Once you have decided to start your own business you have to figure out where to begin! There are many steps to successfully starting a business, and it can be overwhelming when you’re trying to figure out what to do first. Here’s a guide to help you get started. Evaluate the Business Idea Not every idea for a business is actually a good idea. You may think your business concept is genius, and there’s nothing like it in the market – but sometimes, the fact that there isn’t already something similar to your idea may be a warning sign that there simply isn’t a market for the idea. Before rushing into starting a business, you want to evaluate the business idea to ensure there is a large enough market of customers who are going to buy your product or service. This is called market research, and there are many different ways to go about it, including hiring a market research firm to test your idea in the marketplace. If you don’t have the budget to hire – do your own research. Figure out exactly who your target customer is; where do they live, how old are they, how much money do they spend on similar services or products a week? The more you know about your customers, the better the performance of your marketing efforts. Figure out who your biggest competitors are, and what will set your business apart and make you unique. Work on a business plan for your company, as the plan will require that you know how many sales you must make to break even and how many you need to become profitable – and this research will help you determine if your idea is feasible. Consider Partners Carefully If you are starting a business with other people as a partnership – make sure you select your co-founders carefully. You want to pick people you can work well with, and who have skills that complement your own. For example, if you are great at customer service but a disorganized mess when it comes to administrative work – find someone who is organized and has great attention to detail to handle the administrative tasks while you focus on customer service. No one can be good at everything. The key to choosing partners in a business is selecting people who each have a different skill set to increase your potential for success. Choosing a Business Structure Once your idea passes the market research step, and you’ve decided whether or not to use co-founders, you can then consider what type of business structure is best for your company. If you do not require a retail establishment and will be starting from a home office, you may be able to start as a sole proprietor. If you don’t want to operate your sole proprietorship under your own name, you can file a “Doing Business As” form (DBA) with the appropriate government agency (depending where you live). If you have partners, you will need to consider other forms of business structures, such as partnerships, Limited Liability Corporations, or corporations. If you need assistance choosing the appropriate business structure, check with your local Small Business Association (Sba.gov) office, as they offer free advice to entrepreneurs. Get a Business License The business license your new company needs will depend on the type of business you are starting and where you live. Most states and counties require a permit, registration or business license to legally start a business to protect health and safety or for tax purposes. Check your state website for information about business requirements, or call your local county clerk’s office for assistance with meeting local regulations.