5 Inevitable steps before launching a business

Launching a business often seems easier said than done. Our amazing and inspiring community of women entrepreneurs makes it seem effortless. Even when we hear how they struggled and the obstacles they had to overcome, it can still look like success came easy.

Or maybe that negative voice in your head, also known as imposter syndrome, is telling you that you don’t have what it takes to do what others have done. Maybe you feel that it’s easier for other entrepreneurs because they’re more skilled or more talented. But that’s far from the truth. We all are capable of success. If you want to learn the secrets to successfully launch your dream into a business, then read on as we share 5 key steps every aspiring entrepreneur needs to know.

“If you’ve been considering starting a business for some time, stop letting your fears and worries keep from making it a reality,” says Melinda Emerson, known to many as @SmallBizLady, on Small Business Trends.  She is a Veteran Entrepreneur, Small Business Coach and Social Media Strategist who hosts #Smallbizchat for emerging entrepreneurs on Twitter.

Manuel Martinez, president and CEO of the Los Angeles-based Success Training Institute, said, “preparation, preparation, preparation” are the three keys to successfully launching a business, during a  Money Talk on KCAA Radio segment.

While it seems prudent to launch a business during good economic times, “anytime is a good time to start a business,” said Martinez, who offers education and advice to small business owners. He said that success has less to do with the economy and more to do with being prepared. He stressed that the prepared entrepreneur will have the greatest shot at success even over well-established but ill-prepared competitors.

“Without proper market research and a solid business plan, a business is more likely to fail,” according to The Ultimate Small Business Guide. “The more advanced preparation that is done, the better the chances for success.”

launching a business, startup

Preparation is key before launching a business, according to expert Manuel Martinez. (Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash)

Being prepared means knowing as much as possible about a proposed venture. Entrepreneurs will significantly benefit from having firsthand experience with the type of enterprise being launched. Regardless of their business acumen, entrepreneurs who lack hands-on experience will be at a disadvantage over better prepared and informed competitors.

The following five key steps to help aspiring entrepreneurs prepare for a new business launch.

5 Key steps to launching a business

1. TRADE: Know the trade

Don’t assume that a decade working as a waitress or bartender provides the necessary insight and experience to successfully run a restaurant or bar of one’s own. There’s a lot more that goes on behind the scenes. Entrepreneurs need to know what it takes to run the entire operation.

Martinez encouraged entrepreneurs to “do something familiar,” adding, “Don’t do what you don’t know.” Those seeking to launch a business should spend time doing the work at a comprehensive level.

Entrepreneurs with no experience in a specific industry should seek a position to learn the business, spending sufficient time to learn about it from top to bottom. Once the doors of a new company are opened, plenty of day-to-day issues will pile up, without the owner having to learn the business from scratch.

2. LAUNCH: Understand exactly what launching a business entails

All small businesses require some form of licensing, such as a business permit, resale license or liquor license. Find out what necessary. Consult with a professional to learn the requirements. Reach out to organizations such as the SCORE and the Small Business Development Centers network of the Small Business Administration for free guidance.

FindLaw provides a list of commonly required licenses and permits, including state and local business licenses, registration for taxes, an occupational or resale license, a business name registration, and zoning, health, building and environmental permits. Business owners should carefully consider the licenses and permits required as well as the cost and time frames for approval.

3. COST: Estimate start-up costs

According to the Small Business Administration, “Since every business is different, and has its own specific cash needs at different stages of development, there is no universal method for estimating your startup costs.”

Entrepreneurs must create a budget and conduct a cash-flow analysis that begins with startup expenses, such as costs for permits and licenses, and extends past the anticipated break-even date. A business owner should determine needs versus wants when weighing where to spend cash and also allow for additional funds in case the break-even points arrives later than expected.

Appropriate cash management makes the difference between open and closed doors in the startup phase.

You might be interested: Alice Rodriguez: Overcoming obstacles and the power to succeed in business and life

4. BUSINESS PLAN: Create a business plan and follow it.

Starting a business and keeping it running is like maintaining a garden: To keep it healthy and producing fruit, it needs continual tending. Create a business plan and follow it daily, to develop the business, staff and products. Keep a finger on the company’s pulse and adapt.

“The importance of planning should never be overlooked,” according to TD Bank‘s website. “Taking time to create an extensive business plan provides you with insight into your business.”

5. RISKS: Manage risks.

“Make sure you are protected from anything that might take down your business that you worked so hard to build,” said Hunter Hoffmann, head of U.S. Communications at Hiscox Small Business Insurance of White Plains, N.Y., during a Money Talk radio interview.

“Entrepreneurs too often fail to properly insure their businesses,” noted insurance broker Dave Terpening Torrance, Calif., during an interview. “They roll the dice hoping for the best.”

“Insurance professionals can be great sounding boards to business owners,” he added. “An experienced insurance professional has seen and heard the horror stories and can advise new business owners on how to best create an affordable and effective risk management strategy.”

This article was originally written by Jesse Torres and published in 2015. It has been updated for relevancy. 

Exporting for small businesses now a STEP away with SBA

Carlos Medina, Pres SHCCNJ, Maria Contreras-Sweet, SBA Administrator, Luis O De la Hoz, SVP The Intersect Fund, and Tayde Aburto, Pres HCEC.

From left to right, Carlos Medina, Pres SHCCNJ, Maria Contreras-Sweet, SBA Administrator, Luis O De la Hoz, SVP The Intersect Fund, and Tayde Aburto, Pres HCEC.

Have you been thinking of expanding your business globally looking for new opportunities, maybe in Latin America where you dominate the language and have strong business and family connections?

For small business owners, it might be a scary proposition to get entangled with the import-export red tape but now The State Trade and Export Promotion Grant Program (STEP), a 3-year pilot trade and export initiative to make matching-fund grants for states to assist “eligible small business concerns,” enter and succeed in the international marketplace, might give you an opportunity.

About the Program

The STEP Program’s objectives are to increase the number of small businesses that are exporting, and to increase the value of exports for those small businesses that are currently exporting.

The program’s STEP services are managed and provided at the local level by state government organizations. The program is managed at the national level by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of International Trade. At the state level, The Program has total Federal funding of $60,000,000, for use over a two-year period.

Under the statute, the 50 states, District of Columbia, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa, are eligible to compete for award of matching-fund grants. The ratio of Federal to state matching funds is 75% to 25%, except for high exporting states, for which the ratio of Federal to state matching funds is 65% to 35%, and territorial possessions of the Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa, for which matching funds requirements are waived to a maximum of $200,000.

Services to be provided by states to ‘eligible small business concerns,’ under the Program include support for participation in foreign trade missions and market sales trips, subscription to services provided by the Department of Commerce, design of international marketing products and campaigns, export trade show exhibits, training, and other efforts aligned with Program goals.

Under the Program, in most cases the Federal government provides 75% of the funding required for the total project, and states provide 25%. However, for the top three states in value of exports, the Federal government provides 65% of total funding, while states provide 35%.

For further information regarding the STEP Program, and state-by-state information, please go to

SBA logo


How to Find STEP State Service Providers

  • Award amounts, program descriptions, and points of contact for all states, listed alphabetically[link]
  • Scroll down to table entitled “Current Grants by State,” and click on individual states for award amounts, program descriptions, and points of contact.
  • Contact (link sends e-mail)

Current Grants by State

State Federal Award State Match Award Total
Alabama $115,251.00 $38,417.00 $153,668.00
Arkansas $207,535.00 $69,178.00 $276,713.00
California $747,781.00 $402,605.00 $1,150,386.00
Colorado $195,938.00 $65,313.00 $261,251.00
Connecticut $350,000.00 $116,667.00 $466,667.00
Delaware $276,741.00 $92,247.00 $368,988.00
Hawaii $750,000.00 $250,000.00 $1,000,000.00
Idaho $346,708.00 $115,569.00 $462,277.00
Illinois $685,855.00 $228,618.00 $914,473.00
Iowa $190,000.00 $63,333.00 $253,333.00
Kansas $296,533.00 $98,844.00 $395,377.00
Kentucky $400,000.00 $133,333.00 $533,333.00
Maine $161,048.00 $53,683.00 $214,731.00
Maryland $518,413.00 $172,804.00 $691,217.00
Massachusetts $500,000.00 $166,667.00 $666,667.00
Michigan $750,000.00 $250,000.00 $1,000,000.00
Minnesota $564,132.00 $188,044.00 $752,176.00
Mississippi $540,100.00 $180,033.00 $720,133.00
Missouri $599,000.00 $199,666.00 $798,666.00
Montana $347,688.00 $115,896.00 $463,584.00
Nebraska $300,570.00 $100,190.00 $400,760.00
Nevada $300,000.00 $100,000.00 $400,000.00
New Hampshire $199,878.00 $66,626.00 $266,504.00
New Jersey $498,000.00 $166,000.00 $664,000.00
New Mexico $193,700.00 $64,567.00 $258,267.00
New York $663,893.00 $221,297.00 $885,190.00
North Carolina $746,800.00 $248,933.00 $995,733.00
North Dakota $287,694.00 $95,898.00 $383,592.00
Ohio $700,000.00 $233,333.00 $933,333.00
Oregon $450,000.00 $150,000.00 $600,000.00
Pennsylvania $698,613.00 $232,871.00 $931,484.00
Puerto Rico $288,650.00 $96,217.00 $384,867.00
Rhode Island $373,000.00 $124,333.00 $497,333.00
South Carolina $349,218.00 $116,406.00 $465,624.00
Utah $395,000.00 $131,667.00 $526,667.00
Vermont $174,461.00 $58,154.00 $232,615.00
Virginia $578,500.00 $192,833.00 $771,333.00
Washington $747,300.00 $402,346.00 $1,149,646.00
West Virginia $200,000.00 $66,667.00 $266,667.00
Wisconsin $712,000.00 $237,333.00 $949,333.00

Explore exporting with the SBA

Here are very reasonable steps the Small Business Administration has put together to help you start the process. Small businesses looking to increase sales and profit, reduce dependence on the domestic market and stabilize seasonal fluctuations should consider exporting. Consider these facts:

  • Nearly 96 percent of consumers live outside the U.S.
  • Two-thirds of the world’s purchasing power is in foreign countries.

Step 1: Register on and take the Free Export Readiness Self-Assessment

Create an account on and complete this questionnaire to determine if your small business is ready to begin exporting and get advice on how to expand into new markets. 

Step 2: Training and Counseling

The federal government offers free in-person counseling services to help small businesses obtain export financing and locate business opportunities overseas.

Located in major metropolitan areas throughout the U.S., these centers provide small and medium-sized businesses with local, personalized export assistance by professionals from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Export-Import Bank and other public and private organizations.

The U.S. Commercial Service provides a network of export and industry specialists located in over 100 U.S. cities and 80 countries. These professionals provide free counseling and a variety of services to assist small and midsized U.S. business export efforts.

The U.S. Trade and Development Agency provides this database of companies and individuals providing fee-based consulting services to small businesses interested in importing and exporting.

Take our online training course on exporting to help determine if exporting, as a business strategy, makes sense for your small business and whether the basic ingredients for export readiness are in-place.

Step 3: Create an Export Business Plan

Creating an export business plan is important for defining your company’s present status, internal goals and commitment. You learn how to develop an export plan by assembling facts, identifying constraints and setting specific goals and objectives as milestones to success.

Step 4: Conduct Market Research

Use market research to learn your product’s potential in a given market, where the best prospects exist for success, and common business practices. The Market Research Library (link is external) is the U.S. government’s repository of the latest information prepared by commercial and economic experts in U.S. embassies worldwide. Trade Stats Express is a powerful tool for identifying target markets.

Step 5: Find Buyers

Federal, state and local governments are continually organizing highly focused export events directly putting U.S. sellers and potential foreign buyers in direct contact. Opportunities range from meeting foreign buyer delegations at select U.S. trade shows to signing up for a foreign trade mission or trade show overseas.

Step 6: Investigate Financing Your Small Business Exports, Foreign Investment or Projects

Become familiar with SBA’s export loan programs and other federal government financing, insurance and grant programs to help your company finance its transactions and assist in carrying your export operations. These resources help small businesses ensure foreign payment and manage or remove risk from the equation for both the business and its bank.


This information was reposted from the SBA site