Start a Business

So, you want to open your own business in the Oskaloosa area, and do not know where to begin. The Start-up Checklist below will help you to follow the steps which should be taken before you or anyone starts a small business. Detailed descriptions of all the areas involved in planning a business venture along with key contact information is available throughout this section.

If you are wanting to start a business in Mahaska County, contact the Team Mahaska for city information and/or Deann DeGroot (mcard@mahaskacounty.org), Director of Mahaska County Agricultural and Rural Development (MCARD), for other utility and financial institution options.

Start-up Checklist

  • Prepare a written business plan complete with financial statements.
  • Decide whether you wish to operate as a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation. For help deciding, visit the IRS website.
  • Establish a source of adequate and reliable financing (see Banking listings in our business directory.)
  • Check on zoning ordinances.
    • City of Oskaloosa does have zoning ordinances. For more information contact David Weide at 641-672-7472.
  • Select a suitable location (see Real Estate.)
  • Retain an attorney (see Legal Services) and CPA (see Accounting and Tax), if appropriate.
  • Acquire necessary licenses and permits.
  • Get tax ID number and forms; follow other tax requirements.
  • Choose a record keeping system and method of inventory control.
  • Open bank accounts (see Banking.)
  • Arrange for utilities, telephone and other services.
  • See insurance agent for full range of coverage (Insurance.)

From Idea to Personal Commitment

The first step in the process is generating your idea. This is only the very first step; many things remain to be done before you can expect to realize and make money from the idea. At the minimum level your ideas will need to pass several tests to determine whether or not it is an original idea, whether the idea can be produced and distributed profitably, and whether or not your idea can be protected. This seems simple enough until you examine the underlying questions that must be resolved. For example, to determine the commercial merit of an idea the following areas should be considered:
  • Legality
  • Distribution
  • Safety
  • Perceived Functions
  • Environmental Impact
  • Existing Competition
  • Societal Impact
  • Potential Sales
  • Potential Market
  • Development Status
  • Product Life Cycle
  • Investment Costs
  • Usage Learning
  • Trend of Demand
  • Product Visibility
  • Product Line Potential
  • Service
  • Need
  • Durability
  • Promotion
  • New Competition
  • Appearance
  • Functional Feasibility
  • Price
  • Production Feasibility
  • Protection
  • Stability of Demand
  • Pay-Back Period
  • Profitability
  • Consumer/User Compatibility
  • Marketing Research
  • Product Interdependence
  • Research and Development
It will take a great deal of personal commitment to turn your idea into reality. Small business owners must be willing to work exceptionally long hours and often forego financial rewards in the early stages of their operation. All too many businesses fail, but proper planning and dedication will certainly increase your chances for a successful venture.

Technical and Managerial Experience Needed

One of the most common mistakes in starting a business is trying to do so without the necessary training and experience. Before you start a business, you should ask yourself whether you actually have the background, experience and training that is required. For example, a retailer would need some expertise in management, sales and buying. The management experience would need to include personnel, record keeping and marketing, as well as other skills.

If you do not already have this experience, how do you get it? Generally, it is best to work for a time in a company similar to your proposed business. This gives you a closer look at what that type of business entails without risking your investment during the learning period. Another suggestion for gaining expertise is to take courses at your local college or university. Most area schools offer both credit and continuing education courses. Various seminars and workshops are also offered throughout the year.

There are many publications available that offer help and insight to many of the day-to-day problems that a small business owner faces. The Small Business Administration issues a wide range of management and technical publications to assist the small business owner. Learn more at the Iowa SBA website.

Writing a Business Plan

One of the most important early steps to take in starting or expanding a business is to write a business plan. There are three major reasons why you should take the time to create a written business plan.

The first reason is that the process of putting a business plan together, including the thought you put in before beginning to write the plan, forces you to take an objective, critical and unemotional look at your business project in its entirety.

A second advantage that comes with having a written business plan is that the finished product, your business plan, is an operating tool which will help you manage your business and provides a means to measure your success.

And third, a properly prepared business plan also provides the information that must be presented to a bank or other investors before a credit decision is made. Since many businesses only start or expand through borrowed monies, the presentation of reliable and complete information in a business plan is essential.

What a Bank Looks For In A Business Plan

The Business Plan is an excellent tool for bank presentation when financing is needed. A good business plan tells the banker that the applicant has put a great deal of thought and effort into this decision. A well-presented business plan will let the banker know that he is dealing with a serious, well informed prospect, instilling more faith in your as an entrepreneur.

If a business plan is to be submitted to a bank, it is important to realize how a banker analyzes a business plan and what questions a banker will ask during this analysis. A bankerís job is to asses the degree of risk in each proposed loan to be satisfied that the loan can be repaid by the borrower while still allowing the businesses to operate profitably. A banker does this by analyzing a number of things:

  • The Nature of the Business
  • The Purpose of the Loan
  • The Amount of the Loan
  • The Ability to Repay the Loan
  • The Character/Management Skills of the Business Owner

To convince a banker or investor of the merits of a loan request, a borrower must present complete, well organized information which addresses these and other concerns. It is important to remember that the proper packaging of a loan proposal can be an important step in getting it approved.

These agencies can assist you with writing your business plan and any other aspects of your business planning. Please contact Deann DeGroot (mcard@mahaskacounty.org) if you have any additional questions.

Good Luck!

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