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With the ever-growing emphasis on shopping local and the Claremore City Council’s constant appeal to their love of small business, it appears to be a good time to open your new company in Claremore. However, it’s a goal much easier said than done.

Liberty Shere, director of business and industry ser- vices at Northeast Technical College,andKatie Thibodeaux, communica- tions coordinator for the Claremore Chamber of Commerce, shared their expertise and knowledge of available resources to help prospective business owners get their start.

Step 1. Have an idea

This step sounds easy. Heck, you may already have three hurriedly scribbled on the backs of napkins that you keep stored in your wallet. But what this step really means is to have a feasible idea — an idea that you can turn into a reality — a plan, as someone vastly more con- cise might say.

Liberty Shere is the expert when it comes to helping people make a plan. Shere heads the business develop- ment program at Northeast Tech where businesses sign up and are matched with a personal business consultant.

Shere said that typically for new businesses the first step is a feasibility study. This involves market analy- sis and careful consideration of any and all potential com- petitors.

“Is this going to work here in Claremore? Is there a need for what you are wanti- ng to do with your business? Is there going to be a demand for it?” Shere asked. “If it looks like a business idea is feasible, we will start work- ing on a business plan.”

Shere said the business plan typically has to answer five big questions. Who are your customers? How are you going to get the word out? How are you going to make money? What are you going to have to spend money on (like supplies and utilities)? And, who are your competitors?

Shere described the third and fourth questions as the foundation for the companies financial projections for the

first year, which any potential funding source will want to see. It’s also super crucial to starting out on the right foot.

“The problem that many new businesses run in to is that they don’t do their research early on in the process,” Shere said. “Sometimes we’ll get a client that will come in after they’ve already signed a lease on a building or they’ve already invested a lot of money in equipment.”

“What will happen is that people are in business for a year or so and they haven’t kept good financials or maybe they haven’t regis- tered with all the appropriate agencies,” regardless of the exact problem, Shere said, people find they’ve worked two years to lose money.

Before you start down the road to business ownership, take a good hard look to determine if you are really ready to give everything it takes. “The most challenging thing is having the right mindset and going in with your eyes wide open to what all is involved in owning a business,” Shere said.

Step 2. Preparation, preparation, preparation

In case the title wasn’t clear, preparation is key.

The next step, with busi- ness plan in hand, is to go get some funding, whether you go to your local bank for a loan or find a private investor.

“An important part of that is that you need to have good personal financials,” Shere said “you have a better chance of getting your busi- ness approved if they already know they can trust you.”

Once you have funding, then you’re ready to start into the nitty gritty.

You will need to register your business with the Secretary of State. This is complicated by the research you’ll need to do in order to figure out the type of compa- ny you are and which forms to fill out, but simplified by the fact that it can all be done online in the span of an after- noon.

If you are going into retail or selling any tangible goods, then you’ll need to apply for your sales tax permit.

Shere said at this point, you will also want to check with the city planning and zoning department to check the zoning requirements for

any of the locations you scout so you don’t accidently buy land that you can’t use.

You will also need to talk with utility providers to bud- get their rates.

If you plan to hire employees you will need to get a federal employee iden- tification number from the IRS and register with the Oklahoma Tax Commission in order to set up state with- holding income tax. Hiring employees also requires you set up an accounts with the OklahomaEmployee Securities Commission and Workers Compensation.

Step 3. Consult the pros

If that looks daunting, fear not. Any business consultant worth their salt will help make all of that as painless as possible.

“Our consultants help them through all that process,” Shere said, high- lighting the $240 year-long program run by her team at Northeast Tech.

There are also many pri- vately owned consulting firms just a google search away.

“It’s definitely a process,” Shere said about starting your own business. “What we find with a lot of people is thatthey’ rereally,really good at whatever they are wanting to start the business in, making cupcakes or fixing cars. But it takes a special kind of entrepreneur to be able to do the skill that you’re really good at and to be able to manage the business.”

Shere suggested that if you are a little weak in the business side you should def- initely reach out and get assistance early on in the planning of the business.

One major advantage of a consultant, beyond helping you drudge through the paperwork, is getting a fresh and knowledgeable perspec- tive on what you’re doing right and what needs improvement.

“A lot of small business owners think that the prob- lem is they don’t have enough customers.” Shere said. “That is not always the case. If it costs you more to make the cupcake than you’re selling it for, then more customers is going to hurt your business, not help it.”

“Ask a lot of questions of alotofpeople...oneofthe best things you can do if you

are thinking about starting a business is to talk to as many business owners as you can,” Shere said, highlighting the importance of seeking vari- ety in the longevity, size, field and successfulness of businesses. “Also, people who have tried to start a busi- ness and failed. Those are probably the best people to talk to before you decide to make that leap.”

Step 4. Cover your bases

Once you think you have it all figured out, that is the time to pause and reflect. Double check that you’ve completed and submitted every form. Triple check that you’ restillonbudget. Quadruple check that you are sure of yourself and confi- dent in your ability to move forward and conquer the challenges.

And don’t worry, because even as you inch closer to the point of no return, you won’t be alone.

“There are a lot of resources to support new companies,” Shere said. “I think Claremore in particular is really supportive of new business starting out.”

Shere cited not only the City of Claremore, but also the several non-profits and public-private partnership authorities that help bring new businesses to town like the Claremore Industrial and Economic Development Authority, Claremore Main Street and the Claremore Chamber of Commerce.

Katie Thibodeaux of the Chamber of Commerce said, “we have a lot of great resources for any type of business, whether they be a start-up or well established.”

The chamber specializes in building name recognition. By adding members’ busi- ness listings online and in print directories, by priori- tized customer referrals and by facilitating networking among area business owners, the chamber does what it can to help new businesses get off on the right foot.

“That’s just the tip of the iceberg, we have a lot of ben- efits that we encourage our members to take advantage of,” Thibodeaux said, encouraging new business owners to visit the chamber office in person.

Step 5. Open for busi- ness

Congratulations.You made it.