Starting a Business
January, 2013 issue
In each issue of this magazine, I plan to do an in-depth article or set of articles on one subject. The choice for this issue was obvious. This is my first business and, since I did not have anyone as a mentor, I had to do the research anyways. I talked to an accountant, checked out government websites and went to the Orange County Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber hosts a couple programs that I will deal with later.
Everybody will tell you that you need a business plan. Unless you are looking for serious money from grants, loans or investors, this just means you should have some idea about what you will do and how you will sell it. Actually, it can be more complicated than that, but if this is your first business then do what I'm doing and keep it simple. Let it grow as you grow. You are going to change the plan every time you find out you cannot do what you wanted. I lost count of the number of times I changed my plan.
Talk to an accountant. You want to focus on your business, not becoming an expert on tax law, so let the real expert do the work.
Same for a lawyer. Same reason. Especially if you plan to have employees. Don't be afraid to hire, just make sure you know the rules.
Talk to an insurance agent. Make sure you get proper coverage.
Some useful websites:
Laws of New York http://public.leginfo.state.ny.us
laws of New York, skim through the table of contents or click on
GBS for the general business
City of Middletown Code http://www.middletown-ny.com
look at the menu on the left and click on
City Charter and Codes
(this has changed, there is now a button for the code, next to the button for garbage - Editor)
Business Certificates - DBA's http://www.co.orange.ny.us
County Departments click on
look at the menu on the left and click on
Business Certificates - DBA's for information on DBA's and a
list of useful links.
If you will have a partner or are setting up a corporation, talk to a lawyer. I am keeping it simple for now
with a DBA (from
doing business as). You can file a DBA with the County Clerk. To get there, take 17M
to 17 and immediately exit. Turn left on 207 and head away from Goshen. You will come to a quarry on
your right. Turn right on Quarry Road, just past the quarry, and then left on Glenmere Cove Road. Follow
the signs to the back of the complex.
The form has a raised seal, you can't print it off the web. It is easy to fill out the form. You need the name and address of the business, your name and address, and the type of business (pick from a list). You need to check in the records room to make sure no one is using the name you want. They can check for you on their computer. The clerk there also notarized my form. You need one certified copy for the bank, I got two to have a spare. The fees are detailed on their website, even with the spare copy it was less than forty dollars. You will also get an informational package and find yourself on that rarest of things - a useful mailing list. So far I have received a letter from an accountant advertising his services, a catalog from an office supply company, and a letter from a company that makes those signs about equal opportunity, minimum wage and such that employers are required to post in the workplace. I bet you have seen one of those signs in a break room but didn't think about it while reading this article.
You will want a business account to keep personal and business transactions separate. Your accountant will thank you. If you have good credit, you can also get a business credit card. That can help you get started, just remember you have to pay it back.
If you want to put your business in the downtown area, talk to the B.I.D. Their offices are on South Street in the Paramount Theater. Their programs deal more with the property owners but they can help you find a good location.
That leaves us with the Orange County Chamber of Commerce. Their office is located on Scott's Corners Drive near Montgomery. To get there, take 211 to Montgomery and turn right on 17K. Go past the light at the intersection with 208 and almost immediately turn left into a two building complex with a bank on the left and office building on the right. You will see signs directing you to the lower parking lot on the right. They also have a website (http://www.orangeny.com) that suffers a bit from information overload. They host two main programs for new or aspiring business owners, SCORE and EAP.
Entrepreneurial Assistance Program (EAP)
The Entrepreneurial Assistance Program was founded by New York State in 1987. They offer a 60 hour course (twenty 3-hour evening classes, two per week) which costs $399 and can be broken into 3 payments. It appears, from the course description, to cover in depth many things that a person new to business would not know, from web presence and marketing to financial statements and cash flow projections. The web site seems to be devoted primarily to this program so if you are interested you should check there for more information. The current class starts January 29 and the price above is for registration by the 25th.
According to the local director, Cynthia Marsh-Croll,
The program is designed to be able to help any
current or future business owner no matter where they are in the process. When asked about the
common mistakes made by people starting their first business, she stressed the importance of a
business plan and to
... have a lawyer, accountant and insurance agent to help them protect themselves
and their business.
The EAP also offers two sources for loans, the Mid-Hudson Valley Loan Fund and the Minority and Women Owned Business loan fund. They provide help with becoming NYS MWBE certified. MWBE stands for Minority Women Business Enterprise and is in regard to a requirement for twenty percent of vendors for a state agency to be so certified. They also offer workshops and one on one counseling.
They have a workshop, scheduled for January 25, called
Get Control of Your Money & Credit which is
designed to help you prepare for a business loan.
SCORE is a national non-profit that uses experienced volunteers to provide counseling to people starting or growing their small business. Their website is very self-explanatory but I will provide you with the highlights. They offer one on one counseling, by appointment, with professionals who volunteer their time. SCORE has also scheduled a series of 1½ hour workshops between March and May. The workshops cost $10 per class if you register early and $15 at the door. You can get the set of ten for $59 if you register early. The topics include financing, insurance and business plans.
Counseling is free and available to all U.S. citizens over 13. Workshops are available to all U.S. citizens over 18.