Start-up at the library – what do you need to launch your business?

Do you have a fantastic business idea? Are you planning give it a go, but don’t have a lot of formal business training? The library has some tools to help you out. In addition to our collection of general startup guides, below are some other useful resources.

Find your customers or clients. How old are they? Where do they live? How much do they spend on products or services like yours? There are lots of ways to approach demographic research, but three great resources are: Best Customers, Demographics Now, and (as of very recently) the Consumer/Lifestyles section of Reference USA.

Create a Business Plan. You may have to convince people or lending institutions that it is a good idea to invest in your business. These Business Plan guides will show you what to include and help you put your plan together. Many have helpful examples to get you going.

Locate statistics about your market. The Economic Census will answer questions like ‘How many pet care businesses are in Washington State?” The sales figures are some of the most reliable around.

Discover competitors. You might be trying to find companies similar to yours that you can compare yourself against. Reference USA is an online business directory with the ability to search by location and type of business. It is rather like the yellow pages, but with more detail.

Get legal information. Guides like the Small Business Start-up Kit or the American Bar Association Legal Guide for Small Business will help you select a business structure, give you an introduction to pricing your products, help you create contracts and much more. You will often find entire books on any one of these topics, but these provide a nice overview.

Apply for a business license. Depending on your business structure and the products or services you’ll be offering, there may be state, local, or federal requirements. The State of Washington’s handy Business Licensing Guide has a quiz-like form to help you discover the licenses you need.

Search for a trade association. If you can find an association that represents your particular industry, they might collect the data you need for your business plan. Try Associations Unlimited or Washington Associations And Organizations by Subject or look at this national list on Wikipedia.

In business research, there is no one-size-fits-all. After all, handicraft importing is very different from peanut packaging. If you find that your needs are different, don’t hesitate to use the library’s Ask a Librarian service to help you locate other resources. We are happy to show you some of our other great tools.

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