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How to Become a Small Business Owner

Date modified: January 17, 2024
Looking to get started as a small business owner? Here are the necessary first steps to get started on your entrepreneurial journey.
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Whether you're dreaming of turning a passion into a profitable venture or aiming to make your mark in the world of entrepreneurship, the journey to small business ownership is as challenging as it is rewarding. This comprehensive guide is tailored to aspiring business owners like you, offering a step-by-step roadmap to help you navigate the complexities of starting and running a successful small business.

From the initial brainstorming phase to the intricacies of market research, funding strategies, and effective management, we'll walk you through each stage. We aim to equip you with the knowledge, tools, and confidence needed to transform your entrepreneurial vision into reality. So, let's dive into the exciting world of small business ownership, where every decision is a learning opportunity and every challenge a stepping stone to success.

Benefits of Being a Small Business Owner

Embarking on the journey of small business ownership is an exciting venture full of opportunities and rewards.

Small business owner standing in front of store smiling

Here's a closer look at some of the key advantages you'll discover as a small business owner:

  • Flexibility and Independence: As a small business owner, you have the freedom to set your schedule and make decisions that align with your personal and professional goals. This autonomy allows you to balance work and personal life according to your needs.
  • Creative Freedom: Owning a small business means you can bring your unique ideas and visions to life. You have the creative control to innovate, experiment, and implement strategies that reflect your individuality and business ethos.
  • Learning and Growth: Running a small business is a continuous learning experience. You'll acquire new skills in various areas, such as management, marketing, and finance, contributing to your overall personal and professional development.
  • Financial Rewards: Successful small businesses can provide significant financial benefits. With hard work and smart strategies, your business can grow, increasing your income potential and offering long-term financial security.
  • Sense of Accomplishment: Building a business from the ground up is a rewarding experience. Watching your ideas turn into reality and grow can provide a profound sense of achievement and pride.
  • Opportunity to Make a Difference: Small businesses often have a more significant impact on their local communities. You have the chance to make a difference by offering unique products/services, supporting local causes, or employing residents.
  • Empowerment in Decision Making: As a business owner, you're in the driver's seat for all major decisions. This empowerment can be incredibly fulfilling, as each decision you make directly shapes the future of your business.
  • Building a Legacy: Your small business can be a legacy that you pass down to future generations or leave a lasting impact in your industry or community.

Challenges While Becoming a Business Owner

Navigating the realm of small business ownership is not without its challenges. Before you pursue the steps to owning a business, weigh these common challenges faced by small business owners:

  • Financial Risk: Initiating and sustaining a small business often demands considerable financial input. Managing cash flow, securing funds, and maintaining a balanced budget can be intricate, especially in the early stages.
  • Time Management: Small business owners typically wear multiple hats, leading to extended work hours and difficulty in achieving a work-life balance.
  • Market Competition: Distinguishing oneself in a competitive market is a constant challenge. Small businesses must innovate to stand out and remain relevant against larger entities with more resources.
  • Customer Dependence: Relying on a small customer base can pose a risk. Losing a few key customers might significantly impact the business’s profitability.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Navigating the complex web of laws, regulations, and compliance requirements can be daunting and time-consuming.
  • Workforce Management: Recruiting, training, and retaining a competent and dedicated team is a significant challenge, especially with limited resources compared to larger companies.
  • Rapid Pace of Change: Keeping abreast of technological advancements and evolving market trends requires flexibility and continuous learning.
  • Building Brand Awareness: For emerging businesses, establishing a brand presence and earning customer trust demands persistent effort.
  • Decision-Making Pressure: As the primary decision-maker, the pressure to make the right choices for the business can be intense and sometimes overwhelming.
  • Adapting to Changes: Whether due to shifts in market demand, economic fluctuations, or technological progress, adapting effectively is a continual requirement.
  • Stress and Mental Health: The pressures associated with business management can impact mental well-being, leading to stress and potential burnout.
  • Customer Service Demands: Delivering top-notch customer service consistently can be demanding, especially with limited staff.
  • Technology and Infrastructure: Investing in and maintaining necessary technology and infrastructure can be costly and requires ongoing attention.
  • Intellectual Property Protection: Safeguarding your ideas, products, and services from infringement can be a complex legal task.

13 Important Steps to Become a Business Owner

Starting a small business is a journey filled with opportunities and decisions at every turn. From the initial spark of an idea to the meticulous planning of your business strategy, each step is pivotal in shaping the success of your entrepreneurial endeavor.

Below, we delve into the key stages of launching a small business, offering insights and practical advice to help you navigate this exciting path.


Brainstorming is the first step in starting a business. Take your time to think about the type of business you would like to operate, your goals, and your desired outcomes. Doing so will help you choose a business idea that works for you.

During the brainstorming process, think about your budget, catalog of products, target customers, and ways to reach them. Also, consider if you would like to set up an online shop or operate a brick-and-mortar store.

Choose Your Options

There are three ways to become a small business owner. The first way is to gain ownership over an existing business. For example, you can buy an already profitable business from the business owner.

The second way of becoming a small business owner is to start a franchise or a business owned by an individual as part of a larger brand. Some people go for this option because franchises already have an established reputation and customer base.

The third way to become a small business owner is to start a new company. Consider choosing an industry that you are interested in where there is a demand for what you want to offer. For example, the creator of Shutterstock, Jon Oringer, was a professional software developer and a photographer. He combined his skills and used 30,000 photos from his photo library to start a stock photo service. Shutterstock is currently worth $3.35 billion.

Conduct Market Research

Market research will help entrepreneurs learn more about their target clients, discover market gaps, and create new business ideas. For example, business owners should gather demographic information relevant to their business, such as age, wealth, interests, and location, to understand consumer buying behavior, wants, and needs.

Closeup on professional conducting market research on tablet


Moreover, market research will help you understand the following:

  • The demand for your product or service
  • The number of people interested in what you are offering
  • Consumers’ income range
  • Employment rate
  • The location of your customers
  • Market saturation
  • Pricing

You can ask consumers questions through surveys, questionnaires, and in-depth interviews. Or use competitive analysis to identify your competition, such as their market share, strengths, weaknesses, and your window of opportunity to enter the market.

Fund Your Business

Every new business owner needs funding to get their company off the ground. First, determine how much money you will need to start your own business by calculating your startup costs and operating expenses, such as rent, equipment, insurance, and salaries.

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Ideally, you should have enough funds to cover operating expenses for up to six months. Next, consider your funding sources once you determine how much money you need.


Also known as bootstrapping, self-funding lets you leverage your financial resources to support your business. You can provide your funds using your savings account or other investments like tapping into your 401(k). Consider checking with a personal financial advisor to avoid spending more than you can afford or damaging your ability to retire on time.

Venture Capital

Venture capitalists can provide funding to start your business in exchange for shares in your company. Although venture capitalists may be inclined to offer more funding, they will likely also request more in return. Typically, venture capitalists will take around 25% to 50% of the company’s ownership in return. This may not be ideal for individuals who want to retain sole ownership of their small business.


Crowdfunding raises money through charitable contributions, and anyone can donate to the funding pool. These people don’t get control or ownership over your company in return. Popular crowdfunding sites include Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Crowd Supply, and Experiment.

Small Business Loans

Getting a small business loan is sometimes an option for those who want to retain complete control of their business. Applicants may need to provide a business plan, expense sheet, and financial projections for the next five years. Also, consider comparing offers from multiple lenders.

Determine Your Business Structure

The legal structure of a company can affect taxes, paperwork, liability, and funding options. While you may convert to a different business structure in the future, choose carefully because there may be restrictions based on your location. Consider consulting with business counselors, accountants, and attorneys to help you determine your business structure.

The common types of business structures are the following:

Sole Proprietorship

One person owns and operates the company in a sole proprietorship. The sole proprietor and the company are not separate entities. This means that the business owner can be held personally liable for the company’s debts. Nonetheless, forming a sole proprietorship can be a good choice for low-risk businesses.


A partnership is a simple structure for two or more people who want to start a business together. However, like starting a sole proprietorship, debt and liabilities can directly affect both partners. There are two kinds of partnerships: limited partnerships (LP) and limited liability partnerships (LLP).

A limited partnership has one general partner with unlimited liability. The remaining partners have limited liability. Business owners with limited liability also tend to have little control over the company. Profits are passed through to personal tax returns. However, the general partner with unlimited liability must also pay self-employment taxes.

A limited liability partnership gives limited liability to every owner. This means that the partners will not be personally liable in the event of a lawsuit. Additionally, individuals may not be responsible for the actions of the other partners.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

An LLC protects the business owner from personal liability if the company faces bankruptcy or lawsuits. This makes it a good choice for medium to high-risk businesses. Profits and losses can be passed through to personal income without facing corporate taxes. However, an LLC member is considered self-employed. Therefore, the business owner must pay self-employment tax contributions toward Medicare and Social Security.

Choose Your Business Name and Location

When starting a new business, pick a creative and unique name that reflects your brand. You can skip this step if you purchase an existing company or franchise.

Small business owner hanging "open" sign in storefront window

To protect your business from the competition, you should register your name. There are four ways to register your business name:

  1. Entity name to protect you at the state level
  2. Trademark to protect you at a national level
  3. Doing business as (DBA) to open a business bank account
  4. The domain name to protect your brand presence online

After registering your business name, the next step would be choosing the location of your store. Ensure that the site fits your budget and demographics and has accessibility and parking. Of course, keep an eye out for storefront and online competition.

Register Your Business

After choosing your business’s structure, name, and location, you will need to register your company. Even though most companies don’t need to register with federal agencies to become legal entities, you will benefit from trademark protection or tax-exempt status.

If you choose to form a partnership or LLC, you will have to register with state agencies. Depending on the state you live in, you can register online or file paper documents in person or through the mail. Finally, most states require business owners to register with the Secretary of State’s office, a Business Bureau, or a Business Agency.

Get Federal and State Tax IDs

The next step after registering your business would be to get your employer identification number (EIN) and complete the form on the IRS website. Your EIN allows the IRS to identify companies for tax reporting. You will also need it to hire employees, open a business bank account, and apply for business licenses and permits. Moreover, you will need a tax ID number to:

  • Operate as a corporation or partnership
  • Pay employees
  • Withhold taxes on income
  • File tax returns
  • Use a tax-deferred pension plan
  • Work with trusts, IRAs, estates, and non-profit organizations

Apply for Licenses and Permits

The licenses and permits you need for your business will vary by state, location, and industry. So, visit your state’s website to learn about the permits and licenses you need. The fees will also vary depending on where your business is located and what it does.

Small business owner applying for permits on laptop

Moreover, some licenses and permits expire after some time. So, make sure to keep track of when you need to renew them.

For example, if you want to operate a food truck business in California, you will need to obtain the following:

  • Business license: costs $50 to $100; expires after two years
  • EIN: free of charge; doesn’t expire
  • Vehicle license: costs 0.65% of vehicle’s value; expires after five years
  • Food handling permit: costs $42; expires after three years
  • Reseller or seller permit: free of charge; doesn’t expire
  • The health department permit costs $409 and expires after one year

Open a Business Bank Account

As mentioned earlier, once you’ve gotten your federal EIN, you can try to open a business bank account. Additionally, business owners can try to open a checking account, savings account, credit card account, and merchant services account. The latter allows you to accept credit and debit card transactions from your consumers.

Also, a business bank account offers limited personal liability protection by keeping your business funds separate from your funds. Finally, a business credit card account can help your business establish a credit history.

Build Your Team

When launching a new business, you may need to hire employees to begin operations. Before hiring, determine the roles that need to be filled, the skills and qualifications you are looking for, and whether you need to hire full-time, part-time, or freelance workers. Then, build a team that believes in the company’s mission, vision, values, and culture.

To have a successful business, entrepreneurs must put time and effort into advertising and marketing. You can use the marketing strategy created in your business plan, revise it, and execute it accordingly.

Employees working at a cafe

For example, you can start by establishing your company’s social media presence by catering to your target demographics.  Setting up a blog might be helpful, too. You can post informative articles about your product or service and its advantages. Influencers who have a large following can also be used in your marketing campaigns to increase your consumer base. Your products can be sent to social media influencers for free in exchange for a review.

For example, Good Greens conducted blogger outreach to increase the mentions and reviews of their products. Consequently, the company’s sales increased by 50% in four months. Similarly, Glossier uses celebrity endorsements to advertise its products on popular social media sites like Instagram and YouTube.

FAQ to Become a Small Business Owner

Do you still have questions about how to become a small business owner? Here are some frequently asked questions to clear the air:

What Are the Four Ways to Become A Business Owner?

There are primarily four ways to become a small business owner:

  • Start a New Business from Scratch: This is the most common route, where you come up with a business idea, create a business plan, and launch your business. It involves identifying a market need, developing a product or service to meet that need, and then building a brand and customer base.
  • Buy an Existing Business: Instead of starting from zero, you can buy an existing business. This option provides the advantage of acquiring a business with a proven business model, existing customer base, and operational systems.
  • Franchise Ownership: Buying a franchise means acquiring the rights to operate a branch of an existing brand. This path provides the benefit of a well-known brand name, a proven business model, training, and ongoing support from the franchisor.
  • Inherit or Take Over a Family Business: If you have the opportunity, taking over a family business is another way to become a business owner. This path can be rewarding as it often carries a personal and family legacy.

What is the Easiest Business to Start?

When starting a small business, it's often easier to focus on areas with low startup costs and high market demand. Industries that capitalize on personal skills or expertise are typically more accessible. Online businesses, which can range from selling products to providing digital services, are also a good option due to minimal physical space requirements.

Additionally, creating and selling unique or homemade items can be a simpler path, leveraging current consumer trends with the convenience of operating from home. These options offer a balance between ease of entry, flexibility, and potential market appeal.

How to Find a Business Idea?

Start by assessing your skills, interests, and experiences to identify areas you are passionate about. Look for gaps in the market or unmet needs in your community that align with your strengths. Conduct market research to understand consumer trends and demands.

Keep an eye on emerging trends and technologies, as they can present new business opportunities. The key is to find a balance between what you're good at, what you enjoy, and what people need or want.

How Do I Start a Small Business with No Money?

Starting a small business with no money can be challenging, but it's possible with the right approach. Here's how to be a business owner under these circumstances:

  • Leverage Your Skills: Focus on a business idea that utilizes your existing skills and knowledge, reducing the need for upfront investment in training or equipment.
  • Bootstrap: Use minimal resources to start. This might mean beginning from home, working part-time, or doing everything yourself initially.
  • Pre-sales or Crowdfunding: Generate funds by pre-selling your product or service or use crowdfunding platforms to raise capital from future customers or supporters.
  • Business Model Adaptation: Consider service-based or digital business models that typically require less capital than product-based businesses.
  • Business Loans and Microloans: Explore small business loans or microloans from banks, credit unions, or online lenders. These loans can provide the necessary capital to start but require careful planning to ensure repayment.
  • Government Programs: Research government grants and loan programs designed to help small businesses. These often have more favorable terms than traditional loans.

What is the Seven-Stage Business Life Cycle?

The seven-stage business life cycle is a framework that outlines the progression of a small business from its inception to maturity. Each of these stages of small business ownership helps entrepreneurs plan, manage challenges, and make informed decisions at each phase.

Here's a breakdown of the seven stages:

  • Seed and Development: This initial stage involves conceptualizing the business idea. It's a period of brainstorming, research, and planning. Entrepreneurs identify a market need, develop a product or service to meet that need, and formulate a business plan.
  • Startup: This phase involves setting up operations, acquiring initial customers, and starting sales.
  • Growth and Establishment: In this stage, the business begins to gain traction. The focus shifts to refining the product or service, improving operations, and possibly expanding the team.
  • Expansion: This stage is marked by further growth, which might involve entering new markets, diversifying product lines, or scaling operations.
  • Maturity and Possible Exit: At this point, the business is well-established in the market and experiences steady revenue and profit.
  • Decline or Renewal: The business owner must decide whether to rejuvenate the business through new strategies, like adopting new technologies or rebranding or to move towards exiting the business.
  • Exit: The final stage involves exiting the business, which can be done through selling, closing down, or merging with another company.

Do You Need a Degree To Become A Small Business Owner?

No, a formal degree is not a mandatory education requirement for a business owner. However, having some educational background can be beneficial, as success in small business ownership often relies more on practical experience, industry-specific skills, and personal qualities like determination, leadership, and adaptability.

What Do Small Business Owners Need?

When becoming a small business owner, you may be wondering, “What qualifications do you need to start your own business?” You don't necessarily need formal qualifications, but a blend of practical skills and attributes is beneficial. Key needs include:

  • Business Knowledge
  • Industry Expertise
  • Planning and Strategy Skills
  • Financial Management Skills
  • Problem-Solving Abilities
  • Leadership and Management Skills
  • Legal Knowledge

How To Manage Your Career as A Small Business Owner?

Managing your career as a small business owner and understanding how to become a successful business owner involves several key strategies:

  • Set Clear Goals
  • Develop a Strong Business Plan
  • Continuous Learning
  • Effective Time Management
  • Keep a Close Eye on Finances
  • Network and Build Relationships
  • Be Prepared to Adapt
  • Have Work-Life Balance
  • Seek Feedback and Mentorship


Now that you have familiarized yourself with the steps of becoming a small business owner, you are on the right track to running a successful business. Start by brainstorming, conducting market research, writing a business plan, and registering your business. Then, you can work on getting funding, hiring employees, and advertising and marketing your business.

Ethan James   Lead Writer
Ethan James is an experienced Financial Writer at Lendza with over a decade of experience.