A Guide to Library Resources for Starting Your Business

Not everyone
thinks of the public library when starting a business. Yet, it’s the radical
collaboration among entrepreneurs, libraries, and community partners that helps
foster local economic development.

Poudre River Public Libraries have
just about everything a 21st century entrepreneur might need: work
space, Internet access, reference materials and research databases, and
professional guidance through dedicated Business Librarians and strategic
partners like the Larimer Small Business
Development Center
(SBDC) and the City of Fort Collins Office of Economic Health.

“We’ve invested
in quality resources and expert staff aimed at helping businesses,
entrepreneurs, and nonprofits throughout their development,” says David
Slivken, executive director, Poudre River Public Library District. “By
collaborating with the library and our partners, local innovators see lower
barriers to market entry and benefit from a strong, supportive ecosystem.”

Before you open
your business’s doors or website to customers, educate yourself and determine
if your idea is viable. Here’s how the Library and Business Librarian Matthew
West can help you prepare for success.

1. Research your market

Before you get
too far along in the startup process, you need to do some preliminary market
research. Is there demand for what you’re offering? How large is your market?
What is the industry forecast? Who are your competitors?

The answers to
these and other critical questions will determine whether your startup idea is
feasible, needs refining, or, in some cases, should be dropped altogether.

Among the many
market research services provided by the Library are industry overviews and
trends, competitive analyses, demographics, lifestyle statistics, and more.
Online reports and statistics can be accessed for free using Library
eResources
like Statista, First Research, Reference USA,
DemographicsNow, and others.

2. Write your business plan

In addition to
the many business
planning books and eBooks
, Library staff can help you navigate the Business
Plans Handbook Collection
, an online resource that includes business plans
compiled by, and aimed at, entrepreneurs seeking funding for small businesses. Sample
plans are taken from businesses in the manufacturing, retail and service
industries and serve as examples of how to approach, structure, and compose
business plans.

The Business
Source Premier
database features SWOT analyses of major businesses across a
variety of industries which can also be useful as you create your business
plan.

3. Determine your funding plan

If you’re
exploring funding options like debt financing or equity financing, a Business
Librarian can point you in the direction of finance resources from books and
eBooks like “Finance
Your Business: Secure Funding to Start, Run, and Grow Your Business
” and
research lists of potential investors. If you’re operating as a nonprofit, then
grant funding is
open to you, and the Library’s extensive grants databases will be extremely
useful.

4. Form the business

The legal and
financial aspects of forming a business should be researched carefully before
putting everything together. Among the important tasks ahead of you are:

  • Choosing the right type of business entity
  • Registering your business with the CO Secretary of
    State
  • Getting your Federal Tax ID Number
  • Opening a business bank account and get a
    debit/credit card
  • Registering with the Colorado Department of Revenue
    for taxes
  • Getting any necessary licenses or permits

The Library can help you access registration forms
and point you in the direction of digital resources to guide you in forming
your business. One of the most useful resources is “Colorado Business Resource Guide” which
is available at the Library and online. Another frequently-used database is the
Legal Information Resource Center which includes legal guides and forms
for ownership structure, accounting and audits, and more.

5. Determine your business space/location

For some
entrepreneurs, working from home or at the Library might suits their space needs,
but others will need to identify the most lucrative yet affordable place to set
up shop. The Library provides access to demographic and geographic data to
inform your decision. One of the online tools is Census Business Builder, which
builds reports containing demographics, consumer spending data, and workforce
date for a geographic area.

6. Develop your product/service

As you plan
your product or service rollout, consider how the Library can help. Our Legal
Information Reference Center
is a great resource for patents, copyright,
and trademarks. And our Business Librarians can use research databases to help
identify potential supply chain partners for manufacturing, warehousing, and
distribution.

If you’re a
service provider, you’ll want to ensure that you have consulting and contracting
agreements ready to use with clients. The Library has reference books on
business contracts and the Legal Information Reference Center provides
templates.

7. Identify staffing needs

The Business
Librarian can use a variety of databases to compare employee numbers among
similar businesses in your industry to give you an idea of how you might staff
your startup. Additionally, eResources like the Legal Information Reference
Center
and others offer information on employment law, creating your own
employee handbook, and other topics.

8. Promote your business

For some
startups, marketing duties will fall to the owner while others may seek out
help from a marketing consultant or agency. Either way you go, the Library offers
resources focused on sales and marketing to help you strategize your message
and target customers. In addition to a number of great books and eBooks covering
marketing how-to’s, there are databases like First Research and Reference
USA
that allow you to examine demographics, consumer trends, and other
useful customer data.

While there are other important steps in establishing a business, these are some of the key areas in which Poudre River Public Libraries can help, whether you’re a B2B or B2C startup (or something not even imagined yet). Visit the Library’s online Business Center to get started or request an appointment to meet with Business Librarian Matthew West.


This guest post is by Katie Auman of the Poudre River Public Library District.

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