Starting a business in Georgia is desirable due to its business-friendly regulations and support from the local government. But how do you start a business in Georgia? Starting a business can be broken down into 12 simple steps. Follow the below guide to learn how to start your business successfully, from choosing your idea to marketing your business.
Step 1: Choose an Idea
Behind every successful business is a simple idea. Your idea does not have to be overly complicated or thorough. This is just the foundation of building your business. So, how do you know if your idea is any good? Below is a list of questions to ask yourself to help you formulate a business idea and see if it is something worth pursuing.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Do you have any passions or hobbies?
- Can these activities be turned into a profitable business?
- Can you see yourself working in the industry every day?
- Are there businesses like yours already in Georgia?
- Is there a need for your business?
- How is your business different from the competition?
- Are you solving a consumer’s problem?
By answering these questions, you should begin to get an idea of whether your business idea is something that will work. If not, you can start again with a different idea until you’re confident with your business idea.
Step 2: Pick a Name
The name of your company is essential when starting a business. You want to pick a strong, unique name, as this is the first thing potential customers will see and hear. Their first impressions of your business will be based on the chosen name. Therefore, making a good first impression is crucial, especially when there’s so much competition in the market.
Your chosen name should be easy to pronounce and spell. Choosing a name relevant to your business is a good idea but make sure it still stands out from the rest of the competition. On top of that, there are state regulations you must also adhere to. For example, you cannot use a name already registered with the state. Check the Georgia Corporations Division website to check whether your desired name is available.
If you’re still battling to pick a name, use these techniques below:
- Create a word dump. Just write a list of words that pop into your mind when you think about your business. The key is not to think too hard and to literally “dump” everything you can think of on the paper.
- Use an online name generator.
- Brainstorm with friends and family.
Step 3: Write Your Business Plan
Your business plan is like the blueprints of your business. They contain all the necessary information about your products, finances, marketing, and all the research that you have done. A business plan is also a great tool to attract investors to your business.
While there are no set guidelines, a good business plan should include the following:
- What is your business, and why have you started the business
- What products or services does your business offer
- Who are your direct competitors
- Who is your target audience
- How do you plan on turning your target audience into paying customers
- How much money you will need to start the business
- What equipment is needed
- If you’ll need employees, and if so, what roles need to be filled
- Your financial goals and predictions
There are a lot of free business plan templates you can download off the Internet to draft your business plan.
Step 4: Get Funding
Starting a business requires money; unless you can fund the startup costs yourself, you will need to find funding elsewhere. The three best ways of doing this are through grants, loans, and investors.
Getting a grant is one of the most desired ways of getting funding because you do not have to pay the money back. There is a lot of support for small businesses through grant programs in Georgia. You can find a list of federal grant programs in the Georgia Department of Economic Development. If your business is based in Atlanta, you can look through their grant programs on the City of Atlanta’s grants page.
Many grants come with strict requirements so that only eligible people can apply.
If you do not meet the eligibility requirements for a grant, the next best option is to apply for a loan. You can find more information about the different loan programs available in Georgia on the Department of Economic Development website and the City of Atlanta website. Alternatively, you could ask your friends and family for a loan. But make sure you get everything in writing.
Another way of getting funds for the business is through investors – think Shark Tank. Often, investors will want a portion of your profits or a share in the business. You could even ask your friends and family if they want to invest in your business.
Step 5: Choose a Business Structure
Each business structure has different benefits, and choosing the right one for your business is very important. There are four main business structures: sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company, and corporation.
A sole proprietorship is an informal business structure with only one owner. There is no separation between the owner and the business’s assets, so the sole proprietorship structure is commonly used for low-risk businesses. This is also the easiest and simplest type of business to set up.
A partnership is another informal business structure. Like a sole proprietorship, there is still no separation between the owner’s assets and the business. The only difference between the two business structures is that there is more than one owner in a partnership. While there may be multiple owners, they all have equal shares in the business.
Limited Liability Company
A limited liability company, or LLC, is the most popular choice for small businesses. This is because an LLC combines a formal and informal business structure – essentially the best of two worlds. An LLC has the flexibility and simplicity of a sole proprietorship or partnership and the liability protection of a corporation.
C or S Corporation
A corporation is the most formal business structure you can choose and is used mainly by large companies with multiple shareholders. A corporation is an entirely separate entity from the owners. The reason why this business structure is popular with large companies is that it offers tax benefits.
Step 6: Register Your Business
Once you have chosen a business structure, you must register the business to officially form your business with the state.
While you do not have to register a sole proprietorship with the Georgia Secretary of State, you will be required to create an account with the Georgia Tax Centre and register as a sole proprietor. In addition, if you plan to operate under a different name other than your full legal name, you will need to file a trade name with the Clerk of Superior Court.
To register your partnership with the state, you must create an account with the Georgia Tax Center and select the Register a New Georgia Business option, following the instructions they provide.
Limited Liability Company
To register an LLC in Georgia, you must complete and submit the Articles of Organization with the Georgia Tax Center for a fee of $100 if you file online or $110 if you file by mail. The Articles of Organization is a form that contains all the information about your business.
C or S Corporation
Like an LLC, you must complete and submit the Articles of Incorporation with the state. The fee to do this online is $100. In addition, you will need to create an account with the Georgia Tax Center and follow the instructions provided.
Step 7: Set Up Your Finances & Accounting
Before you begin trading, you should set up the business’s finances and accounting. To set up your finances, you need to open a bank account for the business, apply for a company credit card, and set up a payment method for customers to use. And if you have employees, you might want to install a payroll system for managing employee salaries and taxes.
Hiring an accountant to assist you with all of the finances is a good idea, especially if this is the first time you’re doing this. You’ll be grateful for the extra help, especially as tax season comes around.
Step 8: Get Business Insurance
Every business owner will tell you that the one thing you need to get when running a business is good business insurance. While there are many different policies to choose from, you should at least invest in general liability insurance.
General liability insurance is a broad policy that covers the basics of running a business daily. This typically includes theft, damage, or injury.
Other insurance policies you can take out:
- Commercial auto insurance
- Commercial property insurance
- Workers compensation insurance
- Limited liability company insurance
- Business owner’s insurance
You can choose from many different plans, and if you are unsure what to get, consult a broker. They will be able to help you find the best insurance to fit your business’s needs.
Step 9: Obtain Any Permits or Licenses Needed
Every business in Georgia needs an operating license to conduct business in the state. You can find more details on applying for this license on the Georgia Secretary of State website, under their licensing division.
In addition, depending on your business type, you may need to apply for additional permits and licenses to operate legally. Check the licensing division to see what else you may need. You should also check with your local county clerk to know if you will need any local permits or licenses.
Step 10: Build a Website
Having a website is such a great asset for a business. A website is an excellent tool for connecting and engaging with customers, promoting your business, and building your brand. Building a website is a pretty straightforward process nowadays. This is because there are so many web-building websites that offer pre-made templates to use for free or monthly subscriptions.
When building your website, you should ensure that your business name is visible and easily read. All fonts should be clear and straightforward so that it is not difficult to read. Try to keep the webpage from being too cluttered, as this can turn viewers away. Lastly, ensure that your website is mobile-compatible.
Step 11: Hire Employees (If Any)
You will need to hire employees if your business requires more workforce. You can’t take on every responsibility. When hiring employees, besides looking at their credentials, also check that their personality is the right fit for your business. This will result in excellent teamwork and a smoothly run business.
Georgia requires that all new hires and re-hires must be reported to the Georgia New Hire Reporting Centre within ten days of their hire date.
Step 12: Market Your Business
Marketing your business is an excellent way to build your brand and attract new customers simultaneously. There are so many different ways to market your business on any budget. The key to good marketing is to be consistent.
Here are some different ways to market your business:
- Make use of your business website
- Use social media like Facebook and Instagram
- Use pay-per-click advertising
- Advertise in your local newspaper
- Attend markets and expos
- Run competitions and giveaways
Have questions? Let us know.