This list covers five things you should do as you begin your new role as an entrepreneur to lay down a foundation for your business to grow. While a daunting time, these early days are also the fun part. This is the time to play around with your idea, experiment with some names, and think about how you want to exist in the world as a new business.
“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” – Warren Buffett
1. Define Your Goals, Audience and Competitive Advantage
Before you start anything, you need to know why your business exists. Start thinking about your audience and goals and write them down. Spend some time researching the industry and getting to know the competitive landscape.
- What is your mission?
- What is your main offering/product?
- What problem will it solve?
- Who is it for?
- What gap does it fill in the market?
- What do you want to achieve with your business?
- How is it unique?
Once you can answer these questions, you’ll have a base identity to grow from. These notes will also be helpful when it comes to creating a business plan and marketing plan.
2. Name Your Business
Naming your business can be as entertaining as it is intimidating. It’s a fun opportunity to play around with your brand identity and think about what name you want to represent your business. Once you’ve established your goals and audience, you can experiment with different names that tell the story of your business.
Check out our blog to help you choose the right name. It’ll walk you through the top five elements of a great business name and some things to avoid. Make sure to download our free brand name brainstorm worksheet to help you get some ideas flowing.
Once you’ve got your name, you’ll be able to officially register your business to operate in Canada. If you’re in Ontario, check out our step-by-step guide to registering in the province.
3. Evaluate Funding Opportunities
Funding is the lifeblood of any business. You’ll need to start thinking about what it’ll cost to get your business off the ground and where to find that money.
Creating a financial plan that describes your current financials and potential for growth will be a key part of your business plan and obtaining any kind of funding. You’ll need to know what your costs are and how much money you’ll be bringing in.
You’ll also need to know how much you need to start your business. BDC breaks down six steps to creating your financial projections to help you figure this out.
Once you know how much funding you’ll initially need, you can start evaluating various funding opportunities. There are multiple options to obtain funding in Canada and just as many variables that’ll impact which ones are best for you. Small business grants, venture capital and startup accelerators are among the many options you can pitch to for potential funding, while personal investments and “bootstrapping” is always an option as well. You may have different needs depending on your initial required costs and goals.
4. Write a Business Plan
A business plan is your roadmap to success. It summarizes the mission, goals and financial objectives of your business while providing details on how you will accomplish it in terms of marketing, execution and funding. It’s a core document you will need when applying for any kind of funding.
Our blog about business planning will take you through every step of how to write a business plan, including how long it should be, what you need to include and what resources are out there to help you write it.
There are all kinds of free business plan writing tools available online from organizations like RBC and Futurpreneur to help you, or you can draft it yourself using Microsoft Word (Office 365), Google Docs or Adobe templates.
When writing, take advantage of grammar tools including Grammarly and built-in spell checkers to make sure your document is free of any mistakes, polished and easy-to-read.
5. Put Together a List of Go-To Resources
The early days of starting a business can be rough. You might find yourself working with a limited budget and doing a lot of these things on your own. Entrepreneurs often find themselves wearing many hats and doing things they never expected. It’s helpful to have a bank of resources to turn to when you need them. There are so many free/low-cost tools and tips online, but that in itself can be overwhelming.
Put together your own list of resources that will help make it easier as you manage various tasks. There are countless online tools available to help entrepreneurs with everything from designing, editing and drafting content and marketing materials to managing finances.
To help you get started, we’ve created a list of some of our favourite tools and resources including books, website builders, editing tools, time trackers, financial planning calculators, Canva’s DIY design tool and more.
Knowing what tools are at your disposal will save you time help you manage all kinds of startup activities from marketing and sales to finance.
Take advantage of free online training and workshops geared to entrepreneurs. Local incubators across Ontario also hosting events while organizations like BizLaunch hosts training webinars for entrepreneurs at various prices covering topics including how to succeed as a small business owner and how to generate marketing leads.
BDC also has an extensive list of free resources including assessments, calculators to help you make financial projections, marketing plan samples and business plan templates, among others tools to help you through these early stages.
It’s also worth thinking about resources to support you on a personal level. Though an exciting time, starting a business can be exhausting, filled with lots of late nights and quick turnarounds. Keep some back pocket support, whether it’s friends, mentors, books, quotes – anything that helps inspire and reinvigorate you when you need it most.
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