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Starting Your Own Business?

Starting Your Own Business?

I think it’s safe to say women can do it all these days. Not only can women do it all, but more and more, it seems we are expected to manage everything, both inside and outside of the home. Not that I’m complaining. I take pride in striving to be the best wife and mom I can be, while also running a successful business. Now, as for the dust bunnies you might see under a bed or two in my house – let’s just say we’ve reached a mutually beneficial agreement. Truth be told, and as most women who are moms and business owners might agree, balancing it all is not always as easy as it might look. Nonetheless, I am a firm believer that with the proper foundation and a strategically designed support system, mompreneurs can position themselves to thrive both at home and in the marketplace. 

Initially, I didn’t set out to become an entrepreneur. However, when preparing to return to work after maternity leave with my youngest son, I simply realized I wanted more control over my schedule. At the time, I was working a nine-to-five job and thought going into private practice would afford me the flexibility I was looking for. With the support of my husband, I left a somewhat secure government job and ended up hanging out my own shingle. While I have no regrets, there are several things I wish I had known about starting a business before I actually took that leap. And as an attorney and business consultant for small business start-ups, there are a few legal considerations you shouldn’t overlook when setting up shop.

1 Brainstorm for name choices. Before you invest in business cards and other paraphernalia to promote your new business, make sure you have selected a distinguishable name. An Internet search of your desired name is a good first step. You don’t want to start a business only to find out that someone already has that name or something very close to it. Not only would it cause confusion in the market, but if someone has already used that name, it won’t be available when you try to register your business with the State Corporation Commission (SCC). 

2 Register your business. It’s important to consider the type of entity you wish to start. If you don’t register a business entity with the SCC, you’ll end up with a sole proprietorship by default, which means essentially that you and your business are the same person. While this is a common method for people who start businesses without legal guidance, it can sometimes have harsh consequences. Owners of a sole proprietorship generally have personal liability for all actions and all debts of the business. As a mother looking to set up a small business, you may instead want to consider forming a separate entity that can insulate your personal assets from any business liability, such as a limited liability company (LLC).

3 Plan for expenses. As parents, many of us are accustomed to dealing with a house or family budget. The same goes for your business. It isn’t enough to consider only how much money you want to generate through the business. You should also consider how much you are willing to invest into establishing the business and getting it up and running. Common expenses can include SCC filing fees, business license fees, attorney fees, and purchasing inventory or supplies needed to operate the business.

4 Obtain a business license. Many small businesses neglect to take this step, but to operate legally, you must obtain a business license from the city or county where your business will transact business. This type of license is used primarily to determine the city or county tax liability owed by your business based on gross receipts. Keep in mind that some service business, such as barbers, childcares, and hairstylists require an additional certification or other type of license to offer services to the public. Be sure you have all of these requirements in place before launching your business.

5 Keep personal and business finances separate. It is best to avoid co-mingling your personal funds with those of your business. In fact, I generally recommend obtaining a separate tax identification number from the IRS, and using it (instead of your social security number) to establish a distinct bank account for your business. Maintain clear lines between personal and business finances to help you track your expenses and provide a head start at tax time. Keeping finances separate also helps to ensure the liability protection of an LLC remains intact. 

6 Get family and friends on board. No mompreneur is an island. Moms who work outside the home or who have started their own business often feel pulled in many different directions. Before you jump in with both feet, be intentional about setting up a network of people who are committed to helping you succeed. This can be a spouse or other family members, or friends who don’t mind taking the kids out to dinner a few times a month while you work late. Not only that, but moms who have emotional support from a small network of friends and family are more likely to succeed when the pressures of simultaneously running a household and a business set in.

Finally, and perhaps the most important thing to consider, is your end game. Where do you want the business to go? How large or how small do you want it to be? Do you see yourself getting the business started and then hiring someone else to do the day-to-day tasks? It’s important to keep your individual goals in front of you when starting a business. If you don’t, you run the risk of fulfilling the goals of others instead of your own. Remember to stay focused so you can keep an eye not just on the business itself, but on the lifestyle you want to create for your family.

Syreeta B. Stewart is an attorney and owner of SBStewart Law, PLC, a law firm focusing on family law, bankruptcy, and small business development. A native Richmonder and UR graduate, Syreeta is a proud wife and mom to three busy children and one newly adopted fur-baby puppy named Sophie.

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