Category: Ideas

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14 Small Business Ideas That Are Easy To Get Started

Launching a business allows you to find autonomy and increase flexibility in the length of your workday and the people you choose to work with. But not every entrepreneurial endeavor needs to be the “next big disruptor” in your space; some self-starters are looking for ownership with less risk, minimal investment, and manageable commitment. Thankfully, on this more modest scale, there’s a small business idea that caters to every skill level and ambition.

According to Industry and Occupation census data, self-employment is thriving across a range of industries. Consulting, scientific research, creative endeavors, and management and administrative contracting are common areas of self-employment. The services sector also includes a large proportion of self-employed workers, particularly in fields like personal care and building and maintenance.

Whether you’re founding a consulting business or opening a shop front, starting your own business can provide emotional fulfillment and financial success, at whatever level meets your needs. This article explores some tried-and-true small business ideas that are easy to get started and require low initial investment.


1. Expert Consultant

If you’re an expert in your field—whether that’s marketing, finance, branding, or business management—consulting is an effective way to bolster your income and diversify your client book. There are minimal overheads to starting a consultancy, and you can grow and scale down operations at any pace you wish.

(Find out about different types of consultants and the steps to take in starting your own consulting business.)


2. Tour Guide

If you have a special interest in the history of your city, or if you’re particularly skilled in activities like outdoor hiking, kayaking, or cycling, you might consider opening a tour company.

This venture would see you sharing your knowledge with locals and tourists alike, as you explore desirable destinations or places that require specialized guidance. Beyond word of mouth, a website and social media presence are helpful in promoting your experiences and sharing testimonials from those who’ve enjoyed your trips.


3. Personal trainer

If health and fitness is your forte, starting a business as a personal trainer is a good way to make money doing what you love. Some trainers begin by working in a gym, finding individual clients as they staff the gym floor or host group fitness sessions. You can also promote your business elsewhere, pitching corporate clients for group sessions or advertising on local billboards or job sites.

Social media is helpful in building a brand around fitness: Exercise videos are instructional and can help bring in prospective clients, while sharing progress pictures and healthy recipes is a good way to drive engagement. If you’re not yet trained as a personal trainer, it typically takes between two to four months to become certified, depending on the educational organization.


4. Event planner

Event planning requires logistics, organization, time, and people skills—and not everyone has the time (or the mental fortitude) to plan events accordingly. Whether it’s weddings, baby showers, personal events, or corporate conferences and parties, organizing vendors and budgets requires special handling. Plus, hosts who are under pressure to deliver an enjoyable, memorable experience for their guests are often looking for assistance.

If you perform well under pressure and possess supreme organizational skills, event planning might be a viable small business idea. Clients will pay a lot to hire an experienced event planner, someone who has strong, lucrative connections with vendors and a track record of delivering on time and under budget.


5. Virtual assistant

Employed by companies or executives in lieu of salary workers, virtual assistants are hired remotely to handle a range of tasks that include personal assistant duties, administrative tasks, customer support, and publishing support.

Starting out as a virtual assistant typically involves listing your services and contact details on a job site like Upwork or Fiverr, and then establishing hours of operation and an hourly rate with potential employers.


6. Beauty specialist

Personal care professions, including manicurists, hairstylists, and beauty physicians, are easily geared toward self-employment. It’s an area in which word-of-mouth referrals carry weight, and if you’ve built a client book at a salon, it’s common practice to take these same clients out of house. Alternatively, if you’re looking to enter a fresh field, you can typically train as a makeup artist, nail technician, or a skin-care specialist in under 12 months.

In starting your own beauty business, it’s important to understand the necessary licenses required to operate a salon in your state. In most cases, cosmetology certificates are granted at the completion of your training and these are enough to begin work. However, specific requirements vary between states.

If you’re not looking to open a salon or become a physician, there are other ways to enter the beauty world. Rebecca Lima, founder of workplace beauty provider The Lieu, for example, started her business because she wanted to help people.


7. Tutoring

If you’re particularly talented in a certain subject—English, math, or music, for example—offering tutoring services to school and university students is a viable business idea. Whether you run a private business or contract through a tutoring school, you’re typically afforded great flexibility in the hours you work and the money you make as a tutor.

A note on tutoring: You must prove expertise in your dedicated area by showing your own school results or professional successes. Plus, students and their parents will be monitoring the effectiveness of your tutoring by looking at the student’s exam and assessment results.


8. Dog walking

If you’re an animal lover, walking dogs is an effective (and enjoyable) way to start a business. Particularly in cities that afford limited access to nature parks, dog owners often employ dog walkers to exercise their dogs while they’re at work. This might be as simple as walking the dog around the neighborhood or to the park in the middle of the day. It could also involve traveling with the dog to remote hiking trails or wider spaces.

Depending on your capacity and affinity for dogs, you can choose the number and size/breed of dogs you walk at one time. Typically, dog owners will require a meet-and-greet before giving you access to their pet and their home.

(Find out more about different jobs, like dog walking, that constitute the gig economy.)


9. Babysitting

In Grand Lake, we’re a community of families. Helping other parents out by watching their children can be a fun and enriching experience. There’s always a need for this, and it requires virtually zero up-front capital to get started. These are both two excellent factors for starting a new business.


10. Social media management

Although many companies recognize the need for a well-curated and strategic social media presence, not all marketing teams have the capacity (or the know-how) to handle this execution themselves. For this reason, there’s growing demand for social media agencies: teams of people who run social campaigns, respond to comments and messages, and connect brands with social media influencers.

Things to consider when starting a social media agency: Between likes, comments, and shares, it’s very clear when a social media strategy is working—or not. It’s best to have specialized experience in delivering effective campaigns. Plus, unlike a website revamp, social media management requires ongoing and ever-growing activity; consider hiring assistants as operations grow so you can focus more on strategy than day-to-day execution.


11. Online Store

If you make your own clothing, jewelry, or homewares, starting an online store is a cost-effective solution to opening a storefront. While some investment is required to build an e-commerce site—and promotional strategies like advertising and affiliate marketing also cost money—shipping products to remote customers is a much lighter financial lift than paying rent for a single, inflexible retail space.

This is especially what Grand Lake Host helps you create, as we are the website business platform for the Grand Lake area! Join today!


12. Food Trucks

If you’ve got a knack for foodstuff—whether it’s baked goods, a specialty cuisine, artisan coffee, or other drinks—selling these goods at a market or as a catering service can be a good way to turn a profit. There will be some initial investment involved, as you’ll need adequate supplies and equipment to produce food at scale.

In serving food or alcohol, you will also need specific licenses: for example, a food service license, liquor license, food handler’s permit, and health department permit. You will need additional certificates if you’re operating out of a food truck, or if you’re using outdoor signage to promote your business. Note: These requirements vary between states.


13. Travel Planning

If you’re well traveled or you enjoy the logistics, planning, and foresight required to put together a successful trip, travel planning could be an accessible and achievable way to start a business.

It could involve organizing large groups of people for corporate getaways, planning trips in remote, difficult-to-access areas, or taking the grunt work out of luxury travel for clients. Whatever the case, people are willing to pay to have their trip itineraries planned and all the visa, airfare, insurance, and accommodation considerations sorted.


14. Bed & Breakfast

With the rise of home sharing sites like Airbnb, it’s easier than ever to make money from a space you’re not using. Whether it’s a separate room or suite, or your entire place for weekends when you’re away, people are willing to spend money to live like a local and stay in people’s homes.

If you live in a highly desirable urban area, it’s a good idea to call out the sights and attractions that visitors can easily access from your location. If you’re living in a remote area, consider marketing your home as a “getaway spot” that’s ideal for disconnecting and relaxing.


Get your business off the ground with the right support

No matter your industry or the size to which your business grows, having a support network is a major driver of success. The people you know will help in referring clients, brainstorming ideas, and keeping you grounded.

Grand Lake Host’s Memberships and Meet-Up Spaces offer this milieu of people and activities. A global network of members and frequent community events make it easy to find fresh collaborators and pitch potential clients. Plus, programming such as yoga classes, meditation, seasonal markets, and occasional meals also provide that activity-based distraction that is so important.

If you’re looking for financial success and independence in starting a business of your own, these ideas are a launchpad to the future. Whether you’re following your passion (from wedding planning to dog walking) or if you’re looking to make money off your expertise (like website building or social media management), these small business ideas offer an easy and inexpensive path to getting started.

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Grand Lake Host February 6, 2020 0 Comments
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9 Time Management Tips to Boost Productivity

Whether it’s landing a promotion, meeting concurrent deadlines, or working on a side project as well as your day job, honing your time management skills will lead to greater outcomes and reduced stress—both at home and at work. Using strategies to better prioritize tasks and avoid procrastination is helpful in boosting performance and productivity, regardless of your position or level of seniority.

With an aim to work smarter, not harder, these time management tips encourage you to make the most of your workday—propelling you through your to-do list and permitting you to stop and rest when you need it most.


1. Focus on one thing at a time

Checking your phone, watching the news, listening to a podcast, and scrolling social media is common practice during the workday—with smartphones and computers offering easy access to digital distractions. Yet hearing clamoring voices through your headphones, or receiving Instagram notifications between emails, scatters your focus and means you’re never totally engaged with the task at hand.

Committing to focusing on just one thing for a predetermined period of time is a good way to break this habit, and putting your phone in your drawer and muting Slack and email notifications will help you get there. While you might have to remind yourself to stay on task initially, as soon as you’re engrossed, the time will fly by—and so will your to-do list.


2. Set time limits for each task

Certainly, procrastinators enjoy relaxation and a better mood in the short term, but they typically feel negative consequences that include heightened stress, lower task performance, and reduced well-being as deadlines draw closer. One time management tip to avoid behavioral delay is to add more immediate time pressure; create artificial deadlines for smaller subprojects and adjacent tasks.

Promising yourself that you’ll be done reading emails by 10 a.m., or that you’ll take only two hours to create slides for a presentation, are good ways to keep yourself accountable. Plus, setting a timer for each task will kick-start the adrenaline that’s so often required when meeting a tight deadline.


3. Prioritize wisely

If you don’t take the time to think it through, prioritization can happen inadvertently—as you respond to bullish stakeholders or breeze through the easier tasks first. This approach, however, can leave you scrambling to complete more important projects and failing to give high-impact work the attention it deserves.

The “Most Important Tasks” (MIT) methodology helps counter this and is a way to intentionally set daily priorities. The time management process encourages you to create a list of two or three MITs every morning—these are tasks that will make the biggest difference to the outcome or bring the greatest results. Your MIT list should be separate from your regular to-do list, and it should be prioritized above all else.

To determine your MIT list, ask yourself questions like: What are the most important things I can accomplish today? What tasks will have the biggest impact on achieving my ultimate goal? Then, ensure that you structure your day to work on those MITs at the times you’re most productive.


4. Learn to say no or delegate more often

If you’re trying to impress executives or launch a startup, it’s easy to take on too much in the name of getting ahead and increasing ownership. After a while, however, this approach becomes unsustainable. Understanding when to say no is essential in managing time effectively: If you’re trying to do too much, stress will increase and productivity will fall.


5. Don’t let the details drag you down

To gain momentum and productivity, make a point to keep a high-level perspective as you move through tasks. Sweating minor details can lead to unwanted stopping points, distracting you with factors that won’t have a huge impact on the final outcome. Instead, consider writing down your thoughts or every item on your to-do list to clear your mind for higher-level thinking.

This is especially beneficial when launching a product or composing a large strategy, times during which getting caught in the weeds can become a mental blocker to actual progress.


6. Understand your work rhythm

There are countless articles and books that explore the morning routines of successful people. Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, Richard Branson, the CEO of Virgin, and Bob Iger, the head of Disney, all wake up at 5 a.m. or earlier. They use that extra time to exercise, catch up on emails, set intentions for the day … the list goes on.

Such an early wakeup time is not necessary for productivity—people have different chronotypes (or waking rhythms), and these habits typically change with age. The takeaway, however, is that understanding your body and its circadian rhythms is a step toward increasing productivity.

It’s a good idea to evaluate the times of day you work faster compared with when you’re most likely to feel sluggish, and structure your day accordingly. Sleep, exercise, and eating can all be adjusted to ensure you’re feeling your best throughout the day, and productivity will follow.


7. Sleep eight hours each night

Whether you’re a morning person or a night owl, the importance of sleep doesn’t change. Several studies show a linear association between sleep and productivity, with maximum productivity reported among those who sleep eight hours each night. Lack of sleep has also been tied to reduced performance, lower reported performance, and increased absenteeism.

To help boster productivity and employee satisfaction, many companies are investing in well-being programs for their staff—and some of these include sleep optimization. Professional services firm Ernst & Young, for example, offers sleep therapy to its employees, while London PR agency Forster Communications provides its staff with tool kits to monitor sleep and recovery.


8. Stop and switch off

While it may seem counterintuitive, knowing when to stop is key in maintaining productivity long-term. Whether it’s a lunch break, a weekend, or a proper vacation, giving yourself a rest period will help you work faster and harder upon your return. A recent survey found that corporate leaders with more paid time off are able to maintain higher focus throughout the rest of the year. The researchers put this down to time management: Having less time at your desk forces you to waste less time.


9. Turn time management tips into habits

The time it takes to develop new habits varies between individuals. However, there are steps you can take to increase your chances of adoption. Remaining extremely diligent during the first weeks of the process is associated with eventual automaticity. Beyond this, it’s best not to berate yourself if you miss a single day—it won’t undo the progress you’ve made already.

Whether it’s streamlining focus, waking up early, writing to-do lists, or catching up on extra sleep, these time management tips will help you increase productivity and breeze through your to-do list. And although establishing new habits takes time and effort, you’ll find the payoff—at work and at home—will be multifold.

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Grand Lake Host February 5, 2020 0 Comments
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The 12 Best Mission Statement Examples

Mission statements are much more than a paragraph in the “About Us” section of your website or brochure. They’re the crux of your business, and are used to align and motivate your team, evangelize your product or service, and recruit top talent to your growing company.

Some of the best companies in the world make it a point to fulfill their mission statements—names like Patagonia and Google come to mind. Yet there are companies in every industry, of every size, that live and breathe those purposeful sentences as they plan for the future and operate day to day.

We’ve curated a list of the best mission statement examples to inspire your own, as well as some guidelines about what makes a mission statement truly transcendent.


What makes a good mission statement

There are certain elements that make a mission statement effective, including clear, descriptive language around what the company does; emotive, inspirational language around why the company does this work; and a reference to the people who are making it happen, whether that’s employees, customers, or shareholders.


How long should a mission statement be?

A mission statement should be fewer than 100 words, and between one and four sentences. Keep the message concise and the language direct. This is not a manifesto but an easy-to-remember statement for your employees and customers to reflect upon daily.


The difference between vision and mission statements of companies

While both mission and vision statements should encompass the company’s goals and reflect the company’s values, the two are different when it comes to perspective. A mission statement should reflect why the company exists and the purpose of the work it’s doing now, in the past, and in the future. A vision statement is more forward-thinking, providing context around the future of the business and the direction in which the company is growing.

A strong mission statement should follow a basic formula, including certain elements that inspire and prescribe. Consider the what, why, how, and who of your business, and choose a statement that motivates your employees or encourages your customers to choose your product, every time.

For more detailed tips on how to write a mission statement, check out our full guide with notes on tone, audience, and more.


Mission statement examples for businesses of all sizes

While you might know what the best practices are for creating a mission statement, it’s often easier to learn from example. From tech companies revolutionizing corporate communication to nonprofits in the female-empowerment sector, here are some examples of effective, enduring mission statements.


Best mission statement examples from startups

The uncertainty associated with launching a startup calls for a strong, informative mission statement. What better way to instill confidence in new clients and employees than by having a clear, graspable mission to hold on to?



The mission statement: Make work life simpler, more pleasant, and more productive.

Why it works: The simplicity of this statement reflects the simplicity of Slack as a collaboration tool, and this alignment is seen across all segments of the company. “When I look at the most meaningful and impactful workplaces, I think there’s a deep alignment between tools, culture, and spaces,” says Deano Roberts, vice president of global workplace Slack.

Certainly simplicity, enjoyment, and productivity are common needs when it comes to the workday. But not only are these values widely understood, the statement itself is specific enough to be directive—all Slack employees should be working to make work life simpler, more pleasant, and more productive in their day-to-day operations.


Renewal Diary

The mission statement: We want every customer in the world to purchase from businesses that offer the best value and best customer service at renewal time.

Why it works: As a website that compares services like gas, electricity, and insurance, Renewal Diary’s mission is rooted in specificity, yet doesn’t shy away from big-picture thinking. Language like “every customer in the world” is exciting to readers, and this helps drive forward the company’s strategy of inviting people to a global platform.

“A startup needs to be instantly graspable. Don’t try to use language that you think would be interesting for investors,” says Fiachra Ó Comhraí, founder of Renewal Diary. “If you have something simple, don’t try to make it sound complicated.”



The mission statement: To empower and inspire you to live a healthier, more active life. We design products and experiences that fit seamlessly into your life so you can achieve your health and fitness goals, whatever they may be.

Why it works: Fitbit’s mission statement speaks directly to the reader, describing in simple terms what the tech company does (helps users achieve their health and fitness goals) and how it does this (through products and experiences that fit seamlessly into everyday life). The kicker, however, is in its explanation of why—empowering people to live healthier, more active lives.

The language is clear and inspiring for employees, who are investing their time and energy in driving the company forward, and also for consumers, who will feel confident they’re buying from a holistic brand with a well-thought-out mission.



The mission statement: Our mission is to help everyone find their place in the world.

Why it works: The mission of Compass, a company that’s raised more than $6 billion in investment since its founding in 2012, seems far-reaching until you realize it’s working to revolutionize the business of selling homes and renting apartments.

In that light, the mission statement is value-driven and feel-good, giving employees a reason to come to work each day and helping consumers realize this isn’t your regular real estate company.



The mission statement: To unlock the potential of human creativity by giving a million creative artists the opportunity to live off their art, and billions of fans the opportunity to enjoy and be inspired by these creators.

Why it works: With words like “million” and “billions,” there’s no doubt audio streaming platform Spotify is thinking big—and “unlocking the potential of human creativity” is the way it’ll arrive there.

Yet such grandiose statements are made more plausible by focusing on the end result for both artists and users: Spotify is helping artists make a living off the music they create, and allowing users to access and enjoy this music more easily. Plus, with 248 million users worldwide, the brand’s ambitious estimations aren’t too far off.

Launching a startup calls for a strong, informative mission statement.


Great mission statements from legacy companies

These are the companies that live up to their mission statements in everything they do, whether it’s entertainment, internet, retail, or theme parks. As they’ve grown into industry leaders with global impact, these brands have done their best to stay true to their guiding missions.



The mission statement: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire, and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.

Why it works: This is no fluffy wordplay in Patagonia’s mission statement; like the brand itself, which sells sporting equipment and clothing, it’s down-to-earth and rooted in real life. Patagonia’s business is portrayed as a tool in this mission statement, as a way to improve the world and counter the environmental crisis.

The statement is specific, directional, and value-driven. It has a bit of everything that makes a mission statement effective, and clearly presents the what, how, and why. Perhaps most important, it shows the role Patagonia plays within the world’s wider ecosystem—not just in business.


The Walt Disney Company

The mission statement: The mission of The Walt Disney Company is to entertain, inform, and inspire people around the globe through the power of unparalleled storytelling, reflecting the iconic brands, creative minds, and innovative technologies that make ours the world’s premier entertainment company.

Why it works: While it’s quite a mouthful, the mission statement at Disney is as expansive as the company itself. The entire statement hinges on people: the people Disney hopes to entertain, as well as the people who make this entertainment possible.

The final statement, declaring Disney the “world’s premier entertainment company,” instills pride in employees and solidifies the company’s place as one of the largest entertainment companies in the world. With an annual revenue that tops $30 billion, this claim is both plausible and inspiring.



The mission statement: To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Why it works: With a company as mammoth in size and influence as tech giant Google, homing in on a mission statement that encompasses everything it does, while still being optimistic and specific, is no easy feat.

Yet the behemoth that employs more than 90,000 people across the globe aligns its people and its regional teams with one clearly defined purpose: “To organize information, make it accessible, and make it useful.” As simple as that.



The mission statement: To be Earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.

Why it works: It’s difficult to believe such a multidisciplinary organization like Amazon, which spans everything from selling home goods to streaming entertainment, has had the same mission since its founding in 1995. However, when Amazon started selling books, and then music and videos, its mission even then was to be “Earth’s most customer-centric company.”

This longevity shows the power of an effective mission statement: that it can feel much bigger than a business at its inception, and act as a guiding force in the years ahead, corralling the company in the direction it was founded upon.


Universal Orlando

The mission statement: To provide an environment where our team members are proud to work, deliver unforgettable experiences to our guests, and generate superior financial returns.

Why it works: This mission statement encompasses everyone affected by Universal—employees first, guests second, and shareholders third. This statement is rooted in reality; i.e., there wouldn’t be a theme park without shareholders, yet it is also inspirational in the use of words like “proud” and “unforgettable.”

With a mission statement as prescriptive as this, it’s no wonder Universal has welcomed more than 10 million people annually for the past three years.


Powerful mission statement examples from nonprofits

A mission statement gives nonprofits an opportunity to put forth a powerful message about their cause—motivating both internal staff and external investors and supporters.


Bright Pink

The mission statement: Bright Pink helps to save lives from breast and ovarian cancer by empowering women to know their risk and manage their health proactively.

Why it works: Informative, actionable, and inspiring, the mission statement at Bright Pink captures, and retains, your attention. While “save lives” packs an opening punch with high-level, big-picture thinking, the “how” that follows—i.e., “empowering women to know their risk and manage their health”—brings plausibility and direction to such a purposeful cause.


World Wildlife Fund

The mission statement: The mission of World Wildlife Fund is to conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth.

Why it works: With such a monumental task ahead, the World Wildlife Fund uses its mission statement to focus the work of its employees and shareholders. By narrowing nature conservation to “reducing the most pressing threats,” the World Wildlife Fund bares its priorities, showing employees, volunteers, and donors the path forward, while still keeping its mission wholly inspiring.


Next step: Creating your own mission statement

You might be an entrepreneur establishing your mission statement for the first time, or an existing company updating your mission statement to something more reflective. Whatever the case, Grand Lake Host can help you fulfill your mission, providing intentionally designed coworking spaces to drive innovation, and offering flexible agreements to help you scale and evolve.

While the purpose of your company should be the foundation of your mission statement, the additional elements in these examples—the “how”, the “who”, and the “why”—will strengthen and solidify those short, meaningful sentences into something directional and inspiring. With these examples in mind, creating a mission statement for your company should not only feel achievable, but also like an exciting and essential step forward.

For more tips on scaling companies and empowering employees, check out all our articles on Ideas by Grand Lake Host.

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Grand Lake Host February 2, 2020 0 Comments
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How to Write a Business Plan

Writing a business plan is often the first step in transforming your business from an idea into something tangible. As you write, your thoughts begin to solidify into strategy, and a path forward starts to emerge. But a business plan is not only the realm of startups; established companies can also benefit from revisiting and rewriting theirs. In any case, the formal documentation can provide the clarity needed to motivate staff, woo investors, or inform future decisions.

No matter your industry or the size of your team, the task of writing a business plan—a document filled with so much detail and documentation—can feel daunting. Don’t let that stop you, however; there are easy steps to getting started.


What is a business plan and why does it matter?

A business plan is a formal document outlining the goals, direction, finances, team, and future planning of your business. It can be geared toward investors, in a bid to raise capital, or used as an internal document to align teams and provide direction. It typically includes extensive market research, competitor analysis, financial documentation, and an overview of your business and marketing strategy. When written effectively, a business plan can help prescribe action and keep business owners on track to meeting business goals.


Who needs a business plan?

A business plan can be particularly helpful during a company’s initial growth and serve as a guiding force amid the uncertainty, distractions, and at-times rapid developments involved in starting a business. For enterprise companies, a business plan should be a living, breathing document that guides decision-making and facilitates intentional growth.


Seven components that every business plan needs

While there is no set format for writing a business plan, there are several elements that are typically included. Here’s what’s important to consider when writing your business plan.


1. Executive summary

No longer than half a page, the executive summary should briefly introduce your business and describe the purpose of the business plan. Are you writing the plan to attract capital? If so, specify how much money you hope to raise, and how you’re going to repay the loan. If you’re writing the plan to align your team and provide direction, explain at a high level what you hope to achieve with this alignment, as well as the size and state of your existing team.

The executive summary should explain what your business does, and provide an introductory overview of your financial health and major achievements to date.


2. Company description

To properly introduce your company, it’s important to also describe the wider industry. What is the financial worth of your market? Are there market trends that will affect the success of your company? What is the state of the industry and its future potential? Use data to support your claims and be sure to include the full gamut of information—both positive and negative—to provide investors and your employees a complete and accurate portrayal of your company’s milieu.

Go on to describe your company and what it provides your customers. Are you a sole proprietor, LLC, partnership, or corporation? Are you an established company or a budding startup? What does your leadership team look like and how many employees do you have? This section should provide both historical and future context around your business, including its founding story, mission statement, and vision for the future.

It’s essential to showcase your point of difference in your company description, as well as any advantages you may have in terms of expert talent or leading technology. This is typically one of the first pieces of the plan to be written.


3. Market analysis and opportunity

Research is key in completing a business plan and, ideally, more time should be spent on research and analysis than writing the plan itself. Understanding the size, growth, history, future potential, and current risks inherent to the wider market is essential for the success of your business, and these considerations should be described here.

In addition to this, it’s important to include research into the target demographic of your product or service. This might be in the form of fictional customer personas, or a broader overview of the income, location, age, gender, and buying habits of your existing and potential customers.

Though the research should be objective, the analysis in this section is a good place to reiterate your point of difference and the ways you plan to capture the market and surpass your competition.


4. Competitive analysis

Beyond explaining the elements that differentiate you from your competition, it’s important to provide an in-depth analysis of your competitors themselves.

This research should delve into the operations, financials, history, leadership, and distribution channels of your direct and indirect competitors. It should explore the value propositions of these competitors, and explain the ways you can compete with, or exploit, their strengths and weaknesses.


5. Execution plan: operations, development, management

This segment provides details around how you’re going to do the work necessary to fulfill this plan. It should include information about your organizational structure and the everyday operations of your team, contractors, and physical and digital assets.

Consider including your company’s organizational chart, as well as more in-depth information on the leadership team: Who are they? What are their backgrounds? What do they bring to the table? Potentially include the résumés of key people on your team.

For startups, your execution plan should include how long it will take to begin operations, and then how much longer to reach profitability. For established companies, it’s a good idea to outline how long it will take to execute your plan, and the ways in which you will change existing operations.

If applicable, it’s also beneficial to include your strategy for hiring new team members and scaling into different markets.


6. Marketing plan

It’s essential to have a comprehensive marketing plan in place as you scale operations or kick off a new strategy—and this should be shared with your stakeholders and employees. This segment of your business plan should show how you’re going to promote your business, attract customers, and retain existing clients.

Include brand messaging, marketing assets, and the timeline and budget for engaging consumers across different channels. Potentially include a marketing SWOT analysis into your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Evaluate the way your competitors market themselves, and how your target audience responds—or doesn’t respond—to these messages.


7. Financial history and projections

It’s essential to disclose all finances involved in running your company within your business plan. This is so your shareholders properly understand how you’re projected to perform going forward, and the progress you’ve made so far.

You should include your income statement, which outlines annual net profits or losses; a cash flow statement, which shows how much money you need to launch or scale operations; and a balance sheet that shows financial liabilities and assets.

“An income statement is the measure of your financial results for a certain period and the most accurate report of business activities during that time, whereas a balance sheet presents your assets, liabilities, and equity,” Amit Perry, a corporate finance expert, explained at a Grand Lake Host Labs educational session. “It’s crucial to understand the terms correctly so you know how to present your finances when you’re speaking to investors.”

In addition, if you’re asking for funding, you will need to outline exactly how much money you need as well as where this money will go and how you plan to pay it back.


12 quick tips for writing a business plan

Now that you know what components are traditionally included in a business plan, it’s time to consider how you’ll actually construct the document.

Here are 12 key factors to keep in mind when writing a business plan. These overarching principles will help you write a business plan that serves its purpose (whatever that may be) and becomes an easy reference in the years ahead.


1. Don’t be long-winded

Use clear, concise language and avoid jargon. When business plans are too long-winded, they’re less likely to be used as intended and more likely to be forgotten or glazed over by stakeholders.


2. Show why you care

Let your passion for your business shine through; show employees and investors why you care (and why they should too).


3. Provide supporting documents

Don’t be afraid to have an extensive list of appendices, including the CVs of team members, built-out customer personas, product demonstrations, and examples of internal or external messaging.


4. Reference data

All information regarding the market, your competitors, and your customers should reference authoritative and relevant data points.


5. Research, research, research

The research that goes into your business plan should take you longer than the writing itself. Consider tracking your research as supporting documentation.


6. Clearly demonstrate your points of difference

At every opportunity, it’s important to drive home the way your product or service differentiates you from your competition and helps solve a problem for your target audience. Don’t shy away from reiterating these differentiating factors throughout the plan.


7. Be objective in your research

As important as it is to showcase your company and the benefits you provide your customers, it’s also important to be objective in the data and research you reference. Showcase the good and the bad when it comes to market research and your financials; you want your shareholders to know you’ve thought through every possible contingency.


8. Know the purpose of your plan

It’s important you understand the purpose of your plan before you begin researching and writing. Be clear about whether you’re writing this plan to attract investment, align teams, or provide direction.


9. Identify your audience

The same way your business plan must have a clearly defined purpose, you must have a clearly defined audience. To whom are you writing? New investors? Current employees? Potential collaborators? Existing shareholders?


10. Avoid jargon

Avoid using industry-specific jargon, unless completely unavoidable, and try making your business plan as easy to understand as possible—for all potential stakeholders.


11. Don’t be afraid to change it

Your business plan should evolve with your company’s growth, which means your business plan document should evolve as well. Revisit and rework your business plan as needed, and remember the most important factor: having a plan in place, even if it changes.


12. Use it

A business plan shouldn’t just be a line on your to-do list; it should be referenced and used as intended going forward. Keep your business plan close, and use it to inform decisions and guide your team in the years ahead.

Creating a business plan is an important step in growing your company

Whether you’re just starting out or running an existing operation, writing an effective business plan can be a key predictor of future success. It can be a foundational document from which you grow and thrive. It can serve as a constant reminder to employees and clients about what you stand for, and the direction in which you’re moving. Or, it can prove to investors that your business, team, and vision are worth their investment.

No matter the size or stage of your business, Grand Lake Host can help you fulfill the objectives outlined in your business plan—and Grand Lake Host’s coworking spaces can be a hotbed for finding talent and investors, too.

Using these steps to write a business plan will put you in good stead to not only create a document that fulfills a purpose but one that also helps to more clearly understand your market, competition, point of difference, and plan for the future.

For more tips on growing teams and building a business, check out all our articles on Ideas by Grand Lake Host.

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Grand Lake Host February 1, 2020 0 Comments
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9 Essential Steps for Starting a Business

With so many factors to consider, the leap to starting your own business can feel huge, and the commitment of time and money especially daunting. Moving from ideation to operation takes mental and logistical fortitude, and the journey is often laced with uncertainty.

For this reason, understanding exactly what’s expected before you begin can help prepare you for any surprises or challenges along the way. This guide to starting a business in the U.S. is a comprehensive playbook for launching your business and moving toward profitability.


How to start a business

According to recent research, around 10 percent of the U.S. working population is self-employed, and the workers they hire account for another 20 percent of the national workforce. This shows not only the importance of entrepreneurship in the American economy, but also the potential for success in starting something of your own.

With this in mind, here are nine steps you must take to start your small business. We will also cover everything from sorting your finances to registering a name, giving you the best possible chance of success.

Market research helps you determine if your business idea is feasible, and it can be either primary research (information gathered firsthand) or secondary research (research from data, public records, trend reports, or industry information).


1. Research the market

The first step in market research is identifying your target demographic. To do this, it’s beneficial to create fictional buyer personas of the customers your product or service will benefit. These personas should be rough estimations of age, gender, income, location, and the challenges your product or service will address. In many cases, there will be multiple personas that fit your product or service, and identifying these “people” will help you tailor your product and marketing strategy to the right audience.

Starting a Business - Drafting Initial Ideas

The aim is to complete these personas using a combination of both primary and secondary research. It’s a good idea to interview or survey people who fit your rough personas, asking questions about their careers, incomes, family life, everyday experiences, obstacles, buying behaviors, and more. Most importantly, make sure you understand their decision-making process when it comes to your product or service, and their perception of your main competitors.

Secondary research should also help with this, with government sites providing data on population, income, age, and social trends according to location. In full, this research should show you the markets in which your business will be successful, and the people to whom you should tailor your marketing and roll-out plan.

Regardless of what resources you tap for your research, make sure you’re honest about how the data informs your product. It can be easy to fall into the trap of ignoring inconvenient data that doesn’t align with your original goals, but you can alternatively use this as an opportunity to strengthen your business strategy.


2. Write a business plan

There are two common reasons for writing a business plan. The first is to provide a road map for your internal team: creating a document that describes the nature of your business, your finances, initial strategy, and future planning. The other is targeting investors: writing a polished description of your vision that includes exact numbers and realistic projections with the aim of securing investment.

No matter its purpose, a business plan should include the following information.



An executive summary explaining the “why”—why are you starting this business? What problems are you looking to solve? Why are you passionate about this project?



A company profile including the history of your business, your product or service, target market, and future vision.



Documentation of expenses, cash flow, and industry financials.



A strategic marketing plan, outlining who you’re speaking to and the ways you’ll reach that audience.



The organization of your company, including the legal structure and team hierarchy. This should be specific—include the CVs of employees, if needed—and show how your business is built to scale.


Funding request

If you are requesting finances, you should include a funding request specifying what funding you need and where that funding will go.

Starting a Business - Figuring Out Finances

3. Figure out finances

One of the most pertinent obstacles to starting a new business is securing financing and enough capital to get your vision off the ground. There are several ways to do this, including using your own savings, applying for a small business loan, asking family for help, or dipping into credit lines. Pitching investors can be a surprising and invaluable confidence booster.

Here’s a brief rundown of your options as an entrepreneur looking for financing.


Use your savings

Probably the safest way to start a business, using your savings comes without risk to your credit rating or the accrual of interest fees. The time it takes to save enough money, however, might restrict your momentum and slow your strategy.


Apply for a business loan

Several big banks have funds solely dedicated to small business lending, and these loans can help you address the initial overhead costs and pave the way to profitability. In applying for a business loan, be prepared to share meticulous detail around your finances (both personal and business-related), your business plan, and any business partners. Typically, applying for a loan takes around three months. Defaulting on a loan might affect your ability to borrow in the future, so it’s best to borrow within your means.


Use a credit card

Using a credit card carries relatively high risk compared to other modes of lending, because if you fall behind on credit card payments, you’re creating a hole that’s difficult to escape. Additionally, failing to make payments each month will negatively affect your credit score and potentially restrict future access to other lines of credit. There are positives, however, in using a credit card, including racking up points that can be used for travel and expenses, and being able to react quickly to unexpected expenses. If you are successful in paying off your credit card loans, whether they are personal or business credit cards, this also improves your credit history and score for either respectively. This can lead to increased lines of credit or applying for new cards with lower interest rates and also larger lines of credit.


Seek investment

As a startup seeking investment, it’s best to pitch angel investors—individuals with funds and an interest in your project—as opposed to larger venture capital investment firms. Angel investors provide capital in exchange for equity or future returns, and there are lists of individuals or ‘angel groups’ in most U.S. cities. Family can also become angel investors and sometimes they won’t even require anything in return, as they are investing in their own family to see them succeed and this is reward enough for a variety of reasons, both practical and emotional. When it comes time to pitch, read up on publicly available information around each investor’s background and interests, keep things concise and numbers-driven, and let your passion for the business shine through.


Apply for a microloan

If you don’t want to go through the stringent application process associated with bank loans, consider microloans by nonprofit groups or individuals. There are hundreds of these lenders across the U.S., and they provide access to smaller loans that come with fewer restrictions and greater flexibility. The catch? They often come with higher interest rates than traditional bank loans.

Starting a Business - Deciding on a Structure

4. Decide on a business structure

Choosing the correct legal structure for your company is key to starting a business, and will ultimately determine how much you pay in taxes and the personal liability you face as an owner.


Sole proprietorship

A sole proprietorship gives the owner complete control of the company. This is the easiest type of business to start, however it also brings with it maximum risk and liability for the owner— the buck stops with you. This business structure can also be a turn-off for banks and investors, as sole proprietorships can’t trade publicly and you can’t sell stock to drive investment. It’s typically used as a stepping stone for entrepreneurs looking to test their business idea, before launching a formal organization.

For more details on the advantages and disadvantages of a sole proprietorship, we will be adding a new article soon and update here with a link.



A partnership, alternatively, involves two or more people who are in agreement to share the profits or losses of a business. This agreement is advantageous for tax reasons, yet each partner is personally liable for the success or failure of the business. A more advanced partnership is formed as a LLP or Limited Liability Partnerships (see LLC / LLP below).

While partnerships bring certain benefits to the table from each partner, they are also prone for some struggle along the way.  Each partner innately operates at different levels of intensity in both their natural abilities, their skills, their work ethic, their consistency, their enthusiasm, their capital investment, if any, and so on. So, the proportion of ownership should be agreed to separately based on how these factors may already be apparent up front; it doesn’t necessarily have to be an equal split.

Partnerships are especially great for romantic partners or married couples, as their personal partnership already indicates they work well together.  Some couples love spending every waking minute together, so forming a business together is a natural extension of that.  This is especially in contrast to splitting their time between two different places of employment away from each other. Going into business for themselves together can create a better quality of life for both of them.

Further, a marriage is arguably already a joint business institution between two partners, with the deepest levels of trust and commitment to each other already established.  Layering into that a commercial business can be very natural, effectively starting a family business— a popular type of business in the Grand Lake area. It is one that can be both personally and professionally more enriching and rewarding, and it can be passed down through progeny as an heirloom.

Alternatively, some couples may want to start a business together, but only one of them wants to be an Owner with all the responsibility that entails. If this is the case, a sole-proprietorship or a single-member LLC, where only one person in the couple owns the business, is likely the better choice.  This is especially the way to go if one person in the couple is extremely into doing the business, so much so that it’s really more his or her baby, and the other is simply glad to help wherever he or she can together.  These can still be family businesses and can still be passed down over generations.



Unlike a sole proprietorship or a partnership, a corporation is a legal entity separate from the person created for the purpose of business. The primary benefit of this structure is avoiding personal liability, however corporations must pay income tax on their profits. Plus, the expenses, criterion, and reporting involved in owning a corporation are more stringent than other business structures. There are different types of corporations, and the difference between them involves “double taxing” (if the company is taxed as well as its shareholders) and the number of and type of shareholders permitted.



The key benefit of a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) is that profits are passed through the company to its shareholders without being taxed, yet the personal liability of the owners is null. A “hybrid” of a partnership and a corporation, these structures have an expiry date in some states, and members of an LLC must pay self-employment tax contributions toward Medicare and Social Security.

Ohio is amazing for starting up an LLC. You only have to file once, you can do it electronically online at the Ohio Secretary of State Business Services website now, and it usually completes within a few business days, less than a week now. The LLC doesn’t expire, although any additional Trade Name or Fictitious Names do require renewal in intervals– this is annoying and odd considering the core LLC doesn’t. You don’t need a lawyer to file for your LLC. However you do need a lawyer to draft your Member’s Declaration / Operating Agreement, completing the LLC formation process.

Grand Lake Host is an LLC as well as all of its sibling companies within the House Davis LLC family office small-business conglomerate. These companies may evolve into S-Corps at a later date as individual companies or the conglomerate as a whole grows into the future, depending on needs.

Oftentimes, entrepreneurs and self-employed workers are primarily considering a sole proprietorship vs. an LLC for their business structure. To learn more about the pros and cons of both options, we will add a guide soon and link it here.



Specifically designed for charities, educational and health facilities, religious programs, research establishments, and political institutes, the nonprofit structure gives companies a tax-exempt status, and owners do not pay state or federal income on any profits they make. There are extensive processes and regulations in place for registered nonprofits, and there are heavy restrictions around what they can do with the money they earn.



S-Corps are full-blown corporations that have structural advantages, particularly in being able to issue stock and even go public on the stock market, but are taxed more heavily. These are for larger operations with substantial capital or partner interest. As mentioned, micro/small businesses usually prefer to start as sole-proprietorships or LLCs and then evolve into an S-Corp by refiling, almost always with the assistance of an attorney, a substantial angel investor, or venture capitalist firms. Check out more information about S-Corps here.

Starting a Business - Deciding on a Name

5. Register a name

Your business name is the embodiment of your brand mission and vision, and an important step in protecting this identity is registering the name officially. This registration makes you compliant with the laws around registration, and it means no one else can register a business of the same name.

Registering your business name happens automatically when creating an LLC or a corporation. If you’re operating under another business structure, there are two other ways to protect your name: You can either register the name as a trademark, or file a Doing Business As (DBA) with your state or county clerk’s office.

Note: If you’re operating a business under your legal personal name—perhaps as a consultant or other forms of self-employment—you won’t need to file for a DBA or trademark.

You can use the trademark designator without registering it. For example, Grand Lake Host™. To add further protection to your name, you should register the trademark, which would require it to appear as such: ‘Grand Lake Host®’.

For new businesses, it’s usually more important to first make sure the .com domain name is available than to check if the business name isn’t used already in Ohio at the Secretary of State’s (SoS) Business Services site under the Business Search tool. This is because it’s far more likely that, amongst everyone on the entire planet, the .com is already taken, versus only people in Ohio registering it with the SoS, and you definitely, absolutely want to try to get the .com for your potential business before you do anything else.

If the .com isn’t available for the name you want, you can try alternatives, such as the other two main top-level domains .net and .org. You can search for your domain here to see if it’s available on our homepage:

There are now tons of new special top-level domains, such as, you guessed it, .host for us (although we do also have the .com, .net, and .org domains too), as well as .shop, .me, .llc, .agency, .company, .institute, .io, .tv, .studio, .art, .games, .film, .movie, .ventures, .equipment, .solutions, .tech, etc… We will create a list on our site here with all of the domains, but in case you are wondering about any particular one, for these special ones, just ask and we can search for you.

If you already know you want your website hosted with Grand Lake Host, you can go ahead and register your domain by signing up for our Standard Secure / Standard Secure Shop / Pro Secure Shop tiers (we recommend Standard Secure Shop for all businesses owners to start; you can always upgrade later to Pro) and include your desired domain name in the Order Notes at Checkout. We will register and manage it for you, and there are no separate annual fees for your core domain (included with your plan rate).

You can also contact us at and we can help you get started.

It’s fairly common to register several domains before filing for your business entity if you aren’t yet sure which name you ultimately want to use. Better to grab them now before someone else does if there’s any chance you think you might want to use them. It’s way more affordable to do this than to try to pry a domain away from someone who is squatting on it or, even worse, actively using it for themselves. Buying owned domains easily gets up into the thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars or more, plus brokerage and escrow fees.

So if there’s something you like that’s available, just get it and decide later! All registrations last for a year, so that’s plenty of time to decide and, if you need more, our domains innately auto-renew.

To register individual domains separate from a plan, you can use our Domain Registration service product. Our fee includes service management and maintenance with the domain for you, so you don’t have to mess with any of the technical aspects of domain management.


6. Secure proper licenses

Not only is registering your business name essential in starting your own venture, it’s also necessary to secure licenses to operate your business legally. The number and types of licenses you need is dependent on your business structure and industry.

For companies in the goods and services industry, you will potentially need a sales tax permit, zoning permit, health permit, fire department permit, signage permit, and a building or construction permit. Restaurateurs will need special state licenses around the service of alcohol and the handling of food. And, if you work from home, you may need to register for a home occupation permit, although it seems Ohio doesn’t require this. You can however deduct your home office square footage from your taxes (ask your accountant, a CPA).

Most companies with an income stream in the U.S. will need a General Business License to operate in their state. This license is required to register for federal and state identification numbers, which are used for tax purposes.


7. Decide where to work

Depending on your business type and the licenses you hold, deciding on where to work is an important step in starting your business. Licensing is required for those opening a storefront or sometimes for working from home, and— while this is necessary in some instances— alternatives like shared workspaces and shared marketplaces allow you to bypass the extra paperwork.

There are lean ways of getting around this. Grand Lake Host utilizes publicly-available places to meet up with our potential and active Members, such as coffee shops. We call these ‘Meet-Up Spaces’, and they’re great for many reasons. Firstly, it gets us out into the community and visible amongst our fellow neighbors, fellow businesspeople, and fellow entrepreneurs, and secondly, and most obviously, it’s currently saving us tons of money from having to lease a corporate office, which, being a mostly cloud-based company working out of laptops and smartphones connected to infinite cyberspace, we don’t really need at all right now.

The rising popularity of coworking spaces is due to the flexibility, convenience, and community they offer. Professionals of every stripe—from entrepreneurs and creatives to established businesses and enterprise companies—coalesce in these shared workspaces, enjoying beautifully designed spaces and a range of private offices and bookable conference rooms. Apart from coffee shops, there don’t seem to be very many, if any at all, coworking spaces in the Grand Lake Area yet. This is something Grand Lake Host itself is considering doing down the road once our hosting revenues are built up enough or we secure investors, so stay tuned!

Networking is a key advantage of any of these workspace solutions, and the opportunities that arise in talking with others in public Meet-Up Spaces or coworking spaces or attending monthly community events can help grow your reach both locally and in global markets.

For more tips on how to network, we will be adding an article soon for 13 strategies to forge strong business connections.


8. Build a team

Finding quality talent is integral to the success of your business, yet the hiring process can be fraught with uncertainty. There are negotiations around salary and benefits, and no guarantee that the ultimate hire will integrate with your team. In some cases, the best talent isn’t local, and hiring remotely brings with it a wealth of different considerations—time zones, connectivity, productivity, and feeling part of the team.

Open public Meet-Up Spaces and shared workspaces solve for this, allowing companies to hire staff locally and remotely around the world without investing in real estate. These coworking solutions also give each team member a feeling of community and connection, no matter where they’re located.

Sourcing talent can happen through job posting sites, your network, graduate programs, industry events, and community events within coworking spaces. It’s important to comply with legalized employment practices when bringing new people onto the team, and it’s illegal to recruit in a way that discriminates against candidates for their race, color, religion, sex, national origins, age, or disability.

For the local Grand Lake area, we see a lot of the ascending Gen-X and Millenials forming micro/small businesses and consultancies now, sadly often out of necessity due to lack of career opportunities here. We often have to invent our own jobs. However, in a twist, the very low cost of living here compared to the insane cost of living of larger cities makes the Grand Lake area an excellent place for the next generation of businesses to start, grow, evolve, and become the new big employers for others. So if you’re an entrepreneur, Grand Lake is a fantastic place to start-up!

For many of these start-ups at this initial level, who cannot yet afford employees, contractors are the next best thing (especially as many of these businesses are consultancies with one individual working for themselves as a contractor). Even further, we are finding it useful in some cases that instead of competing head-to-head at small scale and resources, we instead find ways to work together, exchanging our client resources in a mutual referral network, forming larger companies virtually, while each retaining our autonomy as individual business owners working for ourselves. These informal or formal partnerships can be thought of as ‘strategic alliances’ and ‘preferred vendors’. Grand Lake Host has found this useful already. If you think there’s a way for our companies to work together, Grand Lake entrepreneurs rising and up and joining forces to strengthen our community as a whole, do not hesitate to contact us at


9. Promote and grow your business

Finally, after all these steps are complete, it’s time for the real work. The reason you decided to launch your business in the first place: to grow your idea into something tangible.

Depending on your industry, you will choose to promote your company via digital or traditional methods, or both. Growth will happen as you begin gaining traction and your target audience starts purchasing, utilizing, and talking about your product or service the way you intended.

Starting a business is exciting— but it almost always is also a lot of work, requiring, above all, persistence. We do it, because we know once it has grown and matured, the potential rewards at that stage are are well worth it.

Certainly, there’s an extreme amount of work involved in building your own business, and the steps needed to register and launch your operation are only the beginning in a long journey of wins and challenges. Yet that initial leap to starting a venture is one of the most intimidating and uncertain times in a business’s life cycle—and this is just one of the stages where Grand Lake Host can help by getting one of the most essential assets for any business well into the 21st century up and running: your website. Further, we connect you with other Grand Lake Host platform Members, forming a local entrepreneurs club of sorts, where we further host networking events. As described above, at our events, business can happen, especially the formation of new alliances.

From the inception of your company through every stage in its future, you will be constantly evaluating and adjusting your strategy to give your business every chance of success. Yet taking these nine steps to ensure the appropriate structure, financing, and legal framework of your business is essential for future growth. These considerations will help turn your startup into a success, proving that moving from an idea to a registered business is just the beginning.

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Grand Lake Host January 31, 2020 0 Comments