Tips for Becoming a New Small Business Owner

Feature Story

Congratulations on your decision to join the ranks of the Small Business Owners’ (SBO), not only in New Bern, but across the United States! As a fellow SBO, I would like to offer some basic tips to get you started:

1. Create a business plan, even if you’re not asking for financial support. If you are asking for a loan or grant, you will need to show them your business plan before they consider financing your idea. Don’t just create a plan and forget about it. Continually monitor and update your plan as your business grows. This will keep you on target to a successful business.

2. Keep your personal and business finances separate (bookkeeping records)! If you don’t it can cause a major headache at the end of the year when you report your taxes. Speaking of tax time, order your 1099s and W2s at least three months ahead of time or else you’ll find yourself purchasing them at the last minute paying a pretty penny at Staples.

3. Save money by ordering your business cards via Vistaprint, they have great deals and sometimes you can get 250 cards for free, you just pay the shipping costs. They also have some fantastic deals on postcards and other promotional items. If you prefer specially crafted business cards, use a local New Bern Business to help you create it.

4. Marketing your business will make the difference between success and failure. You have to make prospective clients aware of your new business to include the services and products you offer. Marketing is something that should be done on a continuous basis and is different from advertising. Here are some things to consider when it comes to marketing:

– Send a personal letter with a brochure. If you can’t afford it, postcards are cheaper, especially when it comes to the current postage fees. Keep records of your mailing list and follow up with a phone call to introduce yourself. If you’re planning on distributing flyers, remember, it is illegal to place anything into someone’s mailbox and some people may report you. You can lose your business before you even start!

– Make sure you have your “elevator speech” ready and pass out your business cards to everyone you meet!

– Purchase some business card holders and ask local merchants for their permission to leave your business cards at their checkout counters.

– Attend the Greater New Bern Business Expo on August 20, 2009 from 10am – 5pm at the New Bern Riverfront Convention Center and meet other business owners and residents who are attending the show.

– Create a website and introduce your services. Make sure to include keywords for search engine optimization (SEO) and submit your website to the search engines. For information about creating a webpage, visit New Bern Now’s: Advertising Opportunities.

– When you receive a call from a prospective customer, ask them how they heard about your business so you can alter your marketing plan.

5. There are different types of advertising campaigns. The Branding ad campaign is based on repetition. Let’s say you want people to see your name over and over again hoping to infiltrate into their subconscious. You simply place an advertisement with your media of choice and wait for your name to become known in your community. Depending on your choice of media, the costs vary tremendously. The other type of advertising is an ad campaign that triggers an immediate response: you have a special sale on a certain date only. The following are things to think about before you decide to advertise:

– Carefully review your budget and choose which advertising campaign is right for you.

– Take time to research all of your options, online, newspaper, television, etc.

– I learned an important advertising lesson. After submitting an ad in a newspaper for 7 weeks, a friend saw my ad 4 weeks later and told me the words in my advertisement were spelled wrong. My #1 mistake was not checking the paper to look at my ad because I trusted that the ad would look “exactly” like the one I submitted. For one thing, I never received a “proof” prior to the date the ad was to run in the paper. I was wrong and the kicker was – I offered writing, proofing, and editing services in the advertisement. So for those who submit ads make sure you double check the printed ad and make sure it is corrected immediately! By the way, I double checked the ad that I submitted and it didn’t have any typographical errors. Another note, make sure you receive their proof before it runs!

For more information about starting a business visit:

The Government’s Small Business Administration website offers valuable business startup information. Internal Revenue Services Tax Information for businesses.

If you’re starting a business in New Bern, make sure you check with the NC Department of Labor to find out what licenses and permits may be required. Also, contact the City of New Bern for privilege and tax information.

Don’t forget about workman’s compensation and general liability insurance.

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Wendy Card