How To Start a Business – 7 Steps You Don’t Want to Miss

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The funny thing about business is that many of the people who start them don’t really know what they’re doing at first. It’s not as though entrepreneurs spring neatly from the ranks of business college graduates–far from it. So many amazing companies start from the spark of an idea from an everyday person. A teacher. A chef. A janitor.

Some people simply see a need and have the imagination to fill that need creatively. When the idea becomes a good or service, a business model is required to bring it to the consumer. But how to do this? If you’re someone whose spark has become a product and you want to expand, we’ve created a list of steps to follow when starting a business.

Step 1: Conduct Market Research

The first thing to do is find out if the general public finds your product as brilliant as you do. Market research helps you to gather information about what consumers are looking for and if there are similar businesses in your area.

You can do this by gathering information directly, or using secondary info (information that has already been gathered). You need to know your audience from the very beginning so that you can gather relevant demographics. You may choose to use any or all of the following to gather information:

  • Interviews
  • Surveys or questionnaires
  • Focus groups

Step 2: Create a Business Plan

A business plan is the cornerstone of your company. It’s essentially the strategy for building your idea into a successful venture. It needs to be clear, concise, and demonstrate to your audience that your business is one worth investing in.

Take a look at the competition in your marketplace. Identify some strengths and opportunities, and decide how your own business will do things differently. What will you be marketing, and how will you market it? What is your target audience? Answer these questions before moving forward.

Create a conservative sales projection, so that you’ll have a cash reserve. Don’t go too hard at first, as you need to create brand awareness and convince existing consumers of your competitors that your product is better. This takes time, so it’s best not to overreach.

Step 3: Find the Funding

If you don’t have the capital on hand to start a business on your own (and congrats if you do!), you’ll have to find the funding. As part of your business plan, you should have decided how much money you’ll need to start your venture. Now it’s time to figure out how to get it.

You can self-fund with your own money (but be careful with this…while you have total control, you also have all of the risk). This can be done by dipping into savings, or by getting a small business loan.

You may also reach out to investors. If you are doing this, make sure that you have a really strong business plan to share. Also realize that you will very likely that any investor will want a spot on your board of directors so you’ll have to be ready to relinquish some control.

Finally, you could try crowdfunding. This is low risk as you retain control as owner, and don’t typically owe anything to the funders if you aren’t able to follow through (check the fine print of your platform to be sure). In return for their contributions, funders are offered some sort of gift. This could be a copy of the product itself or perks like a name credit or a special item not available to the typical buyer.

Step 4: Decide on a Location

Nowadays, the big choice here is whether you’ll have a brick-and-mortar shop, or run your business completely online. There are pros and cons to each, so take some thought to decide which best suits your product or service.

The choices you make here can affect your revenue, as well as taxes and legal requirements.

Step 5: Find a Memorable (and Original) Name

This may seem like a simple step, but the truth of the matter is it may take a little more time than you’d think. First, you want it to really capture your vibe and brand. Then you have to make sure that the name you want is not already being used anywhere else. A really catchy name can be the start of a business empire.

You want to register your business to protect your new company name. In most cases for small businesses this is a simple process where you simply register the name with state and local governments.

Next, take care of the tax stuff. You’ll need to get an employer identification number (EIN) so that you can open a business bank account and pay your taxes. Think of the EIN as a social security number for your business. Depending on your state, you may also have to apply for a tax ID.

Finally, let’s make sure that your company is legally compliant by applying for any and all required licenses and permits. Which ones you’ll need depend upon various factors such as state, location, industry, etc.

Step 7: Open a Business Bank Account

Now it’s time to open a business bank account. These accounts are helpful to small business owners, as they are able to better help you with taxes, legal things, and the day-to-day of running a company, not too mention they make your accounting and bookkeeping much easier. Many also offer business credit lines as a perk of signing up.

The Final Word

Creating a business is something that requires a lot of focus and drive, but almost anybody can do it if they have a product or service to sell. All it takes is careful consideration of all the steps outlined here. Just be sure that you move slowly and carefully, and that you don’t overreach. Remember that there are competitors out there and that you have to take the time to carve out your own niche.

To take a deeper diver into the regulatory and administrative tasks that need to be undertaken when starting a new business, we have a great blog post that provides a detailed step by step guide on what you need to do. Or, if you prefer videos take a look at our YouTube piece on the same topic, or just watch the content below. (The first video is the full guide and the second is an abridged guide.)

That’s it for now. We hope that our article on how to start a business was helpful for you. My OC Bookkeeper has extensive experience in helping individuals with brand new businesses and is standing by ready to help. (By the by, check out this post to learn some of the benefits of using an outside accountant, and this one for some great ways that bookkeepers can help your business save money.) Make sure to contact us here for more information.

5 Best Hiking Trails in Orange County, CA

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Our List of the Best Hiking Trails in the OC

With the beach town and amusement park reputation that Orange County carries, it can be easy to see how certain tourist attractions tend to overshadow aspects of the County that take you closer to nature like hiking. Hidden as they might seem, Orange County is in fact home to plenty of fantastic spots where you can get a nice, deep breath of fresh air. Here are our 4 best hiking trails in Orange County, both for beginners and seasoned hikers.

Carbon Canyon Regional Park

The Carbon Canyon Regional Park has a lovely 2-mile hiking loop that is considered in the easy range from a difficulty standpoint – which is often just right if you ask us. What makes this trail so special is the fact that it is the only place in Orange County (and possibly Southern California) where there are actual redwood trees. The ‘Coastal Redwoods’ (Sequoia sempervirens) tower nearly 100 feet tall and provide a great balcony of shade while you hike. To make things even more interesting, the trees are marked by signs that clue you in to the extensive lives they’ve lived, as well as the great efforts that have gone into preserving them.

The park also includes picnic areas, a lake with piers for fishing, BBQs, a nature center, and tennis courts, among other things. Dogs are welcome, and entry costs $3 Monday through Friday, and $5 on the weekend, with modified pricing during holidays.

For more details check out their great website here.

Redwood trees like you would find in Carbon Regional Park in Orange County
Redwood trees, like in Carbon Canyon Regional Park

Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park

If you’re ready to turn it up a notch, the 11-mile loop at Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park will take you through the wide variety of natural wonders that Orange County has to offer. From native vegetation to sandstone cavities and stunning views from high-up peaks, this trail is one that’ll leave you in awe every step of the way.

It’s not a short path and, luckily, the peaks of Mt. Baldy and Santiago make for a good spot to stop and grab a bite midway through. Both mountain bikers and equestrians are welcome, and make sure to pack your picnic, plenty of water, and a bowl for your pup—this trail is dog-friendly! Parking costs $3.

A small dog with its tongue sticking out, like you might find in the Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park.
A cute dog, like you’ll find in Aliso and Wood Canyons Regional Park.

Niguel Botanical Preserve

If the native vegetation part of the last park is what caught your eye, this one is definitely the one for you. The 4 miles out and back at the Niguel Botanical Preserve is home to some beautiful flora, native and otherwise, that fare well in the Mediterranean California climate. This trail is a gem for gardening enthusiasts.

Vegetation from Australia to Chile, South Africa to Baja, and certainly Orange County as well, will give you a variety of shapes and colors to explore while you wander through the sculptures and labyrinth. As noted in the picture below, the flora and fauna are organized by region, and there is both a children’s garden and an amphitheater. As with the Aliso and Woods Canyon Wilderness Park, dogs are welcome, but please clean up after them, if you know what I mean.

The Preserve is open 365 days a year, has a ton of great events and even a top notch website where you can learn more. To check it out just click here.

A map of the Niguel Botanical Reserve, one of the best parks in Orange County.
Map of the Niguel Botanical Reserve.

Peters Canyon Regional Park

If you love nature but your vibe is more wildlife than botanical, this is the path you’ll want to take. The 6-mile loop at Peters Canyon Regional Park is home to plenty of wildlife within the multiple natural habitats and man-made reservoirs. Waterfowl and Cooper’s hawks are sure to accompany you throughout your trek, and there are some nice hills where you can gaze towards the coast with Catalina Island visible on clear days.

The total hike can take up about two hours, dogs are welcome here as well, and parking at the official North entrance costs $3.

The sign at the entrance of Peters Canyon Regional Park.
The entrance at Peters Canyon Regional Park.

The Top of the World

No list of the best hikes in Orange County would be complete without the famous Top of the World hike stretching out high above Laguna Beach. The hike is a bit more on the difficult side, and can be quite steep at times, but there are fabulous views of the coast. The trail winds through the Aliso and Wood Canyon Wilderness Park until reaching the hike’s namesake where there are striking views reaching all the way from the San Gabriel Mountains to Catalina Island.

To make a trip to the Top of the World even more memorable, enjoy a drive through the hills above Laguna before or after. There is no shortage of beautiful views, and plenty of impressive architecture to match. (Actually, the final thing you’ll need for a perfect day is a great place to eat. Check out our list of the five best restaurants in Laguna for some great options.

Parking is free but the lot at the trailhead can fill up on busy weekends, so you may have park in the nearby residential area and walk – just be sure to be respectful of the locals!

Coastal Laguna Beach, CA

As great as the beach and all of the manmade attractions in Orange County are, it’s also important to take some time to enjoy the beautiful natural environments only found on hiking trails. These are some of the best hiking trails in orange county to us – let us know what your favorites are in the comments.

But before we go, if you are looking to get more involved in OC hiking opportunities, check out the Hiking OC and the OC Hiking Club Meetup groups, where you can find some great local hikers to spend time with. Or, check out the SoCal Hiker website for a great breakdown of twenty-eight local hikes by factors such as mileage, difficulty, and whether you can take dogs. That’s a wrap for our guide of great hiking trails in Orange County, see you on the trails!

Orange County is full of entrepreneurs that run businesses of all sizes – check out My OC Bookkeeper if you are interested in bookkeeping, accounting, or outsourced CFO services. We have years of experience and understand a wide range of industries. (Not to mention love hiking.) Make sure to contact us here.

And if you want to see some great footage of the Aliso Peak Trail (in the OC of course) enjoy the video below. Happy hiking! (And bookkeeping!)