By Nellie Akalp for GalTime.com
Every year, these fall months seem to fly by faster and faster. Before we know it, winter has arrived, and we'll be turning the page to 2012. What will the New Year have in store for you? Will it be the year you begin your business?
As 2011 draws to a close, it's the perfect time to focus on your goals and turn your dreams into reality. More women than ever before are coming into their own as business owners. In fact, an American Express OPEN State of Women-Owned Businesses Report
found that the number of women-owned businesses increased 1.5 times faster than the national average between 1991 and 2011. Is it time that you joined the growing ranks of women taking control of their career and destiny?
As an entrepreneur myself and someone who has worked with countless female entrepreneurs, I know firsthand that women can have brilliant ideas and almost boundless energy. But these blossoming entrepreneurs aren't always sure where to start. If you're considering starting a business, here are some tips and resources to help turn your vision into reality:
Check that you're legally permitted to use your business name
Everything starts with the name. But before you start printing out business cards, you need to make sure that your great new name isn't infringing on the rights of an already existing business. You should search corporate names in your state's secretary of state's database, as well as conduct a Trademark search at the federal level. CorpNet.com offers both a Free Business Name Search and Free Trademark Search Tool.
Register Your Fictitious Business Name (aka DBA, "Doing Business As"): If you're a sole proprietor or general partner, you'll need to file a DBA registration when your company name is different than your own name. For an LLC or corporation, DBAs must be filed whenever you conduct business using a name that's different than your official Corporation or LLC name.
Form an LLC or Incorporate
This is a critical step to protecting your personal assets (such as your personal property or your child's college fund) from any liabilities of the company. That is, if you're business should be sued, your personal property may be shielded from any judgment. Depending on your specific circumstances, you might choose among an LLC (great for small businesses that want legal protection, but minimal formality), an S Corporation (great for small businesses that can qualify), or a C Corporation (for companies who plan to seek funding from a VC). Unless your business is particularly complex, you should be able to incorporate or form an LLC online, without having to retain a business attorney.
Get a Federal Tax ID Number, a.k.a an "EIN" or "Employer Identification Number"
To distinguish your business as a separate legal entity, you'll need to obtain a Federal Tax Identification Number, also referred to as an Employer Identification Number. Issued by the federal government, the tax ID number is similar to your personal Social Security number and allows the IRS to track your company's transactions.
Check out the SBA's Office of Women Business Ownership
There are Women's Business Centers in almost every state. These centers, along with SBA district offices, help women entrepreneurs start and grow successful businesses with a variety of resources including training in finance, management, marketing, and the Internet.
The SBA has a number of loan programs to help women access the credit and capital they need. In fiscal year 2009, the SBA backed nearly 10,000 loans worth about $2 billion to women entrepreneurs, while SBA-licensed intermediaries made nearly 1,230 microloans worth over $13.8 million to businesses 51 percent or more women-owned.
No one will ever say (truthfully) that starting a business is easy. But it is exhilarating, inspiring, and rewarding. If you have dreams of starting a business, make 2012 your year.
Here's to YOUR business in 2012.
More business advice from Nellie at CorpNet.com
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