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Business Certifications

I've heard that as a woman, minority, disabled, or veteran owned business I may qualify for certification that will help me get more business. What is this and how do I do it?

Depending on your interest in federal or state contracting you may qualify for several state or federal certifications. The SBA provides more about the federal certifications, while the State of Idaho provides information on state certifications. To find out how you qualify or to learn more about state or federal programs, please register for SBDC consulting or contact Idaho PTAC.

Business Plan

Do I need insurance?

Yes. To understand your risks, consult with an insurance agent. The agent can also give you quotes to help you develop accurate cost projections. Typically the types of insurance a small business owner will need to consider are: liability, property, worker’s compensation and, in some cases, bonding.

I need data for my business plan. What do I do?

The more data and research you do, the stronger your business plan will be. Your SBDC consultant can help you obtain a variety of information from SBDCnet, IBIS World, and databases that could be helpful. You will likely need to find out your own projected expenses from suppliers and service providers. We also have planning templates and samples that can be helpful. Once you have a draft plan, we can review it and offer feedback. Contact your nearest SBDC to schedule an appointment.

How long will it take to develop my business plan and get financing?

The length of time needed to craft a business plan can vary considerably based on the potential size of the business, uniqueness, whether it already has data, and whether financing or outside investment are needed. There is no one right way to write a business plan, so don’t get caught up in trying to make your plan look like someone else’s or hiring someone else to write your plan. Meeting with and SBDC consultant can help you avoid pitfalls in the planning process.

How do I get a legal name and organizational structure for my business?

Your selection of a business name and structure are very important. They are registered with the Idaho Secretary of State and additional registrations may be necessary. This process may affect your legal liability, taxes, marketing, and more. Research the differences in Sole Propriotorships, Limited Liability Companies, Partnerships, and Corporations. Talk first to your SBDC consultant and then probably to an attorney and a CPA. The richer you are, the more protection you will need and the business structure is the place to start.

What is in a business plan?

A business plan describes your business, identifies your goals and serves as your firm's resume. The business will need a competitive advantage or value proposition to compete. The plan details the products and services you will sell; the customers to whom you will sell them; the production, management, and marketing activities needed to produce your offerings; and the projected profit or loss that will result from your efforts. The business plan allows you to use the research you completed for your plan to make decisions affecting the future of the business. Completing the plan forces you to examine future decisions regarding management, marketing, personnel, and finance in an objective and organized way. A projection of the sources and uses of financing needed for start-up or change up of your business. A cash flow projection is a vital part of the plan for certain types of businesses. The business plan can be a useful tool in securing capital. The plan may become your owner's manual guiding your daily operations and activities. Business planning is an ongoing activity. Existing businesses, as well as start-up firms, benefit from writing and regularly updating their goals, plans and activities.

Do I need a business plan?

Yes. A business plan is the resume for your business. It provides information about your company and its industry, describes a marketing plan, details an operations plan and projects the financial needs of the business. It helps you allocate resources properly and make informed decisions. It provides specific and organized information about your company and how you will repay borrowed money. A thorough, well-written business plan is crucial to obtaining financing. Additionally, it can tell your sales personnel, suppliers and others about your operations and goals.

What is a business plan for?

The most important function of the business plan is to communicate goals and guide the company forward. It should describe the entrepreneur’s idea or a company’s existing operations and then project the future strategies for success. The plan may also demonstrates how the request for an investment or loan will enhance the company goals and reward the investor.

Will the SBDC write the business plan for me?

No. The SBDC will assist you in developing and reviewing a business plan. However, it is important that you write your business plan yourself. Writing a business plan forces you to think through issues that you may not have considered otherwise. The SBDC does offer workshops and on-line training courses that will assist you in writing your business plan.

Why do I need a business plan?

A good business plan will increase your chances for success. A high percentage of start-up businesses fail and a plan could help prevent failure.

Is a formal business plan required?

Your lender, investors, landlord, or others may require a formal business plan. The SBDC does not. You can start working on an informal business plan by describing your business in writing.

How do I write a business plan?

We recommend a business plan template and a computer to get you started. We still see plenty of them written with paper and pencil. Describing your customers and the value you provide them is a good place to start. An SBDC consultant is trained to provide you with needed assistance.

What is Business Model Canvas?

The Business Model Canvas is a great visual to chart out business elements that describe your business’ products, services, and their value to your customers. A strategic management tool can help define and streamline your business. We use the canvas in consulting to facilitate discussion.

What is a business feasibility study?

Facts and projections that outline what might happen and whether the proposal is likely to succeed. It allows a business person or investor to look at probable results before significant money is spent. These studies can be brief or lengthy. They may be about cost of production, pricing, technical prospects, scheduling, or other factors regarding the plan and prospects of success.

Why do I need to define my business in detail?

A simple or common type of business with little investment might only need a short description. The bigger, more unique, and high investment businesses need a more detailed description. How will your business be able to compete? Ask yourself, “What business am I really in?" Some owner-managers have gone broke because they never answered that question. One watch storeowner realized that most of his time was spent repairing watches while most of his money was spent selling them. He finally decided he was in the repair business and discontinued the sales operations. His profits improved dramatically.

Can you name a good reference book that can be used in the creation of a business plan for a restaurant?

The National Restaurant Association, the trade/industry group for the restaurant industry, has a number of publications you may find useful. You can find more information on these publications on the National Restaurant Association’s website at www.restaurant.org.

Buy/Sell a Business

I'd like to sell my business, what is the first step?

Whether you are preparing to sell, merge, or close your business, an SBDC advisor can help. Where do you want to go with your business and what is your desired exit? If part of the plan is to sell your business and go into retirement, do you know what your business will be worth when you sell it? No matter what exit you have envisioned, proper planning will help you make the most of the transition and help to ensure that you realize the real value of your business. Explore the exit stage here! Prepare yourself with tools needed to successfully exit your business here. Some of these resources may be self-explanatory, while others might require the assistance of an SBDC Advisor. If you need assistance, contact the SBDC office nearest you.

Can I get financing for buying an existing business?

Your ability to obtain financing, such as a bank loan, to purchase a business depends on a variety of factors. These include your personal financial situation, the cash flow of the business, available collateral, business history and expectations for the future, and business purchase price. The lender will analyze the business, the borrower, and the structure of the deal to determine whether or not to provide financing. See our video, “ opens in a new windowQualifying for a Small Business Loan

What information should I request from the seller? What if the seller won’t provide any financial information for the business?

While deciding whether to purchase an existing business, you must thoroughly investigate the business and obtain information from the seller. See Idaho SBDC’s Buying a Business Checklist as a starting point for the investigation process. You need accurate financial statements/tax returns on the business in order to make an informed decision about buying it. Should the seller tell you that the business has unreported cash sales, beware! Inaccurate reporting to tax agencies is dishonest and illegal. Seller claims of unreported sales should never be counted to determine the cash flow of a business. These claims are unreliable at best. When making a purchase decision, the buyer should rely on financial information which can be documented (i.e. tax returns, accountant-generated financial reports). Lenders only consider documented financial information.

I’m buying an existing business that happens to be a franchise. Is there anything special I should know or consider?

You should obtain a copy of the franchise agreement and review it carefully. You should also determine if you’ll be required to pay the entire franchise fee, transfer fee, royalty fees, or advertising fees. In most cases, the franchise will have to approve the transfer or sale of the franchise. If you are seeking an SBA loan, it is important to determine if the franchise is one which is eligible for SBA financing. For more information, see the opens in a new windowSBA Franchise Directory.

Can you help me value a business that I want to buy/sell?

Business valuation is one of the many ways our SBDC advisors can assist you when you are considering buying a business or franchise or selling a business.

Can the SBDC help prepare me to sell my business?

Yes. Many factors must be considered in selling your business. First, solve the problems. We are here to help. We have listed some of the steps to help get your business sold.

Cash Flow Management

Can you help me with cash flow projections?

Absolutely. If you’re worried about your cash position or wondering whether you’re going to be able to pay your bills later this year, then it’s time to do a cash flow and profit plan projection. This template will help you develop a profit plan and cash budget forecast that will help you make sure you keep enough cash on hand to pay bills, meet payroll, and plan for one-time expenses such as equipment purchases or tax payments in the coming months. Ultimately, it will help you sleep better at night. If you haven’t already, apply to work with an advisor on these crucial steps online here.

How do I estimate my startup costs and cash flow?

Financial projections are estimates of the financial future of your business. Creating financial projections is an important step in determining the feasibility of your business. To ensure sufficient cash is available for operations, you must be aware of your business’s current and future financial position. Additionally, financial projections are a critical part of your business plan and/or loan proposal. Although the numbers are based on estimates, do not consider such projections as “a guess.” Research plays an important role in accurately determining future sales and costs. The projections serve as a basis for planning and are likely to change as more information becomes available. Creating financial projections may seem intimidating. It is important to remain conservative as you develop them. In other words, understate revenues and overstate costs.

How do I make predictions about future sales and expenses in order to create a cash flow projection?

Research the industry, make calls, look at the past, figure out what you are going to be doing differently, look at the details, test the market, and be the most informed person possible on the subject of your business. These tips could be helpful. Your SBDC consultant could have a spreadsheet that will help with the process. Keep your notes because your banker may want to know how you came up with specific numbers.

What cash flow consideration do I need to think about to grow my business?

Adequate cash or credit is a must for growth. How does a small business do that? We have ways to help.

How can I figure out my break even point?

That critical breaking even point is a must to know. There are several factors involved in getting an accurate number. First, figure out and list your costs and expenses. Next is insurance. Do you know number three? Here at the SBDC, we can help you figure it out here.

Human Resources/Managing Employees

Who should I have on my team?

Having a working relationship with the following professionals will save you time and money down the line, and put your business on solid ground: CPA (Certified Public Accountant), Lawyer, Insurance agent, Banker, Bookkeeper, Coach (us!). If you’re finding these hard to come by, call us. We’ll help you think about the characteristics to consider in developing a trustworthy team.

As an employer, what are my responsibilities for background checks?

Background checks are not required for most positions (expections may be DOT requirements, School Personnel, Medical and Mental Health Professionals) but you may want to run them before you hire. You need to gain permission from job candidates to run background checks and you should do this in writing on your applications. There are many reliable service providers online who will run checks for a nominal fee.

How do I register to become an employer?

To register as an employer, you need to obtain a federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) You will also need to register for state income tax withholding and for unemployment contributions by filing the Application for Tax Registration. Have employees complete and keep in employer’s files: Employee’s Withholding Certificate W-4 obtained from the IRS. Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 obtained from the U.S. Department of Immigration and Naturalization Obtain Worker’s Compensation Insurance from your business insurance carrier.

What other financial responsibilities do I have for employees?

You must withhold federal and state income taxes, contribute to unemployment and workers compensation systems, and match Social Security contributions. You may also wish to inquire about key employee life or disability insurance.

What is OSHA?

The U.S. Department of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) oversees workplace safety. All employers are required to provide a safe and healthy workplace and are subject to no-notice safety and health inspections by OSHA. Employers with more than 10 employees are required to maintain a record of injuries on the OSHA 200 form, which must be available for inspection for a period of five years.

How do I know if I should hire?

When you are considering hiring be sure to address these conditions: Can you afford an employee? Will this employee create more sales, help you deliver your product or service or handle tasks that free you to do one of these two things? Would an extra employee allow you to give your customers more efficient service or quicker delivery, with the result that higher quality would lead to more customers? There’s a tension between how much the employee’s salary and benefits will drain your business’ budget and how much extra money the employee’s presence will bring in. Another item to think about is: Do you need someone full time, part time or will a verifiable contractor be most effective for your business?

How can I effectively interview applicants?

Interviews should be as relaxed of a meet and greet and you can make them. By staying relaxed, you allow the interviewee to shine. Ask questions that allow them to talk about themselves and their knowledge, their attitudes and opinions. Don't spend a lot of interview time talking about you or your business. If they ask questions, be willing to respond. If you decide to pursue a candidate, you can talk about your job in more detail at that time. Use interviews along with skills testing, personality assessments, background checks and references in order to help determine whether or not the applicant is suitable for your position and your business. This way, you will have an idea of the applicant’s personality as well as qualifications.

Which federal posters do small businesses need to post?

The federal posters that should be on display for your business vary widely depending on the type of business that you are in. The U.S. Department of Labor has an interactive Poster Advisor tool that will walk you through the steps to determine the posters that you will need specifically for your particular business. In addition to knowing what federal labor posters you should have on hand, you should also visit the state labor office to determine the labor posters that are required in your State.

Idaho Small Business Development Center (SBDC)

What's the difference between the SBA and the SBDC?

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is a federal agency that provides aid, counsel, and disaster assistance to small businesses. They are able to fulfill their mission, in part, through the creation of Small Business Development Centers (SBDC). The Idaho SBDC is funded, in part, by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), as well as matching funds from the state of Idaho, and contributions from partner boroughs, cities, and other sponsors throughout the state. SBDCs are nationwide and offer one-on-one, no-cost confidential counseling, low-cost workshops, and reference libraries. SBDCs are part of the nation-wide Association of Small Business Development Centers (ASBDC), which works on behalf of the SBDCs nationwide to support small businesses.

How does business counseling work?

The Idaho SBDC is staffed by certified business advisors and provides entrepreneurs with business assistance and tools to aid in their success – completely at no-cost. Our experienced advisors cover topics that include business planning, financial analysis, marketing, accounting, cash flow projections, and new business feasibility, to name a few. If you are interested in setting up an initial appointment, please complete our online client registration. We provide assistance for: New businesses, Established businesses looking to grow, and Purchasing an existing business.

Does the SBDC only help start-ups?

The SBDC business counselors are with you every step of the way whether you’re just starting, maintaining and growing, or exiting your business. We can also help with the buying and selling of businesses across the state! Growing season is every day for SBDC clients, regardless of the region, the season or the weather. We know what it takes to succeed in business, every step of the way, and our clients are reaping the benefits of SBDC expert assistance. Grow with us.

What does the SBDC do?

The Idaho Small Business Development Center empowers business success through our no-cost and confidential consulting and affordable trainings to small businesses throughout our state. This video provides an overview of our network services and showcases some of our clients and the work we have done with them.

Does the ISBDC give business loans or grants?

No, the Idaho Small Business Development Center does not provide loans or grants for small businesses.

How much does it cost to become an SBDC client?

Thanks to funding provided by the State of Idaho and the Small Business Administration, there is never a cost to meet with an SBDC advisor. 

Can an SBDC advisor review my loan application?

Absolutely! We spend a lot of time getting to know the local lenders, what types of loans they are making and what causes red flags to fly when they review new loan applications. 

How much does small business development center consulting cost?

Nothing. Consulting is free to our clients at the North Central Idaho SBDC.

What kinds of backgrounds do SBDC consultants have?

Diverse backgrounds. Scroll down this page on our state website to learn about our consultants and then request an appointment at an office in North Central Idaho.

Ok. I see I need an appointment. How do I set up a consulting appointment with the North-Central Idaho Small Business Development Center?

You can set up an appointment on this page.

Are YOU ready to meet with an Idaho SBDC Consultant?

Yes: Request an Appointment

Are you the SBA?

The U.S Small Business Administration (SBA) administers and funds the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Program to provide one-on-one counseling services and training programs for startups and existing small businesses.

Do you charge for your services?

Our small business services are funded by the SBA of the United States and other local partners. That gives us the ability to provide our services at NO-COST.

What Services do you provide?

We provide small business counseling, training events, and resources.

Can we meet in the evenings or weekends?

Hours are by appointment only depending on your individual consultant.

Should I file for a trademark?

How do I copyright a product?

Where can I read up on some of the simple legal questions I have?

How do I file a patent or trademark?

What legal aspects do I need to consider when starting my business?

How should I structure my business?

How can I protect my assets?

Managing Business

Do I have what it takes to own/manage a small business?

You will be your own most important employee, so an objective appraisal of your strengths and weaknesses is essential. Some questions to ask yourself are: Am I a self-starter? How well do I get along with a variety of personalities? How good am I at making decisions? Do I have the physical and emotional stamina to run a business? How well do I plan and organize? Are my attitudes and drive strong enough to maintain motivation? How will the business affect my family? Think of the four entrepreneural Cs: Control of your time and income, Creativity in your profession, Cash: the possibility to create more than a paycheck, Challenges: you must like them. If you can say yes to these AND you are willing to withstand risk and possible failure, you have what it takes.

Converting from Sole Proprietor to LLC

To change from a sole proprietorship to an LLC you will need to work through the State of Idaho to transfer ID numbers, licenses and permits to your new LLC and there are details included in that process: taxes, state regulations, state requirements, and separation of personal property. The Small Business Development Center can refer you to attorneys and CPAs that can assist you.

I need to reinvent my business, how can you help?

One needs to look no further than the newspaper industry today to realize that even the most notable of business models need to reinvent to survive. Successful companies find ways to make change their catalyst for growth. Reinvent your company, and plan for change, by understanding your assets, core competencies and strengths yo can building a toolkit that will reinvent the way you do business. If you haven’t already, apply to work with a business advisor for free, and one-on-one, to guide you through this next step of your business stage with efficiency and confidence.

How can you help me grow my business?

We have several tools to help you identify new customer segments and revenue streams and we can also help you reduce costs and increase efficiency. We use the Business Model Canvas, Lean Launchpad, Profit Mastery, Reference USA and various databases to help you develop a growth plan. 

Start-Up Assistance

How do I start an online business?

When starting an online business, we suggest you treat it exactly the same as a brick and mortar business. Start with reserach and planning. Is there a market for your products? Do you have a experience working with the audiences you want to attract? What value are you bringing your potential customers? How are your competitors doing and what are they doing to attract online customers? What start up expenses will you have? Do you have the techinical skills needed to manage an online market place or can you learn them?

Can the SBDC help me start a nonprofit?

No, we are prevented from doing so because the SBDC is an economic development arm of the state of Idaho. Therefore, we rely on tax-supported appropriations and are mandated to work only with for-profit companies. We welcome you to any SBDC workshops that may assist you in your venture. You are always welcome to utilize our no-cost resources on our website. For non-profit assistance, please visit the Idaho Non-Profit Center or paid consulting services.

Can the SBDC help me start a marijuana-based business?

Our cooperative agreement with the Small Business Administration (SBA) states our award is governed by and constituted under federal law. Since marijuana is illegal under federal law, we are prevented from assisting marijuana growers or distributors.

How can I reserve a business name with the State of Idaho?

You may apply for an "Assumed Business Name" on the opens in a new windowIdaho Secretary of State website. Determine if the name is “distinguishable“ from another name on record by opens in a new windowconducting a thorough search including, but not limited to: the internet; business license records; corporations records; professional license records; telephone directories; trade magazines; trademark records; and catalogs.

What do I need to do to start my own business?

One of the most important things to do before starting your own business is to determine whether or not your business idea is feasible. You must research your idea to ensure that your business has a favorable chance for success, will meet your expectations, and will provide an adequate reward for the risk involved. It is wise to validate your beliefs about your business concept through research and careful planning because you will not have time to do it once you start your business.

What is the best type of business to start? Is it better to buy an existing business or start a new one?

Typically, new businesses are based on the owner’s interest or passion, since business ownership requires a big investment of time and resources. Having previous skills or knowledge relevant to a particular trade or industry is also a plus when considering what kind of business to start. Regardless of the type of business, you must determine whether adequate demand exists for the product/service you will offer. As to whether to buy or start a business, consider your goals and potential return on investment. An existing business should have established procedures and processes, operations, reputation, and a customer base. These are assets – and the reason existing business frequently sell at a premium. If the business is lacking in these areas (and priced accordingly), beware. Also, an existing business may have “baggage” that can cause problems for the future owner. A new business can start with a clean slate. While it may take less money to start a new business than it does to purchase a going concern, it takes time and can be very difficult to build the business. The new business also has no track record on which to base decisions. Significant working capital is often required to grow a new business. The bottom line is that every business purchase situation is different and should be carefully evaluated on its own merits.

I want to start a business… what's the first step?

To get started, please be sure to register through our online intake link. Once this form is completed, your information will be sent to an advisor to further discuss your small business inquiry. Not all businesses start at the same place, so your SBDC advisor can help you prioritize the right steps.

What paperwork do I need to file to start my business?

It depends on the business structure you choose. We recommned meeting with an SBDC consultant or an accountant to help you think through the choices and get to the right paperwork.

Where can I find out about licenses and taxes?

Requirements for licensing and taxes vary by business type and legal structure. An SBDC counselor can help you figure out your particular requirements. Generally, you can find information about licensing and state taxes on the Idaho Secretary of State website.

How do I start a business in Idaho?

SBDC consultants can help you figure out the answer to that question. How to start a business depends on the size, complexity, location, and type of business you plan to start. We have created a tip sheet to help.

What business licenses do I need to start?

Different licenses may be needed for different business types. For example, a construction buseinss or a cosmetologist needs licensing in Idaho, but a retail store does not. Some municipalities requre business licenses and some do not. We are here to help you sort through the llicenses and permits you may need. Note that licensings differs from the type of legal entity you choose for you business e.g. LLC, sole proprietor, C Corp.

What basic skills do I need to run a business?

The basic skills include a working knowledge of record keeping, financial management, personnel management, market analysis, breakeven analysis, product or service knowledge, federal, state and local taxes, legal structures, and communication skills. In addition to these technical skills, it is most important to have a willingness to learn, adapt, and make changes in a timely way.

What business should I choose?

Usually, the best business for you is the one in which you are most skilled and interested. As you review your options, you may wish to consult local experts and businesspersons about the growth potential of various businesses in your area. Matching your background with the local market will increase your chance of success.

What initial costs should I consider?

Initial costs are one-time expenses that are needed to set your business in motion. There’s no way you can start and build a successful small business if you don’t have the funds to back it up. Start by making a list of ALL your initial costs, no matter how small or insignificant. Incorporation, Legal fees, Accounting, Licenses and permits, Rent and security deposit, Signage, Transportation, Insurance, Building/remodeling, Supplies, Initial inventory, Furniture and equipment, and Installations. It’s not enough to consider how much a large piece of machinery costs. You also need to think about the costs involved with transporting it or setting it up. Everything needs to be accounted for! Then consider your ongoing costs (expenses you anticipate paying again and again).

How long will it take to start a small business?

As long as it takes you to complete your feasibility study, prepare your business plan, gather your money, buy what you need to buy, and arrange your business operation affairs. This could take a few weeks or many months. If you have difficulty with any of these items, the time to learn and solve problems must be added.

How can I get my business certified as minority or women owned?

On a Federal level, Congress considers a minority-owned business, generally, anyone other than white. The business must be owned and at least 51% controlled by one or more minorities. It is a self-certifying process and no paperwork needs to be filled out. You may certify as a Woman Owned Business specifically for federal contracting. Otherwise, a woman-owned business is self-certifying as well.

What insurance should I have

An important aspect of your business is a well-planned insurance program. Types of insurance you should consider are: Property Insurance, Liability Insurance, Product Liability Insurance, Automobile Insurance, Worker’s Compensation, Disability Insurance, Business Interruption Insurance, Health Insurance, and Life Insurance. Your SBDC consultant may have local referral lists you msy use.

Should I buy a franchised business to start?

Approximately 40 percent of present-day retailing in the US is done through the franchise method, which makes owning a franchise an appealing option. There are definite advantages to starting out with a franchised business, but it is important to be knowledgeable about the different kinds of franchising options available to you. Some offer fair value for what you pay and others are rip-offs. Get legal or business counseling advice before purchasing a franchise. You may also visit SBDC partner FranNet.

Should I buy an existing business to start?

The advantage of buying an existing business is that it is already established in the market. It has customers and is carrying on business. You avoid the hassle and expense of starting from scratch. The trick is making it fit your desires and capabilities. Is it the kind of business you want? Can you afford it? Can you operate it? Make sure you work with an SBDC consultant and a tax professional to understand the value in what you are buying and ensure there is information and systems in place to help you take over.

What type of business structure do you recommend for a new business?

Each form: sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation, has its advantages and disadvantages. The one you should pick depends on your circumstances, including: your financial condition, the line of business you’re entering, the number of employees, the risk involved, and your tax situation.

Financing/Capital

Since I’ve never had any trouble obtaining a home mortgage, credit card, or auto loan, shouldn’t I be able to easily obtain a loan for my small business?

Obtaining a small business loan is not the same as getting a personal loan. It is much more challenging to obtain a loan for a small business than a loan to purchase a home or car. You should not assume that just because you easily obtained a personal loan that you’ll be able to obtain a small business loan. Business loans typically take more time, require more documentation, and are more highly scrutinized. Or, you may try getting a mortgage against your home equity and using it to invest in your business.

What is an SBA loan and how do I get one?

An SBA loan is a loan that has been guaranteed (backed) by the U.S. Small Business Administration. The guarantee assures the lender that it will be repaid a portion of the money it loans even if the borrower fails to repay the loan. As a business owner, you will make a request to a lender (usually your local bank) for funds needed for your business plans. The lender will evaluate your request and decide whether it can make the loan to you on its own. If a lender feels the request has merit but cannot make the loan without additional support, then the lender can request a SBA guarantee. SBA considers issues such as collateral, credit, equity, and loan repayment ability when making a determination on a loan. SBA does not provide grants to small businesses. With the exception of disaster loans, SBA does not provide direct loans. Your SBDC consultant can provide more information on SBA loans.

How much money can I borrow? Is it possible to get 100% financing for my business?

How much you can borrow is a decision that rests with your lender. Some criteria your lender will consider are how much money your business plan says the project will require, how much collateral or personal investment you are willing to put into the business, and, our personal and business credit history. As you develop a business plan, you must gather the appropriate financial data to make informed projections regarding startup costs (or expansion costs for existing businesses). These projections should show you how much you need to borrow and help you determine your ability to repay the debt. You are unlikely to obtain 100% financing for your project from a lender. Lenders expect the borrower to share some of the risk and typically require an individual to cover at least 20% of the financing cost to start a business. Some banks will require an even larger owner equity injection depending on the industry or type of business. The equity you have or will have in the business will also be a factor.

How can I find out what my credit score is?

Always get and review your credit reports, which you can do at no cost to you at www.AnnualCreditReport.com.

What types of grants are available to help me start my business?

Grants to start a business are extremely rare. They likely involve very high tech research for government agencies. Ask business owners you know and odds are you won’t find one that started with a grant. As the old saying goes, “It takes money to make money.” This is particularly true when you are thinking about starting a business. You will need to identify how much money you’ll need to get started. Expect that you’ll have to provide 20-30% as your investment in the business because 100% financing is not likely to be available. Ask your SBDC consultant about any grants they may be aware of. Be extra careful of scams.

What do I need to get a business loan?

In order to get a loan, you will need at least three years worth of tax records (include tax records for the business if you are in operation); a personal financial statement, good credit and copies of any outstanding contracts (for example, your lease). Depending on security, the lender will usually want to see a thorough business plan that includes cash flow projections, a market analysis and an operational plan. Your SBDC consultant can help.

Does the SBDC offer loans?

No, the SBDC does not offer loans. Our services are technical and educational in nature. SBDCs will assist in developing business plans, calculating financial projections, comparing loans, and preparations to meet with and selection of a lender.

What alternatives are there to financing a business?

Committing your own funds is often the first step in financing. It is certainly the best indicator of how serious you are about your business. Risking your own money gives confidence for others to invest in your business. Think very carefully before you take on partners or investors in a business. Hire an attorney.

What financing is available when your credit rating is bad or you have a bankruptcy?

Unfortunately, traditional financing options are very limited and often nonexistent. At best an individual may try to work with a micro-lender or economic development organization. Poor credit will still be an issue. Other alternative financing options should be explored such as friends and family members as investors. Improving your credit history and putting some time between the problem and new credit may work. Be very careful about scams and stay away from predatory lenders who will want access to your bank accounts.

How should I prepare to meet with a business banker?

Set an appointment. Write down why you need the loan and how much you need to borrow. If you do not have three years of history with the business, are not making a profit, or don’t have substantial security to offer, be prepared to be turned down. Gather a copy of your plan and other documents. Your SBDC consultant could be helpful with this step. An alternative lender may need to be considered.

Do you have a list of commercial lenders?

Your SBDC consultant can refer you to commercial lenders.

What are the risks of borrowing from a lender I located on the web?

Many. Please see an SBDC consultants before proceeding. We have run across more unscrupulous lenders on the internet than we have good ones. You may not have normal consumer protections with business loans. High rates, fees, access to your bank account, high pressure, the inability to pay them off, and other problems abound.

Does the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) make business loans?

For the most part, NO. The exception is after a disaster when they may make direct business loans. They do however; guarantee certain business loans made by commercial banks.

COVID-19 General Support

What is the difference between collecting Unemployment versus PPP?

if this is for yourself, you can get PUA (Pandemic Unemployment Insurance) or PPP based on your Schedule C net taxible income or 1099 income. (At 2.5X your average monthly income) However, the Labor Department will deduct any hours you work on your business from your award. So, do the math to see if you have a better benefit from PPP or PUA. If PPP is for your employees, you can still get PUA for yourself with the same rules. However, if you collect unemployment be mindful of the payroll parameters of the PPP when you apply for forgiveness. Do the math first to decide what works for you and your situation. An employee is not eligible for unemployment if they are full time. There are some parameters for part-timers who apply for unemployment.

What are the best options for capitalization for sole owners/proprietors?

You may be eligible for all programs: EIDL, PPP, Idaho Cash Grant, Unemployment Insurance. Perhaps your accountant or SBDC consultant can help you make that determination.

What requirements are there for part-time employees that have other jobs also? Do I have to pay them the part-time wages during the down time with the PPP loan?

That is your discretion. If you want forgiveness for your PPP loan, you will be forgiven to the extent that you keep your total payroll and full time headcount as compared to monthly average of 2019. And you have to use 60% of your award on payroll to get forgivelness. Whatever is not forgiven will be loaned to you at 1% for a term of two years.

Does a business owner need to have the same employees in place before February 15 as thereafter? Is this about the specific employees or the number of employees?

No. They will not check the names of your employees. You must maintain your FTE (Full Time Equivilency) calculated at 1 for each full time employee and .5 for each part time (under 40 hours) employee.

If a small business owner has taken a consistent monthly draw every month for the past few years, but never put themselves on payroll like employees, can the PPP be used for an owners draw?

Yes you can. As long as you can document the draw and employee payroll. If you are a sole proprietory, your award is 2.5% of your taxible income on your Schedule C, Schedule F or Schedule K.

How can this help sole proprietor with no employees? I rent space in a salon to run my business, can this help me?

Yes. 60% must be payroll and your business rent can be a part of the remaining 40% when you apply for forgiveness. You are eligible for PPP at 2.5 X your taxible income as it appears on your 2019 Schedule C or K-1. However, you may want to compare that to collecting Unemployment Insurance.

Does claiming unemployment prevent you from getting PPP?

No. But, you can’t use these monies for the same purpose. So if you collect unemployment be mindful of the payroll parameters of the PPP and that you may have trouble getting forgiveness. Do the math first and track scrupulously.

Do PPP loans cover paid sick leave?

Yes. PPP loans covers payroll costs, including costs for employee vacation, parental, family, medical, and sick leave. However, the CARES Act and FFCRA excludes qualified sick and family leave wages for which a credit is allowed under sections 7001 and 7003 of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

What if an eligible borrower contracts with a third-party payer such as a payroll provider or a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) to process payroll and report payroll taxes?

The SBA recognizes that eligible borrowers that use PEOs or similar payroll providers are required under some state registration laws to report wage and other data on the EIN of the PEO. In these cases, payroll documentation provided by the payroll provider that indicates the amount of wages and payroll taxes reported to the IRS by the payroll provider for the borrower’s employees will be considered acceptable PPP loan payroll documentation.

Will workers qualify for unemployment benefits if the coronavirus (COVID-19) causes an employer to temporarily or permanently shut down operations?

Unemployment insurance benefits are available to individuals who are unemployed through no fault of their own. If an employer shuts down operations and no work is available or reduces an individual’s hours due to a drop in business, this would be considered a lay off due to lack of work and the individual may be eligible for benefits. Anyone can apply for benefits, and it will be evaluated on the individual merits.

If an employee receives unemployment benefits as a result of a coronavirus-related business shutdown, will my unemployment insurance account be charged?

It depends. Part of Gov. Brad Little’s emergency proclamation provides that experience rated employers (most businesses) will not be charged for unemployment claims attributed to COVID-19. There is no change to cost reimbursed employers. Cost reimbursed employers include non-profit and government employers.

Will my employees be required to look for work if I had to temporarily or permanently shut down operations for work because of coronavirus (COVID-19)?

It depends. If they are unemployed due to COVID-19 related reasons and you are plan on having them return to work, they are not required to register for work or seek work. They will need to answer ‘yes’ to the question asking if they're returning to work on the UI application. If they are not returning with you, they will be required complete two work search activities per week.

How can a company get workers back if they are considered attached and the company opens back up but the employees would prefer to get unemployment insurance instead?

First, be sure you communicate the expectation to return to work with as much detail as possible at the time they become separated. Then, ensure they were clearly instructed to come back — speak with them, send an email to the email address, text them, etc. Then, let the Labor Department know who didn’t come back — that person is missing available work and would need a qualifying reason to do so may lose their benefit. (either a personal compelling reason or an illness, and even then it has to be less than 1/2 of their weekly benefit amount).

I heard about an additional $600 more per week? When does this start?

Originally the CARES Act includes Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), which adds an additional $600 to each claimant’s weekly payment until July 31, 2020. As of 1/1/2021 This is effective until 3/31/21 there will be an additional $300 per week.

If there is a separation due to the coronavirus, am I required to pay accrued vacation/PTO or sick pay?

It depends. Idaho law does not require the payment of vacation, holiday or sick pay. These items are agreed upon between the employer and the employee. If there is any change in a policy, the employee must be notified prior to the change. For U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour guidance on issues around COVID-19, its effects on wages and hours worked under the Fair Labor Standards Act and job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

What are the specific steps (verification process) to obtain loan forgiveness (conversion to a grant) on the PPP?

The PPP is forgivable if you spend 75% of your loan on payroll to the extend that you match your full time head count and dollar amount of your monthly average of 2019 and up to 25% on business mortgage interest, leases, and utilities. The actual “process” for doing this hasn’t not yet been revealed but you will reapply through your banking institution.

Are there any additional grants or assistance help in Idaho beside the Federal relief fund?

Idaho is offering $10,000 grants to any business who did not get other assistance, who are registered with the Idaho Tax Commission and have a TAP account. Idaho is also offering a variety of muicipal grants. Check with your city to see what is being offered.

Are these loans going to be taxable?

PPP and EIDL are not taxible and the expenses are deductable for federal taxes.

For the self-employed, is the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefit to be based on the sole proprietor's gross income or based on net profit?

Net taxable income taken from your 2019 tax return.

Marketing/Sales

What does marketing my business involve?

Marketing is one of the most important aspects of your business. Without marketing, potential clients can't find you. Marketing consists of four elements often called the "four P's": Product - the item or service you sell. Price - the amount you charge for your product or service. Promotion - the ways you inform your potential clients about who, what and where you are. Provision - the channels you use to get your product or service to the customer. Marketing encompasses much more than just advertising or selling. A major part of marketing involves researching your customers: Who are they? Where are they located? How do you reach them? What do they want? (Great product? Great customer service? Follow-up support?) What can they afford? What do they think? Your understanding and application of the answers to such questions play a major role in the success or failure of your business. For assistance in creating a marketing plan for your business, contact your nearest Idaho Small Business Development Center.

What kind of market research can you help me with?

SBDC advisors have access to SBDCNet which is a national clearinghouse of market research data such as ring studies, industry reports, articles and archives. Our advisors also have access to university databases such as Reference USA and federal databases like the US Census Bureau and IBISWorld.

How do I obtain a domain name for my business?

Start by going to any online directory of domain names at googledomains.com, godaddy.com, or other. If the name you’ve chosen is not already registered, you can pay the online directory an annual fee for the rights to use the domain name. You can also buy an existing name from its owner at a typically higher cost.

How can I find profiles on typical industry customers?

There are a few places you might try to locate these kinds of statistics: Trade Associations: Trade and industry groups often conduct extensive market research and make this research available to members. While they often focus on national or statewide trends, you might find local statistics through a group’s local chapter. You can also get valuable trade information from ocal Chambers of Commerce, Economic Development Centers and business sales tools like IBISWorld. The SBDC can also provide relevant, up-to-date information on your industry though tools such as this one. An SBDC consultant can be valuable to address this issue.

How do I find suppliers for my business?

Besides using online search engines to find specific suppliers, SBDC consultants have information concerning international, governmental, and private suppliers for your business. Another option is to attend trade shows. Trade shows are a great place to track down suppliers and wholesalers. Trade Show News Network at www.tsnn.com is a way to find those shows and the suppliers who attend them.

What are some resources to help with marketing research?

Free: SBDCnet Industry Links – resources by industry (click on the “Industry Information Links” in the blue bar). Industry Resources Reports – guide to industry information, research, and analysis for over 400 industries. County Business Patterns – lists establishments, payroll and employee size for all U.S. counties by SIC. Paid: Northern Light Market Strategic Research Portals – market and competitive intelligence. BizMiner – reports on industry, market and financial trends by size of business. Zapdata.com or IBISWorld (see a SBDC consultant) – search U.S. markets by SIC code. MarketResearch.com – databases of market research reports

What is a Sales Pipeline?

A sales pipeline is a visual snapshot of where prospects are in your sales process. Sales pipelines show you how many deals a business is expected to close in a given week, month or year.Typically a sales pipeline is a plan viewed or maintained in a customer relationship management (CRM) system.

What is Google My Business?

Google My Business is a free service Google provides to help your buisness claiim and manage its free Google listing. The listing is a panel with details about your business that appears in the right side of the search screen whenever a user searches for your business by name.

Website

Should I have a website?

In most cases, yes. A website is your digital storefront. There are four general reasons to have a website: to sell products and services. to provide information, to increase visibility. and to provide additional customer service. To sell products and services on the Internet, success involves: having a great product or service attracting a targeted market. E-Commerce (selling through a website) is a five-step process: 1) Host the content on the Internet. 2) Market the website and content. 3) Collect and record customer orders 4) Process payments 5) Fill and ship customer orders.

Business Accounting/Budget

Can you help me re-structure my debt?

Our advisors are able to review your financials and credit situation to help you develop a strategy to consolidate your debt and manage your cash flow. 

Can you help me understand my financial statements?

SBDC advisors have extensive experience analyzing small business financials and they are also certified Profit Mastery instructors.

Other

My business was affected by a flood/fire… can you help me?

The Small Business Administration is your best source for resources needed after a natural disaster. Here's the SBA link. 

Tax Planning

When do I need to collect Idaho sales tax?

When you make your first retail sale in Idaho. Some services are exempt from sales tax. Most businesses must pay quarterly taxes to report and pay their collected sales taxes.

Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC)

What does PTAC stand for?

PTAC stands for Procurement Technical Assistance Center.

What does PTAC do?

PTAC is devoted to helping Idaho small businesses successfully navigate the process of government contracting.

Government Contracting

How do I sell my product or service to the government?

Selling to the government is very different from selling in the private sector. The Idaho Procurement Technical Assistance Center is an organization through which you can learn about and access the government marketplace. The center offers consulting and information to help your business become a successful government contractor for local, state, and federal governments. Call 208-489-1607 to learn more.

How do I register for government contracting?

No matter the size of your business, you can bid on government contracts. Most federal purchases under $250,000 are reserved for small businesses. Our office, or our sister organization, the Idaho PTAC, can help get your business registered for government contracting.

Starting a Business

I want to start a non-profit organization. How do I do that and are there special regulations?

To be classified as a non-profit, approval must be secured from the Internal Revenue Service. The process can be expensive and time-consuming and many business activities do not qualify. Your attorney can assist with the application process. Information about establishing a non-profit, tax reporting and maintaining non-profit status is found on the IRS website. After receiving IRS approval, the business can register with the Idaho Secretary of State’s office as a Domestic Non-profit Corporation.

Alternatives: Before establishing a non-profit, you may want to consider other, less expensive, ways to accomplish your goal. See Alternatives to Forming a Charitable Nonprofit for recommendations.

If you decide to move forward in creating a non-profit, you may find it helpful to go through the Business Wizard. You can search for information related to the primary activity of your non-profit and find out if you or your employees may need specific licenses or permits, such as occupational licenses.

Taxes: Non-profits are not exempt from all taxes. Your non-profit may be required to collect or pay state sales or use tax. If so, you will need to secure a sales and use tax permit from the Idaho State Tax Commission. For information and a list of exempt organizations, see the opens in a new windowTax Commission’s website.

Assistance: The Idaho Non-profit Center offers information about establishing a non-profit in Idaho, including establishing a board of directors, writing by-laws, recruiting volunteers, financial record keeping and more.

The Idaho Attorney General publishes the booklet, Service on an Idaho Non-profit Board of Directors, which explains the responsibilities and liability associated with serving on a nonprofit’s board.

If your nonprofit is engaged in activities involving children, the elderly, or vulnerable adults, your employees and volunteers will need a background check and to be fingerprinted. For information, visit the opens in a new windowIdaho State Police website.

I plan to start my business in my home. Are there special regulations I need to know about?

Home-based businesses may need to conform with additional regulations, as well as those associated with your profession or the product or service offered. First, go through the Business Wizard to find requirements related to your profession, product or service. Then, read through the information below to learn about possible additional requirements.

Local Requirements: Call your local city clerk’s office to find out if you need a city business license or another special license or permit. Your business will need to comply with your city, county, and/or homeowner’s or neighborhood association regulations. If you rent your home or apartment or live in a condo, check your lease agreement or covenants to be certain a home-based business is allowed.

Legal Requirements: All businesses, including home-based ones, need to register their name and entity type with the Idaho Secretary of State’s office. To learn about the entity types recognized in Idaho, visit the Legal Structure section of this website.

The business must be operated by a full-time resident of the home, not an employee. The business must be a secondary use for the home; the primary use must remain that of a residence. The character of the home, interior and exterior, cannot be changed from that of a residence. The square footage allowed for business activities varies by community.

In most communities, a retail store, restaurant, coffee shop or similar business where customers come and go cannot be operated from a home. If you offer lessons (music, art, etc.), the number of students allowed at any one time may be limited.

The business must comply with local health, safety, and fire codes and with city and county ordinances. You may be required to conduct all business activities inside the home or an approved accessory structure (garage, shop, etc.). Equipment used in the business may be restricted in size, weight and power to that of normal household appliances.

You must also comply with local regulations concerning:

  • exterior signage
  • traffic
  • number of employees
  • parking (employee and customer)
  • noise
  • odor
  • waste disposal
  • dust and vibrations
  • air, waste water, or soil pollution

You may not be able to store supplies or materials in a yard, garage, or outbuilding or park vehicles or equipment in your yard or on the street.

  • Food Preparation – Idaho’s Cottage Food law allows certain “low risk” foods sold directly to the consumer to be prepared in a home kitchen. This includes most baked goods and other products that don’t require refrigeration. Other foods, including baked goods that will be sold at a commercial establishment, sold on-line or across state lines, or contain imported ingredients must be prepared in a commercial kitchen. The commercial kitchen will be inspected and licensed by your regional health department. Visit the Home-Based Business section of the Food and Drug Administration’s website for more information.
  • Child Care – If you care for seven or more children in your home (including your own) and you receive payment for one or more of them, a license is needed from your city clerk’s office and/or from Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. The home will be inspected by the health department and the fire marshal. (Note – some cities’ licensing requirements are more stringent than state requirements, so be sure to check.) You and your employees must secure annual training, including pediatric First Aid and CPR training.
    Federal and state regulations require everyone applying for or renewing a childcare license to check the Central Registry in every state in which the person lived in the past five years (including Idaho) and to submit proof of the check/checks. Anyone living in a home where an in-home daycare is operated must also submit proof of a check. Central Registries are databases maintained by individual states that contain records of child abuse and neglect investigations. Idaho Department of Health and Welfare maintains the Idaho database. In addition to a Central Registry check, some cities also require an FBI background check.
  • Temporary Lodging/Airbnb – Homeowners who rent a room, cabin or another space to the public must register a business name with the opens in a new windowIdaho Secretary of State’s office. If the rental is for 30 days or less, sales tax and applicable lodging taxes must be collected and remitted to the Idaho State Tax Commission. Some marketing programs, such as Airbnb and VRBO, will collect taxes for you. If you rent through another program, you may need to personally collect and remit taxes. For details, see Short-term Rentals.
  • Product Restrictions – Certain products cannot be legally manufactured, grown or raised in a home business. These include fireworks and other combustible items, drugs and drug paraphernalia, poisons, noxious weeds or insects, and sanitary and medical products. Some communities restrict the production of additional items, so check with your city clerk.
  • Service/Sales Restrictions – Services involving risky activities, adult activities, loud noise, pollution or that create a nuisance for neighbors are restricted in home businesses. The sale of restricted items, such as alcohol, drugs or tobacco, poisonous reptiles or insects cannot occur in a home business.
  • Animals – Businesses involving animals are subject to additional regulations and licensing requirements, depending on the type and number of animals and the service provided. A kennel or breeder’s license may be needed; special waste handling and noise abatement procedures may be required, as well as other issues. Contact your city clerk’s office for information.
  • On-line Businesses – If you operate an online business, you may need to register a business name with the Idaho Secretary of State’s office. If the business involves sales, a sales tax permit secured from the Idaho State Tax Commission will be needed. The business will collect tax on sales to Idaho residents. If you sell food products online, see the “Food Preparation” information above.
  • Party Plan Businesses – if you sell Scentsy, Pampered Chef, Mary Kay or another product involving home parties or sales events, check with your city clerk’s office to find out if you can hold parties at your home. Some Idaho cities restrict the number of attendees at open houses and similar events held at the dealer’s home (not at a customer’s home).

Employees: Your city or county regulates the number of employees a home business can have and the number of vehicles that can be parked at the home or on a public street. State and federal employment-related posters must be displayed. You must also have workers compensation insurance, pay unemployment insurance taxes, establish a tax withholding account and comply with OSHA safety regulations. For more information on employee issues, visit the Employer Issues section of this website.

Signage: Most communities regulate the size and type of signage allowed, if any, in a residential area. Contact your city clerk’s office for local requirements.

Tax Issues: Small business owners, including independent contractors, pay taxes on the profit from their business. They also pay self-employment tax and may need to make quarterly estimated income tax payments. For information, visit the Taxes section of this website and the Small Business and Self-Employed section of the IRS website. For Social Security and Medicare requirements for the self-employed, including independent contractors, visit the Social Security Administration website.

Insurance: All businesses need insurance, regardless of location. Check first with your homeowner’s insurance agent or an agent who writes policies for small businesses. Not all home-based businesses are covered by homeowner’s insurance, particularly if the primary activity, such as house painting, does not occur at the home. If homeowner’s insurance will cover your business, additional coverage may be needed for business equipment, inventory, or a business-owned vehicle.

If clients regularly visit your home, you have a dog or another animal that might harm a client, your business involves animals, or other issues, such as falls, might occur, you may need to increase your liability coverage.

For information on other types of insurance you may need, such as workers’ compensation or product liability insurance, visit the Insurance section of this website.

Security: Home-based businesses have unique security issues, including allowing strangers into the home, protecting mail, computer security, and personal safety issues, both in and out of the office. Mail, particularly checks and financial information, can be protected by using a mailing address other than your home address, such as a post office box or a mail box at a package shipping center.

Disaster Preparation: Like any business, your home-based one is subject to natural disasters, including fire, floods, earthquakes, structural damage caused by excessive snow, wind or falling trees and more. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security offers Business Toolkits to prepare your business for a natural disaster.

Business Telephone: Using your home phone number as your business number is not a good idea unless all family members will answer in-coming calls in a professional manner. If a cellular phone is used for business and you change carriers and phone numbers often, your business will be negatively impacted when customers can’t reach you. Installing a landline with voice mail is the most professional way to handle incoming calls. If you have a fax machine, you may need a landline.

Zoning: Before opening a business in a home, check with your city or county planning and zoning department to be certain you can legally do so. Most communities do not allow retail businesses, such as stores, restaurants or coffee shops, to be located in an area zoned for residential use, nor do they allow trucks and equipment to be parked at a home or employees or large numbers of people to come and go. If a business is operating in violation of zoning regulations, it could be closed without notice.

Also check with your homeowner’s or condo association or your apartment lease to be certain the covenants allow a business in your home, particularly if employees, clients and/or delivery trucks will come and go.

Client Meetings: If zoning regulations, a homeowner’s association or apartment lease do not allow client meetings at your home, if you have young children, an unruly pet, or safety is a concern, you may need to meet clients at another location, preferably the client’s office. If that isn’t possible, you may be able to rent temporary meeting space in an office complex or another facility or hold an informal meeting at a coffee shop or another public place.

Closing Your Home Business: When a business closes, several agencies need to be contacted. For information, visit the Assistance Resources section of this website and look for “Business Closure.”

CAUTION – If you are starting a home business in response to an ad about earning money at home, BEWARE! Work-at-home scams are among the most prevalent. Before sending money, meet with a counselor at your nearest Idaho Small Business Development Center or SCORE office, listed under Assistance Resources, Business Formation and Expansion, and contact the Better Business Bureau in both your community and where the business is located. Also see the information found on the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) website.

Financing Your Business

I need a grant to start my business. Who offers them and how do I apply?

Very few grants are available to start or expand a for-profit business unless you have invented a new technology. Most grants are available to non-profits and community organizations to expand their work or to fund special projects and activities.

SBIR/STTR Grants: With few exceptions, most grants available to for-profit start-up businesses are SBIR and STTR grants (Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Research). If you have invented an innovative product that will serve the national interest, you may qualify for an SBIR or an STTR grant to help develop it. Grants are offered by 11 federal agencies through a competitive process. Information is available at SBIR.gov.

If you think you may qualify for an SBIR grant, contact your nearest Small Business Development Center for assistance in applying.

Grants for Innovation: If you own an existing for-profit business (not a start-up) that is engaged in the development of new processes or technologies or uses natural resources in an innovative way, you may qualify for a research grant. To find grant opportunities, see the following:

Made in America Grants: If you are a manufacturer of a product that is made in America and you have problems competing with foreign businesses, you may be eligible for assistance through the Northwest Trade Adjustment Assistance Center. Eligible businesses must be located in Idaho, Alaska, Oregon or Washington.

U.S. Economic Development Administration: Economic development assistance and disaster recovery grants – available to communities and tribes

Agriculture Loans and Grants: The Idaho Department of Agriculture offers several financial programs.

USDA Rural Development: Rural Development Business Programs – Idaho

Idaho Regional Travel Grant Program – available to chambers, visitors centers, travel councils and other community organizations to promote tourism in their area

FedEx Small Business Grants

National Association for the Self-Employed micro grants

Wells Fargo Grants: available to community organizations and nonprofits for community development activities

Idaho Power Local Energy Efficiency Funds – grants for energy conservation projects

Amber Grants for Women – Monthly grants of $500 are offered. At the end of the year, one of the monthly winners will receive an additional $25,000. See WomensNet for details.

Best Buy Community GrantsAvailable to community organizations that provide programs to develop the technology skills of teens. Application deadline varies and restrictions apply.

Chobani Community Impact Fund – available to businesses in the Magic Valley to expand economic opportunity and promote entrepreneurship

Non-profits: If you are a non-profit organization, these sites will be helpful:

Other Programs: Special business assistance programs for women, minorities, veterans, the disabled, and others are available, but they are usually for low interest loans, government contracting opportunities, and other types of assistance, not grants.

Tax Incentives: Your business may qualify for tax incentives (tax credits) for certain business activities, such as creating new jobs in an economically depressed area, hiring the long-term unemployed, or making workplace accommodations for a disabled employee. Incentives are offered at both the state and federal levels. State programs are listed on the Idaho Department of Commerce website. To find federal tax incentives, visit the Internal Revenue Service website.

SCOR/U-7 Finance Program: The Small Company Offering Regulations program administered by the Idaho Department of Finance enables established businesses to accept investment funds from qualified Idaho investors without registering with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Challenge.gov: Government agencies having a specific need list it on Challenge.gov. Businesses and individuals can submit a solution. The needs regularly change, as do the requirements to submit a proposal.

To learn about funding for which your business may qualify, talk with a counselor at the Boise or Spokane Small Business Administration offices, the Idaho Small Business Development Center, or a SCORE counselor. Contact information for each organization is listed in the Assistance Resources section of this site. Counseling services are free.

What is crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding is a financing option designed to quickly raise funds by securing many small donations from many contributors. The most common type of crowdfunding involves soliciting donations to start a business or launch a new product. Donors receive a specialty gift for donating. Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are two popular crowdfunding donation websites.

About 30 percent of businesses meet their funding goal. If they don’t, the business receives no money and donated funds are returned to the donors. Crowdfunding is most successful when a business needs to raise a modest amount of money in a short time. The median donation is $25 and the average donation is $70.

The most easily funded products are games, art, books, music, food, fashion and design. Crowdfunding is not often successful for service businesses, website or app development and any other activity not offering a tangible product.

Equity funding, debt funding and subscription based funding are additional types of crowdfunding. Equity funding sites, such as EquityNet, sell small amounts of equity in a business to a large network of purchasers. Crowdfunding equity sales are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Debt funding sites, such as Kiva, provide micro loans, usually to individuals in emerging nations. The lender is repaid when the business makes a profit. Patreon is an example of a subscription funding site used by podcasters, musicians and other creative individuals where fans pay to listen to the artists’ work.

Crowdfunding websites may charge a percentage of the amount raised to cover their administrative costs. Credit card processing fees also apply. U.S. residents who raise money through crowdfunding must pay income tax on funds received.

What loans are available to start a business?

Banks, some credit unions and numerous private organizations offer loans for everything from the purchase of a business to equipment leasing to factoring (a loan against accounts receivables). Family and friends may also lend money to help start your business. The following loan programs are available to many small businesses, though some are available only to established businesses, not start-ups. All require the borrower to have a well researched and written business plan and collateral. To find banks and other loan resources in your area, complete a search of the Resource Wizard on this site.

Small Business Administration Loans – The SBA does not lend money. Rather, it guarantees loans offered by participating banks. To qualify, an applicant must meet both the bank’s and the SBA’s requirements.

For information about applying for an SBA loan, talk to your bank or visit opens in a new windowSBA Loan Programs.

  • CAPLines – Helps established businesses meet short term and cyclical working capital needs
  • 7a Loan Program – The most common SBA loan
  • Microloan Program – Guarantees loans up to $50,000; restrictions apply
  • SBA 504 Loans – available only through Certified Development Companies. Provides fixed-rate, long term financing for the purchase of major fixed assets such as real estate and equipment. To find a Certified Development Company in your area, contact the opens in a new windowIdaho SBA office or your local opens in a new windowSmall Business Development Center. CDCs are located in Hayden Lake, Boise, Twin Falls, Pocatello and Rexburg.

Idaho Department of Agriculture opens in a new windowAgricultural Development Loan Program

opens in a new windowREDiFiT – Low Interest transportation loan program to expand Idaho’s freight shipping industry

Idaho Housing and Finance Association – Collateral Support Program – Contact your banker for information.

opens in a new windowMoFi – formerly known as Montana and Idaho CDC, loans are offered to businesses in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, eastern Oregon and eastern WA that can’t qualify for bank financing. Asset management services are available.

opens in a new windowState Energy Loan Program

Whole Foods opens in a new windowLocal Producer Loans – Available to businesses who sell their products to Whole Foods.

Crowdfunding – A method of raising funds via the internet by securing either many small donations from a large number of people or offering a small equity share in a business to many small investors. See the above FAQ about Crowdfunding.

Angel Investors/Venture Capital – See the Venture Capital/Angel Capital FAQ below.

opens in a new windowLender Match is a division of the Small Business Administration that matches businesses seeking a loan with SBA-approved lenders.

Loan Preparation – Before approaching a lender, be certain you have gathered all the necessary documents, including a well researched and written business plan and personal financial statements for owners. Your lender can tell you everything you need.

To find banks and other lending resources in your area, make a search on the opens in a new windowResource Wizard. To learn about loan programs that may fit your business needs, contact your banker.

I’ve heard about venture capital and angel investors but I am not sure how they work or if my business qualifies for their help.

Finding venture capital or an angel investor may seem like the answer to many small business funding needs, and it may be if you are in the right industry, have a solid business plan, a track record in your industry or a related one, a qualified management team, and you don’t mind giving up equity in your business and having someone watching over your shoulder.

Venture Capital: Most venture capital firms invest several million dollars in the companies they fund and in return expect an ownership share in the company (stock) and a management position within the company or a seat on the board of directors. Most prefer companies in rapidly growing industries, such as technology or bio-technology. Less than 1% of applicants qualify for funding. To find a venture capitalist, ask your banker, attorney, or accountant for a recommendation to a company specializing in your field and arrange an introduction. (Most VCs don’t like cold calls.)

Venture capital funding is a fertile field for scam artists. Before engaging in business, contact the Better Business Bureau in the community where the company is located. Also contact the Attorney General’s office in the state in which the business is located and ask if complaints have been filed against them.

Angel Investors: Angel investors are wealthy individuals or groups that provide less money than venture capital firms, usually to early stage businesses. Like venture capitalists, angel investors usually prefer to invest in rapidly growing small businesses that will provide a high rate of return in a short time. They will expect a seat on the board and/or a management position within the business.

Ask your banker, attorney, or CPA to arrange an introduction to an angel investor. Like venture capitalists, angel investors don’t usually like cold calls, and only a small percentage of businesses qualify for funding (less than one in 500).

VCgate and National Venture Capital Association are online venture/angel capital resource directories where those seeking venture capital can find possible investors. To find venture capital and angel investors who specifically invest in Idaho businesses, make a search on the Resource Wizard.

For more information about venture and angel capital funding, visit the Small Business Administration’s website.

Operating A Business

How do I register a trademark?

Your trademark can be registered in three ways:

State Registration: The Idaho Secretary of State’s office registers trademarks in Idaho. Your trademark must be unique and not similar to one already registered. Be aware that registering your trademark only in Idaho does not offer national protection from its use by a business in another state.

National Registration: U.S. Patent & Trademark Office
National Trademark Search

International Registration: Madrid – The International Trademark System

The trademark symbol ™ can be used on written materials that include your unique name or logo (including websites) to indicate that your business claims an ownership right in the use of the symbol or word. You do not need to register your trademark to use the symbol, though it is a good idea to do so if you want to protect the name or symbol from use by others.

If the trademark is registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the Registered ® symbol is used. Using the symbol gives public notice that the logo or name is trademarked and cannot be copied without legal consequences.

How do I register to sell to the government or become a preferred vendor?

Federal, state and local government agencies purchase everything from computers and vehicles to cookies and coffee from small businesses. They also contract with small businesses to construct or renovate buildings, build or improve infrastructure (roads, bridges), maintain landscaping, clean buildings and more.

Selling to Federal Agencies: Businesses must register with System for Award Management (SAM). Once registered, you can peruse requests for bids on government contracts listed in the Federal Business Opportunities database.

The GSA ( opens in a new windowGovernment Services Administration) is the Federal government’s primary purchasing agency. Federal “Prime” contractors (major contractors) are required to purchase a percentage of the goods and services they use from small businesses. A list of prime contractors is found in the GSA Subcontracting Directory. Prime contractors list goods and services they are seeking on Sub-Net.

Idaho Procurement Technical Assistance Center (Idaho PTAC), a division of the Idaho Small Business Development Center, assists businesses in qualifying for state and federal contracting opportunities.

Selling to Idaho Agencies: For information about the State purchasing process, visit ID Division of Purchasing. Businesses need to register in order to gain information on current bid solicitations. The Division of Purchasing offer regular training programs to assist businesses in learning how to sell to the State.

Not all state agencies list their contracting opportunities with Idaho Purchasing, instead posting bid requests on their individual agency websites:

Selling to Local Agencies: Cities and counties list their bid opportunities in the legal section of a local newspaper and/or on their city or county website.

Disadvantaged Businesses: Woman, veteran and minority-owned businesses, collectively known as disadvantaged business enterprises (DBE), may have preference in bidding on certain contracts through the various Federal agencies’ Offices of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization. In Idaho, the Idaho Transportation Department handles such contracts.

Woman and Veteran-owned Businesses: Woman and veteran-owned businesses can be certified as eligible for government contracting by the National Women Business Owners Corporation or by Certify.sba.gov.

Minority Owned Businesses: The National Minority Supplier Development Council, Inc. certifies minority-owned businesses.

HUBZones: Businesses located in a federally-designated HUBZone (an economically distressed area within a city or county) have preference when bidding on federal contracting opportunities. Find Idaho HUBZone areas here: HUBZone maps. Businesses must be certified in order to access bid opportunities.

Idaho PTAC, a division of the Idaho Small Business Development Center, can assist you in registering to contract with both the state and federal governments and in finding appropriate bid opportunities.

I have an out-of-state business and plan to do business in Idaho. How can I find out about Idaho regulations?

What you need to do depends on how long you plan to do business in Idaho. If you plan to engage in business for more than a few days or weeks, you will need to contact:

  • The Secretary of State’s office to find out if you need to register your business in Idaho as a foreign corporation or LLC.
  • The Idaho State Tax Commission to learn about taxes you may need to pay, permits you may need, and to establish an employee withholding tax account for your employees who live or work in Idaho. If an employee earns $2,000 or more from work performed in Idaho, you need to withhold state income tax.
  • The Idaho Industrial Commission to learn about workers comp insurance requirements.
  • The Idaho Department of Labor to establish a state unemployment insurance tax account.
  • The city clerk’s office of the city in which your business will be located to find out if you need a business license. If your business activities will occur outside city limits, check with the county clerk’s office to find out if you need a county business license.

Also visit the Resource Wizard to obtain a customized check-list of agencies from which you may need to obtain licenses or permits, including professional licenses for your employees.

My product is made in the U.S., a rarity today. Do I need to do something to be able to advertise it as U.S. made?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulates “Made in the U.S.A” advertising. U.S. content must be disclosed on certain products, including textiles, wool, fur and automobiles. Manufacturers and marketers of other products who choose to claim their product is made in the U.S. also need to comply with labeling requirements.

How can I have my product certified as organic or “green?”

The opens in a new windowIdaho Department of Agriculture certifies organic farms and food products grown in Idaho. They also certify organic soil amendments (fertilizer) made in Idaho.

The U. S. Department of Agriculture administers the opens in a new windowNational Organic Program for production, handling, and labeling of agricultural products, including meat, poultry, seafood, and alcoholic beverages. They also set policies for the import or export of organic products.

To certify a non-food product, contact opens in a new windowGreen Seal. Energy efficient appliances and products are certified by the U.S. Government’s opens in a new windowEnergy Star Program.

I want to sell my food at our farmer’s market but they won’t let me unless I prepare it in a commercial kitchen. What is that and how do I make my home kitchen into a commercial one?

Commercial kitchens are inspected and licensed by your local health department. Unfortunately, you cannot make your home kitchen into a commercial one. A commercial kitchen must be located in a separate area away from your home kitchen with a separate entrance and locking door and it cannot be used to prepare family meals. It must contain specific appliances, shelving, stainless steel countertops, and special sinks, all of which can be expensive to implement.

Many churches, community centers and senior citizens centers have commercial kitchens and may be willing to rent space to you. Also check with caterers and with restaurants that serve only breakfast and lunch to see if you can rent space in the evening. With some searching, there is a way to make your business possible. The Department of Health and Welfare’s opens in a new windowFood Protection Program website offers additional information. Idaho's Cottage Food law allows you to produce certain “low risk” foods, such as most baked goods, in your home kitchen if you sell them directly to the consumer. If you sell any food product, including baked goods, to a store, coffee shop or other commercial establishment or online, it must be prepared in a commercial kitchen. The Idaho Department of Agriculture publishes a booklet, opens in a new windowStarting a Specialty Foods Business that contains much information you may find helpful.

What is TERO? My company wants to bid on a project on the Ft. Hall Reservation but they say we must have a TERO permit.

TERO is an acronym for Tribal Employment Registration Office. To perform work on most reservations your company must employ Native American workers. You can obtain information and the necessary form by contacting the tribal office of any reservation where you plan to work.

The company I am currently working for wants me to give them a W-9. What is it and why do I need to do this?

A form W-9 is a “Request for Taxpayer Identification Number.” When a business pays $600 or more in a calendar year to another business or individual who is not an employee, the business is required to file an information tax return with the IRS. To do so, the business must obtain the correct taxpayer identification number to include on the return.

Examples of businesses that require a W-9 include those that issue 1099s to independent contractors and those that must report real estate transactions, contributions to an IRA, cancellation of debt, payments to a childcare provider and other monetary transactions. See IRS form W-9 information and instructions.

Planning and Zoning closed my business. They said it was not allowed to be located where it was. Can they do that? What recourse do I have?

All Idaho cities and counties have zoning regulations with which businesses must comply. Before signing a lease or purchase agreement, first check with your city or county planning and zoning commission to be certain you can legally operate your type of business in the area you have chosen. For example, you would not be able to establish a construction business, including a home based one, in an area zoned as residential. As you discovered, If a business is opened in violation of zoning regulations, it can be immediately shut down when a zoning inspector finds it or when someone complains. It may then be difficult to terminate a lease or purchase agreement.

Some businesses, such as churches and day care centers, may be able to secure a conditional use permit to operate in an area not specifically zoned for businesses. Be sure to find out if your business qualifies for a conditional use permit and can meet all the requirements before you open it. If you attempt to operate your business without a permit, it will be closed when the city or county finds you.

I think my business may be subject to environmental regulations. How do I verify that and find out how to comply?

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality regulates business activities affecting air and water quality and waste management and remediation, including hazardous waste. The DEQ’s Permits page contains a comprehensive list of required permits for businesses that may generate pollution in the course of operations. For confidential assistance in understanding and complying with regulations, contact Environmental Regulations. A counselor will be happy to guide you through the process.

How Can My Store Accept Food Stamps?

The U.S Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service issues permits to qualified stores, fruit and vegetable stands and other food retailers. To find out if your business qualifies to accept food stamps and to apply, see USDA SNAP Program.

General

Are grants available to small business owners for starting a business?

No, not unless you have invented a new technology that is of value to a federal agency or you have developed a new way to utilize natural resources. Otherwise, there is practically no grant money out there for ordinary for-profit small businesses. Somehow the fantasy persists that there is a ton of money available to for-profit businesses that doesn't need to be repaid. The reality is that almost all grant money is awarded only to registered non-profit organizations or to businesses doing innovative research that is "in the national interest."

Ninety-five percent of new businesses are financed with personal funds (savings, family, and friends). Those who are eligible for financing assistance, usually a loan, must still invest in their own venture and provide collateral. So, if you are serious about starting or growing a viable business, you must be resourceful enough to capitalize it without "fantasy" money. For more information about grants, visit opens in a new windowIdaho Small Business Solutions website.

Where can I get money for my business?

The answer to this question will vary depending on whether you are starting a business or are already in business and on the following:

  • the amount of money needed
  • length of time in business
  • geographic location
  • personal credit rating and financial net worth
  • business credit rating, if an existing business
  • management ability
  • ability to provide collateral and repay the debt
  • viability of the business idea
  • type of financing needed (debt or equity)

Committing your own funds is often the first financing step for a start-up. It is certainly the best indicator of how serious you are about your business. Risking your own money gives confidence for others to invest in your business.

Next, approach family and friends - those who know you best and want to see you succeed. Show them the benefits available by investing in your business. Let them have an equity stake in your business, become a partner, or if they prefer to lend you the money, write up a contract and pay back the loan with interest, as if you were working with a bank.

The next obvious source is a bank, particularly for an established business. Developing a relationship with a bank and a banker before approaching them for a loan is key. They will help you determine which type of loan is best for you.

Other loan sources include commercial finance companies, venture capital firms (only available to rapidly growing tech companies), angel financing (private investors of a few thousand dollars up to $5 million who are interested in rapidly growing companies), local development companies, and life insurance companies. For information about financing options, see opens in a new windowIdaho Small Business Solutions website.

Trade credit, selling stock, seller financing, use of supplier/vendor financing (have a supplier extend 120 day terms instead of the usual thirty while you extend only 30-day terms to your customer), end-user funding (having the ultimate customer finance the research and development of the product), and equipment leasing offer alternatives to borrowing. Leasing, for example, can be an advantage because it does not tie up your cash.

Consider which options are right for you and then work with your banker or an Idaho SBDC consultant to determine the option that is best for you.

How can I obtain a loan?

Securing a business loan can be a daunting process, particularly in this economy. The best way to enhance your "asking" position is to do your homework. Before approaching a lender, get a copy of both your personal and business credit reports and make sure they are accurate. If anything is amiss, correct it with the reporting agency. If there are blemishes (late or missed payments, defaults, etc.) - prepare explanations.

Prepare a detailed written business plan with credible financial and market data. If you are already established in business, be prepared to provide two to three years of financial statements and tax documents. Understand that if you have a poor credit record (personal or business) or cannot demonstrate a personal investment in the business and the ability to repay a loan, you will not be considered a good risk. Instead of applying for a loan now, you may need to work at maintaining good personal and business credit (timely, consistent payment of debt) for at least two years and then reapply.

Your banker will know of several types of loans. One of the most common for small businesses is an SBA loan. The Small Business Administration does not make direct loans to businesses; rather, they guarantee loans. To get an SBA loan, a business owner must first contact a commercial loan officer at a bank. All SBA loan programs, even those for women, veterans, and the handicapped, require the business owner to start with a bank.

The bank evaluates the needs of the business, determines whether the potential borrower is eligible for a loan, helps the borrower fill out application forms, and determines which of the many loan programs is most appropriate for the situation. If the loan needs a guarantee in order to be more attractive to the lender, the package is forwarded to the SBA.

The role of the SBA is limited to guaranteeing some portion of the loan made by the bank to the borrower. This guarantee lowers the risk to the bank, but it doesn't affect the amount of the loan.

Most banks in Idaho are SBA-approved lenders. However, some are more active in making small business loans than others. Start with your own bank to find out if they make small business loans. If not, contact a state or community bank. They are generally more interested in helping small businesses than the large national banks.

If I'm thinking of starting a business, what should I do first?

Before you quit your job or print business cards, it is wise to take stock of personal considerations. Ask yourself:

  • Do I have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?
  • Am I a risk-taker?
  • Do I have a grasp of basic financial and marketing principles?
  • Am I resourceful and organized?
  • Can I support myself and/or my family financially during the early stages of the venture when cash may be short?
  • Will my family and friends be supportive during the start-up process?
  • Am I knowledgeable and experienced enough in my chosen field?

If the answer to any of these questions is "no," you may want to focus on some form of self-improvement before proceeding. If most of your answers are 'yes,' then it is time to become a realist! Get as much information as you can on the feasibility of your idea and on the real experience of starting and managing any business. You can do this by:

  • accessing business publications and data from your local library
  • taking seminars and workshops
  • speaking with or reading the Web sites of trade or professional groups that represent your chosen industry
  • consulting with people who are already in the same or similar line of business (avoid those who may perceive you as a potential competitor)
  • seeking advice from professional counselors like those at the Idaho SBDC

Also, take the time to review the Business Start-up section of this Website and read through the information on  opens in a new windowIdaho Small Business Solutions Web site, then contact your nearest SCORE Chapter or Idaho SBDC office to arrange for a free consulting session.

What kind of registration and licenses are required to start a business?

opens in a new windowIdaho Small Business Solutions, a website created by over 20 Idaho state agencies,  makes it easy for business owners to get a grip on the multitude of regulations, taxes, and licenses affecting business operations in Idaho. The site takes the guesswork out of which agency to contact for what. The heart of the site is the  opens in a new windowBusiness Wizard. It asks five questions about your business and then develops a customized checklist of agencies to contact. The checklist includes phone numbers and links to forms and websites.

If you have been in business for awhile and you know what agency has the information you are seeking, just browse through the topic buttons on the home page. Links to downloadable forms and other information are at your fingertips.

opens in a new windowIdaho Small Business Solutions is a major project of the RIB (Reducing Idaho's Bureaucracy) Committee, composed of representatives from state and federal regulatory and assistance agencies. The Idaho SBDC served as project manager for development of the website and maintains its content.

What is a business plan and why do I need one?

opens in a new windowbusiness plan precisely defines your business, identifies your goals and serves as your firm's resume. It describes the products and services you will sell; the customers to whom you will sell them; the production, management and marketing activities needed to produce your offerings; and the projected profit or loss that will result from your efforts.

The business plan allows you to use the research you completed for your plan to make decisions affecting the future of the business. Although a plan is time consuming, it is important to business success. Completing the plan forces you to examine all decisions regarding management, marketing, personnel and finance in an objective and organized way.

Another important benefit of the planning process is that you will project the amount of financing needed for start-up and the early stages of your business. Therefore, the business plan becomes a useful tool in securing capital before start-up. Then, later, the plan becomes your owner's manual guiding your daily operations and activities.

Business planning is an ongoing activity. Existing businesses, as well as start-up firms, benefit from writing and regularly updating their goals, plans and activities.

What are the differences in organizational structure and what legal structure should I choose?

Once you decide to establish a business, one of your first considerations will be to determine and register the type of business organization (also called entity type) to use. Your selection of a business structure is very important. It will affect your personal liability and the way you report your taxes, as well as other issues.

For detailed information, refer to the descriptions of the various business forms in the legal structures section or visit  opens in a new windowIdaho Small Business Solutions. It may also be advantageous to seek professional advice from an attorney and/or tax specialist.

The  opens in a new windowSecretary of State's website has information and forms to assist business owners file their business registration.

Should I have a web page?

Many business owners assume they need a website, but not all businesses need one, depending on your particular situation. There are four general reasons to have a website:

  • to sell products and services
  • to provide information
  • to increase visibility
  • to provide additional customer service

First, decide if any of these reasons make sense for your business. To sell products and services on the Internet, success involves:

  • having a great product or service
  • attracting a targeted market
  • selling and satisfying your customers

E-Commerce (selling through a website) is a six step process; all online businesses will go through the first three steps:

  1. Create the online content.
  2. Host the content on the Internet.
  3. Market the website and content.

Businesses conducting online sales will need to complete three additional steps:

  1. Collect and record customer orders
  2. Process payments
  3. Fill and ship customer orders

Before committing valuable cash and precious time pursuing the development of a website, you may want to read through the information on the e-Commerce section of this website to determine if your business is Internet ready. Your responses will be instantly analyzed. A custom report for your business will point out your company's e-commerce strengths and weaknesses.

What does marketing involve?

Marketing is one of the most important aspects of your business. Without marketing, potential clients can't find you. Marketing consists of four elements, often called the "four P's":

  • Product - the item or service you sell
  • Price - the amount you charge for your product or service
  • Promotion - the ways you inform your potential clients about who, what and where you are
  • Provision - the channels you use to get your product or service to the customer

Marketing encompasses much more than just advertising or selling. A major part of marketing involves researching your customers:

  • Who are they?
  • Where are they located?
  • How do you reach them?
  • What do they want? (Great product? Great customer service? Follow-up support?)
  • What can they afford?
  • What do they think?

Your understanding and application of the answers to such questions plays a major role in the success or failure of your business.

For assistance in creating a marketing plan for your business, contact your nearest Idaho Small Business Development Center or SCORE office.

What is my market potential?

The principles of determining market share and market potential are the same for all geographic areas. First determine a customer profile (who) and the geographic size of the market (how many). This is the general market potential. Knowing the number and strength of your competitors (and then estimating the share of business you will take from them) will give you the market potential specific to your enterprise.

I want to start a home-based business. What do I do?

For many of us, a home-based business seems like a solution to a host of problems. We can be home with the kids, sit at the computer in our sweats, avoid the cost of office or shop space, and have more control over our day.

Yet numerous pitfalls exist that an unwary business owner may encounter. City and county planning and zoning regulations can throw a potential home-based business into a sea of unexpected costs and conflicts. Many of these regulations were developed long before personal computers changed the whole complexion of having a small business. These laws were meant to keep noisy, smelly, high-traffic activities out of residential neighborhoods. Yet today they are being applied across the board to quiet computer consultants, as well as the noisy, smelly businesses.

If you are entertaining the idea of having a home-based business, contact your city or county planning and zoning department and your city clerk's office, depending on where you live. Contact them before you start the business, not after. They will tell you what the requirements are to operate a home-based business in your community.

Having a home-based business can also bring you into contact with your county assessor's office, who will assess a tax on your business furniture and equipment, as well as other agencies.  For detailed information on starting a home-based business, visit the  opens in a new windowIdaho Small Business Solutions Web site.

A special word of caution - if you are starting a home-based business in response to an advertisement about earning money at home, BEWARE!! Before you put any money on the line,  check the information found on the  opens in a new windowIdaho Small Business Solutions Web site or contact a counselor at your nearest Idaho SBDC office.

How can I find and keep qualified employees?

Two of the greatest challenges for any business are hiring the right people and keeping them. Employees, and more importantly their contributions, are a business's most important asset. So how do you go about finding, selecting and retaining the best people?

Decide What You Want

Before beginning your hiring efforts, know what you want. One way is to list the skills, experience, and other attributes you are looking for in the following categories:

  • must have - skills you do not have the time, money or desire to teach but which are absolutely necessary to the job, such as education, occupational license and experience
  • should have - sets of skills in which the candidate should have some degree of knowledge or skill
  • nice to have - what you'd love to have but can live without

Search in the Right Places

The harder it is for you to find the skills you need, the wider the net you must cast. You may choose from local media, the state's employment center (ID Department of Labor offices), and the Internet. View any employment ad as a marketing tool for your company, making it as appealing as possible. Put a headline on your ad that describes the absolutely best benefit you can offer. Be sure to add your must-have list of skills, experience, and education. To get qualified people without having to weed through a pile of applications, be specific about what you say and very selective about where you place the ad.

Don't underestimate the value of networking. You may choose to ask your best employees if they know someone who would fit well in your organization or use your network in the community to find employees.

Conduct a Thorough Interview

Give the applicant a complete and accurate picture of your business. In today's market, you have to sell both yourself and your company. Through your questions, cover the job's must-haves, should-haves, and nice-to-haves and be sure to obtain a clear picture of where the candidate is in relation to these attributes. Remember, good questions lead to good answers - the more you learn about each applicant's experience and skills, the better prepared you are to make your decision. If you find yourself talking as much or more than the candidate, stop - you only learn about the candidate when you are listening. Don't be afraid to press a candidate for more information - it is then that you may learn important information.

Hire the Right Person

Some tips for choosing who to hire include:

  • Go with your gut instinct
  • Accomplishments are what really matter
  • Attitude counts
  • Be objective

The three critical elements in hiring the right person for the job are skills match, company fit, and job match. Be objective in determining which candidates have the best overall fit. In terms of wages, try to be a leader in your market - think about the cost of paying a little more versus the cost of turnover (roughly 25% of salary and benefits).

Hold on to Good Employees

Employee retention is as important as the initial hire. An individual's suitability to a particular job is the single most important factor in job performance and retention. Be sure to provide jobs that fit with the employee's personality and then take the time for a proper orientation. Listen to them and continue to provide training and skills development opportunities. Set clear expectations, show concern for employees, and treat them fairly. Some other low or no-cost employee retention tips include:

  • Use an open management style that gives employees a sense of ownership and more control over their destiny.
  • After completion of a tough project, give team members some time off or reward them in some other way.
  • Be as flexible as possible with work hours, dress, work rules, telecommuting.
  • Try to make the work challenging or allow individuals to make an immediate difference in some way.
  • Have fun. Throw a pizza party for no particular reason; give away family tickets to an amusement park.
  • Assign coaches or mentors to help employees not only with specific jobs, but also in developing their careers.
  • Consider offering an equity stake in the company to key hires.
  • Make sure your managers and supervisors have the necessary skills to hire and keep good people.

Your business's reputation is a key element in retaining employees and attracting new ones. Make sure you know how your business is perceived in the community and do whatever it takes to make that perception a positive one.

Does the Idaho SBDC charge for its services?

The counseling  management and technical assistance services offered by Idaho SBDC counselors and staff are provided at no charge to the client. Charges may be made to recover client-approved direct costs for items such as printing, postage, data retrieval, etc., related to special projects. Nominal fees are generally charged for training seminars and special events.

How can I protect my customers' and employees' data from theft?

Identity theft, Internet fraud, and security breaches are increasingly common in today's business world. To help your small business manage security and privacy challenges, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) has partnered with nationally-recognized security and privacy experts to create a new toolkit called  opens in a new windowSecurity & Privacy - Made Simpler TM. The objective is to demystify the complexities of data security and provide small businesses with a non-technical road map to securing their customer and employee data.

Licenses and Permits

What is a vendor’s license and where do I get it?

Businesses engaged in temporary retail sales or solicitation of sales for future delivery, including selling door-to-door or at festivals, events, and trade shows, may need a vendor’s license or a temporary vendor’s license, also called a solicitor’s license. Temporary food cart vendors may also need a license. Licenses are obtained from the City Clerk’s office in the city where you will do business.

If you are engaged in door-to-door sales, you and each of your employees may need a permit in every city or county where you work. Each of you will need a background check before the permit is issued and you may need to post a bond. Out-of-state applicants have additional requirements. You and each of your employees must wear your permit on your clothing in a clearly visible location.

In addition to a vendor’s license, you will also need an Idaho sales tax permit or a temporary sales tax permit. A permanent permit can be obtained by completing form IBR-1. A temporary sales tax permit for one specific event lasting less than 90 days can be printed from the Idaho State Tax Commission’s website.

If sales are made door-to-door or at a trade show, fair, festival or similar event, they are considered impulse purchases and the seller must conform with Federal and Idaho Consumer Protection laws. Consumers have the right to change their minds and cancel an order or return an item within three business days. Your cancellation policy and contact information must be clearly communicated in your contract or on your invoice. For details, contact the Idaho Attorney General’s office or visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website.

Employer Issues

How do I establish a retirement plan for my employees?

Retirement plans must comply with Federal and state laws and Internal Revenue Service requirements. The U.S. Department of Labor oversees the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), which sets standards for establishing and maintaining retirement plans. The DOL also administers the Pension Protection Act.

Internal Revenue requirements for establishing small business retirement plans are contained in the Small Business Retirement Plan Resources and in Publication 560.

Harassment is a touchy subject. What do I need to know to protect my employees and myself?

On the job harassment takes many forms, none of which should be tolerated. One employee may harass another; a supervisor may harass an employee, group of employees or another supervisor; or a customer may harass one or more of your employees. Harassment may be related to religion, ethnicity, gender, age, disability or another issue. Bullying is a form of harassment and should not be tolerated.

Every business with employees should have a written harassment policy that is clearly communicated to employees, both as a deterrent to harassment and to inform employees of their rights if they are harassed. It is particularly important to have a written sexual harassment policy because sexual harassment on the job violates federal civil rights laws. Having a written policy your employees know about may offer some protection if you are sued.

Click here for training videos and additional information about preventing or investigating sexual harassment.

For more information about employer responsibilities in preventing harassment, see “Employee Handbooks” on the Helpful Links page of this website.

I had to fire an employee who used drugs on and off the job. I don’t want this to happen again. Where can I get help?

Employee use of illegal or controlled substances is an increasing problem. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 75 percent of illegal drug users are employed, and 3.1 percent say they have used illegal drugs before or during work hours. The American Insurance Association reports that prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in the U.S. In addition, 79 percent of the nation’s heavy alcohol users are employed, and 13 percent say they have consumed alcohol during the workday. Fourteen percent of heavy drinkers (those who consume 5 or more drinks each day) are employed full or part-time. Between 10 and 20 percent of workers who die on the job test positive for alcohol or drugs. Substance abuse on the job costs employers approximately $74 billion each year in lost productivity.

To help combat substance abuse both on and off the job, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, maintains a opens in a new windowresource center to help employers address these issues and to assist in creating substance abuse employment policies. Additional information can be found on the opens in a new windowNational Safety Council’s website.

Ninety percent of large corporations have drug-free workplace programs but less than 10 percent of small and medium sized businesses have one, making them prime targets for addicted employees. opens in a new windowDrugFree Idaho helps Idaho businesses establish a drug-free workplace program. Having a program may reduce workers comp insurance premiums. Today, with the legalization of medical marijuana use in some states and recreational use in others, it is important to involve your attorney when drafting a drug-free workplace policy.

Other Issues

Can I advertise on this site or put a link on this site?

Any state or federal government agency or non-profit organization may be represented on this site if they license or regulate business activities or offer business-related services. Local agencies, such as city and county clerks’ offices, are not represented individually, because there are so many and their requirements vary. There is no cost to be included. This is not a commercial site, so no advertising is accepted.

If your organization fits the above criteria and you want your agency or organization to be listed on the site, send us an contact us, then we will review your site for possible inclusion. Please do not place a link on your site and then expect us to provide a reciprocal link.

What is a Health Insurance Identification Number and how do I get one?

If your business offers health insurance to employees, and you must if you have 50 employees or more, you will need a National Standard Employer Identification number to report claims electronically. For information, see National Provider Identifier Standard. Your Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) serves as your insurance reporting number.

I am interested in joining a service club where I can help the community and promote my business. Can you recommend one?

Many excellent service clubs exist in even the smallest communities. Among them are opens in a new windowRotary, opens in a new windowKiwanis, opens in a new windowOptimist, opens in a new windowLions Clubs, opens in a new windowElks and more. Most focus on specific types of community and/or international assistance. If you have a passion for certain activities, such as those involving youth, education, the environment, recreation or international development, there may be a group for you.

If promoting your business is your primary purpose in seeking a service club, you may be better served by joining your local chamber of commerce or a leads group. Chambers are listed in the Resource Wizard on this site. To find leads groups in your area that may be accepting new members, make an internet search or secure a referral from a business associate.

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