5 Steps to Consider When Starting a New Business

Sponsor Spotlight: Hamer Law Group, LLC

Editor’s Note: The following post is by the attorneys at Hamer Law Group, the presenting sponsor of our See Jane Write Magazine Launch Party! So many women involved in See Jane Write are aspiring entrepreneurs and I hope you’ll find this information useful. 
Many people have heard tales of successful businesses being born on the back of cocktail napkins, and ask, “Does that really happen?” In all likelihood, it absolutely does. In its infancy, a business typically starts out as an idea. It may be a solution to a problem, a lifelong dream or an intellectual collaboration. And yes, even a drunken epiphany at an adequately stocked watering hole. The next question is usually, “My napkin is complete, now what?” Quite simply, it’s time to get to work.
Here are five steps to consider when starting a new business.

1. Develop a plan.

One of the most critical steps when starting a business is going beyond the napkin and forming a plan. It seems like common sense, however, some entrepreneurs are so eager to dive into their new business this step is given little to no consideration. This is by no means an exhaustive guide, but should serve as a gentle reminder to actually form a plan. Here are a few things to consider:

Practical Considerations:

•           Revenue Streams – How do we make money? (i.e. products, services, subscriptions)
•           Customers/Client – Who’s buying what we’re selling? (i.e. businesses, individuals, government)
•           Competitors – Who are we up against? (i.e. local, national, multi-national)
•           Competitive Advantage – Why are we better than the competition? (i.e. price, location, quality)
•           Projections – How much money are we going to make [or lose]? More importantly, how much money do we need? (revenue, cost of goods, operating expenses)
•           Capitalization – How are we going to fund the business? (personal savings, investors, debt)

 Legal Considerations: 

•           Relationships between owners and/or investors
•           non-disclosure agreements 
•           licenses, permits and regulatory concerns
•           franchise/supplier agreements
•           lease agreements and/or real estate purchase agreements


2.      Make a name for yourself…literally.

Choosing a name for a business is a big deal. For some, it may be as easy as a person’s name and a description of the business (i.e. Joe’s Plumbing or Hamer Law Group). Others find it exceedingly difficult to come up with or agree on a name. A few things to consider when selecting a name:

Practical Considerations

•           Related to the industry, business or owners
•           Allows customers to easily identify with products and services
•           Catchy or memorable
•           Easy to spell (more important than you may think)
•           Not offensive or misleading
•           Logos
•           Domain name/website availability

Legal Considerations

•           Statutory Requirements (i.e. “Inc.”, “LLC”, etc.)
•           Copyright/trademark Issues
•           Trade Dress
•           Trade Names

3.      Get organized as a business.

Once you’ve decided you’re going to form a business, it’s time to determine what type of entity is necessary to protect the owners and provide a solid structure for the business to grow. The default entities of sole proprietorship and partnerships offer little protection from personal liability for the owners. Corporations, LLCs, LLPs, and other limited liability entities are desirable to protect the individual assets of owners and investors. 

Practical Considerations

•           Number of owners/investors
•           Type of owners/investors
•           Splitting of profits and losses
•           Management structure
•           Operation of the business
•           Purpose/Nature of the business

Legal Considerations

•           Limitation of liability
•           Tax considerations
•           Relationships between owners/investors
•           By-laws, operating agreement, etc. 

4.      Track your progress.

Just like a fifth grader’s report card, a business’ performance should be tracked and measurable to ensure success and maximize profitability. Properly categorizing and accounting for items and transactions allows a business owner to gauge performance, detect problems, and make corrections. Tracking is incredibly important. 
A business owner should always remember that its financial statements are only as good as the data is put in them. Due care and time should be spent to ensure that financial statements are up to date and accurate as possible.

Practical Considerations

•           Accounting method: accrual/cash basis
•           Accounting software
•           Hire a good accountant
•           Learn to read a PNL/balance sheet
•           Do NOT get behind in your bookkeeping

Legal Considerations

•           Tax related matters
•           Duties to other investors and owners
•           Proper Due Diligence 
•           License and regulatory issues
•           Reporting requirements

5.      Get help!

It’s unlikely that you will have all the answers when starting a new business. Often times you’ll have to rely on consultants, accounts, and lawyers to guide them through areas of uncertainty. Forming a strong relationship with professionals you can trust early in the development of your business can help you build a comfort level with the unknowns of starting your business. Building relationships often helps build knowledge. 
Additionally, similar businesses, competitors, and trade organizations can act as an excellent resource for industry specific questions regarding the operation of the business. 
Disclaimer: This list is provided as general information and does not constitute legal advice. 

Using Social Media to Build Meaningful Professional Relationships

Sponsor Spotlight: Brian Cauble of Appsolute Genius

Brian Cauble, co-founder of the Birmingham-based mobile applications developer Appsolute Geniushas about 1,200 connections on LinkedIn. He has had face-to-face meetings with nearly all of them. 

If you’re looking for someone to offer advice on how to use social media to build meaningful relationships on and offline, Brian is clearly your guy. And chances are, he’ll actually make time to meet you for coffee to discuss this. 

That’s just one of the reasons we’re so glad that Appsolute Genius is one of the sponsors for the July issue of See Jane Write Magazine and our magazine launch party

Appsolute Genius co-founder Brian Cauble

Brian was the guest speaker at a recent luncheon presented by the Alabama Social Media Association (ALsocme)

He began his talk with a scenario to which we can all relate. You go to networking event or a conference. You shake hands.  You chat with people you find interesting. You leave with a stack of business cards. Those business cards then sit on your desk collecting dust until you eventually accidentally knock them into your trash can and don’t bother digging them out. 

One of the first tips Brian offered was to simply follow up. When you met someone at an event send them an email or a connection request on LinkedIn (But don’t send a generic one. You should actually write a message reminding the person where you two met.) Follow them on Twitter. Friend them on Facebook. Likewise, if there’s someone you know only online, don’t be afraid to try to arrange a meeting IRL, or in real life. 

Effectively using social media can be tough, but Brian gave the crowd five guidelines that made the process feel a lot less daunting. 

1. Be interesting. Tweet and post Facebook status updates on the things you find interesting, the things you’re passionate about. Believe it or not, there are plenty of other people out there who will find those things interesting too. 

2. Be humble. Brian explained this in what I considered the best quote of the afternoon: “Nobody likes a jackass.” Don’t use your online platforms as an opportunity to be a jerk or to tell people how they should live their lives. 

3. Be engaged. Check-in on Facebook and Foursquare when you go to an event. Comment on people’s status updates. Reply to interesting tweets. Being engaged on social media, however, should not feel like work. It should feel natural. Once you find your groove, Brian said, it will just become what you do.

4. Be authentic. Be yourself. Don’t try to be someone else online. Talk about things you actually care about, not just things you think will get people’s attention. Later in his talk, Brian also added that we shouldn’t be afraid to use social media to reveal pieces of lives to others, even the pieces that aren’t so great. Brian shared that he used social media to help cope with his father’s death. You don’t want your posts to be perpetual rants, but don’t think you have to pretend your life is perfect. “Life sucks sometimes,” Brian said.

5. Be helpful. So often when we think of social media we’re focused on what we can get out of it. Shift your focus and look for ways to help people. Start helping people get connected with folks they need to know. Eventually, this will help you too because people will start to see you as a must-have connection. 

Learn more about Brian and his company at AppsoluteGenius.com.

Tell Me a Story – A Recap of Bloggers Who Brunch: The Power of Storytelling

What story are you trying to tell with your blog? 

Can you explain that story in one sentence?

Can you explain it in one word? 

These are the questions Wade Kwon posed to us at Friday’s Bloggers Who Brunch event on the art of digital storytelling. We had about 30 people gather in the side room of Nabeel’s for an afternoon of lunching and learning.

Wade Kwon speaking on the art of digital storytelling

“You’re telling a story with your blog,” Wade told us. “As storytellers you’re not just dealing with story or narrative, you’re dealing with a theme.”

If you’re having trouble determining the theme of your blog, summing up your site with one word or one sentence will help.

“The one word or one sentence can help you when you get stuck,” Wade said.

Your one sentence, your one word, can help you through writer’s block and help you make important decisions about your blog such as what to include and what to exclude and the different ways you will share your story. These days we have so many channels outside of our blogging and writing with which to tell our story — such as Twitter,  Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Vine.

The theme could also help you decide if your audience will help tell the story. Will they be part of the narrative? Will they help shape it? You can include your readers in a number of ways from allowing them to leave comments to asking them to share stories of their own.

One thing that’s important to remember, Wade reminded us, is that with digital storytelling your audience is not experiencing your story from start to finish the way we experience books or films.  In digital storytelling there is no clear beginning, middle, and end.

“It’s all middle,” Wade said. Therefore your theme has to permeate every post because that post might be the only chapter a person reads of your story.

We had over two dozen bloggers attend this lunch event. 

In addition to theme, it’s important to determine voice and brand. Do you want your blog to be serious? Authoritative? Warm? Collaborative? If your site has a number of contributors how will you include diverse voices while maintaining a distinct brand? Your theme can help you do that.

If you’re sitting there staring at the screen thinking you have no idea how to describe your voice or brand, and if you’re thinking you have no idea what story you’re striving to tell with your blog, that’s OK. The answers to these question will become clearer in time. But you must keep writing.

Being persistent and consistent are key, Wade advised. Keep blogging and eventually your voice will be stronger and your fan base will grow larger, too.

During his talk Wade shared a story about the great success Birmingham blogger Tanya Sylvan had with a recent post. In her post Birmingham — I Run This Town, Tanya composed a photo essay of her favorite sites to see when she runs through downtown Birmingham. Tanya’s blog tells the story of her running adventures and in this post she included her love for Birmingham and her love for photography as well. The post went viral and her readership increased by 300 percent. But Tanya, who attended Friday’s lunch, stressed that this was not her goal when she wrote this post. She just wanted to show why she loves running downtown.

The point is simple: be authentic. Whatever the story of your blog may be, tell it with passion and sincerity. That’s a story people are going to want to read.

Today is the last day to register for the Y’all Connect social media conference, where you can learn even more about digital storytelling. Use SJW89 to receive a $30 discount. Click here for more details. 

See Jane Write Summer Calendar of Events

A peek into my planner

Happy summer solstice!

With the launch of See Jane Write Magazine approaching, some of you may be wondering if this new online publication means there will be less See Jane Write Birmingham events. Well, I’m here to tell you that you can actually expect even more events!

Here’s what’s on the horizon this season:

July 12 — See Jane Write hosts the Alabama Bloggers Luncheon
11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. at Mix, 1820 4th Ave. N.
See Jane Write will play host to the monthly #AlaBlogMeet luncheon.
More details coming soon.

July 18 — See Jane Write Magazine Launch Party
5:30 – 8:30 p.m. at aloft Hotel, 1903 29th Avenue South, Homewood
Help us celebrate the launch of our new online blog-style magazine!
Click here for more details and to RSVP.

July 19 — See Jane Move at Inspire Fitness
5:30 – 6:30 p.m. at Inspire Fitness, 2255 Highland Avenue
Remember you can’t write the next great American masterpiece if you’re dead. So jumpstart your plans to get in shape with an exciting spinning class by Gabe Rios at Inspire Fitness. Only $10.
More details coming soon.

July 21 — Headshot Session with Lynsey Weatherspoon Photography
Beginning at 1 p.m. on Morris Avenue (or Lynsey Weatherspoon Photography studio if it rains)
Local photographer Lynsey Weatherspoon is offering an unbelievable discount on headshot sessions to the women of See Jane Write. These headshots can be used on your blog, author website, social media networks and more.
Click here to reserve your spot today!

Aug. 3 — Sketches & Scribes at Naked Art Gallery
2-4 p.m. at Naked Art Gallery, 3831 Clairmont Avenue
Join us for a mid-afternoon mixer at Naked Art Gallery. We’ll enjoy a few snacks, browse the shop, and get inspired by art. In fact, we’ll be conducting a fun writing challenge at this event, asking attendees to write a poem, a piece of fiction, an essay, or a blog post inspired by a piece of art they saw at Naked Art Gallery. Your work may be featured in See Jane Write Magazine!

Aug. 22 – Meet the Press Media Mixer
5:30 p.m. at The Wine Loft, 2200 1st Ave. North
Mix and mingle with editors from some of the city’s top publications and learn about freelancing opportunities. Publications that will be represented include The Birmingham News, Birmingham Magazine, B-Metro, and Southern Living.
More details coming soon.

Pull out those planners and mark your calendars now!

Win tickets to Girls Night Out: Operation Beach Ready — Updated with Winners!

UPDATE: Congratulations to Laura Tucker Gallitz and Hilary Weston! They won the two pairs of tickets to this event. Have fun, ladies!  


Local author Liza Elliott is on a mission to get you ready for your next vacation.

Not only is her novel 30-A Supper Club a great beach read, but next week she’s hosting a beach-

themed fashion show.

Girls Night Out: Operation Beach Ready will feature food and fashions from local vendors and the Birmingham Fashion Truck is set to be on the scene too. The first 100 guests will receive free swag bags that include a copy of Elliott’s novel.

30-A Supper Club (Red Camel Press), follows sociologist Harley McBride on her quest to identify a gold coin she finds on a Florida beach near County Road 30-A. McBride’s search leads her into a murky world where her longtime friends and members of the 30-A Supper Club protect deep family secrets dating back to the Civil War. A complicated pursuit of the true meaning of the coin begins drawing Harley into secrets about illicit affairs, murders, and more.

Girls Night Out: Operation Beach Ready is to be held 6-10 p.m. Thursday, June 13 at The Summit Club, located at 1901 6th Ave. N. in Birmingham. Tickets are $30 and proceeds from the event will benefit Glenwood Autism & Behavioral Health Center.

See Jane Write is giving away two pairs of tickets to this event. You can enter below!

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