Entrepreneurship Endeavors Part 1 of 4: Starting a Business in New Orleans

SiliconBayou_2013_11_01Below is the start of a 4 part series describing the excitement, challenge, and trials that any entrepreneur might face when starting a business in New Orleans. Part 1, below, covers just launching the business. In part 2 next week, we’ll look at what you should be doing the very first week you open!

If you are a bright mind trying to start a new business, look no further than New Orleans.

In recent years, New Orleans entrepreneurship, like just about everything else, has been anything but normal. According to the most recent study on the topic, the New Orleans metro area had over 500 business startups per 100,000 adults in the three–year period ending in 2012 (the most recent year data is ava
ilable) — a rate that exceeds the nation by 56 percent. The rest of the report, provided by the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, has information every business owner should read.

New Orleans’ recent transformation into an entrepreneurial hub has not occurred by accident. Since 2004, New Orleans has been dedicated to improving the environment in which businesses can succeed by incorporating a series of tools for those willing to take the risk of starting their own business. Some of these tools include grants, contests and startup companies such as Propeller & the Idea Village. Add this to a more educated younger population, tax incentives for tech startups and more friendly business regulations, and you have a perfect storm for success.

So what should you do if you are looking to start a business in New Orleans, or anywhere for that matter?

Well, no two businesses are alike, but there are some very important steps that any entrepreneur should take, regardless of the company.

Before you take any steps, especially monetary ones, it is crucial to create a sound business plan. This includes figuring out what resources you have, such as capital, people and skills, or lack thereof. Understand your strengths and weaknesses, then decide if you can overcome them or if you need outside help. New Orleans has several resources specifically designed to help small businesses get their feet wet, such as the Louisiana Small Business Development Center in New Orleans.

According to business consultant Carmen Sunda of the LA Small Business Development Center in New Orleans, you should restrain from signing anything until you have a sound business plan; “Don’t sign any leases or purchase agreements until you’re really sure your business plan makes sense,” Sunda says.

Creating a sound business plan includes getting a broad estimate of your revenues and costs, and understanding the resources that you have.

Like the Louisiana Small Business Development Center, there are several other resources that small businesses can take advantage of, such as the Idea Village and Propeller Incubator, which are nonprofits dedicated to supporting social innovation in New Orleans.

Some of their services include shared workspace, where young entrepreneurs can work in the same environment, along with pro bono professionals with expertise in accounting, finance, graphic design, marketing and law, to name a few. They can also help you get in contact with potential customers, advocated, and most importantly, financing partners.

Once you have a good grasp on your business plan, you’ll need to register your business. Once again, you can go to Propeller or Idea Village for help, or if you decide to go at it alone, you can read about the different types of business permits and licenses at http://www.nola.gov/onestop/business/.

Finally, you need to get your personal finances in order. Starting a business is tough enough as it is, but if you have any sort of debt, you could find yourself in major trouble. Review your finances and see what unnecessary spending you can cut. These include things like going out to eat or unneccesary purchases. Your local bank might be able to help you out.

As the saying goes, starting is 80 percent of the battle. If you are in New Orleans, you have all the tools around you; all you need to do is capitalize on them.

This guest post was written by Patrick Rafferty in association with Hibernia Bank. The views expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily those of any financial institution or bank. This article is intended to provide those reading it with information about matters of current interest. It should not be construed as legal or financial advice concerning a specific topic and should not be acted upon without contacting the appropriate professionals.