by Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation | Featured Contributor
Most new businesses don’t start out with of cash – more often than not, budding entrepreneurs will have a bit of seed money and, if they’re lucky, some sort of loan to work with. But as a new business owner, you’ll probably be looking for as many corners to cut as you can. Most people just try and get a working computer and some sort of space to inhabit, promising that they’ll look into all of those other little business bits and bobs when money starts rolling in. The problem is that every second you’re open for business; you’re building up your brand. Your business will suck up any experience and dedication that you bring to it, so it is VITALLY important that you invest in certain intellectual properties early on. That way you maintain control of your brand, and you’re able to build up all aspects of your business at once, rather than small parts at a time.
1. A Business Name
It sounds a little obvious, but a lot of people sort of start their business in a bit of a grey area. Few will actually quit their steady job, invest in the infrastructure to begin their company, and prep to open their doors to the public. These days most businesses are more likely to begin on a work computer over a lunch break. Online boutiques like Etsy or eBay storefronts, for instance, are great ways for would-be business owners to test the waters of their market and see if they can make some money. But they’ll typically slap a business name on these ventures, even if they don’t technically have a business, because ‘Jane Doe’s Wool Based Clothing Store’ doesn’t have the same ring, or staying power, as ‘All’s Wool That Ends Wool.’
If nothing else, register for a ‘Doing Business As’ name the minute you start selling anything through a storefront, real or digital. They aren’t insanely expensive, they allow you to open up a bank account for your business, and getting one now means you can rest easy knowing that name isn’t going to be nabbed up by anyone else.
2. A Domain Name
As your business begins to pick up steam and your name gets around, there is a risk that someone will swoop in and try to grab whatever domain would best fit your business. You need to be building an online presence for your business, and having a website is a great way to collect all of the information about your company in one easy to access space. The problem is that, once again, this might be an expense you can easily rationalize out. After all, whatever web service is currently representing your business might be doing just fine, and it is probably free. Domain names are also cheap, and buying one now guarantees you’ll be able to hold onto it as long as you pay for its renewal. Even if you don’t feel like designing a web page at this point in time, it’s extremely easy to set up that domain to re-direct to your Facebook page, or your digital storefront. Plus it makes it a whole lot easier for potential customers to find you online.
3. A Logo… or some other type of distinct signage.
I put this one last because, in all likelihood, it will be the last of the three things listed that you’ll decide to buy. Logos can be tricky – sometimes you can get a good one that’s affordable, and other times you wind up spending more than you wanted for a mediocre design. Be picky with the proofs. If you aren’t, you might be stuck with something you’ll end up hating a few months down the line. Take your time when finding the right design, sketch out a few ideas, and make sure you like what you see. Logos are great because they’re easily recognizable, unique, and can represent all of the strength and trustworthiness of your brand in a few pixels. So while you may not need one now, you will eventually and it’s a good idea to get one early on simply so your business is tied to your logo right from the get-go and made even more recognizable because of it. When you do find the right logo, just remember to trademark it immediately – it’s just silly not to legally protect something you put so much effort into.
After you invest in, protect, and publicize these three things, your business will be on much firmer ground, and you won’t have to go backwards to make sure all of your customers know about these different parts of your company. Yes, it might take more money than you want to spend at the moment, but when business really starts to pick up and orders roll in, you’ll be happy you made the investment.
Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com, the leader in online filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses. MyCorporation provides start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark and copyright filing services.
With her extensive experience in the field of corporate and intellectual property law, Deborah provides insightful commentary on who should consider incorporation and trademark registration and has been involved in the formation of hundreds of thousands of businesses with MyCorporation’s customers.
Deborah is a member of the American Bar Association, servces on the Board of Regents at California Lutheran University, and is a contributing blogger with Forbes, American Express, and many more business blogs.