With its stunning landscapes and rugged appalachian lifestyle, West Virginia is a great place to call home. And if you have an adventurous, entrepreneurial spirit, you may want to consider starting a business in this state with a low cost of living! But if you’ve never started a business before, you may wonder how to get started. Starting a business in West Virginia does not have to be as complicated as you think!
With this guide, you will be able to get a new business started in no time! Learn how to choose an idea, pick a name, register your business, set up finances, and more.
Step 1: Choose Your Idea
Every business starts with an idea. This idea forms the basis of your business, so you want to ensure you pick an idea that works – especially in this saturated market. You will want to make sure your idea is marketable. At this stage of the process, your idea does not need to be overly thought-out or planned.
Answer these thought-provoking questions to find an idea and to test if your idea will actually work:
- Do you have any passions, skills, interests, or hobbies?
- Can any of the above activities be turned into a profitable business?
- Can you see yourself working in the business every day and enjoying it?
- Do you have the skills to run this business?
- Are there any businesses like yours that already exist?
- How will your business differ?
- Is there a need for your business?
- How is your business solving a consumer’s problem?
You can also ask your friends and family for help. Their insights as fellow consumers can help you develop an idea as well.
Step 2: Pick a Name
The second step to starting a business in West Virginia is to pick a name. Choosing a good name for your business is super important as this name will appear on all the important paperwork and licenses. You should be 100% happy with your chosen name, as changing a name partway through the process can be more work and can hurt your marketing.
Picking a good name for your business can be pretty daunting. Try out these helpful methods below to help you find a name:
- Create a word dump. This is a list of words that pops into your mind when you think about your business. The trick is to not think too hard about what to write down.
- Use an online name generator. These are free and come up with randomized names.
- Brainstorm with friends and family.
- Create a poll on your Facebook page.
Ideally, the name you choose should be relevant to your business industry. It should also give customers an idea of your services or products.
The state of West Virginia will not allow you to register your business if you use a name already registered with the state, so make sure your name is unique. To check if the name you want to use is still available, you can do a business entity search.
Step 3: Write a Business Plan
Now that you have chosen your business idea and name, you will need to flesh out your business by writing a business plan. Think of the business plan as your blueprint or guide to the company. It should outline your entire business from all your research, product information, how the business will be run, and all the financial information.
There are no laws or rules in West Virginia about what you need to include in your business plan, but it is a good idea to try to answer the following questions people may ask about your business:
- What is the purpose of your business?
- 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?
- What are your marketing techniques?
- How much will you need to start the business?
- Will you need funding?
- How do you plan on getting funding?
- How much will you need to make to break even?
- What equipment is needed?
- What type of employees will you need?
- What are your financial goals and predictions?
Ensure your business plan is as thorough as possible, as it can be used when you apply for funding.
If you’re stuck and are struggling to write a business plan, there are plenty of ready-made templates online that you can find with a quick Google search.
Step 4: Get Funding
You need money to start a business. The paperwork, equipment, supplies, and more add up very quickly, and unless you can pay for these things yourself, you will need to get funding. This can be done through a grant, loan, or an investor.
West Virginia does have quite a few funding programs available for businesses. You can read more about what grants are available on the State Grants website or the West Virginia Economic Development website. Check out the West Virginia One Stop Business Portal to see what other funding the state offers.
Alternatively, you can go the private route and apply for a loan with your local bank. Just be sure to read all terms. You can even get a loan from your friends and family, but make sure to get the agreement in writing.
If you are happy to part with some shares or profits in the business, a final option is to have an investor pay for the startup costs.
Step 5: Choose a Business Structure
Choosing a business structure is the next important step when starting a business. Each structure has its own benefits and features. Here are the four structures in West Virginia you can choose from:
A sole proprietorship is an informal and simple business structure. A sole proprietorship has just one owner, and there is no separation between the owner’s assets and the business’s. This type of business structure is commonly used for low-risk businesses.
A partnership is also an informal business structure and is very similar to a sole proprietorship, as there is still no separation between the owner’s assets and the business’s. The only difference between the two business structures is that there is more than one owner in a partnership. All owners will have equal shares in the business.
Limited Liability Company
A limited liability company, or an LLC, is most commonly used for small to medium-sized businesses. This is because an LLC combines two business structures, offering benefits from both. It has the flexibility and ease of a sole proprietorship or partnership and the liability protection of a corporation.
A C or S corporation is a formal business structure used by large companies with multiple shareholders. A corporation is an entirely separate entity from its owners. This business structure also comes with some tax benefits.
Step 6: Register the Business
Before you can begin trading, you may need to register your business with the state of West Virginia.
A sole proprietorship does not need to be registered with the state as it is not a formal business structure. You can simply set up and start trading. However, with that said, there is an option to file an assumed name on the West Virginia One Stop Business Portal.
This business structure does not need to be registered either, but you can apply for an assumed name on the One Stop Business Portal. In addition, in case of any ownership conflicts in the future, all business owners should sign a partnership agreement. You do not need to submit this agreement with the state.
Limited Liability Company
You will need to register your LLC with the state of West Virginia before you can begin trading. To do this, you must fill out and submit the Articles of Organization on the One Stop Business Portal. You will first need to create a user account on the portal and then can proceed with the registration. The fee to register your business is $100.
To register a West Virginia corporation, you must fill in the Articles of Incorporation and submit them on the One Stop Business Portal. It will cost $100 to register your corporation.
Step 7: Set Up Your Finances & Accounting
Set up your finances by opening a bank account for the business, applying for a company credit card, and setting up a payment method for customers to use. If you have employees, you will also want to install a payroll system for managing employee salaries and taxes.
Consider hiring an accountant to help you with the above and all things money-related. You can put one on your payroll or use a third-party accounting service. Having an accountant can make your life as a business owner much easier. You will be thrilled to have this extra help when the inevitable tax season rolls around!
Step 8: Get Business Insurance
Opening a business without insurance can be a considerable risk, as you never know when disaster will strike and how much it will cost. So you should at least get a general liability insurance policy, a broad-spectrum policy covering all your basic needs when running a business.
Other insurance policies to choose from include:
- Commercial auto insurance
- Commercial property insurance
- Workers compensation insurance
- Limited liability company insurance
- Business owner’s insurance
Chat with your local insurance broker for professional advice on what suits you and your business’s needs.
Step 9: Obtain Any Permits or Licenses Needed
All businesses in West Virginia need to obtain a West Virginia business registration certificate and sales tax license to remain compliant. Apply for this permanent certificate with the state tax commissioner and fill out the VW BUS-APP form. In addition, you must apply for a sales tax license from the West Virginia Tax Division.
You may need additional permits or licenses depending on the nature of your business. So, double-check with the state and your local county to see what else you may need.
Step 10: Build a Website
Every modern business needs a website. You can build one yourself, or you can hire someone to build one for you. Having a website for the company is a great way to advertise your products or even sell your products directly off the website.
Whether you have chosen to do it yourself or hire someone to build the website, here are some tips and tricks to keep track of:
- Check that your domain name is available for use.
- Ensure all the fonts used are clear and easy to read.
- Make sure the website interface is simple and easy to understand.
- Avoid filling the web pages with unnecessary images and videos, as this will slow down the loading times.
- Ensure all information is correct and relevant.
- Ensure that all content is your own or you have the owner’s permission to use it.
- Provide contact details and link your website to your other social media accounts.
Step 11: Hire Employees (If Any)
As your business grows, you may need to hire employees. To do so, draft up a job post and post it on local and online job boards. When you hear back from candidates, narrow them down to your top choices and interview them. At the interview, ask various questions to ensure you get a fuller and better understanding of each candidate and their skills. Offer the job to the candidate best suited for the role!
All your new hires will need to be reported to the West Virginia New Hire Reporting Center. This needs to be done within 14 days of their hire date. There is no fee to report new hires.
Step 12: Market Your Business
The last thing you will need to do when starting your business in West Virginia is to market it. Here are some of the various ways to market your business:
- Advertise on your business website.
- Use social media like Facebook and Instagram to create interest.
- Make use of pay-per-click advertising.
- Advertise on Google with your business profile.
- Advertise in your local newspaper.
- Attend markets and expos.
- Attend networking events.
- Host a launch party.
- Run competitions and giveaways.
If you prefer to focus on other aspects of your business, consider hiring a marketing expert to take care of all of this for you!