How to Start a Small Local Business

By Annie Mueller

  • Overview

    Starting a business is always a challenge, but a very rewarding one. It is an even richer experience when you make the best use of all the local resources you have, and use your local network to not only build up your business but also boost the economy of the area in which you live.
    • Step 1

      Determine what type of product or service you want to offer. Chances are, you already know, and hopefully it is something you love and are good at creating. Take a few minutes to jot some notes about all your ideas for services and products, how they relate to each other, what they offer to other people and how you are qualified to provide them.
    • Step 2

      Find a local angle. What do the people in your area need, and how do your products and services meet their needs? Speak clearly and simply and in the local language--don't get lost in business jargon and Internet marketing ideas; those are great in their proper place, and certainly will have some use in your local business, but you've got to first fix your vision on the local people who will be your clients and customers. What are they like? What are they interested in? What do you know about them? Are you native to the area and people know your name, or are you a transplant? Can you talk with some local people to get more ideas about how your service or product fits into the local economy and the lives of people in your area?


    • Step 3

      Write out a business plan, including what you need for starting capital. If you are offering a service, you may be able to keep your initial capital requirements low, but it depends on the supplies and equipment you need in order to provide the service. If you are offering a product, calculate the costs of inventory, packaging, shipping and local distribution. A business plan does not have to be complicated; see Resources for a sample business plan.
    • Step 4

      Make contact with local suppliers for the materials you need, whether that's Internet service or raw food ingredients. The more local business you do, the more contact you have with the people in your area. Local businesses can help one another by using each other as resources and each business can promote the other business to its customers. Networking at a coworking space is a great place to find local individuals and work your way up the supply chain.
    • Step 5

      Figure out the best options for location. Can you work from your home or do you need a separate work space in a commercial or industrial area? Try to keep your overhead costs as low as possible. You may be able to sub-rent a small space from an already established business in town for a fraction of what it would cost to rent your own commercial space.
    • Step 6

      Register your business name. You can work as a sole proprietorship, which doesn't require any special paperwork, but if you are doing business under a name other than your own you will need to register, usually with your state government, for a DBA (doing business as) name. Contact your Secretary of State's office to find out how to get the paperwork done. Many states now offer online methods of registering a name, which makes the whole process quick and easy.
    • Step 7

      Market, market, market. Word of mouth and establishing relationships are the best marketing methods. You can make business cards and flyers for a relatively cheaply, especially if you design them yourself and either print them yourself or have them printed at a local printing store (which gives you another opportunity to make contact with business owners). Hand out business cards, hang up signs and flyers wherever you can, give out free samples, and most of all, participate in community events and local government.
    • Skill: Challenging

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