Famed for the Big Apple, New York City, and Niagara Falls, the state of New York is a popular place to live and work. And in recent times, many are looking to escape the mundane 9-5. In some cases, this means starting a business in New York. Starting a business may sound like a complicated task, but it doesn’t have to be!
In this step-by-step guide, you will learn all you need to know about starting a business in New York from scratch, from choosing a business idea to registering your new business with the state and more.
Step 1: Choose Your Idea
The first step in starting your new business in New York is choosing an idea on which you will build the business. This idea forms the foundation of your business, and as you move on to the following steps, your idea will become much more fleshed out.
The idea doesn’t have to be overly planned or mapped out at this point in the process – as this will come later. This is just the creative part of the planning. Try answering these thought-stimulating questions to come up with a good idea for the business:
- What are my hobbies and passions?
- Is there a place for my business in the marketplace? It is a good idea to consider how saturated the market may be with particular products or services.
- What consumer problem does my business solve?
- Do I see myself enjoying running the business?
- Do I have the skills needed to run the business?
If you’re stuck, employ the help of your friends and family to jump ideas off of them. They should be able to help you choose a good business idea.
Step 2: Pick a Name
The second step to starting a business in New York is to pick a name for your business. This is quite an important step, as the name can play a significant role in the success of your business. The name you choose will often determine your potential customers’ first impressions.
Your chosen business name should be easy enough for people to read and pronounce, but it should also be unique from the existing businesses. The state of New York will not allow you to register your business if it has the same name as another business already registered with the state.
Luckily, there are ways to check whether your name is still available. You can run an online search on the Department of State’s Existing Corporations and Businesses webpage before accidentally filing for a name already taken.
Coming up with a unique name can be tricky, especially if creativity is not your strong suit. If you’re stuck, try out these helpful methods to come up with a good name for your business:
- Try an online name generator.
- Create a word dump. You simply need to list every word that jumps into your mind when you think about the business.
- Recruit friends and family for help.
Step 3: Write Your Business Plan
Now that you have the basics of your business down, you will need to write your business plan. Your business plan acts as the instruction manual for your business. It will have everything from all your research and planning to the daily running of your business.
Including all relevant financial details is a good idea, as you can also use your business plan to attract investors.
You should include the following in your business plan:
- Describe why you have started the business.
- Describe what products or services you will be offering.
- Describe your target audience.
- Explain how you plan on turning them into paying customers.
- Describe your marketing techniques.
- The amount of money you will need to start the business.
- Show how much you will need to make to break even.
- Explain what skills are necessary to run the business and if you will need to hire employees.
If you’re still unsure where to begin when writing your business plan, you can find plenty of free business plan templates online that you can use.
Step 4: Get Funding
To start a business, you will need money; unless you have some of your own savings available, you will need to get funding elsewhere. The three main ways of funding a business in New York are through a grant, loan, or investor.
The ideal way to get funding is through a grant, as these funds do not need to be paid back to the state. New York City Small Business Services have several different grant programs for which your business may be eligible. You can also visit the Empire State Development website to see what grants are available.
If your business does not meet the requirements for a grant, your next step can be to apply for a loan. The U.S. Small Business Administration in New York has many loan programs available. Alternatively, you can go the private route and get a loan from your bank. Be sure to read the small print and understand the terms.
The third option is to have an investor fund the startup costs for you, although they may require shares in your business in exchange for the money. Anyone can be an investor, including friends, family, and acquaintances.
Step 5: Choose a Business Structure
Once you have funding for your new business, you must choose the proper business structure for your needs. Each of these structures has its own benefits. Here are the different structures you can choose from:
A sole proprietorship is an informal business structure with no separation between the owner’s personal assets and the business’s. This structure is commonly used by low-risk businesses such as freelancers and tradespeople.
A partnership is also an informal business structure and is much like a sole proprietorship where there is no separation between the owner and the business. The only difference with this structure is that there is more than one owner, all with equal shares in the company.
Limited Liability Company
The limited liability company, also called an LLC, is often used by small to medium-sized businesses. It is a very popular business structure, as it is a hybrid and offers the best of both worlds. The LLC combines the flexibility of a sole proprietorship or partnership with the added tax benefits and asset protection of a corporation.
C or S Corporation
Corporations are the most formal type of business structure. They are entirely separate legal entities that multiple shareholders own. C-type corporations are generally used for large companies, while S-type corporations are for smaller companies.
Step 6: Register the Business
Choosing what structure to use is only one part of starting a business. Depending on your chosen structure, you may be required to register it with the state of New York before you can begin trading.
As this is not a formal business structure, there is no need to register your business within the state of New York. You are, however, required to file your assumed name (if any) with your local county clerk.
Like the sole proprietorship, this business structure does not need to be registered, as it is not a formal business structure. However, you must file an assumed name with your county clerk. And it is good practice to have all owners sign a partnership agreement, although this agreement does not need to be submitted to the state.
Limited Liability Company
To register a corporation, you must complete and submit the Certificate of Incorporation to the New York Department of State. The fee to register your corporation is $125.
Step 7: Set Up Your Finances & Accounting
Setting up your finances before you begin trading is a good idea. This means separating your assets from the business. To do this, open a business bank account and apply for business credit cards. You should also choose a payment method for your paying clients or customers. Additionally, you will need to set up a payroll system if you have any employees.
Hiring an accountant to administer payroll software and the business’s accounts can help ensure everything runs smoothly.
Step 8: Get Business Insurance
Having a business without business insurance is a risky move as you never know when disaster may strike. To make sure you are covered, ensure you at least have a general liability insurance policy. This broad insurance policy covers everything for the day-to-day running of the business, as well as any damage or injury on your property.
Some other insurance policies you can choose from include:
- Workers compensation insurance
- Professional liability insurance
- Commercial property insurance
- Business owners policy
- LLC insurance
What type of insurance you get highly depends on the nature of your business, so chat with an insurance broker to get professional advice on what is best suited for your needs.
Step 9: Obtain Any Licenses or Permits Needed
In New York state, there is no state-wide general business license. However, the different counties and cities will have their own requirements. You can view these on the Office of New York State Controller or ask your county clerk. Furthermore, you may be required to apply for additional licenses or permits depending on the nature of your business. So, double-check what you may need to remain compliant with the state.
Step 10: Build a Website
Every business needs a good website, and building one has never been easier. You can choose to build the website yourself or use a ready-made template. When you are building your website, there are some things you need to make sure to do:
- Before you get started, make sure your chosen domain name is available.
- All fonts used should be clear and easy to read.
- Make sure the website is easy to use and navigating between pages is simple.
- Ensure you have not overloaded the website with images and unnecessary graphics.
- Your website should be compatible with mobile browsers.
- All your images should be copyright free or your own.
- Ensure to link your website to other social media accounts.
Alternatively, you can hire a web designer to design your website for you!
Step 11: Hire Employees (If Any)
To hire employees, you must draft a job post, post it on job search websites, and invite your top candidates for an interview. Once that’s done, you should offer the job to your favorite candidate that matches the company culture and any professional requirements and experiences.
If you hire any employees, you are legally required to report those new hires to the New York New Hire Online Reporting Center. This needs to be done within 20 days of the hire date, and there is no fee to report the new hires.
Step 12: Market Your Business
The final step of starting your new business in New York is to market the business. While there are many different ways to market your business, you must remain consistent and ensure that your content is relevant.
Here are some different ways to market your business on any budget:
- Advertise on your website.
- Create content on social media like Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok.
- Advertise on Google Adverts using your Google profile.
- Advertise in your local newspaper.
- Host competitions and giveaways.
- Attend networking events.
- Create monthly newsletters for subscribers.
If you prefer to focus on other aspects of running a business, you can hire someone to market the business for you.