Tips for Starting Your First Business in Bucks County
Are you getting ready to start your first business in Bucks County, Pennsylvania? Your choice of location couldn’t be better. Bucks County’s many boroughs and townships are home to a diverse set of industries and an educated workforce. With a higher median income than the state average, county residents have more money to spend on your goods or services. Located just north of Philadelphia, and south of Princeton, NJ, opening a business in Bucks puts you in a central location to take advantage of the energy and dynamic economy of these two metro areas.
One thing entrepreneurs all have in common is a propensity for dreaming big. However, starting a business also requires attention to less exciting activities, such as registering to pay taxes or applying for a permit. In this guide, we’ll highlight the local resources you need and the steps every business owner must take to get started. If you have questions or need a business checking account, call us today or visit your nearest branch location in Newtown, Richboro, Jamison, Warminster, Langhorne, Doylestown, Levittown, Wrightstown, Fairless Hills, Washington Crossing, or New Hope. We can’t wait to welcome you to the local business community!
Small Business Resources in Bucks County, PA
Looking for local help with your business idea? Start with the Small Business Resource list on the official site of Bucks County, Pennsylvania. If applicable, you’ll find applications to register as a certified DBE or woman-owned small business. Next is “The Entrepreneur’s Guide” created by The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. The link on the Bucks County site is broken, so click here to download the guide and other resources.
Similarly, the PA Department of Revenue offers “Starting a Business in Pennsylvania: A Beginner’s Guide.” What’s the difference between these two guides? The first is more thorough, with a “global” approach to starting a business. The second focuses on the nuts and bolts, especially business tax information. We know this is decidedly less exciting than designing your business website and brainstorming ideas for a company vision, but you know the saying about death and taxes. This is one area you definitely want to get right from the beginning.
Another important resource on the Bucks County’s site is PA Biz Online, although it’s important to note that this link also appears outdated. The current website for PA Business online is PA Business One-Stop Shop, where you’ll find everything you need to plan, register, operate and grow your business.
On the website for Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development, you’ll find a directory of statewide grant programs and funding for small businesses. You can conveniently apply online through the single application for any programs your company may qualify for.
Finally, take the time to connect with the Bucks County Chapter of SCORE, a nonprofit offering mentorship, workshops, and online resources to entrepreneurs and small business owners in Bucks County.
Now that we’ve highlighted the wealth of county and statewide resources for new entrepreneurs, we’ll walk you through the most important steps every new business owner should complete.
1. What? Why? Who? How to Write a Business Plan
You’ve had this idea for a business brewing in your head for months, maybe even years. Finally, circumstances have aligned to create the perfect time to get started. But before you create a website and have business cards printed, you need a plan. You know your idea is genius, but will your target market agree? Identify what you’re selling, who will want to buy it, and why they should choose your business over competitors.
There’s plenty of business plan advice out there, but in our opinion the U.S. Small Business Administration offers the most helpful guide, including real-life examples and a free online tool for generating your own business plan. Here are the main components:
- Executive Summary: Answers the ‘what’ and ‘why.’ Also includes your company mission statement.
- Company Description: What problems will your business solve and who is the audience for your solutions? What are your competitive advantages?
- Market Analysis: Make sense of the industry you want to enter and the businesses already operating in this space. What new contribution will you make?
- Organization and Management: Choose a legal structure for your business. If there are any other employees besides you at this point, create an org chart.
- Service/Product: Describe what you’re selling
- Marketing and Sales: How will you promote your business and connect with potential clients or customers?
- Funding and Finances: If you plan to seek funding at this stage of your business development, here’s where you’ll outline what you need, what you’ll use it for, and your projected earnings for the next few years.
2. Learn the ABCs of Legal Business Structure
Before you choose a legal structure for your business, you need to understand your options. We recommend consulting with a tax professional about the accounting and tax ramifications of each structure type and which is best for your needs.
- Sole Proprietorship: This is the default business legal structure; it doesn’t require special registration. The downside is that your personal assets and liability are inseparable from your business. Sole proprietorships may be a good option for new business owners who want to start small. For example, freelancers, crafters, and others who work on their own without employees may not need anything beyond a sole proprietorship.
- Partnership (LP or LLP): If you’re starting a business with another person or people and want to protect your personal assets from your professional debts, a partnership may be the way to go. LPs (Limited Partnership) give one partner more control over the business (along with more liability). LLPs (Limited Liability Partnership) protect each partner equally.
- LLC (Limited Liability Corporation): Experience the best of both worlds between the partnership and corporation structures. LLCs provide protection against personal liability, but the owners are still categorized as self-employed, with the taxes that go along with it.
- Corporation: Choosing this structure formally separates your business from your personal assets. There are different options, each with their own tax ramifications.
- Non-profits and Cooperatives: For businesses that meet tax-exempt requirements or are employee/member owned.
3. Understand Legal Requirements and Apply for Permits
Now that you’ve chosen a legal structure for your business, it’s time to make sure you’re in compliance with federal, state, and local laws governing businesses in your particular industry. In Pennsylvania, that means registering for an Employer Identification Number. Once you have your EIN, you can register with the state department of revenue. Businesses that sell taxable items or services must obtain a sales tax license. If you have one or more employees, you’ll also need to pay federal income tax and social security, workers’ compensation, and unemployment compensation. And within Bucks County, talk to your borough or township office about relevant zoning requirements, local taxes, licenses, and permits.
4. Don’t Forget About Business Insurance
Just as you need insurance for your home and car, adequate business insurance is crucial for protecting you and your company in case of an accident, disaster, or lawsuit. The SBA breaks down the six most common types of business insurance so you can choose the right one for your company.
5. Location is Everything!
Are you going to have a physical business presence or operate solely online? Entrepreneurs seeking a bricks-and-mortar location for their new company must weigh the cost of rent with factors like street traffic, visibility, parking, and other logistical concerns. You also want to avoid opening in close proximity to a competitor. For example, a block with three hair salons on it may not provide enough clients to go around. Finally, assess the physical condition a space is in. Is it basically in “turn-key” shape or will you need to do extensive renovations?
6. Establish a Relationship With a Local Lending and Banking Partner
So, you’re finally ready to go ahead with your business plan. Congratulations! This is an exciting time. There’s just one last thing to check off your to-do list: choose a bank for your business’s deposit account and lending needs. Every accounting professional will tell you to maintain a separate account for your business income and expenses. Plus, developing a good relationship with your business bank can be crucial to your future success, including your ability to get loans when you need them. Therefore, we urge you to choose carefully. Partnering with a local bank brings the added benefit of local expertise and potential networking connections within your community.
Here at The First, we’ve helped generations of Bucks County businesses get started and grow. The First is proud to be a trusted local partner for small business financing and commercial deposit accounts. Contact our business banking team or visit one of our locations today to learn more about our financial services for small businesses in Bucks County.