Starting a Business in South Carolina
1. The Business Plan
The first step to starting your business should be to develop a business plan. The business plan itself doesn't have a specific structure. However, most business plans will include
- Executive Summary
- Ownership Summary
- Business Climate Study
- Product and/or Service Description
- Market Study
- Marketing Plan
- Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) Analysis
- Web Plan Summary
- Personnel Plan
- Financial Summary
The purpose of the business plan is to give you a guide to follow as you start and operate your business. You will also learn more about your industry, product, service and market during the development of the plan. The business plan will also give you an accurate financial picture of the resources needed to operate your business.
Once the plan has been completed, use it as a guide. However, don't be afraid to adjust the plan as your business climate, market and opportunities change.
There are many resources available online and within the Chamber membership that will help you develop a business plan.
- Online Resources
- BPlans - www.bplans.com - BPlans provides plenty of free business plan templates available for free. If you need a quick plan or a template to jump-start your idea, this site may be a good resource.
- LivePlan - www.liveplan.com - LivePlan by Palo Alto Software provide a more customizable option in creating your plan. It is a paid service, but it can provide a value if you don't have the resources to hire a firm to help you develop your plan.
- Local Resources
- SCORE - www.piedmontscore.org - SCORE provides expertise from retired executives. They can help develop business plans when you have more time to develop your idea.
- UniComm Meda Group - www.unicommmedia.com - UniComm Media Group provides the marketing, business, and financial expertise necessary to develop your business plan.
2. Registering Your Business
During the business planning process you will develop a strong name for your business. The next step in starting your business is registering that business with the appropriate authorities. Depending on your industry you may need to register with more than one of these agencies. All business registrations are processed through the South Carolina Secretary of State's Office, but you may need a special license or permit from the South Carolina Department of Labor, License and Regulation, SC Department of Revenue, and any cities or counties in which you operate.
Need help deciding which type of business organization is best for your business? Contact your attorney or accountant to discuss this topic. You may also contact local accounting firm Spara,LLC for guidance.
Registration Registration Links
- SC Secretary of State - www.scsos.com - All business registrations (LLCs, LLPs, S-Corps, C-Corps, etc.) are processed through the South Carolina Secretary of State's Office
- SC Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation - www.llr.state.sc.us - LLR issues licenses to specific types of businesses including CPA firms, contractors and cosmetologists. Check the LLR website to see if you are required to have a license to operate in South Carolina.
- SC Department of Revenue - http://www.sctax.org/default.htm - The South Carolina Department of Revenue collects sales and use taxes as well as withholding taxes from your business.
- Local governments - cities and counties may require specific registrations and licenses for operating in their territory. Check your local city or county website for local codes and licenses applicable to your industry.
3. Financing your business
There are a variety of funding sources available.
- Small Business Administration - www.sba.gov
- Michelin Development Company - www.michelindevelopment.com
- Community Works - www.communityworkscarolina.org
- Appalachian Development Corporation - www.appalachiandevelopmentcorp.com
4. Branding & Marketing Your Business
Once the business is registered, financed, and planned, it is time to implement a brand and marketing strategy.
Your brand will be what is most closely associated with your business. Because of this reason, you should invest time and resources in developing your name, logo and brand identity. Hire a marketing expert that will provide you with quality designs and insight. Avoid design firms that promise above average branding services at very low rates. Remember that your brand is one you should plan to keep for a minimum of five years. And as a new business with no brand recognition, it is vital that your brand stands out from your competitors.
Hire an expert firm like UniComm Media Group to help develop your brand. You can also find more marketing firms in our Membership Directory.
Your marketing strategy is vital to the success of your business. You have to decide how much to spend on advertising, which advertising venues you wil use, and how you will measure your return on investment. Be careful not to engage in uncoordinated marketing campaigns. Take the time to plan your strategy and measure results.
UniComm Media Group offers marketing strategy services and offers SCHCC members a free consultation about their marketing strategy.
5. Accounting Help
Accounting information provides the basis for sound decision-making. Having an in-depth knowledge about accounting will help you know your business better, know which products or services are profitable, predict cashflow and plan purchases accurately.
It is vital that the new business owner takes the time to properly set up his accounting system in a way that will help him streamline record-keeping and provide accurate statements. Learn about accounting software like Intuit Quickbooks, but more importantly, hire an accounting professional like Spara, LLC to run your accounting functions for you. You can find more accounting firms on our Membership Directory.
Growing your Business
With growth, your business will face unique challenges along the road.
Hiring and Retaining Employees
Perhaps one of the first areas of growth will be payroll. It is vital that you stay up-to-date on the process of hiring, retaining and dismissing employees.
- Hiring and retaining employees - SBA.gov - The SBA provides an excellent guide to hring and retaining your first employee. Remember to follow human resources guidelines and utilize ethical hiring practices when adding personnel.
- Payroll function in accounting - Intuit, Spara LLC - Intuit offers payroll and accounting services that can help you stay on top of the payroll functions. You can also rely on an expert like Spara LLC to perform the payroll functions for you. It is important to keep an accurate track of your employees' payroll, withholdings and to file timely reports to the IRS and local reporting agencies.
Improve your Banking Relationship
As your business grows, so will your need for capital. Improve your relationship with your bank so that you can establish lines of credit, borrow short and long-term loans, and get access to higher-yielding bank accounts.
Examine Your Capital Structure
Before you purchase or lease new equipment, you should analyze the capital structure of your business. Determine what is your cost of capital. Your cost of capital will be your aggregate cost of borrowing and utilizing funds to purchase new equipment. Analyze your cost of using retained earnings, lines of credit, long-term borrowing, stocks, and bonds. This article from Investopedia.com explains how to calculate your cost of capital. Speak to your accountant or contact the Chamber for expert help.
Financing Your Business
There are a variety of funding sources available.
- Small Business Administration
- Michelin Development Company
- Community Works
- Appalachian Development Corporation
Franchising may be a viable avenue for growth for your business. Use this article from the SBA as a guide to franchising.
Government entities often utilize the same products and services you offer. Some companies may benefit from doing business with government agencies. While the process of winning a government contract may not be easy, it is often worth the investment. The key to doing business with the govenrment successfully is to start locally and grow into bigger contracts. Visit your local city or county website and search for procurement opportunities in your industry. Once you are comfortable with the process, apply to be a vendor with the state and federal governments.
- In South Carolina, visit SCBO
- For federal opportunities visit the GSA
- If you are a minority-owned business, there may be more opportunities with the government.