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.