Using the Resources
Starting a Business
Starting a Business
As an example of how some of these resources can be used, let's follow the course of our sample entrepreneur Jack. This hypothetical situation will give you an idea of how some of the resources in this guide can be applied to a possible business start up.
Jack wants to start his own business selling widgets. He can turn to the Library for all the information he needs to navigate the creation of a business. The Library provides access to books, publications, Web sites, and databases that can all help Jack toward his goal of becoming a widget mogul.
First Jack needs to determine if his widget business will be viable in Central Florida, and if so, where in that area would it be most viable? Jack realizes that he needs some demographic data on what sort of markets live in Central Florida. He finds the Florida Statistical Abstract which provides him with social and economic data he can use to determine if the area has the type of market he is hoping to reach with his widgets. He can also see if the market is large enough to support his widget peddling.
Satisfied that this is the case, Jack looks for information more specific to certain areas. Using the Community Sourcebook of Zip Code Demographics, he tries to find which zip codes in the area have the highest concentration of his target audience. He finds several zip codes to investigate more thoroughly. The sourcebook shows him that there are good markets for his business in the northeast Orlando area.
Now that Jack has some target geographical areas to consider, he decides to see what the competition is doing. He doesn't want to open a widget business in close proximity to other established widget shops.
Again, the Library has the resources he needs. Using the Regional Business Directory (Dun & Bradstreet) he can locate other widget merchants in the locales he is interested in. To be thorough, he also uses the Reference USA database to search for possible competitors. He is able to find addresses and contact information for other widget sellers. This way he can avoid trying to enter a saturated market and pinpoint areas not served by widget shops.
Happily, it looks like there is a wide open market for widgets. Now Jack can get serious and develop a business plan to further guide the creation of his business. A business plan will help Jack determine the legal structure of the business, the type of business (for example merchandising, retail, or service), and how he will bring in revenue. In the library, a librarian shows Jack how to access the Business Plans Handbook from home. He also grabs a copy of Business Plans Kit for Dummies, just to be safe. The Business Plans Handbook provides him with successful business plans that other companies have developed, giving him a nice sampling of plans to model his after. In the Business Plans Kit for Dummies, book, he finds advice on how to base his business around his competitive advantage and sustaining that advantage, as well as calculating how the business will be profitable.
For additional business planning advice, Jack goes to one of the Library's computers and visits the Small Business Administration's website. He finds that they have an entire section devoted to business planning. He finds they have free online courses and takes one on Creating a Strategic Plan.
Jack knows that he's going to have to manage legal issues like incorporating. Delving into the Library catalog, he finds several useful resources. There is the Legal Guide for Starting & Running a Small Business and the helpful Sphinx Legal book How to Start a Business in Florida. These inform him of some of the legal requirements he has to fulfill in order to start selling those widgets. For instance, he is glad to see that selling widgets is not a profession that requires a state or federal license. He also reads about the pros and cons of various forms of business, such as proprietorships or corporations. Tax information is also included in these resources.
Jack wants to give his business the name: Power Widgets of Florida. He gets on the Internet and goes to the Florida Division of Corporations' site (www.sunbiz.org ) to check if the name is available. It is! Jack can now use that same Web site to register the name of his business with the state.
Jack unfortunately does not have the money to match his determination, so he needs to explore the potential for getting financing for his widget endeavor. Fortunately, he knows where to turn. At the Library he revisits the Small Business Administration's Web site, this time going to the section of the site on financing a business. The information he finds there helps him estimate his startup costs and his continuing overhead. He sees that he'll need to apply for a loan or find some capital and that the site provides information on that as well. He notices that they have online courses related to this topic and brushes up on his accounting skills by taking one.
Before he leaves the Library for the day, he locates a few books to further educate him on financing. He finds the Smart Start book on How to Start a Business in Florida which gives him advice on securing financing and related start up topics. He also peruses the RMA Annual Statement Studies which allows him to compare the finances of other widget sellers. This gives him an idea of what a typical widget merchant makes in a year, and what he might expect to earn.
Once Jack has his financing and legal matters figured out he needs to find the location to actually house his shop. He recalls what he learned when he researched location demographics; this helps him select a storefront in his target area. He then consults the Sphinx Legal book How to Start a Business in Florida for some advice on leasing, renting, or buying the spacious storefront he has found in a busy stripmall on a heavily-traveled street.
One other thing: He needs some widgets to sell! To make his widgets Jack needs some doodads and some thingamajigs to construct them. He also intends to sell some premade doohickeys along side his own widgets. Where can he turn? The Library has some suggestions. To find manufacturers and suppliers he returns to the Library. He looks for local makers of doodads and thingamajigs in the Florida Manufacturers Register and the Harris Florida Manufacturers Directory. He's having trouble locating a doodad manufacturer in Florida, so he looks further afield in the Thomas Register. For a doohickey distributor, he looks in the American Wholesalers and Distributors Directory. After all, nothing complements a good widget like a well made doohickey.
With his shelves stocked with plenty of widgets in his new store, Jack needs to get the word out to his market. Again Jack can turn to resources at the Library. First he sits down at a Library computer and returns to the Small Business Administration's site, this time for its marketing section. Here he finds bountiful information ranging from marketing research instruction to ads and PR to online courses.
To further understand how and where to tell people of the glories of his widgets, Jack cracks open The Lifestyle Market Analyst, a way for him to find information on consumer behavior and the leisure activities of his target audience. This gives him insight into what media and publications to advertise in. Jack learns that his market enjoys technology magazines and has high internet usage, so he decides to advertise on online technology sites and in technology publications. The Lifestyle Market Analyst also includes market surveys that give him insight into how to please his customers. After all, the customer is the heart of a business.
Growing a Business
Growing a Business
It has been a sucessful few years for Jack and his widget shop. Customers are delighted with the quality of his widgets and flock to his conveniently-located shop. Shopping at his store has been sufficient enough that he has to hire help and is looking to expand his business. Jack knows where he can turn for resources he can use to successfully expand his trade--the Library!
First, he looks for information on the hiring and firing of employees and all that entails. The sources he used to start his business are just as useful in expanding it. Both of the How to Start a Business in Florida books by Sphinx Legal and Smart Start provide him with information on managing employees. He also visits the Small Business Administration website and finds the information he is looking for on managing employees, as well as handling their taxes and other legal issues.
Now that Jack's business is established and thriving he needs to review his business plan before expanding. The same sources he used to originally plan his business will also assist him in growing it: Business Plans That Work for Your Small Business, Business Plans Kit for Dummies, and the Business Plans Handbook. The first two items give him general information on business plans, but the last item gives him real life successful plans which he can model his own expansion on. He also turns to the Small Business Administration's website for information on business plans for ways he can write a successful plan.
One way Jack can grow his business is by expanding his market. He could increase his target audience into other demographics or expand into different geographic areas, possibly into other states. Either way, the Library has information he can use. He researches geographical information using the Demographics USA: County Edition and the Demographics Now database to investigate surrounding counties in Florida as well as some in southern Georgia. This resource includes information on effective buying power and the buying power index for different counties. For additional information he pulls out the Complete Economic and Demographic Data Source. This provides him with projections of demographic changes in various states, counties, and metropolitan areas, which is valuable when planning future expansions. To explore the bigger picture, he uses a Library computer to visit the US Census Bureau's Web site at www.census.gov. There he has access to census data to further inform his decisions about his business expansion.
The future looks bright for Jack and his widget business, and the information he used to plan and develop his business was all available for free at the Library.