Fifteen Steps to Start a Business

15 Steps to Start a Small Business

You have a great idea or thought but how do you convert it into an actual business? Great question - we wanted to provide some general guidance on starting a business in Arkansas. This is not an all-inclusive list and will vary by the business, structure, size, etc., but is is a great overview.

Keep in mind that we can help with most of this process - if you have questions or need help, please let us know!

This article is not an endorsement of any companies or resources listed - this article is provided for informational purposes.

Step 1: Write a business plan

When starting a business plan, you’ll want to focus on who started it, what are the ownership percentages or what the business does, when is it started, where is it located, why was it started, and how is it setup, among other things?

Be aware that the document you create will be a working document, never a final one, as you will want to revisit it annually, at least.

Check out the links for more templates and resources on business planning.

- 2021 Business Planning

- Business Plan Road Map

- Business Planning Webinar in Partnership with the - Fayetteville Public Library + YouTube.

Business Plan Sections –

Here are a few of the sections in a business plan. Keep in mind that business plans range in size (number of pages) and content based on the business, structure, size, etc.

Business Name and Tag Line

o What is your product/service?

o Key features and benefits?

o Variations?

o Distribution channels (where are you selling)?

o Pricing?

Company setup (sole proprietor, LLC, S-Corp, etc.) - description and about (see Step 2 for more information)

What are your Mission, Vision, and Values? What are you trying to achieve?

Mission Statement Examples | Wix

Mission Statement Template | Asana

Does Your Small Business Have a Strong Mission and Vision | Score

Values | SBA

• Vision Statement Examples | Fit Small Business

What are your Short- and Long-Term Goals?

Roles and Responsibilities - who does what, where, and when

Research Competition - what do they do well, what do they not?

SWOT Analysis - SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Your SWOT will not be a final document, it is always a work in progress. Update your SWOT Analysis at least once a quarter.

It can be as simple or complicated as you want, just don’t over complicate it. Your strengths and weaknesses are more internal factors while opportunities and threats are more external. You can control internal while external you can’t.

Examples of strengths could be experience/employees, reputation or repeat clients, while weaknesses may be lack of experience or new employees, marketing plan, or bad location.

Examples of opportunities may be expanded geographically, diversity of products, develop strategic alliances, while threats may be competition, market saturation, or global virus.

Target Market and Competitive Advantage

Your target market is the people that would be more likely to want your product or service. They normally have similar characteristics such as age, gender, location, race, or interests.

You can figure out your target market by figuring out the value that your goods or services have to offer. After that you can then figure out how better to market to them.

Your competitive advantage could be the service you offer, how quickly you can do it, the types of products you use. It is something that makes you unique from others and thus puts you ahead of other companies.


Marketing is your best way to promote your services or products. It covers advertising, sales, online presence, retention, and more.

o How will you reach your target and sell your product or service?

o Examples of marketing could include social media, online ads, events, sales, direct mail, traditional advertising, and more.

- Marketing Virtual Event for Small Businesses in Partnership with the Fayetteville Public Library.

Create a budget for startup and monthly costs

You need to start by estimating the expenses of what will be needed to start your business. In each category of expense, it is best to draw up a list of everything that needs to be purchased, both tangible assets and services.

Next is to determine where these goods or services might be purchased, make sure to research more than one in the category to see options. Pay attention to not only price but also terms of payment, delivery reliability, and service.

o Here is a template to help with that - Startup expenses from Microsoft Office.

o You will need a cash cushion to start, or otherwise known as your working capital. What income is coming and timing plus the amount of expenses and timing is included in this – cash flow is key.

o Next will be the operational cost, which are your day-to-day, monthly, and annual cost. You’d add up your total expenses for monthly and annually, the sum of each would amount to your total operating costs.

Financial Projections (Statements)

Your financial statements will be written records that will show your business’ performance and activities. They include your balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement.

Government agencies, accountants, and firms can audit them. It is best to create a 12-month cash flow projection and 12-month profit and loss projection as a minimum when first starting out. If you can then create 24-month projects that you will update annually.

For more information on financial projections – check out the blog listed in the Funding section.

Where is funding coming from?

Your funding may come from a loan - A potential loan source in Arkansas is FORGE, Today’s Bank in Springdale, Communities Unlimited in Fayetteville, etc.

Or from a grant, or combination of the two - which is an amount of money the government or another institution will give someone for a purpose. Some vendors for grants are Grant Watch, Nerd Wallet, Fedex Grant, etc.

Another option for funding is Crowdfunding, and this is when a large group of people endeavor to raise money. Some crowdfunding platforms are Kiva, Kickstarter, WeFunder, etc.

Click this link for the financial side of your business plan.

Step 2: Form the company

You can create your company through an attorney, some CPAs, and online sources (Legal Zoom, Northwest Registered Agent, etc.).

We wouldn’t suggest setting up a partnership online - if it is more than a sole member LLC – it would be better sitting down and working out details with a professional. If something happens in a partnership - that document is everything - so you need to make sure that all details are listed.

Set up a meeting with your CPA and attorney to discuss your plans and what is needed as well as the costs associated with the company type.

Also, talk with your CPA about how taxation works for your company structure. You don't want to be surprised by a tax bill - so make sure you understand how it works and what the estimated savings need is for taxes (depending on structure).

Step 3: Request an EIN and Register the company

You’ll want to request an EIN or Employer Identification Number and then register your company with the Arkansas Secretary of state (if that is not done for you when you form the company).

If you don't want your address shown on the state website - you can use a registered agent (for a fee through service providers, attorneys, and others). A registered agent is someone who will receive legal documents on behalf of your business.

- Apply for an EIN - IRS

- Arkansas Secretary of State

- What is an EIN and Why It is Important | SBA

Step 4: Setup a bank account in your company name

You’ll need to know what kind of accounts you may need, since you may need different ones depending on if it is for income, payroll, or taxes. It is best to check with your accountant. The most common ones for businesses just starting are checking, saving, credit, and merchant services.

Next, you’ll need to select a bank, this may be different then the bank you do your personal banking at. Before you open your bank account(s), you will need paperwork from your company setup (LLC, C-Corp, etc) to open the account in the business' name.

- Set up a Business Bank Account in 6 Steps: A Small Business Guide (

- Open a Business Bank Account | SBA

- How to Open a Business Bank Account | Nerd Wallet

Step 5: Apply for a business license from your city

The business license is something you need as it is required by the city in order to allow you to do business. You need it if you sell goods, provide services that require licenses, or operate as a brick-and-mortar business. In Arkansas, there isn’t a statewide operating license, but a local license may be required.

- What is a Business License? – Forbes Advisor

- Fayetteville Arkansas Business License Info

- Bentonville Arkansas Business License Info

- Springdale Arkansas Business License Info

- Rogers Arkansas Business License Info

Step 6: Setup sales tax with the state - if applicable

Arkansas has a tax based on the gross receipts from sales. Moreover, any business that sells goods or services that are taxable within Arkansas to people living in Arkansas are required to collect sales tax from the buyer.

You need to file for a sales tax certificate. Here are a couple resources.

- Sales and Use Tax

- Register for Sales Tax in AR

Just a reminder that in Arkansas you must file a business personal property assessment annually. You will file and pay for your first year in your second calendar year of business.

If you have employees in Arkansas, you will also need to register your company with the state for Withholdings and Unemployment.

Step 7: Find and Lease (or buy) Location (if applicable) + order signage

If you are a business that needs a physical location, then you need to know how to best find one. Your location may depend on the type of business you have it needs to be within your budget, matching your brand, and allows you connect to customers/vendors/suppliers.

With a lease for a commercial property, tenants may be responsible for build outs, signage, maintenance on the property, etc - make sure you read your lease agreement and understand the terms. If you don't understand, contact a local attorney to walk you through it.

- How to Choose a Business Location - NerdWallet

- Commercial Lease Guidelines | Business News Daily

- How To Lease Commercial Real Estate: The Ultimate Guide | Fit for Small Business

For signage options - talk to your local and online print shops. Building Signs can range from $500 to $10K+. Also think also about door signage, window signage, and internal decor.

Step 8: Acquire insurance and bonding (depending on your profession)

You need to find an insurance broker (who you trust), determine your risks, determine any government/license/client insurance requirements, create a requirement sheet, fill out the forms and supplements, and give your broker time to quote it all.

Approach it with goals in mind and an understanding of how it works. In certain professions, additional licenses may be needed.

As an example, a contractor may need a home improvement license and contractor license through the state. Make sure to check with localities to determine additional licensure or requirements.

- How To Get Your Business Bonded And Insured | LandesBlosch

- Get Business Insurance | SBA

- Small Business Insurance Explained | Hartford

- Speak to your local insurance agent

Step 9: Start using a bookkeeping software or hire someone

Bookkeeping is especially important for your business as you need to keep track of all of your financial records as you go. You can do this through software or hire someone to specifically do this. Trust us, you will thank us at tax time!

- Recommended Bookkeeping Software Products Reviews 2022 | Sonary

- Best Accounting Software | Nerd Wallet

- 5 Best Accounting Software | Investopedia

- Talk to your local Accountant or CPA

Step 10: Purchase a VOIP line or phones

VOIP stands for voice over internet protocol, and it allows you to make voice calls using the broadband internet connection instead of a regular phone line. You can choose one by looking at users, features, your budget, and any third-party applications. Then you need to search IP providers, shortlist those to what works for you, and then select the one best suited for you.

o Vonage - phone and texts + meetings

o Sideline - texting and call

o Grasshopper - calls and texts

o Ring Central - calls and text

- How to choose the right VoIP phone for your small business | TechRadar

- The Best VoIP Providers | PC Magazine

- What is VoIP | FCC

Step 11: Create a logo and colors

You can design your logo by hand, use services such as Canva or Vistaprint, or hire a professional to design one.

Your logo should connect to your business and make you stand out. Know who your audience is, be creative, and make it adaptable and simple. Pay attention to color and typography in its creation.

- Logo Maker | Create Free Logos in Minutes | Canva

- Logo Maker | Vista Print

- 10 Essential Things to Keep in Mind When Designing a Logo (

Step 12: Have a professional head shot made and write or update your bio

Your bio should be a first impression. It should tell who you are and express your humanity through it. A bio includes experience, licenses, classes attended, specialties, hobbies, passions, background, etc. Your headshot should be technically well taken and well-composed as it will help to identify you with your business.

How to Write a Bio | Grammarly

Professional Bio Examples | Hubspot

How to Write a Bio | Foundr

How to Write a Short Bio | Indeed

Step 13: Setup POS (Point of Sale System)

Will you take payments on the website and at the store? Do you need invoicing? These are all things to think about when creating a POS, which is how you will collect money from the customer or client.

You can set this up through POS hardware or in the cloud, enabling you to check out a customer wherever you are. Keep in mind that most web builders have a POS or integration with other POS systems. So, when you are researching POS systems (fees, processing times, etc), check the website tool you have decided on to make sure they integrate.

- Best POS System for Small Business | Forbes

- 10 Best Point of Sale Systems | Fit Small Business

- Best Small Business POS Systems | USA News

Step 14: Create a website and setup social media + other channels

You can create a website through WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, Shopify, another web builder or tool, or a web development company. Your small business website should be accessible. You need to be aware of what it looks like on a computer, tablet, or phone.

Pay attention to locations of pictures, sections, wording, etc. Be aware of colors and match those to your brand colors.

If you sell products, look into Etsy for Handmade, Amazon, or Wayfair.

Your business's social media, the platforms for which your business should have a presence on, depends on the demographics and psychographics of your target market.

Some common social sites include –

- Facebook

- Google

- Tiktok

- Snapchat

- Instagram

- LinkedIn

- YouTube

- And many others.

Social media allows you to connect with your audience, advertise your product or service, build value, and much more.

Keep in mind that on most platforms, you will need to setup a personal profile in order to create a business page.

We also suggest purchasing a domain email instead of using a basic gmail or yahoo address. Such as instead of It looks much more professional and professional emails are only $6 to $12 a month. You can purchase professional emails through certain web builders, google, and others.

Keep in mind that Microsoft and Gmail offer cloud workspace systems for teams to more easily communicate and organize docs/pics/etc.

Step 15: Purchase business cards

Business cards are important as they are easy ways to pass out your information to others in daily life and for others to pass on your information to people that may need your product or service.

You can design them on Canva or other sites, such as Office Max, or a local graphic designer or print shop. Here are some free business card makers

- Design Business Cards Online | Canva

- Business Cards | Vista Print

- Best Business card Designs | Forbes

- Talk to your local printer or print shop


We hope you found this information helpful on your journey of becoming a small business owner, and we wish you the best of luck in your new adventure. If you need any help, we are here!

Comprehensive Consulting Solutions for Small Businesses is a business consulting firm in Northwest Arkansas. We help small businesses with their small business puzzles including business planning, marketing, and more. We offer in person and remote consultations. If you need help with your small business - call us to schedule your free consultation at 479-439-8844.