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What are the first steps I should take when starting a small business?

Small business signFirst, I would start with the name of your company. This will not only help guide your business, it will also protect your company and its mark as long as you do some homework initially. You do not want to step on any toes if somebody already has the name or mark. Spend some time researching the name, and look into protecting the name and your mark.

Second, make sure you have the right entity—although you could operate as a sole proprietor, I highly suggest you create an LLC or corporation. Then make sure you check the boxes and do everything right on the federal, state, and local level.

Federally, you will have taxes, and if you’re a nonprofit, you’ll have additional paperwork to get 501(c)(3) status. You will also very likely have state taxes. But don’t overlook the local taxes and hoops – this is often a step that companies miss. In addition to local taxes, you may also need a business license and a home occupancy permit. You may have to address other land use or zoning issues, which can cause huge headaches if you’re not prepared for them.

Don’t hesitate to consult with a small business attorney to make sure that you are following the correct guidelines.

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