Thursday, May 24, 2012

Time for a professional!: Legal Checklist Part 3

By a show of hands how many of you have taken positive steps towards reaching your goal of owning your dream business? I see a few hands are still not up. It is not too late! We know you have an idea or you would not be here. Most of you have a name for your business so get your research done and get ready for the next step. This next step sounds scary but I promise it will be ok. You are about to make your first monetary investment in your success. It is time to make an appointment with a certified public accountant known as a CPA. This might be the person that prepares your taxes or you may need to find someone new. Your CPA should service small businesses on a regular basis. You will need to rely on your CPA to help you decide what legal form your business should take. Ask around and get references!!

Why do I need a CPA to advise me on my business? Shouldn't I hire an attorney? Right now you need financial and tax advice. An attorney cannot offer you financial advice. A CPA can talk to you about your personal tax situation and discuss different business set ups that will be comfortable for you. You also need to set up a bookkeeping system. This can be a simple thing so do not panic.

For a new business the most important thing for you is knowing how to track your business expenses. It is easy to overlook things like mileage on your car which at .51 cents a mile add up quickly.  Only your CPA can tell you what records you need to keep and what you can use as a tax write off. You must capture ALL of your expenses as most new business operate at a loss. This appointment with a CPA will pay for itself almost immediately! You can expect your consultation to cost between $150 and $300. You will save more that $300 per year in deductions you never even thought about. Painless!!

Make your appointment with a CPA and get ready for next week when we talk about what type of business forms are recommended from a legal viewpoint. Are you looking to set up a partnership? Be a sole proprietor or go large and incorporate? Part four will be an overview of these different types of business set ups and loads of resources to help you decide what is best for you and make it happen! Stay tuned we are just getting to the good stuff.  See your CPA and avoid the mayhem at tax time!


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Legal Checklist: Finding a name!

Naming your business is your first legal decision! So now you have polished up your idea and you are ready to find that perfect name for your new small business. I see loads of really cute and funny or clever names out there but rarely does the chosen name tell me anything about what they do. Consider a business name that gives customers at least a hint about what you will be selling. For me, Lulu Max is not just my business name she is my alter ego. My name was being used for my law practice or I would have just used Tara Wilson Art Jewelry. Instead I used the names of my chihuahuas Lulu and Max to create Lulu Max Art Jewelry.

Now that you have a few ideas for potential names it is time to do a bit of research. Are you sensing a pattern yet? At each step of the checklist you will have a bit of homework. Sorry- I know we all hate homework. You could pay someone to help you start your business and do the research but it it not necessary. (Not to mention expensive.) You can do this!

First, you must make sure your chosen name is not being used. Start with a simple Google search of the name and see what pops up. There should be nothing similar popping up on Google. If you get hits on the name go back to the drawing board. Once you pass the Google search without finding your business name it is time to proceed to the California state website at Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development. There is a ton of information including links to check and see if the name is incorporated in the state of California. The site is complex so give yourself time to explore it fully and take advantage of all the amazing FREE information that is offered. They use checklists too which I love.

Even when you have carefully researched the availability of a name it is possible that the name you have chosen is already taken or a copyrighted phrase. Be prepared and have a "plan B" name. If you are contacted in any manner by a company or individual claiming that you cannot use your chosen business name do not ignore the request. It is time to seek legal advice immediately. There is always risk in starting a small business. Good research will help you avoid some of the risk so take the time and do your homework.

FInding the perfect name for your business is challenging but it is your first step is creating your brand and launching your idea! I would love it if you would post your business name and a brief bit about what you sell in the comments!

Lulu- I mean Tara

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Head Full of Ideas! The Legal Checklist Series #1

It begins with an idea. Perhaps a head full of ideas. Or in my case simply having more inventory of supplies than one person could ever use. So with a surplus of art materials an idea was born. I should sell the excess and keep my eyes peeled for a bulk lot great buy when I am out hunting for treasures. So, with my good friend Crystal Basica and a few hunting tips a business selling vintage mixed media art supplies was born! Lulu Max Art Jewelry now had a companion in Serendipity Salvage!

This is the first blog post in a series I am doing based on a speech I gave at Launch your Creativity- your legal checklist for starting your business! Perhaps you have always wanted your own business or maybe you are just looking for a way to supplement your income. You have an idea or a spark of an idea but don't know hot to begin.

Time to do a little research. Jump on your favorite search engine ( google) and search for your idea. You ned to see if it is already being done. Ask yourself:

                         1. Are they doing it well?
                         2.  Where are they doing business?
                         3. How is my idea better or different?
                         4. How much are they selling theirs for?
                         5. Will I be in direct competition with the sellers
                             I have found?
                         6. Do I need a new and fresh idea?

Now time for a little product research. Jump on Etsy and any similar online seller of goods that might carry a product like the one you have in mind. How are they presenting the item? What is their price point? How is the item tagged? ( This is how a vendor uses words to list an item so buyers can find them.)

Time to fine tune your idea! This is the beginning of developing your item. Begin with a product you are passionate about. Now that your idea is complete you will need a name for your business. If possible the name should tell customers something about what you do and who you are.

Next post- How to find out is your proposed name is legal and available! This series will be posted every Thursday for the next 15 weeks. Stay tuned and take that first step! You can do this and make your dreams of your own business a reality! Please follow my blog so you do not miss a step and share with your friends on Facebook!