Archive for the ‘Entrepreneurship’ Category

When starting a small business you have to be practical, too. You have to plan and be realistic about whether you can afford to start it.

December 11, 2007

QUESTION.
I am planning on starting a law office focusing on immigration law.  I am in the process of writing a business plan that should be finished by the end of the week.  I have 9 years of marketing experience gained before I went to law school, and three years of immigration experience since I entered law school.  I just passed my bar exam and recently was sworn in to the bar.  I guess what I’m looking for is advice in terms of reviewing my business plan in order to obtain a small business loan to get my venture going. Is this the proper place to receive that kind of advice?

ANSWER.
SCORE specializes in helping entrepreneurs formalize their business plans so they will be sound and helpful in starting and running a small business. From what you tell me you are a recent law school grad who has passed a bar exam. If you are getting sworn in now, that tells me that you took the bar exam last winter. That tells me you have probably been out of school a year now. Am I correct?
 
Do you have student loans to pay back? Do you have any capital to put up for security for a small business loan? I doubt it. In any event, putting together a business plan is not going to help you extract money from a bank for a small business loan if you don’t have collateral and you are already heavily in debt.
 
If I am off-base with my assumptions about you, then let me know and I will change my tune.
 
You still need to put together a business plan. But you should devise it so you have minimal capital expenditure in getting your “legal consulting” practice off the ground. Consider taking a look at Listmania List #6 at www.jlippin.com/listmania.html.

I recommend you try to find temp work as a docment review attorney to help make ends meet while you get your practice up and running. You may also want to learn the ropes of how to hand municipal court matters like DUI and other traffic offenses. You can hang out at the court in the evenings and pick up chump change representing people who show up unrepresented but the judge would like to have represented. Charge $100 to lead and bleed them and 4 of those a night and you walk away with $400.
 
Maybe you can put together a great business plan that makes sense? I recommend you give it your best shot and then call your local SCORE chapter and schedule a 1-hour face-to-face session with two SCORE volunteers. See www.score.org/findscore/chapter_maps.html and type your home zip code in the appropriate space in order to find the local chapter. The counseling is free.
 
Immigration law is one of those areas that can be done online pretty well and profitably if done correctly. Your client base will be from all over the world rather than just from the area in which you live. I’ve tried to provide helpful comments. Good luck! Regards, -Jeff
 
Jeff Lippincott
SCORE.org Counselor
Princeton, NJ
scoreprinceton @ aol.com
www.scoreprinceton.org
www.jlippin.com

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Already have two home-based startups going, and now you want to start a nonprofit, too? Not a good idea!

December 9, 2007

QUESTION.
I want to start up an organization that promotes awareness of childhood sexual abuse. I am interested in finding out whether or not this is best done via a for-profit or not-for-profit. Also, I already have two home-based businesses. One is in network marketing, and the other is a singing telegram company. Both are still start ups in my opinion. I have been doing the singing telegrams for less than one year. I’d like to find out how to improve upon these two businesses, and if there are organizations that would assist me as a single, minority female.

ANSWER.
It is difficult starting small businesses. It is my recommendation that a person start a business one at a time. You have two going, so don’t shut one down. But you really should focus on just one and make it successful. Then when you have it going pretty good (and have employees doing the work), you can can move on to a new business to focus on.
 
Each business should have a sound written business plan. SCORE can help you develop your plan so it will be a road map to success. The SCORE I’m talking about is your local SCORE that has volunteers who will sit with you for an hour each session and get your business plan in good shape. The sessions are free. Email counseling is not so good for that kind of counseling. Email counseling is best for very pointed questions. Contact your local SCORE as follows. See
 
www.score.org/findscore/chapter_maps.html
 
Type your home zip code in the appropriate place and the Web site for the local chapter will appear.
 
With regard to you question about the cause you mention. That would and should be done through a nonprofit organization. See Guide #3 at www.jlippin.com/guidemania.html. But don’t start the nonprofit until you have one of your two businesses up and running and giving you a nice cash flow of revenues. You’re going to need revenues to start a nonprofit. Usually a nonprofit founder has to get the operation running and then if it appears successful it will be able to attract donors. Donors typically do not donate to a half-baked idea concept or whatever. They want to help a success story.
 
I’ve given you a few things to think about. Good luck! Regards, -Jeff
 
Jeff Lippincott
SCORE.org Counselor
Princeton, NJ
scoreprinceton @ aol.com
www.scoreprinceton.org
www.jlippin.com

Young entrepreneur wants to start a business, but is finding that it is more complicated than she initially thought it would be. Research, research, and more research is required!

December 4, 2007

QUESTION.
I started a Web site for business sellers/brokers to post this business for sale ads. I have a very limited marketing budget and I need some direction on where to allocate my limited funds. 

Below are a few of my ideas:

1. Targeted email campaigns towards business brokers- there is a company in India willing to collect emails for me for 3 cents each. The problem is since these people are not “opt in” I would probably get in trouble with anti-spam laws. Correct? Is there a way around this? I also saw online where you can “borrow” an email list which I don’t understand because technically they are not “opt in” for my site.

2.  Google keywords- I want to target specific states first such as CA, FL, NY, NJ where broker activity is higher than other states.

3. SEO- ask a development company to help with search engine rankings etc.

All of these ideas will cost money and was wondering what you think I should
focus on given my limited funds.

Hope you can help me out!

ANSWER.
I think it is wonderful that you have the entrepreneurial spirit. And a woman, too! So few women want to take the plunge. As a group you are conservative, health insurance hungry, and generally not too energetic.
 
The questions you ask are integral to a marketing plan for your business. Generally speaking, the only way to come up with a great answer for you would be to research your market (your competitors, their customers, and the industry in general). That is a big project. As a SCORE counselor I don’t do that for you. I listen to you when you hand me an attempt at a business plan. If I see holes in the business plan (which includes a financial plan, marketing plan, publicity plan, and networking plan), then I make my recommendations.

What you need to do is become expert at putting together a business plan. Please take a look at guides 8 and 6 at www.jlippin.com/guidemania.html. Also, take a look at list 68 entitled Business Plans Handbook Volumes 1-13 at www.jlippin.com/listmania.html. And to see the list of sample business plans in the different volumes then look at www.jlippin.com/bph/.

The last two links relate to sample plans – lots of them. I highly recommend you read as many as possible so you get a feel for what a plan is about. They don’t have to be just like the business you want to start. In fact, all plans are pretty much the same. It’s just the particulars or the business model, or the unique mix of marketing tools, that changes from one plan to another.
 
Two other books I highly recommend you get copies of are: “Making a Fortune Promoting Other Peoples Stuff Online” by Rosalind Gardner (ISBN: 0071478132), and “Business Models Made Easy” by Don Debelek (ISBN: 1599180413). Read the book reviews I have posted on Amazon for each.

I have provided you with a few comments. I hope they prove helpful. Good luck! Regards, -Jeff
 
Jeff Lippincott
SCORE.org Counselor
Princeton, NJ
scoreprinceton @ aol.com
www.scoreprinceton.org
www.jlippin.com

Guy who wants to start a Hedge Fund needs to choose a entity type for his business and a Limited Liability Company (LLC) is probably the route to go.

December 2, 2007

QUESTION.
I need to learn how to start a company that is owned by my father but I am the sole employee.  I want to start a trading company [I would trade commodities unsing only my own money – as a business]. I need to be advised as to the best business structure for this type of business.

ANSWER.
So you want to be a Commodities Trader like Richard Dennis? See “The Complete TurtleTrader” by Michael Covel (ISBN: 9780061241703). See also, “Hedge Hunters” by Katherine Burton (ISBN: 1576602451). I’m not sure of the ins and outs of the business you want to start. But to answer your question, I recommend you form a single-member Limited Liability Company (LLC) and for tax purposes have the IRS treat it as a C Corporation. Forming the LLC is the cheapest route to go to forming a separate legal entity for liability purposes. And you can get all the tax write-offs of a C Corporation. Just make sure at the end of the tax year all profits in the LLC are paid to you as a bonus so none of your income is subject to double taxation. Consider taking a look at “Structuring Your Business” by Michele Cagan (ISBN: 1593371772) which covers the different choice of entity options available for someone starting a small business. Make sure to read the book review I posted on Amazon for Cagan’s book. Good luck! Regards, -Jeff
 
Jeff Lippincott
SCORE.org Counselor
Princeton, NJ
scoreprinceton @ aol.com
www.scoreprinceton.org
www.jlippin.com

Wanta-be entrepreneur has got it right knowing that putting a business plan together will be the key to her success as a small business founder.

December 1, 2007

QUESTION.
I am starting a new business and know that I will need a business plan. I want to know how to make a strong plan that will get the attention of my investors. Also, I would like to know if you could lead me to someone that looks over tax ID paperwork for the state. I have my federal tax ID number, but I am looking for help with the state paperwork.

ANSWER.
You make a strong business plan by doing the necessary research and writing a plan that is sound. You should be more interested in writing a plan for you to follow when starting and running your business. You should leave no stones unturned when putting together your plan. If you do that, then the banks will think highly of your plan.
 
I don’t normally suggest to my SCORE clients to think in terms of relying on their business plan to get a loan. It is best to take a second mortage on your home to get start up funds. And if you don’t have a home to mortgage, then consider finding someone who has capital that you can partner with.
 
Your federal tax ID is the one you should use for your state paperwork, too. If there is some state entity that is going to require you to get some sort of ID, then it will tell you how to do it. For example, if you sell products, then you will have to get a state sales tax ID.
 
I don’t know what business you are going to start, but consider going to your public library and reading as many of the volumes of Business Plans Handbook that you can get hold of. The more sample business plans you read the easier it will be for you to do the research and write your own business plan. See what is currently List #68 at www.jlippin.com/listmania.html. The list is entitled Business Plans Handbook by Thomson Gale Volumes 1-13.
 
See also, http://www.jlippin.com/bph/ to get a list of the types of sample plans included in the volumes.
 
By the way, usually you form an LLC or a corporation for your business AFTER you have written the business plan. And you can only get the Tax ID after you apply for the LLC or the corporation. Sounds like you are a little ahead of yourself.
 
I hope my comments are helpful to you. Good luck! Regards, -Jeff
 
Jeff Lippincott
SCORE.org Counselor
Princeton, NJ
scoreprinceton @ aol.com
www.scoreprinceton.org
www.jlippin.com

Are you interested in starting a small town newspapers? Do some research and write a business plan. It’s that simple!

June 30, 2007

QUESTION.
I would like to start a small town newsletter. We do not currently have a local paper so to obtain financing I plan to solicit local businesses for advertising. My concern is in liability so I thought a single member LLC status would limit
my husband and I from any legal liability if a reader found some fault in something that was printed. My goal is to provide information to the public about local events and services. Do you think I should establish this venture as an LLC or as some other business type? How will our personal assets be affected?

ANSWER.
An LLC would be the best option to use if you are going to make it a for-profit enterprise. It sounds like you may be able to make it a nonprofit enterprise. If so, then you will have to incorporate. See

BECOME A FOUNDER OF A NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION 
 
PICK A BUSINESS, CREATE A BUSINESS PLAN, AND START IT SOON
 
FIGURE OUT HOW TO WRITE A BUSINESS PLAN
 
I hope my comments are helpful to you. Feel free to send me follow-on questions via email. Good luck! Regards, -Jeff
 
Jeff Lippincott
SCORE.org Counselor
Princeton, NJ
scoreprinceton @ aol.com
www.scoreprinceton.org
www.jlippin.com

Thinking about starting your own collections agency? Know what you are getting involved in before you get started!

June 30, 2007

QUESTION.
Our local SCORE counselor has suggested I seek advice from someone listed on the SCORE Web site.  I chose you for the reasons that you are an attorney and have the qualifications that come closest to the business I am contemplating.

I am a paralegal and have been employed with a law firm for the past 11 years specializing in insurance subrogation and other collections.  I really enjoyed the insurance subrogation which was approximately 60-75% of my workload, and did everything from preparing the complaints (the majority were small claims) to tracking the payments and license suspensions.  The firm is no longer representing the insurance company and there are times when I question my future with this firm.

I have been contemplating the idea of starting my own collection agency.  I’d like to target the insurance companies but still keep other options open.  My problem is that I don’t know whether there is a market or demand for this service.  Can you give me any guidance on this?

ANSWER.
I was just speaking to a collegue of mine last week who wanted to know about starting a collections firm. She wanted to know if I had done much of it when I practiced law. I did some, but I didn’t specialize in it.
 
Since you have worked in a law firm you view the collections work from a law firm perspective. In reality, collections work at a law firm is not a collections AGENCY. Instead, it is a collections FIRM since filing lawsuits and negotiating settlements is the practice of law. As a paralegal you are not authorized to legally practice law and thus the collection work you are involved in is not an option for you should you try to start your own business.
 
Collection agencies do follow-up billing mailings and make phone calls to try to get late payors to pay what is owed. They typically have doctors offices and other private practicing professionals as clients. When they cannot collect the debt, then they hand off the matter to a law firm that does collections work. There is money to be made doing this, but it is not the same type of work you are used to doing.
 
If you want to continue doing the type work you have been doing, then you may want to get a job at another law firm that does that kind of work. Or you might want to get a job at a large insurance company that will hire you to do all the administrative work its law firm does in the collection process. Your work product would be handed off to the law firm. The insurance firm would benefit in lower costs because it would be cheaper to have you on its payroll than to pay exorbindant legal fees for the same work.

I do a little book reviewing at Amazon and stumbled across a woman who does collections work. See her site at www.credit-and-collections.com. Her books don’t get reviewed all that well, but the site might give you some ideas.
 
I hope my comments are helpful to you. Good luck! Regards, -Jeff
 
Jeff Lippincott
SCORE.org Counselor
Princeton, NJ
scoreprinceton @ aol.com
www.scoreprinceton.org
www.jlippin.com

So you want to start a hair salon business? Start researching so you can write a killer business plan!

June 30, 2007

QUESTION.
I would like to  start a hair salon buisness. How do I get the licensing and regulations on starting a salon buisness? How do write a proposal for a small buisness grant?  And how to keep the business financally stable?

ANSWER.
SCORE offers two kinds of counseling. One is email counseling (the type you are seeking now). The other is face-to-face counseling. I recommend you contact your local SCORE chapter and schedule a face-to-face session with two SCORE volunteers. Visit the following link (see http://www.score.org/findscore/chapter_maps.html) and enter your home zip code in the appropriate space to find your local SCORE.
 
Before you call to make an appointment I recommend you find, read and study the following book. See
 
HOW TO START A BUSINESS IN YOUR STATE ONE

HOW TO START A BUSINESS IN YOUR STATE TWO

Make sure to read the book review I wrote for it at Amazon.
 
Two more links that might interest you. See

PICK A BUSINESS, CREATE A BUSINESS PLAN, AND START IT SOON 
 
HOW TO WRITE A BUSINESS PLAN
 
Consider consulting your public library to find the following reference collection. See
 
BUSINESS PLANS HANDBOOK
 
Volume 6 has a sample business plan for a hair salon. Try to search it out. I also recommend you read as many of the sample business plans in the collection to help you get a feel for what a business plan is all about.
 
I’m 99% sure you aren’t going to get any grants. But you may end up applying for a small business loan and you will need a stellar business plan to get any money from a bank. The local SCORE counselors should be able to point you in the right direction to get the license you need.
 
I hope my comments are helpful to you. Good luck! Regards, -Jeff
 
Jeff Lippincott
SCORE.org Counselor
Princeton, NJ
scoreprinceton @ aol.com
www.scoreprinceton.org
www.jlippin.com

Rehash your old corporation and turn it into a new one. And don’t forget to trademark the new name.

June 30, 2007

QUESTION.
I am a starting a Web-based business and I am seeking help in trademarking my new company name.  Also, I formed a corporation and obtained a Tax ID a few years ago, under a different name. However, I did not do anything with it.  Is this still valid?  Can I just add my new company name to it and continue to use the tax ID #?  If so, how do I go about doing that?

ANSWER.
To trademark a name you need to use it for a bit before you can apply for trademark protection. Whenever you use your company name you can put “TM” after it and you are protected. To learn more about trademark protection you can visit the following site. See http://www.uspto.gov/. As a SCORE counselor I’m not going to get into the specifics of applying for a trademark because to do so is generally considered the practice of law. I don’t do that in my SCORE capacity.
 
With regard to your existing corporation, you can use it for your new company. You will need to file a fictitious name registration in your state in the same place you filed your corporate papers. The owner of the fictitious name should be your corporation. That way your corporation will be viewed as “doing business as” the ficititious name.
 
I hope my comments are helpful to you. Good luck! Regards, -Jeff
 
Jeff Lippincott
SCORE.org Counselor
Princeton, NJ
scoreprinceton @ aol.com
www.scoreprinceton.org
www.jlippin.com

Pick a business, write a business plan, start it soon. And maybe starting your own clothing line is the right business?

June 30, 2007

QUESTION.
I am a fashion designer and I want to start my own line and clothing store. I am now writing my business plan and I am seeking advice on how to make my dream a reality.

ANSWER.
You’ve got the right idea. The first step is to write a business plan. See
 
PICK A BUSINESS, WRITE A BUSINESS PLAN, START IT SOON
 
FIGURE OUT HOW TO WRITE A BUSINESS PLAN
 
I also recommend you contact your local SCORE chapter and set up a face-to-face meeting with two SCORE volunteers. CLICK HERE to find the SCORE chapter closest to you. The sessions are free and last an hour. SCORE excels at helping its clients create sound business plans.
 
I hope my comments are helpful to youl. Good luck! Regards, -Jeff
 
Jeff Lippincott
SCORE.org Counselor
Princeton, NJ
scoreprinceton @ aol.com
www.scoreprinceton.org
www.jlippin.com