell is a small business editor for USA Today Blueprint. She specializes in writing, editing and fact-checking content centered around helping businesses. She has worked as a digital content and show producer for several local TV stations, an editor for U.S. News & World Report and a freelance writer and editor for many companies. Sierra prides herself in delivering accurate and up-to-date information to readers. Her expertise includes credit card processing companies, e-commerce platforms, payroll software, accounting software and virtual private networks (VPNs). She also owns Editing by Sierra, where she offers editing services to writers of all backgrounds, including self-published and traditionally published authors.

How to start a small business: A step-by-step guide

How to start a small business: A step-by-step guide

Business Eric Rosenberg

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40 Startup Business Ideas to Try in 2024

Kelsey Sheehy

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money .

Aspiring entrepreneurs are often one brilliant startup business idea away from becoming their own boss. Of course, brilliance is easier said than done when starting a business .

The best startup ideas have business plans that solve a problem, meet an unmet demand or improve upon something already on the market — if not all of the above. Here are 40 ideas to help get your wheels turning as you look to bring a company to life.

small business start up business plan

40 best startup business ideas

Even startup ideas that seemingly come out of left field can yield incredible success. Read through this list for instant inspiration.

1. Create educational content or activities

Parents are always looking for tools and activities to keep their kids entertained and engaged. Printable activity guides for different age groups, home-school lesson plans or even virtual nature walks or story time could all be viable startup ideas.

2. Offer virtual team-building

Companies need new ways to boost morale and build camaraderie among remote and hybrid teams. Enter the virtual team-builder. Cheesemongers, mixologists, chefs, magicians, artists, historians, master gardeners — almost anyone can create and offer bonding experiences for virtual companies.

3. Start a meal-prep business

The U.S. market for meal kits is expected to grow 14.2% annually between 2023 and 2030, according to market analysis by Grand View Research [0] Grand View Research . Meal Kit Delivery Services Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Offering (Heat & Eat, Cook & Eat), By Service (Single, Multiple), By Platform (Online, Offline), Meal Type (Vegan, Vegetarian), By Region, And Segment Forecasts, 2023 - 2030 . Accessed Feb 21, 2024. View all sources . Tap into that market and start a meal-prep service to make people’s lives easier and cater to specialized diets (keto, vegan, Whole30).

4. Create a food waste solution

Creating a startup focused on reducing food waste could not only earn you some serious funding, but also positively change the food system and help save grocery stores and restaurants money.

5. Capitalize on plant-based foods

The U.S. plant-based market was worth $8 billion in 2022, with sales of plant-based foods projected to climb 44% over three years, according to the most recent annual report from the Good Food Institute [0] Good Food Institute . U.S. retail market insights for the plant-based industry . Accessed Feb 21, 2024. View all sources . Creating a vegan supermarket or making meat-free versions of traditional foods could be the ticket to success for aspiring entrepreneurs.

6. Start a dropshipping business

The e-commerce business model of dropshipping is especially attractive because it doesn’t require you to purchase inventory upfront. Selling higher-end products with low shipping costs could become profitable quickly if you do thorough competition research.

» MORE: 25 low-cost business ideas

7. Curate subscription boxes

Subscription boxes were a $32.9 billion business globally in 2023 (up from $22.7 billion in 2021), and the industry is still set to grow, according to a market research report by the International Market Analysis Research and Consulting Group [0] International Market Analysis Research and Consulting Group . Subscription Box Market Report by Type (Replenishment Subscription, Curation Subscription, Access Subscription), Gender (Male, Female), Application (Clothing and Fashion, Beauty, Food and Beverages, Pet Food, Baby Products, Health and Fitness, and Others), and Region 2024-2032 . Accessed Feb 21, 2024. View all sources . Pick a niche, and then curate a collection of specialized goods to deliver unique experiences to consumers. Some subscription boxes focus on a mix of products, like makeup or dog toys; others focus on a single item or theme, like shaving or sustainability. Find the right starting point for you and run with it.

Ready to get started? Here's what to do next

Open a business bank account.

Start keeping the books.

Build your website.

Protect yourself from liability.

8. Create an airport-centric app

Creating an all-in-one app that allows travelers tonavigate unfamiliar airports with real-time information is a relatively untapped startup idea. Though various travel applications exist, an app that shows amenities, TSA line wait times, ground transportation options and airport maps could be useful to passengers.

9. Become a destination wedding planner

Planning a wedding is stressful; planning a wedding from afar could fray any couple’s nerves. That creates a niche for a destination wedding planner who can advise on venue and vendor selections, as well as manage wedding and travel logistics for the bridal party and guests. If you love exploring, have expertise in a popular wedding locale and are great under pressure, this could be the startup idea for you.

10. Make local guides

Even if you don’t consider yourself a local expert, creating local guides can get you familiar with your surroundings and help tourists enjoy off-the-beaten-path experiences in your area. Make themed guides, highlight attractions and partner with local businesses for advertising opportunities.

» MORE: 25 side business ideas

11. Create a local grocery delivery service

A grocery delivery startup can come with minimal setup costs — you only need a vehicle and a cell phone to get started. Help older people or others who are too busy to shop by offering this community-friendly service. You can even approach grocery stores in your area to see if they're willing to partner with you to get the service off the ground.

12. Start a virtual event planning company

Virtual event planning is a new booming business as in-person gatherings go online or take a hybrid approach. A skilled planner who can ensure all attendees are engaged, regardless of location, will be in high demand for years to come.

» MORE: Best business credit cards for LLCs

13. Sell zero-waste products

Starting a zero-waste company is more than just a trendy thing to do; it can be an ethical, environmentally conscious decision. Selling sustainable products such as reusable bags, bamboo toothbrushes or products with zero-waste packaging could appeal to a growing number of sustainability-focused consumers.

14. Make products for pets

Create innovative pet products to take advantage of the fact that 66% of U.S. households (about 86.9 million households) have at least one animal companion, according to the annual pet ownership survey by the American Pet Products Association [0] American Pet Products Association . Industry Trends and Stats . View all sources . Developing toys, accessories or clothing for furry friends can help you tap into that expansive market. You can also go the service route and offer pet sitting, walking or virtual dog training. Or develop an app or tech solution that makes pet parents’ lives easier.

15. Create custom clothing

Selling custom clothing or offering a tailoring service could be your winning startup idea. The custom clothing industry is gaining popularity and offers room for long-term growth.

» MORE: How to open an Etsy shop

16. Sell vintage clothing online

Demand for sustainable fashion has helped propel second-hand clothing into a $39 billion industry in the U.S. with projections to hit $70 billion by 2027, according to an annual resale report by online consignment company ThredUp [0] ThredUp . ThredUp Resale Report 2023 . View all sources . Consider selling thrifted, vintage or upcycled clothing on social media, an ecommerce platform or an app such as ThredUp or Poshmark.

17. Begin niche blogging

Find a niche (think e-sports or urban farming) and create engaging content around it. You can earn money through advertising, affiliate links and even product sales once you build an audience.

How much do you need?

with Fundera by NerdWallet

We’ll start with a brief questionnaire to better understand the unique needs of your business.

Once we uncover your personalized matches, our team will consult you on the process moving forward.

18. Become an e-book writer

If you’ve got a way with words, consider becoming a self-published author and selling e-books on virtual platforms.

» MORE: 14 profitable e-commerce business ideas

19. Start ghostwriting

Create content for busy professionals who don’t have the time or the skill to write themselves. If you don’t mind not attaching your name to your writing, ghostwriting is a great way to earn money with little to no startup costs attached.

20. Become a resume writer

Everyone needs a resume, but few people are skilled at or enjoy writing their own. If you’ve got writing experience and are looking to launch a startup with no setup costs, creating a resume-writing service could be the path for you.

21. Open a coworking space

Capitalize on the rising popularity of remote work by creating a modern coworking space that addresses pain points of entrepreneurs. Pick a convenient location and build it out with highly sought-after amenities.

» MORE: 35 businesses that every community needs

22. Become an online coach

If you enjoy helping others achieve their goals and are a people person, this startup idea could be fulfilling for yourself and for your clientele. You can provide wellness, business or life coaching.

23. Flip failing websites

Buy an existing website, make improvements on it and sell it for a profit. You’ll need to understand the market well and have some web development skills, but this can be a profitable pursuit.

24. Become a web developer

The need for custom websites isn’t ever going away, and if you know your way around WordPress or know a programming language or two, you can start a profitable website development startup.

25. Start a podcast

If you’re deeply knowledgeable or passionate about a subject, consider getting into podcast production or hosting. Building an audience takes time, but once established, podcasters can earn money through affiliate marketing, donations and sponsorships.

26. Be a social media influencer

Once you find a niche and build a personal brand, amassing a large following on Instagram or YouTube can lead to a solid source of income through influencer marketing.

» MORE: 30 Instagram business ideas

27. Create online courses

Obscure hobbies can lead to lucrative business ideas if you make them easy for others to learn. If you’d like to teach others but aren’t interested in the coaching route, creating an online course could lead to reliable passive income.

28. Become a marketing consultant

If you’ve got digital marketing chops, help small businesses reach their target audiences by providing SEO, social media or copywriting services.

Video preview image

29. Develop an app

If you’ve got a unique idea and the necessary technical skills, creating an app could be your gold mine. It’s also possible to build an app without extensive coding skills, and once it launches, it can bring in passive earnings.

» MORE: 25 tech business ideas

30. Make a smart appliance

Smart accessories and home appliances are all the rage and becoming an important part of daily life for the average consumer. For inspiration, take note of daily tasks at home or at work that would be easier with a smart appliance.

31. Tap into virtual reality experiences

VR is the future, and the future is now. Create virtual reality experiences or accessories to tap into a global industry that’s projected to grow to a $165.91 billion market by 2030, according to a report by Fortune Business Insights [0] Fortune Business Insights . The global virtual reality market size was valued at $19.44 billion in 2022 & is projected to grow from $25.11 billion in 2023 to $165.91 billion by 2030... Read More at:- https://www.fortunebusinessinsights.com/industry-reports/virtual-reality-market-101378 . View all sources , a market research firm.

32. Make a niche dating site

The stigma around online dating has decreased over the past decade, so take the opportunity to help others find love. With various dating sites targeted to everyone from sea captains to farmers, there is market demand for specialty dating options.

33. Develop a chatbot

Create a chatbot — which uses artificial intelligence to communicate with people — to help businesses improve their communication. Chatbots have become more popular in recent years, and you can create one without knowing how to code.

34. Offer matchmaking skills

This is like creating a dating site but with a personal touch. If you have a knack for knowing what types of people and which personalities get along well, you might be the perfect person to start matchmaking. You can do this online or meet clients in person as well.

35. Be a virtual assistant

Being an online assistant for someone, or starting a company of virtual assistants, can be a huge success. Everyone could use a little extra help, and creating a startup focused around getting people that help for the administrative tasks in their lives, professional or personal, can be a huge moneymaker.

» MORE: Home-business ideas: 40 remote jobs to explore

36. Reinvent exercising

If there's one thing people get bored with, it's doing the same type of exercise day in and day out to stay healthy. Plenty of people have turned the exercise industry on its head, with businesses like CrossFit and Peloton popping up. You can do the same if you have an idea for a new regimen or activity for exercise enthusiasts.

37. Create eco-friendly, health-friendly makeup and beauty products

As people become more aware of the impact their personal choices have on their health and on the environment, they're looking for more health and beauty products that are also eco-friendly. Creating safe and eco-friendly products could be a great startup idea.

38. Open a food truck or restaurant pop-up

Opening a food truck or restaurant pop-up is a great startup idea for entrepreneurs with a knack for cooking. Both options are easier to launch than a full-scale restaurant and allow you to get started with a smaller staff and menu. You can open a food truck that only sells french fries with crazy toppings, for example, or launch a breakfast sandwich pop-up in your neighborhood coffee shop.

39. Start an organization business

Shows like "Tidying Up With Marie Kondo" and "The Home Edit" put professional organizing on the map, exposing millions to the magic of a tidy home. If you have a knack for making order out of chaotic spaces, you could start a business offering those services to those who need them. Organizing kitchen pantries, closets, bookshelves and more are all options you could offer customers at your new business.

40. Do interior design for young professionals

Have an eye for decorating? Start an interior design business, offering your services at an hourly rate virtually to young professionals looking for inspiration. It can be as simple as them uploading some images of their new space to your site and you sending back a few links with furniture in their budget and example images of what the room might look like when it's finished.

ZenBusiness

Start Your Dream Business

How to choose a startup idea

Do your homework before diving headfirst into a startup idea. First, make sure there's demand for the business you want to start, where you want to start it. More than 35% of businesses fail because there isn't a market need for their services or product, according to research from CB Insights [0] CB Insights . The Top 12 Reasons Startups Fail . View all sources .

You also need to write a business plan , which should include your company’s objective, sales plan, market analysis and financial projections. A good business plan can help to keep your business on track. Lenders will also want to see your business plan when considering you for a startup business loan . You should also consider the skills you already have and see how those align with any of the startup business ideas you might go with.

This article originally appeared on JustBusiness, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.

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2023 Nebraska AFNR Standards Alignment; AFNR.HS.3.8.a Identify the components of a business plan for an agricultural business. AFNR.HS.3.8.b Determine the characteristics of successful business plans. AFNR.HS.3.8.c Formulate a business plan for an agricultural business utilizing the key concepts of business planning.

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Standard: Demonstrate an understanding of government policies.

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How Fast Should Your Company Really Grow?

  • Gary P. Pisano

small business start up business plan

Growth—in revenues and profits—is the yardstick by which the competitive fitness and health of organizations is measured. Consistent profitable growth is thus a near universal goal for leaders—and an elusive one.

To achieve that goal, companies need a growth strategy that encompasses three related sets of decisions: how fast to grow, where to seek new sources of demand, and how to develop the financial, human, and organizational capabilities needed to grow. This article offers a framework for examining the critical interdependencies of those decisions in the context of a company’s overall business strategy, its capabilities and culture, and external market dynamics.

Why leaders should take a strategic perspective

Idea in Brief

The problem.

Sustained profitable growth is a nearly universal corporate goal, but it is an elusive one. Empirical research suggests that when inflation is taken into account, most companies barely grow at all.

While external factors play a role, most companies’ growth problems are self-inflicted: Too many firms approach growth in a highly reactive, opportunistic manner.

The Solution

To grow profitably over the long term, companies need a strategy that addresses three key decisions: how fast to grow (rate of growth); where to seek new sources of demand (direction of growth); and how to amass the resources needed to grow (method of growth).

Perhaps no issue attracts more senior leadership attention than growth does. And for good reason. Growth—in revenues and profits—is the yardstick by which we tend to measure the competitive fitness and health of companies and determine the quality and compensation of its management. Analysts, investors, and boards pepper CEOs about growth prospects to get insight into stock prices. Employees are attracted to faster-growing companies because they offer better opportunities for advancement, higher pay, and greater job security. Suppliers prefer faster-growing customers because working with them improves their own growth prospects. Given the choice, most companies and their stakeholders would choose faster growth over slower growth.

Five elements can move you beyond episodic success.

  • Gary P. Pisano is the Harry E. Figgie Jr. Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and the author of Creative Construction: The DNA of Sustained Innovation (PublicAffairs, 2019).

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How to Start Your Own Small Business?

M any people try their luck in business. This industry is enormous and offers a wide range of options for development. Many smart people can start their small businesses without being educated. There are multiple ways to enjoy success in this industry.

For example, you may use the assistance of the small business management software . It can control and carry out various processes. Of course, you need more than simply using smart technology. Thus, the experts from Vcita have prepared this comprehensive guide. It highlights the most effective tips to start your small business.

Determine Your Business Concept

The first task is to figure out what exactly you want to do. You may have plenty of ideas. Refine them to define the best option for you. It’s necessary to ask definite questions, such as:

  • What do you like?
  • What do you hate? (to avoid this niche)
  • Is there anything that can make things run easier?
  • What are your best skills?
  • What spheres are you good at?
  • Is there something you always wanted to do?

Ask these questions to define the best business concept for you. For example, you may sell service based business ideas . This is a vast branch of business. It includes a skilled service or person, expertise, or a physical product. So, you will surely have a lot of interesting perspectives. Here are some of the most popular concepts you can start:

  • Online writing
  • Photography
  • Landscaping
  • Vending machine business, etc.

Of course, you can choose other ideas too.

Conduct Marketing Research

Although you may find a standpoint that seems to be perfect, don’t haste! Your idea may have little chance of success. You need to carry out marketing research to find it out. Your main goal is to find out how perspective the selected niche can be.

To enjoy success with this task, undertake several steps. Make allowances for them here below:

  • Primary research. This method uses the opinion of your direct customers. It takes the forms of questionnaires, surveys, polls, or interviews. You ask potential customers to get honest and direct answers.
  • Secondary research. This method involves ways of finding, studying, and analyzing data from various sources.
  • A SWOT analysis. Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats are behind the abbreviation. It helps to find out all the pros and cons, potential benefits and drawbacks in the direction.

Remark! Do not forget to study your direct competitors. It’s vital to learn from their successful cases. Yet, you can learn from their failures too. You will understand what mistakes you can avoid.

Have a Business Plan

Once you have the direction and data, create a business plan . This is the core of your campaign and future business. It includes important peculiarities you must check and follow. These are as follows:

  • Executive summary. It highlights your business, and what you propose, and outlines the goals of your company.
  • Company description. This one clarifies the issues your product or service can solve. It also convinces your customers that what you offer is the best for them.
  • Market analysis. This point states how you stand against your competitors. It should include all possible positions. It includes segmentation analysis, market size, growth rate, and so on.
  • Organization and structure. This section outlines your risk strategies and what experts you need to make things run.
  • Mission and aims. This one states your mission, outlines the main wishes, and how you can achieve them.
  • What do you sell? You should outline the product or service you’re selling. Discover its main benefits and values.
  • Background summary. A comprehensive analysis of all possible factors that may impact your business.
  • Marketing plan. This section determines the main characteristics of your product or service. You need to add to it strategies of promotion, comparison with competitors, budget, etc.
  • Finance plan. This section shows how much money you need to run your business. It also includes hidden expenses.

Make sure all these sections are written properly!

Choose the Structure

Think of a structure your business will acquire. An LLC, LLP, corporation, or sole proprietorship are there. Each comes with its pros and cons. Pay attention to how many taxes will be charged. Besides, what your daily operations will be, and if your employees are put at risk.

Choose the Name and Register It

You should choose the name of your business. Make sure it is unique and no one else uses the same name. Register it according to the laws of your region to make it legal.

Open a Bank Account

You need to bring your finances to order. You surely require the capital that can guarantee that your company can be launched. Or, it can survive the competition. To ensure that, open a bank account. If you don’t have enough funds, you can borrow them.

It may be necessary to hire a bookkeeper. A professional expert will help to maintain your budget to use it wisely. An alternative solution is to use good software.

Use Technology

Don’t forget that technology is your friend. If you use it properly, it will surely provide a lot of benefits for your small business. A lot of apps and software provide tips, and examples, comprehensive analysis. Here are the best ones that suit small business:

Look for other tools if you need something else.

Fund Your Business

You surely have to find money to launch your business. There are various ways of getting the required money. People divide them into internal and external funds.

Internal funding:

  • Personal savings
  • Credit cards
  • Funds from friends and family

External funding includes:

  • Small business loans
  • Small business grants
  • Angel investors
  • Venture capital
  • Crowdfunding

You can combine both funding sources.

Get Insurance

The business industry is tricky. You need to apply for business insurance too. Thus, you’ll be able to protect your investments and the entire company.

It’s not too difficult to establish and run your own small business. You can use the tips we have provided above, as well as hire a few competent experts. This combination will help to launch it smoothly and enjoy the desired outcomes.

Many people try their luck in business. This industry is enormous and offers a wide range of options for development. M

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  1. Write your business plan

    Executive summary Briefly tell your reader what your company is and why it will be successful. Include your mission statement, your product or service, and basic information about your company's leadership team, employees, and location. You should also include financial information and high-level growth plans if you plan to ask for financing.

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    Whether you want to launch a side gig, a solo operation or a small business, you need a simple business plan template to guide you. Forbes Advisor offers you a comprehensive and easy-to-follow ...

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    Starting a business in the United States involves a number of different steps, spanning legal considerations, market research, creating a business plan, securing funding, and developing a...

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    Steps 2. Describe your company 3. State your business goals 4. Describe your products and services 5. Do your market research 6. Outline your marketing and sales plan 7. Perform a business...

  6. Free Startup Business Plan Templates

    This startup business plan template contains the essential components you need to convey your business idea and strategy to investors and stakeholders, but you can customize this template to fit your needs.

  7. Starting a Small Business: Your Complete How-to Guide

    Vikki Velasquez The U.S. is home to 33.2 million small businesses, which drive over 43% of GDP. If you are looking to start a business, there are key factors to consider—from market...

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    10 steps to start your business Starting a business involves planning, making key financial decisions, and completing a series of legal activities. Read on to learn about each step. Conduct market research Market research will tell you if there's an opportunity to turn your idea into a successful business.

  9. Free Small Business Plan Templates

    This one page small business plan template is ideal for quick, simple presentations. Use this template to summarize your business overview, market analysis, marketing, and sales plan, key objectives and success metrics, and milestones timeline. Complete the fillable sections to educate investors and inform stakeholders.

  10. How To Create a Business Plan for a Small Business (With Example)

    Here are four steps you can follow to create and write a business plan for a small business: 1. Conduct research Beginning a small business requires research to find information about the market and industry of your products or services.

  11. Business startup checklist: Launching a startup step by step

    1. Write a business plan Streamline your business operations Automate your workflows A business plan will help you nail down your goals and expectations and give you a roadmap for getting your company off the ground.

  12. How To Start A Business In 11 Steps (2024 Guide)

    1. Determine Your Business Concept 2. Research Your Competitors and Market 3. Create Your Business Plan 4. Choose Your Business Structure 5. Register Your Business and Get Licenses 6. Get...

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    550+ Sample Business Plan Examples to Inspire Your Own — Bplans 550+ Business Plan Examples to Launch Your Business Need help writing your business plan? Explore over 550 industry-specific business plan examples for inspiration.

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    1. Executive summary. This is a short section that introduces the business plan as a whole to the people who will be reading it, including investors, lenders, or other members of your team. Start with a sentence or two about your business, your goals for developing it, and why it will be successful. If you are seeking funding, summarize the ...

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    Startup business plans are for proposing new business ideas. If you're planning to start a small business, preparing a business plan is crucial. The plan should include all the major factors of your business. You can check out this guide for more detailed business plan inspiration. 2. Feasibility Studies

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    Step 1. Set out your stall. You may be clear about what will make your new business great, but you need to be able to communicate that to investors, customers and other stakeholders. An effective business plan will often start with a clear statement about what the business will do, and what product or service it will sell. Step 2. Set clear goals.

  19. Copy This Small Business Plan Checklist for Your New Startup

    A Step-by-Step Guide: How to Write a Business Plan? Writing a business plan can be intimidating - we get that. However, it is the absolute first step to starting a business.And so, the sooner you get it out of the way, the easier it is to graduate to the more thrilling aspects like checking out Northwest registered agent reviews or joining startup forums!

  20. 70 Small Business Ideas for Anyone Who Wants to Run Their Own Business

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  21. How to Start a Small Business at Home in 2024

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  23. Business Plan Creation Activity using SBA.gov

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