There’s never been a better time to launch a business.
This is especially true for aspiring entrepreneurs in Eastern Kentucky who want to help bring prosperity to their hometowns. But starting a business requires a few core resources you can’t do without.
One of those happens to be a stable internet connection.
Thanks to local and statewide efforts, broadband access is rapidly expanding in Eastern Kentucky. This includes areas that weren’t connected even just five years ago.
And you don’t have to worry anymore about having a brick and mortar location on a busy Main Street in order to succeed.
The internet makes it possible for you to sell to anyone worldwide.
Once you develop your ideal client profile (ICP), you can come up with all kinds of creative ways to reach your target customers with digital tools. When considering how to operate your new business, you can tap into a worldwide workforce due to the booming remote work economy.
Plus, it doesn’t hurt that more and more people are expected to move to Kentucky. They’re attracted by our region’s natural beauty, the abundance of space, and remote work opportunities.
That being said, you can’t launch a business overnight.
It takes a lot of planning and forethought to do this right. Laying down a strong foundation for your business is vital — and it’s work.
If you take the time and follow the proper steps to prepare, it will be much easier to build a strong business for yourself. If you don’t, you run the risk of your business failing in the first few years.
Or even worse, you might burn out.
After working with hundreds of clients over several years, the SOAR Innovation team recommends completing five steps before starting a business. Follow each step, and you can gain the confidence you need to put your ideas into action.
Step 1: Research and prepare
If you talk with first-time entrepreneurs, you’re likely to hear a similar story from all of them: They faced a lot of unexpected surprises and challenges that came with running a business.
You might be coming to the table with experience and instincts about a particular area of your future business — how to build the product, deliver the best customer service, etc.
But don’t let that fool you — there’s more to running a business than what you’re already good at. Much more.
Avoid this common mistake by being realistic. You can learn from the past and prepare for what’s ahead of you in the future.
Do this by getting to know all the different aspects of running a business:
- Finance & administration: Creating a budget, tracking spending, creating financial reports, bookkeeping, and handling taxes.
- Marketing: Developing a brand, creating messaging, developing promotions, operating digital marketing channels, and advertising.
- Hiring & training: Creating job descriptions, conducting interviews, planning headcount, and onboarding.
- Operations: Creating a strategy and goals, managing staff and day-to-day operations, and meeting goals.
Take it from us — there’s no such thing as “over prepared” when you’re starting your first business.
That’s why we created The Complete Guide to Entrepreneurship in Eastern Kentucky. This resource is helping business owners in our region understand what they’re in for — and take the action steps they need to feel ready to launch.
If you complete this step and still feel overwhelmed, you’re not alone. It’s worth taking the time to prepare yourself for entrepreneurship rather than rush in.
Don’t stop here. The next four steps will help you continue moving forward.
Step 2: Write your business plan
Writing a business plan is essential before you launch.
Someday, when your to-do list is longer than there are hours in the day, you’ll come back to your business plan for guidance.
And you’ll thank yourself for laying that groundwork from the start.
Your business plan will be your roadmap throughout the life of your business. It will provide a sense of vision and purpose when you’re feeling stuck down in the details. And importantly, it will help you make good decisions.
Your business plan needs to have the following sections:
- Executive summary
- Company description and value proposition
- Products and/or services
- Organization and management experience
- Market/competitive analysis
- Marketing goals that will drive revenue
- Financial reporting and projections
- Funding requests and a budget
Most entrepreneurs plan on asking for outside funding. Your business plan will help potential investors, banks, and other funders evaluate your business idea.
Take the time to create a great one.
Step 3: Get administrative tasks in order
Set up your administrative work effectively from the start, and you’ll make your life as a new business owner much more manageable.
Managing the books is a headache-inducing task for many business owners. It doesn’t have to be for you, though.
If you use a tool like Quickbooks Online, you can speed up a lot of the core tasks you’ll need to do regularly, such as:
- Cash flow management
- Business expense and receipt tracking
You can hire a bookkeeper and accountant to manage your Quickbooks account once you’ve set it up.
They don’t have to be a full-time hire for your business, especially at the start. Many bookkeepers work part-time, and accountants can take on many clients at once.
Ensuring your taxes get filed on time will take one more source of stress off your plate. Plus, it will help your business grow faster when the opportunity presents itself.
Think of it this way: If you can spend less time logging receipts and issuing invoices, you have much more time in your day to focus on scaling your company.
Step 4: Create a website
People from all over the world buy online.
And 73% of shoppers use a mobile device to make purchases.
Having a website is an essential part of launching successfully — and securing a future for your business.
Even if you’ve never built a website before, there are tools and training available that make the process straightforward. Keep it simple at the start: Use free or low-cost services such as Wix or Squarespace.
As you build your site, make sure you select a template that’s easy to use and responsive (otherwise known as mobile-friendly).
What you sell, who you sell it to, and how they can buy it should be top of mind as you build your site. It should be easy to use, visually appealing, and trackable for measurement purposes.
Step 5: Set up Google Analytics
Measuring your website’s performance is essential to long-term success.
To know what web pages are working well for you (and which aren’t), you need data. To get ahold of that data, you need Google Analytics.
Google Analytics anonymously tracks your website visitors. It shows you which pages they visit, where they came from, forms they fill out, products they click on, and much more.
This data can help you make important decisions about where you might want to improve your website to increase sales.
This is a free service.
All it takes to implement it is a few lines of code. If you’re working with a content management platform, they might already offer a tutorial to show you how.
Conclusion: The SOAR Innovation team is here to help
Starting a business is a lot of work.
Preparation is your key to success. However, preparation is also just the beginning of your entrepreneurship journey.
While launching a new business is challenging, following these five steps will make it much more manageable.
And remember — you’re not alone on this journey. The SOAR Innovation team is here to help.
You can reach out to us for practical, hands-on help to implement any of these steps. We’re experienced entrepreneurs ourselves, and our job is to help new business owners in Eastern Kentucky get up and running successfully.
As a bonus, once you’ve completed these five steps, you’ll be an ideal candidate to join our CO.STARTERS program, which helps entrepreneurs scale their businesses in a group setting.
This engaging group experience will prepare you to seek out and apply for funding through sources like the Startup Appalachia Pitch competition.
The SOAR CO.STARTERS program is led by experienced business owners who’ve completed these essential steps themselves — and have gone on to grow successful businesses in our region.
We know you can do it, too.