20 questions to ask yourself before you start a new business

I preused through the US Small Business Administration website expecting it to be filled with useless information — but I was wrong! I guess governments are getting their act together and finally making useful websites! To start with, the SBA is asking you to answer 20 questions that you should know the answer to in regards to your new business. Follow the jump to read my answers to these business questions.

1. Why am I starting a business?

I am disabled and it it looks like chances are slim that I am going to find another job in my industry that can work around my hours. I don’t have any savings because I had an accident when I didn’t have health insurance, and I haven’t quite digged my way out of that yet. I need to take control of my income now instead of waiting around for someone else to hire me.

2. What kind of business do I want?

I want a business that puts its people first and foremost. You cannot build a company without having good people on your team, and you need to take care of them so the good people will stay with you. It is the first priority.

I like to do things to help others. I’d like to create a company that can hire disabled people like me, and anyone else with unpredictable hours, so they can work at a good place with good people.

3. Who is my target customer?

Women who like to create a style and design for the rooms in their home, and motivated by helping others, be it humans, trees or animals.

4. What products or services will my business provide?

To start with: handmade duvet covers made from recycled material or sustainable resources. I will likely expand to an entire bedding set, including shams and sheets. After that, it will depend upon what my customers want to see.

5. Am I prepared to spend the time and money needed to get my business started?

Yes. I have always worked for small companies and driven to see them succeed. This won’t be too different in terms of motivation, except that it is my company this time. Also, earning money is a huge motivator!

6. What differentiates my business idea and the products or services I will provide from others in the market?

There are three factors that separate Autumn Weaves from others:

  1. Every product will be made from recycled materials or obtained from renewable resources.

  2. I have confidence that I can create better designs than what is commonly found now. I, personally, have never found a duvet cover that I like — there has to be others out there like me.

  3. Autumn Weaves’ core principal is sustainability, which includes our employees and the world outside. Customers will know that every penny of their purchase went to support a business with important core values.

7. Where will my business be located?

It will be virtual. Employees could work from anywhere at any time. As things progress I will likely get a studio to work from.

8. How many employees will I need?

To start with, none. Employees will then be hired to keep up with demand.

9. What types of suppliers do I need?

Multiple sources for obtaining fabric, buttons, zippers and thread made from sustainable resources or recycled items.

10. How much money do I need to get started?

A shoestring budget! Honest! Money required will be my living expenses and odds and ends I’ll have to buy to make the duvet covers. As for exactly how much I need, it will depend upon my other income sources which I’ll know in more detail by Februrary.

11. Will I need to get a loan?

Yes.

12. How soon will it take before my products or services are available?

ASAP! Likely not until February. Christmas gifts come first. (oops, now you know what you’re getting for Christmas)

13. How long do I have until I start making a profit?

In terms of materials, I’ll be able to break even within the first 3-5 sales. When considering my time, and making enough to support my living expenses, I will likely need at minimum a year. It will require an intense marketing push in order to bring in that much sales in that time frame. This will also increase the costs.

The company will likely always be a little bit in debt. Growth required to meet increasing demand will need to be spent before that demand’s income hits the bank account. That is where a business loan comes in.

After two years, Autumn leaves should be entirely self sustainable.

14. Who is my competition?

Larger stores that have high-quality ($150 - $300) duvet covers made in a factory will compete with me design wise. Other small businesses of people selling their work will compete with me in gaining customers who want to help “the little guy.”

15. How will I price my product compared to my competition?

I am not concerned. My niche is narrow enough that I am offering something that is incomparable. Someone will want exactly what I’m selling and won’t be able to get it anywhere else. They will want it for the market rate, or they won’t. We’ll let the market decide.

16.How will I set up the legal structure of my business?

Keeping it simple! Limited Liability Company (LLC). Managing shares will be unnecessary. I’ll do profit sharing instead.

17. What taxes do I need to pay?

Regular taxes for myself, and sales taxes for customers in CA.

18. What kind of insurance do I need?

Now this one I haven’t thought of. I have renters insurance so that will cover me if my house burns down. I will likely look into insurance when applying for a business loan so I can pay off the debt if something catastrophic happens.

19. How will I manage my business?

I will have to learn the details as I go, trying to figure out how to optimize the processes for making products, packaging, selling, shipping and marketing. As I get employees I will be managing them. Once I have more employees than I can handle, I’ll pick some to start managing others. I also plan on setting up the structure so it is more community oriented with each person collaborating on the best way to get stuff done.

20. How will I advertise my business?

I found this webpage looking for that very answer! I have already started by creating Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest accounts, and setting up a blog and filling it with content for search engines to gobble up. I will also buy advertisements on Facebook, and consider other avenues like Ad Sense and Twitter if they can target my market effectively.

I am researching for more possibilities. How do relatively unknown people get noticed in the cacophony of voices that is the internet?