With its strategic location between major cities like Philidelphia, New York City, and Washington D.C., New Jersey is a great state to start a business in. However, whether you have never started a business before or are simply unsure where to start, starting a business in any state can be overwhelming.
But with this detailed step-by-step guide, you will learn all you need to know about starting a business in New Jersey. This guide covers everything from choosing a business idea and structure to setting up your finances and marketing your business. By the end, you should have a successful New Jersey business in your hands!
Step 1: Choose Your idea
Every business, whether big or small, starts with the same thing: an idea. Coming up with an idea for your business is the first step to getting the ball rolling. Think of your business idea as the skeleton of your company. It is what you will build everything around.
Thinking up a business idea can be a little daunting, but answering these idea-stimulating questions should have you come up with a good idea in no time:
- What are my passions, skills, and hobbies?
- Can these be turned into a profitable business?
- Will I enjoy running this business for the foreseeable future?
- Is there a need for my business?
- What consumer problem does my business solve?
- Are there any businesses out there already that are similar to mine?
- How do I plan on standing out from businesses that already exist?
Try bouncing your initial ideas off your friends and family to see if they are receptive to them. They can also be a critical voice and help you land on an idea that can be successful.
Step 2: Pick a Name
The second step to starting a business is to pick out a name. The name you choose should be easy for people to read and pronounce. Your chosen name should also be unique from any other business but still relevant to the industry you are based in.
To check if your business name is free to use, you can conduct a business search on the New Jersey Department of the Treasury. Before settling on a name, you should also check that the domain name is available.
If you are struggling to pick a good name for your business, try out these helpful methods below:
- Create a list of words that immediately pop into your mind when you think of the industry your business is in. And use combinations of those words or use them as inspiration to decide on a name.
- Hold a brainstorming session with friends and family.
- Create polls online, like Facebook, to get other people’s suggestions.
- Use an online name generator.
Step 3: Write Your Business Plan
Once you have decided on a business idea and the name, you must write the business plan. The business plan is a document that includes all your research, planning, and business information, like services and financial predictions.
Your business plan can be used as a marketing tool to attract investors to your business, so be sure to include all the relevant financial information.
There are no rules about what needs to be included in the business plan, but you should at least try to answer the following questions:
- What is the purpose of your business?
- What services are being offered?
- Who are your direct competitors?
- Who is your target audience?
- How do you plan on turning your target audience into paying customers?
- What costs are involved?
- How much will you need to start the business?
- How much will you need to break even?
- What roles will be available in the business?
- What are your financial goals and predictions?
There is also the option of downloading a pre-made business plan template if you aren’t sure where to start.
Step 4: Get Funding
Starting a business will require some money for capital and other startup costs. If you cannot afford to fund this yourself, you will need to get funding through other means. You can get funding through a loan, grant, or investor.
The state of New Jersey has several different funding programs, including grants and loans. You can check them out on the New Jersey Business Action Center or the New Jersey Grow Funding websites to learn what your business might qualify for.
If you do not qualify for grants, consider getting a loan from a private source. Loans can be acquired from your local bank at different interest rates. Alternatively, you can get a loan from your friends and family. But if you do so, make sure to get the agreement in writing.
There is also the option of having someone invest money into your business in exchange for shares. You could even have friends and family invest in your company.
Step 5: Choose a Business Structure
Choosing what business structure to use is essential for the success of your business. Here are the structures you can choose from:
Sole proprietorships are businesses that only have one owner. In this informal business structure, there is no separation of personal and business assets. This business structure is favored by low-risk businesses that generally started as hobbies.
A partnership is similar to a sole proprietorship because it is not a separate entity from the owner and is also an informal business structure. The only difference between the two structures is that a partnership has more than one owner, all with equal shares in the business.
Limited Liability Company
This business structure is popular among small to medium-sized businesses with no shareholders. Limited liability companies, or LLCs, are a hybrid business structure. An LLC combines the simplicity and ease of a sole proprietorship or partnership with the liability protection of a corporation.
C or S Corporation
Corporations are favored by large companies that have multiple shareholders. The difference between this structure and the others is that corporations are separate entities from business owners. Corporations also receive different types of tax benefits from the state and federal governments.
Step 6: Register The Business
To remain compliant with the state of New Jersey, you may be required to register your business.
This business structure does not need to be registered with the state to start doing business. However, if you wish to operate under a name other than your legal personal one, you must register an assumed name with the New Jersey Treasury Department.
You will not need to register your partnership with the state, but as with a sole proprietorship, you will need to file an assumed name if applicable.
It is also a good idea to have all owners of the business sign a partnership agreement. This document is a requirement by the state, but it is a document to have on hand in case any disagreements pop up.
Limited Liability Company
Registering a corporation is very similar to an LLC. You will need to complete and submit the Certificate of Formation to Business.NJ.gov. The fee to do this online is $125.
Step 7: Set Up Your Finances and Accounting
You will want to set up the business’s finances before you start trading. To set up the finances, you will need to open a bank account for your business, apply for a business credit card, and set up a payment method for customers to use. Additionally, payroll software is a good way to stay abreast of salaries and employee taxes.
Hiring an accountant to assist you with the above is strongly recommended, especially if you are new to starting a business. Plus, you will be grateful for the help when tax season rolls around. Taxes and monetary matters can be confusing even for the best of us.
Step 8: Get Business Insurance
Insurance for your business is critical, as you never know when a disaster can strike. While there are many policies to choose from, you should at least have a general liability insurance policy. This broad policy will cover everything you need during the day-to-day running of the business.
Other insurance policies you can also consider are:
- Commercial auto insurance
- Commercial property insurance
- Limited liability company insurance
- Business owners insurance
- Workers compensation insurance
Speak to an insurance broker to get professional advice on what is best suited for your business and your needs.
Step 9: Obtain any Permits or Licenses Needed
New Jersey does not issue a state-wide general business license. Instead, the business registration certificate acts as the business license. But some counties and cities within the state may have their own rules regarding business licenses, so you may want to check if you will need one.
If your business plans to collect sales tax, you must file for a seller’s permit with the New Jersey Division of Taxation.
Additionally, you may need specialized permits or licenses depending on your business type. So, double-check everything to ensure you remain compliant with the state.
Step 10: Build a Website
Having a website for the business is a great marketing tool and a good way to engage with customers.
When you are designing a website, there are a few points you need to keep in mind:
- Ensure your business name is visible and stands out on the web page.
- Ensure that all the fonts used are clear and easy to read. Avoid small and cursive fonts.
- Avoid filling your web page with multiple images and animations, as this can drastically slow loading times.
- It is a good idea to ensure that your website is mobile-compatible, as many people use smartphones to browse.
- Include an “About Us” section.
- Provide all contact information and a good call to action button like “Shop Now.”
- Provide links to your other social media accounts.
If you’re unsure how to build a website, you can also always hire a web designer to build one for you.
Step 11: Hire Employees (If Any)
If you plan on hiring employees for your business, you must report all new hires to the New Jersey Department of Human Services. You must report all new employees within 20 days from the hire date. There is no fee to report new hires in New Jersey.
Step 12: Market Your Business
When you are marketing, make sure your content is engaging and relevant.
Here are some different ways to market your business:
- Advertise and create content on your business website.
- Make use of free social media like Facebook and Instagram.
- Create a Google Business Profile and advertise on Google.
- Host events and competitions.
- Write a weekly newsletter.
- Advertise on your local radio and TV station.
- Attend local markets and business expos.
- Give out free samples.
You can do all the marketing yourself, or you could just hire someone to handle all the marketing for your business.