Starting a business
Ways We Can Help
- Business Planning
- Marketing Assistance
- Demographic & Market Information
- Resource Connection
- Workforce Development
- Site Selection
- Business Loans
Reach out to our business specialist, Ben Strand at email@example.com for more information!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What type of business should I start?
A: You should start a business you are passionate about! Entrepreneurship can be very rewarding; however, it is also challenging and requires the dedication of significant time and financial resources. Therefore, it is very important to love what you do so that it will be easier to stick with it through the difficulties you will invariably encounter. You should also conduct market research as it pertains to the demand in your chosen community, financial feasibility and the sustainability of your idea. While passion is important, if a business won’t be profitable it will be difficult to maintain operations long-term.
Q: Is there a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to starting a business?
A: The state of Minnesota has produced a robust guide to starting a business. Although the guide is lengthy, it can provide valuable information for someone looking for answers. Their guide, including an index, can be found here.
Q: What are the different business structures?
A: Different business structures come with varying levels of personal liability and different sets of benefits, so it is important to choose a level that makes the most sense for you. Some of the main types of business structures are: Sole Proprietorship, Limited Partnership, Limited Liability Partnership, Limited Liability Company, Corporation and Cooperative. The Small Business Administration has a webpage that provides more detail on each structure, which you can find here.
Q: Do I need a lawyer to help me set up my business?
A: You do not need to hire a lawyer to start your own business. However, speaking or working with an attorney to answer your questions and ensure you are on the right track can be very beneficial, and help you avoid making costly mistakes. There are an abundance of legal tools online (ex: RocketLawyer, LegalZoom, etc.) that you can leverage, but there are also several free legal resources near Lake City. The Small Business Development Center provides free 30-minute legal consultations to business owners, as does LegalCORPS, a Minnesota based non-profit.
Q: What types of services does the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) provide, and how do I register for services?
A: The SBDC has an office located in Rochester, as well as a satellite office in Red Wing. The organization is funded through the Small Business Administration (SBA), and provides a number of services at no charge to their clients. These services include but are not limited to: business planning, financial projections, loan packaging and marketing. You can register for services here.
Q: Do I need a business plan to start my business?
A: We highly recommend constructing a business plan prior to starting your business. This plan will assist you in explaining your idea, product or service to other organizations, in addition to providing a great foundation for you as a business owner. Additionally, many lenders will require the submission of a business plan to receive financing or assistance.
Q: How long does a business plan have to be, and what sections should be included?
A: There are no requirements on what your business plan should look like! Ultimately, you want your business plan to convey where your business is now, and your plans for future growth. Sections you might consider including: History, Products or Services Offered, Market Analysis, Advertising, Sales, Management, Future Plans, Financial Projections, Statement of Collateral, Personal Financial Statements, Lease or Purchase Agreements and Articles of Incorporation. There are many business planning resources and templates, including this one, put together by SCORE Mentors.
Q: When should I meet with a bank?
A: Loan officers will typically require a copy of your business plan, so setting up meetings with bankers once you have completed a draft of your plan and financial projections is a good idea. By this point, you will have a better indication of your total project costs, your personal contribution of equity and the amount of financing you will require.
Q: Can I talk to multiple banks?
A: Yes! Business lending is a human process, and different banks may be able to offer different packages based on their resources, priorities and relationships. Shop around, and find the best lending package for you and your business.
Q: What challenges should I expect during my first year of operation?
A: The first year of operation can be difficult for businesses. A couple of common challenges businesses face in their first year are shortfalls in revenue projections and changes in (or loss of) management. To help ease these challenges, it is important to plan for financial deficits in the first operating year and beneficial to have an exit plan for business partners.
Q: Where can I find commercial properties in town to rent or buy?
A: The Port Authority has a property listings section on their website; although this is not all available commercial properties in Lake City, it does include those which have been submitted and meet the guidelines for posting established by the Port Authority. You can view that webpage here. Alternatively, it might be helpful to work with a realtor to find a space that is right for your business!
Q: How hard is it to finance leasehold improvements?
A: It can be extremely challenging to finance leasehold improvements. It is difficult because the improvements being completed by the lessee will stay with the property owner, not with the business. The lack of collateral can be problematic for the bank or other financing agency. Business owners can negotiate with landlords to offset the costs through lower rental payments or other methods.
Q: What type of zoning district does my business need to be in, and how do I verify that my business type can operate there?
A: Typically, commercial businesses will operate in business or highway commercial zones. However, it is best to check with the city’s Planning Departments to determine if your business requires conditional use permits or different type of zoning. If your location is currently in another zone than what is required for your business type or the zoning regulations have requirements that are not feasible for your business, you may need to request a zoning change or variance. To view Lake City’s zoning ordinances, click here.
Q: What type of assistance is available for new businesses?
A: Port Authority staff can assist new businesses in a variety of ways, including but not limited to: business planning, marketing assistance, demographic and market information, resource connection, workforce development, site selection and business loans. To learn more about our financial assistance programs, visit our local funding opportunities webpage here. Outside of the Port Authority, there are a plethora of resources and assistance for small businesses in Southeast Minnesota! Check out the “Additional Resources” section below to learn more about what is available to you.
Q: What is “Gap Financing”?
A: Gap financing refers to loans that are provided to an individual or business which are meant to finance the difference between the total project cost and what the traditional lender and owner equity can cover. These loans are typically subordinated and low-interest.
Q: Can I get grants to cover the costs of my start-up?
A: Do not plan on receiving business grants. Although there are some grants available for specific industries, businesses need to be able to operate independent of receiving cash awards. For more information on industry-specific grant opportunities, reach out to the Port Authority and our staff can assist you.
Q: Do I need to register my business?
A: Yes, you do need to register your business with the state of Minnesota’s Secretary of State! You can find more information about the registration process here. You will likely also need to register with the federal government; you can determine if your business requires federal registration here. You do not have to register with the Port Authority or City of Lake City.
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