Whether you’re starting a business, building a business, or supporting someone in their journey towards business ownership, our free Pathway to Business Ownership Checklist is a great resource to use every step of the way.

 

We encourage you to join as a member of skysthelimit.org to access additional Pathway to Business Ownership resources that we provide to all of our members, free of charge.

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JOIN AS AN ADVISOR OR MENTOR

SKY’S THE LIMIT START YOUR BUSINESS CHECKLIST

1. BUSINESS MODEL

Sign up

To build a short outline of your business, sign up at skysthelimit.org – it’s free of charge.

Inventory people

Write down all the people you know who could help you with this business. Share the plan you created on skysthelimit.org with them and get some feedback.

Inventory skills

Write down all of the skills, experiences, and resources you have that can help you build this business.

Make sure you can live

Think about how you are going to pay your bills while you start this business.

Get feedback

Review your business outline with several trusted business advisors on skysthelimit.org to get feedback.

Join skysthelimit.org to get one-on-one access to our expert advisors & mentors!

2. CUSTOMER DEVELOPMENT

Create list of interviewees

Write down all of the people (potential customers) you think would be interested in buying your product/service and why you think they would want to buy it.

Members of our skysthelimit.org community get free access to our GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING YOUR CUSTOMERS – JOIN TODAY!

Research your competitors

Create a list of all the other businesses where these potential customers could get a product or service like yours.

Visit your competitors

Go visit your competitors, online and in-person. Write down what you like and don’t like about their business. Write down why your business will be different and better.

Prepare for interviews

Read about how to interview potential customers. Create a list of interview questions for these people to find out if they really need or want what you are making. Schedule interviews with at least 15 potential customers.

Members of our skysthelimit.org community get free access to our GUIDE TO INTERVIEWING CUSTOMERS – JOIN TODAY!

Interview potential customers

Now, go out and actually talk to at least 15 potential customers for your business. Listen to what they say they want, but don’t tell them yet about your business. You’re just trying to learn about their problems and desires – and how you can build a business to solve those problems and fill their desires.

Prepare a pitch!

Create a Pitch presentation and/or video for your business so that you know how to talk about it to other people. Now present your pitch to 10 people and get their feedback! These people could be potential customers, partners, friends, etc.

Members of our skysthelimit.org community get free access to our PITCH PRESENTATION TEMPLATE – JOIN TODAY!

Start talking about your business!

Now, go out and tell at least 10 potential customers about your business idea. Listen to their feedback (don’t worry if they don’t like it yet, you’re learning from your customers!) See if you can get some of them to commit to buying from you when you’re ready.

Members of our skysthelimit.org community get free access to our CUSTOMER ANALYSIS GUIDE – JOIN TODAY!

Refine your pitch

Go back to your Pitch presentation and incorporate the feedback you got from your potential customers.

Talk about your business more!

With your revised Pitch, go back out and talk to 10 more customers! Listen closely to them and make any changes to your business that you feel you should make.

3. BRAND

Name your business

Create a name for your business. Check that no one is already using that name and has copyrighted it.

For more information about copyrights and trademarks, join skysthelimit.org.

Create a tagline

Create a tagline or slogan for your business.

Create your look

If you’re ready, create your company’s logo and choose your colors!

4. PRODUCT / SERVICE DEVELOPMENT

Design your offering

Design your first product or service based on what your customers want & need – think back to your customer interviews!

Identify the customer need

Identify how this product/service solves an important problem for your customers.

Identify your value prop

Identify the three key benefits of your product/service that attract customers – what makes your product or service better than a competitor?

Perform research

Figure out where you will get the equipment & materials you need for this product/service.

Decide how customers will purchase from you

Figure out how you will get your product/service to your customers (for example: online; in local stores; at farmer’s markets; in their home).

Name your offering

Name your product/service.

Determine cost

Determine the Cost of providing your product/service.

Determine selling price

Determine the Selling Price of your product/service (make sure you’re covering your costs and making money at that price!).

Create a description of your business

Create a description of “How your Business Works” to explain it to customers, and update your Pitch presentation.

Project your financials

Estimate how much it will cost you (time & money) and how much you will make from sales over the next 12 months.

Get more customer feedback

Now, go back out and tell at least 10 potential customers about your business idea. Listen to their feedback (don’t worry if they don’t like it yet, you’re learning from your customers!) See if you can get some of them to commit to buying it when you’re ready. Based on what you’ve learned, make changes to the design of your product or service.

Create a sample

Create a sample product/service to test out with your customers, once you decide on the design of your product or service. Make sure to research cheap ways to make your product sample or deliver a sample of your service. Don’t worry about being perfect – you need to try things out with your customers to figure out what works!

Get your first customer

Go out and get your first paying customer using your sample!

Members of our skysthelimit.org community get free access to our SALES STRATEGY GUIDE – JOIN TODAY!

5. WEBSITE DEVELOPMENT & TECHNOLOGY

Research competitors

Research the websites and social media pages of your competitors.  Notice what draws your attention and how you would like to build on their ideas for your own online presence.

Build your website

If your business needs a website, use an easy, cheap (or even free), high-quality website builder to create it, like Wix.com, Squarespace, Shopify, etc.

Create at least one online profile

If you don’t want to build a website yet, just build an easy profile for your service (on Thumbtack.com) or your product (on Etsy.com) to start making sales!

Members of our skysthelimit.org community get free access to our GUIDE TO THUMBTACK – JOIN TODAY!

Take photos

Take great, consistent photos of your first products or services to put on your website.

Tell your story

Don’t forget to write the story of you and your business on your “About Us” page.

Build your social media presence

Create social media pages for your business using the sites you have the most experience with, such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, etc.

Find customers using online marketplaces

Every entrepreneur should check out online platforms to sell your products or services, and decide whether to use them or not, like Thumbtack, Etsy or Upwork.

6. FUNDING

Prepare

You need to be ready before you ask for funding.

Members of our skysthelimit.org community get free access to our GUIDE TO FUNDING – JOIN TODAY!

Determine financial needs

Figure out whether you need money to get started with your business or not, and what kind of money (loan, crowdfund, donation, etc.) you want.

Create startup & operating budget

Create a Startup and Operating Budget for your business, listing all the materials, equipment, marketing, etc. needed. Write down each item needed, quantity, $ price and totals.

Seek funding

Go out and try to get funding! This is usually hard to do, don’t get too discouraged.

7. MARKETING & SALES

Create marketing plan

Figure out which methods (16 ways to choose from) you will use to promote and sell your products or services. 

Members of our skysthelimit.org community get free access to our 18 WAYS TO SELL AND GET CUSTOMERS GUIDE – JOIN TODAY!

Create marketing collateral

Create what you need to promote your business and make sales (i.e. website, email marketing campaign, flyers, business cards, etc.).

Create list of potential customers

Create a list of all the people you know (and their contact information) who might be interested in your business.

Get customers

Go out and get your first 5 paying customers!

Get more customers

Get your 10th paying customer!

Get customer testimonials

Get some testimonials from your early customers as you go (i.e. ask them for a sentence describing why they like your products or services or business).

Create engaging content

Consider creating a video about your business and products/services to engage your customers.

8. BOOKKEEPING, ACCOUNTING & FINANCIALS

Open a checking account 

A business owner should keep her/his personal money separate from the business’ money! Even if you haven’t officially started your business, consider going to a bank and opening a (free) personal checking account with its own debit card (and online banking). Put some money in that account. Then, every time you spend money on your business, use that debit card – and every time you get money from the sale of your products or services, put that money into your business account. At the end of each month, go on your online banking and see how much you spent and how much you made!

Sign up for credit card swiper

Sign up for a free credit card swiper with Square or Shopify so that your customers can pay you with a credit card.

Sign up for PayPal

Sign up for PayPal so that you can send your customers invoices and accept online payments.

Consider Bookkeeping Service

Decide whether or not your business is big enough to need to sign up for an inexpensive (or free) bookkeeping service, like Xero or Quickbooks.

Prepare budget & financials

Prepare your budget & business financials to estimate how much money your business will make and how much your business will cost (see tool below).

9. LEGAL & REGULATORY

Business licenses

Check on the licenses (from the City or State or Federal gov’t) and permits you need for your business.

Insurance

Explore getting insurance for your business.

Trademarks & copyrighting

Consider whether or not you want to invest the time and money in trademarks and copyrighting.

Liability forms

Explore whether or not you need to create liability forms for customers or partners.

Determine your business form

Decide on whether or not you want to be a different kind of business than a sole proprietorship, weighing the pros and cons.

10. BUILDING YOUR TEAM

Identify role needs

Think about who you need to grow your company, what their roles are, how (or if) you will pay your team, etc.

Create a recruitment plan

Create a plan to get the right people on your team.

Recruit team members

Recruit and test out new teammates.

Manage your team

Manage your team!

11. OPERATIONS

Create a business flow

Create a document for your “business flow” to look at everything you need to do in order to make your product or deliver your service – make it more efficient!

Automate operations

Think about what parts of your business you can “automate” (i.e. use technology to automatically send emails, book meetings, etc.).

Set goals

Set your goals for the year.

Create a work plan

Create a work plan to guide your day-to-day plans for your business.  Use the 40/40/20 Rule to guide you: spend 40% of your time on your product/service, 40% of your time on selling and marketing, and 20% of your time on internal operations and meeting with advisors/mentors.

12. STRATEGY

Create an improvement plan

Create a plan to continue improving the quality of your product/service.

Create a growth plan

Create a strategic plan to grow your business.

Conduct a SWOT analysis

Do a SWOT analysis to help you understand your business’ priorities.