Louisiana has one of the lowest labor costs in the country, making it an attractive place to start a business. But if you have never started a company, you may wonder how to get your business idea off the ground. If you need help with this exciting new entrepreneurial endeavor, this step-by-step guide is for you! This guide will cover everything you need to know about starting a business in Louisiana, from choosing an idea to marketing the business.
Step 1: Choose Your Idea
The first step in starting your own business in Louisiana is choosing an idea to build your business on. At this stage in the planning process, your business idea doesn’t need to be overly detailed and planned out; this is just the thinking stage.
To start getting your brain thinking productively, it is a great idea to answer the following questions that will help you formulate a good idea.
- What are my passions and hobbies?
- Can I turn any of these hobbies into a paying business?
- Will I enjoy running the business?
- Is there a gap in the Louisiana market for my business?
- What consumer problem does my business solve?
- Are there any businesses like mine already out there?
By answering these questions, you should have an idea of whether or not your business idea will work. If not, you can just start this process again. If you’re still stuck, try asking your friends and family for help brainstorming ideas for a business.
Step 2: Pick A Name
Picking a name for your business is critical to your business’s success. This is because many potential customers who see your business name for the first time will base their first impressions of the business on your name.
When deciding on a name, it must be unique from all other businesses in the state. In fact, the Louisiana Secretary of State has a business entity search that you can use to see if your desired name is available.
Your chosen name should be easy for people to read and pronounce. It should also be somewhat related to the business industry you are in. It should give people an idea of your products or services.
If you are struggling to come up with a business name, try out these helpful methods:
- Use an online name generator; these are usually free.
- Create a poll on your social media.
- Hold a brainstorming session with your friends and family.
- Create a word dump.
Step 3: Write Your Business Plan
Once you have chosen your idea and business name, you must write your business plan. A business plan is where you will start to flesh out your business. You want to ensure your business plan is as detailed as possible because it can also be used as a marketing tool for potential investors.
Louisiana does not require new companies to have a business plan, but writing one up is very beneficial for gaining future interest from investors. While there are no set guidelines about what needs to be included in the business plan, it is a good idea to at least answer the following questions:
- How does your business solve consumer problems?
- Are there any businesses already open like yours?
- How will it differ from your competitors?
- Who is your target market?
- How do you plan on turning them into paying customers?
- How do you plan on marketing your business?
- What roles will you need to be filled in the business?
- How will you hire new people?
- How much will you need to make before you break even?
- How do you plan on making a profit?
If you’re having trouble getting started on writing a good business plan, the internet has multiple business plan templates and examples for you to use as a starting point.
Step 4: Get Funding
One of the challenges of starting a business in Louisiana is funding the start-up costs. And if you don’t have the money, you will need to get funding from elsewhere. You can do this by getting a grant, loan, or investor.
The Louisiana Department of Revenue hosts the Louisiana Nonprofit & Small Business Assistance Program each year, where they offer grants to small businesses. Getting a grant is one of the most desirable ways to get funding, as you do not need to pay the money back. It does, however, have entry guidelines. So, not everyone will be eligible for a grant.
If you do not meet the requirements, another option is to get a loan. You can visit the Small Business Assistance Program hosted by Lousiana to see if you qualify for their business loans. Alternatively, you can go the private route and go to your local bank. Read the fine print and ensure you fully understand the loan requirements and the interest rate.
Another option is to get an investor for your business. This is where your business plan will come in handy. Approach your friends, family, and acquaintances to see if anybody would be interested in investing for a percentage of your business. Make sure you get any agreement in writing – even if it’s a close family member.
Step 5: Choose Your Business Structure
Choosing the proper business structure for your business is crucial as each structure has benefits that are best suited for specific businesses.
A sole proprietorship is an informal business structure best suited for solo entrepreneurs. This business structure is very simple, and there is no separation of business and personal assets. As a result, many low-risk businesses choose this structure.
A partnership is also an informal business structure without separating personal and business assets. The only difference between the two structures is that in a partnership, there is more than one owner, each with equal shares in the business.
Limited Liability Company
A limited liability company, or LLC, is one of the most popular choices of business structures for small businesses. It combines the ease of a sole proprietorship or partnership and the liability protection of a corporation. So, an LLC is a perfect choice if you’re looking for something more structured for your business (without going full corporate).
S or C Corporation
A corporation is the most formal business structure and is most commonly used by large companies with multiple shareholders. A corporation is an entirely separate entity from its owners and shareholders. As a result, corporations have many tax benefits that are beneficial to larger businesses.
Step 6: Register Your Business
Once you have decided on what business structure to use, you will need to register it.
This business structure does not need to be registered with the state of Louisiana. However, if you wish to operate under a different name other than your legal name, you will need to file a Doing Business As (DBA). You can file that online for a fee of $75.
This business structure does not need to register with the state of Louisiana, either. However, you do have the option to file a DBA, as with a sole proprietorship. It is highly recommended that all business owners complete and sign a partnership agreement. This does not need to be submitted to the state but is good to have in case of a dispute.
Limited Liability Company
To register an LLC with the state of Louisiana, you must complete and submit the Articles of Organization to the geauxBIZ business portal. The fee to register your LLC is $100.
S or C Corporation
Registering a corporation is very similar to an LLC. The fee to register your corporation online is $75. In addition, you will need to complete and submit the Articles of Incorporation to the geauxBIZ business portal.
Step 7: Set Up Your Finances & Accounting
You should set up your finances and accounting to run your business smoothly. Setting up your finances involves opening a business bank account, applying for a credit card, and setting up payment methods for your customers to use. Most banks have credit card machines that they can help set up for you.
If your business has multiple employees, you will want to set up good payroll software to keep track of salaries. Hiring an accountant to look after the business’s books is a great idea. The last thing you want is to feel overwhelmed, especially when tax season rolls around.
Step 8: Get Business Insurance
Investing in insurance for your business is not required in Louisiana, but it is strongly recommended. You can never predict when disaster might strike; if or when it does, you want to be prepared and covered for it. You can choose from many excellent insurance policies, including general liability insurance. This broad type of policy covers all the basics of running your business daily and protection in case of injury or damage.
There are plenty of more specialized insurance policies to choose from. So, if you’re unsure what is best suited for your needs, chat with your local insurance broker for professional advice.
Step 9: Obtain Any Permits or Licenses Needed
All businesses in Louisiana will need to apply for a general business license before they can begin operating. This business license can be applied for on the geauxBIZ business portal. You would need to create a profile if you hadn’t already when you registered your business.
If your business sells goods or services that collect sales tax, you must apply for a Sales Tax license on the same business portal.
Other permits and licenses may be required depending on the nature of your business and your city or county. Speak with your local county clerk for more advice.
Step 10: Build a Website
Building a website for your business is no longer limited to those who can write a bunch of codes. Nowadays, people have many options for building their own websites. For example, you can use a pre-made template for free or have someone make one for you.
Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when building your website:
- Check that your desired domain name is available.
- Make sure that your business name is easy to identify.
- Make sure all font is simple and easy to read.
- Do not clutter your webpage with unnecessary images and graphics; this creates slow load times.
- Include an excellent call to action button.
- Make sure you add an “About Us” page.
Step 11: Hire Employees (If Any)
To hire employees in Louisiana, businesses can advertise online, on job boards, or through word-of-mouth. Look for someone with the necessary qualifications who will be able to do the work with some training.
By law, when you hire employees, you are required to report new hires to the Department of Children and Family Services. This needs to be done within 20 days of the hire date. There is no fee to report new hires.
Step 12: Market Your Business
The final step in starting a business in Louisiana is to market your business. Luckily, there are many creative ways to market your business these days. The only thing to keep in mind is to be consistent. It is best to market your business regularly to build brand recognition.
Here are some different ways you can market your business:
- Make use of your business website.
- Engage with customers online through your website or social media.
- Create a Google Business Profile and advertise on Google.
- Attend local expos and business conventions.
- Give out free samples.
- Hold competitions or giveaways.
- Advertise on local radio and TV stations.
- Advertise for free on social media like Facebook, Instagram, and even TikTok.
Alternatively, you can hire a marketing expert to take care of all of this for you.