Monthly Archives: January 2017

Simple Ways to Register a Business Name

The first step to creating your small business is choosing the right name. The name should represent your industry, field or expertise while being catchy, memorable, and relevant to your customers or clientele. However, there are a few simple steps to consider before registering an official name for your future business.

Understand legality
Although you might already be infatuated with the name of your small business, you must ensure someone else hasn’t already claimed it. This helps you verify your company’s name is unique. Otherwise, it could violate trademark law by being too similar to the name of an existing business, in your state or any other, and whose operations are in close relation to your product or service.

Conducting a thorough due diligence check before registering the business entity or buying the domain name will help you avoid future costs in marketing, rebranding and even a possible lawsuit.

Brainstorm names
Before conducting even the simplest of searches, brainstorm a short list (preferably of five to ten) of possible business names. If you’re stuck, use different words and phrases to say your business name. Get creative! Play around with adjectives, nouns, and adverbs. Not only will this list help you search for pre-existing business names, it will also come in handy if someone else has already claimed your business name. To be sure that you are in no danger of encroaching on a business name or trademark, also add variations in spelling or wording of your potential business names.

Search for companies with similar names
Now it’s time to conduct a basis online search with a major search engine, because similarities to your chosen moniker will likely show up here. You should investigate further to see if that business offers a product or service comparable to yours. If there are no readily apparent matches, it does not necessarily mean you are in the clear.

Condense your search to specific databases
Continue your investigation by entering your business name in more specific and targeted databases. For instance, consider searching in the following business databases, which offer ways to locate a matching or similar business name before you commit to it:

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
ThomasNet
Network Solutions
Trademarkia.com
U.S. Patent and Trademark
When you are nearly certain you can use your business name, go to the Small Business Administration’s website and find the contact information for each state’s secretary of state’s online business registry database. Search your selection as well as variations in each one. If there are no matches, then move to checking with your county clerk’s list of Doing Business As (DBA) names.

Contact the appropriate government offices
Don’t panic if your preferred name is already taken. You may still be able to use it if you are offering a clearly different product or service or are in different states. You can contact your state’s secretary of state’s corporations division. They can work with you to determine that you meet the legal requirements to still use the name.

Once you have a confirmed business name, register it right away, even if you are not ready to conduct business operations. The name may not be available six weeks or six months from now, and the small cost of ensuring it is yours to use early in your preparation will be worth it.

You can register your name through your state government. Procedures will vary depending on your chosen type of legal entity (sole proprietor, LLC, corporation, etc.). Most states require you to at least register as a DBA if you are conducting business under any name other than your given legal name.

Your business name will be the cornerstone of your marketing efforts. By protecting it from the beginning, you ensure it will stand strong against any branding or legal challenges along the way.

Best Places to Find a New Business Idea

All successful entrepreneurial ventures have one thing in common: They solve a specific problem. Whether they fill a gap in the market or improve upon what’s already out there, good business ideas demonstrate what the issue is and why they have the unique ability to address it.

If you’ve been racking your brain for a way to start your own business but keep coming up short, you might just need a change of scenery. You never know where inspiration will strike, so get up and explore these 10 places to find solvable problems — and, therefore, great business ideas.

Think you’ve found your perfect startup? Do some research to make sure the idea is legal and feasible, and then visit our step-by-step guide to starting a business.
Your smartphone
In the “there’s an app for that” era, it may seem like every mobile application under the sun has already been thought up and built. But that’s not necessarily the case, as many people discover when they scour their smartphone’s app store searching for something that doesn’t exist. Perhaps an app you recently downloaded doesn’t function the way you’d hoped it would, or doesn’t offer a certain feature you wanted. To find out if there’s interest in the newer, better app you want to create, ask friends, family and others in your network. Once you’ve done your due diligence, you can use a DIY app maker or, if you have very little tech experience, hire freelancers to build it for you.

Search engines
If you’ve ever done an exhaustive Internet search for a specific item that returned no results, you have three options: settle for something close enough, give up entirely or do it yourself. If you’re the kind of person who chooses the DIY method (and can do it well), you have the opportunity to turn a frustration into a lucrative business. Check forums to see if others are searching for the same product(s), and then open up an online shop to sell them. This can also work well for specialized service-based businesses.

Social media
If there’s one thing people like to do on social media, it’s air their grievances about everyday life. Most of the time, these types of updates are mundane (and probably a little annoying), but if you pay close enough attention to those hashtags and status updates, you might start to see some patterns emerging. Look for phrases like, “Why isn’t there a … ” or, “I wish there was a …” — you may be able to offer a solution.

Online reviews
As with social media, people love to talk about the products they’ve purchased and places they’ve visited on sites like Amazon, Google and Yelp. Most consumers will read and use negative reviews to determine if they should avoid the product or establishment, and that company’s loss could be your gain. See what people are complaining about, and try to come up with a business idea that would fix the problem.

Your home
Look around your house or apartment. What are some of the frustrations you encounter there? Dusty air vents? A messy bathroom? Unraked leaves on your lawn? If you’re noticing these things in your own home, there’s a good chance other people are experiencing the same problems. By launching an in-home service business, you can help others take care of these time-consuming household tasks.

Your neighborhood
The people who live near you can be a great inspiration for business ideas. Think about the demographics of your neighborhood or local community. If your town has a lot of working parents, a service that offers to run errands or provides child care might be in high demand. A neighborhood with a lot of senior citizens could use independent home health aides. Are there a lot of dog owners nearby? Try a pet-care business like pet sitting or dog walking.

Your office
If you want to start a part-time business outside your current job, ask your co-workers what kinds of products or services they’re missing in their lives. Maybe someone else with a side business is looking for a bookkeeper or financial adviser. Others might be looking to enroll their children in affordable art or music classes. Small talk in the break room is bound to lead to at least a few viable ideas.

The grocery store
Are you a food lover? Seeing what’s missing from the shelves at the grocery store or farmers market could help you come up with a made-to-order culinary business idea. Jams, baked goods and specialty diet items (gluten free, vegan, etc.) are especially good choices for an artisanal food startup. Alternatively, you could test your gastronomic skills with ingredients from the supermarket and open up a restaurant or food truck.

The mall
While you might not actually open up a brick-and-mortar retail location, perusing your local mall might give you some ideas for a business of your own. You could launch a line of homemade natural cosmetics to rival the pushy salespeople from that kiosk, a clothing line to produce something different from the same old items in every apparel store window or an online craft shop to offer personalized alternatives to generic card-store knickknacks.

Your child’s school or day care
If you’re a parent, you know that any product or service that will help your child is worth the money. Think about the gaps you see in the market, and next time you pick up the kids from school, ask other parents if they feel the same way. Not a parent? Ask family members or friends with children what kinds of things they want (or want improved) but can’t currently find for their kids.

The Secret Of Entrepreneurs Can Design Their Lives and Businesses for Success

You may not know her name, but Pernille Spiers-Lopez knows a thing or two about design. She served in executive-level roles at furniture company IKEA for more than a decade, namely as CEO for IKEA North America and later as global chief human resource officer. Today, though, her design passion is something entirely different — helping entrepreneurs to design their lives and businesses in a way where they can plan for the kind of success that suits them.

While you may subscribe to the old adage that if you fail to prepare you prepare to fail, you may not realize that you have more control over how you set up the plan to coincide with the goals and objectives you value the most.

As a personal friend and mentor of mine, I asked Spiers-Lopez — who also serves on boards as a corporate and non-profit director in both the U.S. and Europe for Save the Children, Meijer Corporation and Coop DK– if she could share some of her best lessons for entrepreneurs from her new book, Design Your Life, so that you can design your own life and business for the kind of success that you desire. Some of her top tips are recounted below.

Take on big challenges.
Pushing yourself to take on challenges that you think sound impossible is a critical component for success, says Spiers-Lopez. “We learn the most — and grow the most — in challenging situations that stretch us beyond what we think our limits are. Often, it’s our own mindset that limits us.” Not only do the big challenges and goals create energy, passion and interest for you, but for those around you, such as team members and investors.

To accomplish the big ideas, Spiers-Lopez advises, “Have a mindful, long-term plan that you can break down into small, achievable steps or milestones to make execution possible, while keeping your eye on the bigger picture.”

Focus on your strengths rather than what you lack.
Spiers-Lopez believes that one of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs, especially women, is overcoming our own negative thoughts. She shares, “I find that, women in particular, we talk ourselves down. I have been the only woman in the board room and even found myself doing this. For example, I remember thinking ‘Why is nobody listening to my ideas?’ Instead of talking myself into being small or not good enough, I turned it around to see how I could change my communication. I asked myself why I wasn’t being heard and how I could reframe or change my communication so that it would be heard.”

She advises that instead of focusing on what you lack or what’s going wrong, emphasize your strengths, whether you are selling to capital providers, customers, team members or otherwise.

Diverse perspectives are a leading asset.
Further, Spiers-Lopez recounts that her favorite phrase for businesses is one that she heard from a friend: “Great minds think unalike.” Entrepreneurs and businesses get into jeopardy when groupthink takes over. The businesses that embrace diversity in perspectives and a 360 degree view can make sure that they see not just what’s in front of them, but what could lie ahead.

Use elimination to make choices, especially overwhelming ones.
Whether a new entrepreneur is deciding which business to pursue or an existing entrepreneur is deciding between directions to grow the business, choices can be overwhelming. Spiers-Lopez suggests that instead of making your head spin wondering “What do I want to do?” to instead focus on “What do I not want to do?”

Being clear about what doesn’t interest you, what doesn’t align with your core values, core business, and what you are not good at can help you see the forest through the trees as you clear away the unwanted foliage.

Build a strong, supportive network.
“Success in life means being successful personally as well as professionally,” says Spiers-Lopez. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for surrounding myself with the right people. At home, this is having the right partner in my husband, who is supportive so that we both can put our time, energy and resources where they need to be when they need to be there.” She advocates that having the right life partner, where your choices are viewed as supporting mutual goals vs. sacrifices is a big part of business success.

On the business front, Spiers-Lopez also says to surround yourself with a variety of supporters, including those with more experience and a variety of skills that you can learn from. Even better, she advises that entrepreneurs create a formal advisory board and make sure that it is filled with people who are willing to challenge you and ask “are you crazy”? Having “yes men” (or women) around won’t help you to get to the next level.

Be patient.
“Success takes time,” says Spiers-Lopez . “Be patient and don’t panic during the journey. It’s a long ride and those that make bad choices borne out of impatience or panic are the ones who won’t be successful.”

While she acknowledges that there are some overnight successes, Spiers-Lopez says that they aren’t the norm and that you shouldn’t be discouraged if you aren’t the next Snapchat. “It would be like hearing that someone made $200,000 at the racetrack and then being upset because you went there and didn’t. It’s not normal and it certainly shouldn’t be your plan.”