Oklahoma is a popular state to start a business in thanks to its central location, low cost of living, strong labor force, and pro-business policies. But how do you actually start a new business in Oklahoma, and where do you even begin the process?
In this article, you will find a detailed guide on how to start a business from scratch. By the end of the guide, you will know how to pick a business name and a business structure and how to market your business successfully.
Step 1: Choose Your Idea
The first step in starting your new business in Oklahoma is to choose your idea. Your business will build from this simple idea; at this stage, it does not have to be overly complicated or planned out.
To see if your business idea will work or if you’re struggling to think of a business idea, answer the following questions:
- What are my favorite hobbies, passions, and skills?
- Can any of these hobbies, passions, and skills be turned into a profitable business?
- Is there a need for my business?
- Will I enjoy running the business?
- What consumer problem does my solve?
- Are there any businesses similar to mine already out there?
- How does my business differ from those already opened?
- Do I have the right skills for this business?
Your answers to these questions should give you some feedback on whether your business idea will work or if you need to rethink it. You can also ask your friends and family for help and hear their insights.
Step 2: Pick a Name
Once you have decided on your business idea, it is time to pick a good name. Your business name should be simple enough for people to pronounce and read. In addition, it should be relevant to the industry and the services or products your business offers.
In Oklahoma, you cannot register a business with a name already registered with the state. To check if your name is available, you can do a quick business search on the Oklahoma Secretary of State website. You should also do a preliminary search to check if your preferred domain name is available.
Try out some of these helpful methods to help you come up with a good business name:
- Use a free online name generator. These generators will produce randomized names.
- Hold a brainstorming session with friends and family.
- Create a poll on your social media like Facebook or Instagram.
Step 3: Write Your Business Plan
Every business, big or small, needs a business plan. The business plan is like the instructions manual for your business. It will include all the research and planning, product and services information, and all the financials, planning, and details about the company.
You can also use your business plan to attract potential investors, so ensure it is as thorough as possible.
There are no rules about what needs to be included in a business plan, but you should at least try to answer the following questions:
- What services and products will your business offer?
- Who is your target audience?
- How do you plan on turning your target audience into paying customers?
- What are your marketing techniques?
- What are the startup costs involved?
- Do you have the money, or will you need funding?
- How much will you need to earn to break even?
- Are there any other financial details that are important to the business?
- What roles need to be filled in your business?
- Will you need to hire employees?
There are many ready-made business plan templates that you can download off the internet if you’re still unsure of how to start drafting one up.
Step 4: Get Funding
To start a business, you need money, and if you don’t have the cash upfront, you will need to get funding through a loan, grant, or an investor.
Grants are an ideal form of funding as the money does not have to be paid back, but they have strict entry requirements. The Oklahoma Department of Commerce does have a grant program, but it can also assist business owners in applying for other grant programs available in the state.
If your business does not qualify for a grant, your next best option is to apply for a loan. You can do this through your local bank.
A third and final option is to have an investor fund the startup costs in exchange for shares in your business. An investor can come from friends, family, and acquaintances. Talk about your business to potential investors to see who might be interested in seeing your business grow.
Step 5: Choose a Business Structure
Choosing the proper business structure for your business is vital as each structure has its benefits. Here are the business structures that you can choose from:
A sole proprietorship is an informal business structure. This means there is no separation between the business and the owner’s assets. In other words, the sole owner is liable for the business. This structure is typically used for low-risk companies.
A partnership is very similar to a sole proprietorship as it is not a formal business structure, and there is no separation of assets. The only difference between the two business structures is that a partnership has one or more owners with equal shares in the business.
Limited Liability Company
A limited liability company, or an LLC, is one of the most commonly used formal business structures for small to medium-sized businesses. This is because an LLC combines two business structures, offering the best of both worlds. LLCs have the ease of a sole proprietorship or partnership with the added liability protection of a corporation.
C or S Corporation
A corporation is the most formal type of business structure and is mainly used by large companies with multiple shareholders. A corporation is an entirely separate entity from the business owners and comes with multiple tax benefits.
Step 6: Register the Business
In Oklahoma, some business structures may be required to be registered with the state.
As this is an informal business structure, you do not need to register the sole proprietorship with the state of Oklahoma. However, if you wish to use a different name other than your personal one, you will need to file an assumed name with the Oklahoma Secretary of State.
There is no need to register a partnership with the state. However, you can have all business owners sign a partnership agreement and submit it to the state for safekeeping.
You can also file an assumed name with the Oklahoma Secretary of State.
Limited Liability Company
A limited liability company must be registered with the Oklahoma Secretary of State. To do this, you must complete the Articles of Organization and submit them through the online portal or by mail. The fee to register the business online is $100.
To register your Oklahoma corporation, you must complete and file the Certificate of Incorporation with the Secretary of State. The minimum fee to do this is $50; after that, it is $1 per $1000 if the total authorized capital (TAC) is over $50,000.
Step 7: Set Up Your Finances & Accounting
You are strongly advised to set up your finances before opening the business. To set up your finances, you will need to apply for a bank account for the business, a credit card, and set up a payment method for your customers to use. In addition, if you have or plan to have employees, you may also want to install payroll software to manage their taxes and salaries.
Hiring an accountant to look after the business books is a good idea, especially if you’re unfamiliar with accounting. An accountant can help you avoid overpaying your taxes.
Step 8: Get Business Insurance
Every business needs at least a general liability insurance policy as this covers your business from any damage or injury, as well as coverage for the day-to-day running of the business. There are other insurance policies that you can get as well. Some of the most popular ones include:
- Business owners insurance
- Professional liability insurance
- Commercial property insurance
- Workers compensation insurance
- Commercial auto insurance
- Limited liability company insurance
Speak to your local insurance broker for professional advice on what is best suited for your business and your needs.
Step 9: Obtain Any Permits or Licenses Needed
In Oklahoma, there is no general business license that every business owner has to have, as each county or city has its own requirements. Visit the Oklahoma Department of Commerce to see if your business may need a license or not.
If you want to charge and collect sales tax, you must apply for a Sales Tax Permit. You can do this via the Oklahoma Taxpayer Access Point (TAP) website.
Step 10: Build a Website
Now that your business is set up, you’ll need to let the world know. The first step in doing this is to build a website. There are plenty of options available to build a website. For example, you can pay someone to design and build it for you or use a ready-made web page template for free or a subscription. If you want to sell directly from your website, you might consider using platforms like Shopify or WooCommerce.
If you are building your own business website, you should ensure that you do the following:
- Check that your desired domain name is still available to use.
- Ensure that your business name is clear and easy to find.
- Ensure all font is neat and a good size.
- Avoid cluttering the website with images, graphics, videos, and gifs, as this can slow loading times.
- Make sure that your webpage is compatible with mobile browsers.
- Include a good call to action or contact button.
- Provide links to other social media accounts.
Step 11: Hire Employees (If Any)
If you plan on hiring employees for the business, draft up a job advertisement and post it online and in your local paper. When you hear back from candidates, narrow them down to your top choices and invite them for interviews. Finally, offer the job to your preferred candidate!
Keep in mind that you are legally required to report any new hires to the Oklahoma Employer New Hire Reporting System within 20 days from the hire date. There is no fee to do this.
Step 12: Market Your Business
The final step to starting your business in Oklahoma is marketing the business. The internet makes marketing an incredibly fun and creative exercise, and there are plenty of different ways to market your business – even for free. When marketing, ensure that all your content is relevant and that you remain consistent.
Here are some various ways to market your business:
- Advertise on your business website.
- Create interest and advertise for free on social media like Facebook and Instagram.
- Create a Google Business Profile and advertise on Google.
- Attend local events like business conventions and networking events.
- Hold competitions and specials.
- Advertise on your local radio or television stations.
- Create flyers to hand out.
- Give out freebies or samples.
The possibilities for marketing are endless.
If you prefer to focus on other aspects of the business, consider hiring a marketing expert to take care of all of this. If you aren’t familiar with social media, you may want to hire someone who excels at content creation.