YOU,WANT,START,WEB,BUSINESS,WE DIY SO YOU WANT TO START A WEB BUSINESS - WELL LET ME TELL YOU S


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Like a lot of people, we often thought about having our own business, but weren't sure what to do. One day my wife, Kim, was talking to her brother, Chris, and he started to talk about his six pack abs. Not to let an opportunity to needle my brother-in-law go by, I told him he didn't have six pack abs, but had twelve pack abs from all the Budweiser he drinks. Of course this brought on an insult melee, which turned into a brainstorming session on a company called 12 Pack Abs., which offered humorous athletic apparel. As the discussion progressed, we felt that it was a novel concept to offer this kind of athletic apparel, but "Abs" was too narrow and thought Gym would be more encompassing. From that point on a business concept was born. After that we met almost nightly, getting ideas for different shirt designs. When we had ten or so, Kim, who is an artist, drew up color pictures so we could see the designs. What transpired below are our experiences in setting up our company, 12 PACK GYM, Inc., and our web site www.12packgym.com.Since none of us ever put together a business before, the prospects of doing so appeared daunting. However, we figured we were a reasonably smart group of people with backgrounds in business, art, management, and distribution. The first order of business was to secure a domain name or internet address. I got a recommendation from a coworker. I looked up that company on the internet, and they were offering a two year registration for forty dollars. I did a search on www.12PACKGYM.com, and it came up as available. The price seemed reasonable, so I signed up for www.12PACKGYM.com domain name. I later came to learn that we could have gotten that cheaper if we had researched other companies that offer that service.The next order of business was to figure out what type of business we wanted to be. Since there are three of us, our choices were Partnership, Limited Liability Company or L.L.C., or a Subchapter S Corporation. Each entity has its own advantages and disadvantages. Partnerships are relatively easy and inexpensive to set up. The downside to them is you have unlimited liability. With an L.L.C. you have the income treatment advantages of a partnership, but you have limited liability. The downside to these is that they are more complex and cost more to set up. Also, there are differences in how L.L.C.'s are treated depending on what state you are formed in and doing business in. In addition, if you get into legal trouble, because of their relative newness, there is limited case law for these entities. The last type of entity and ultimately the one we went with is a Subchapter S Corporation. These are actual corporations that you own stock in where the IRS treats income distributed to the shareholders like a distribution from a partnership. You have limited liability. There is very strong case law for this type of entity and the rules are the same no matter which state you are in. The downside to these is that they are complex to set up; there are a host of different filing requirements with the state you are incorporated in, and they cost more to set up. We set our S Corporation up with the assistance of a company called Par Corp Services, LTD, which I found on the internet. For a fee of approximately $400.00, they filed the necessary paperwork with the State of Illinois to incorporate 12 PACK GYM and answered questions we had.There are also additional things to be aware of when doing business. In Illinois we have to collect and remit sales tax to the state. Because we are so small, this is done on a quarterly basis. The state contacted us shortly after we were incorporated. They also need to know if you have employees for payroll tax withholdings. Another beneficial thing to get from your state is a tax exemption reseller's certificate. You contact your state government, in Illinois they have a web site, and apply for a tax exemption number. Once issued by the state, you can use it with your suppliers to not pay sales tax on materials used in the creation of your product. The theory is that the tax will be collected and remitted to the state when that product is sold to the end user. Be careful only to use this for things that are ultimately sold to the end user, otherwise, if audited you could face back taxes, penalties, and interest. Look through your state's web site or call them. Theyare happy to help you with making sure you are following all the rules and doing things properly.Another critical element to your business is lining up suppliers for the raw materials used in your product. Kim went on-line and researched dozens of clothing companies and transfer companies. We requested information from them and talked to the ones we were interested in using. Most of them are wholesalers and require the reseller's certificate number. If you do not have one, they will either charge you tax or not sell to you. I would also suggest you find different, multiple companies that offer the same or similar products that you can use in production of your product. This is just in case one is out of stock or goes out of business, you have another place to go to get what you need. At this point, you will need to also think about is packaging. A good starting point for packaging materials is a company called Uline. Generally, their prices and selection are the best and you receive your order the next day.Another decision you will have to make is on shipping. Who will deliver your goods to the customer? Chris looked at all the big names like Federal Express, UPS, and the U.S. Post Office. For our purposes the U.S. Post Office Priority Mail was the best solution.Keeping track of your company's financial information is critical. There are numerous accounting software products on the market for small business. Depending on the size and complexity of your business,and your own comfort doing accounting, will dictate to a degree what type of software to buy. With our business I looked at Quick Books and Peachtree. Of those two, Quick Books is a good program, but geared for someone not that familiar with accounting. Peachtree, in my opinion, is a little more sophisticated and has a better inventory module. I priced out Peachtree on-line and purchased it for around $225.00.In conjunction with all the above it is advantageous to have a business checking account. We called around to many different banks and received information on all their small business checking accounts.We compared fees and services and decided on an account at a local bank that offered free small business checking if we write ten checks or less each month. Any checks written above that limit we are charge a fee per check. We can also, at any time, roll that checking account into a regular business checking account, but we will be subject to additional charges.A big and expensive decision we had to make was on a web site. All three of us have purchased merchandise over the Internet. So we were familiar with sites that offered merchandise for sale. As we surfed the net, we wrote down things we liked about different sites we used and the URLs so the web designer could look at them asan example. Our next step was to roughly draw on paper what we thought our site should look like. My next step was to look at canned web site creation programs to see if I could do this myself. Truthfully, it would have cost us about $500.00 for the software and I am sure I would have been in over my head. Kim had a friend that was a programmer and he said he would help us and create the web site. He came over and got all our information and said we would have it in a month. Well a month came and went and no web site. We were getting a little upset because we wanted to hit the Christmas season. Finally, after two months we decided to get a professional. I went on-line and searched on web site designers. A free service came up that required me to put in my desired information about our web site and it would recommend a web designer for us. We also looked in our telephone book for local web site designers and contacted several of them. Based on our requirements, they all submitted a proposal to create our web site. We talked to each of them on the telephone and decided to go with the firm that the on-line search site recommended. Let me tell you, it was the best decision we made. They recommended a small firm based in Chicago called www.evolvedsites.com. The owner is Siobhan Tobin and she is absolutely wonderful to work with. They are very professional, responsive, and will take the time to explain things to novice people like us about how the web site works. I would highly recommend that company to anyone looking to build a web site.Another decision that must be made is if you are going to take credit cards on your web site. A starting point would be to ask your bank who they would recommend. Our web site designer has a company they work with or you can look on-line and find a number of companies. We looked on-line and asked our bank. Be aware that some banks do not support some of these credit card clearing house software programs. The company we use is Retriever and the credit card processor (clearing house) is Authorize.Net. A couple of things you will learn as you investigate these companies are the fees that are levied. With ours there was a one time application fee, fixed monthly charges of about $40.00, and a per transaction charge. I approached dealing with these companies like I do buying a car. I laid all my facts out for each of the companies I was looking at and haggled with the price, but remember you don't have that much leverage so be reasonable with what you are asking for as a reduction. Also, American Express has a higher fee then VISA/MC and with Discover Card you deal directly with Discover Card.The last decision to get your web site on the Internet is hosting. You can either host the site yourself with a server, some software, a DSL line, and some technical know how for the set up and maintenance. The other option is to have someone host your site for you, which means you rent space on someone's server and they promise to have your site up on the Internet. They do the maintenance on the server, but probably not on the web site. You can find hundreds of companies by searching on the Internet that offers this service. Originally, we signed up with AT&T, but when our friend didn't come through with the web site we dropped that service. That mistake cost us about $200.00. We looked at other companies on the Internet, as well as, our web designer's service. We decided to go with our web designer, www.evolvedsites.com, services because their rates are competitive and their service is excellent.Once all of the above was completed, we went live with our web site. I would love to tell you that as soon as we flipped the switch on our web site we were inundated with orders, but that would be a little bit of a stretch. We were just one of many web sites floating around in cyber space. Marketing is the name of the game, but if you're like us you have big plans and a little bankroll. My suggestion is to take it slow in the beginning. One of the first things you should do is submityour site to search engines. This service was included in our web site design. You should also resubmit your site every twelve weeksor so to make sure it is not dropped from the search engines. You can either do this yourself or you can pay a company on the Internet to do it for you. Doing it yourself is time consuming but I'm told search engine programs are more receptive to this then the mass submissions from companies. We have done both. After that is done, it will take a couple of weeks for those submissions to take hold. Another option is to issue a press release. Search on-line using "press release" and many companies will come up. We used Majon International. I looked at samples of press releases out there and wrote my own, then submitted it to them and signed up for one of their releasepackages. Our results varied. We saw some increase in traffic on our web site. We received numerous e-mails and calls from Internet Shopping Malls, and Newspapers to advertise. We received a call from a home shopping network company, which was very interesting, but would have cost us $14,000.00 for a four minute test commercial. But best of all we received a call from The Northwest Herald newspaper that did an article on our business. It was half a page in size and when it came out on 4/18/02, we saw a tremendous increase in traffic on our web site. Another thing we have tried was to use a company called I-web-marketing, which guarantees traffic to your site. You select the number of hits to your site for a prescribed dollar amount and submit your information with them. Our experience with this is that we are seeing an increase in site traffic, but not the corresponding increase in sales. Our next avenue is to put advertisements in selected print publications.Some of the marketing avenues we haven't tried are reciprocal advertising, which means you put a link to another web site on your web site and they put your link on their web site. We have not tried banners or pop up windows because they are pay per click advertisementsand could get really expensive. Not to mention the pop up windows are incredibly irritating.It has been a fun, sometimes strenuous learning experience launching our web site business. I hope some of our experiences can benefit you as you plan your own web site. Although www.12PACKGYM.com has only been up for a short time, we are encouraged by the response and will continue with this journey. Remember to take things slow, have a plan, and surround yourself with positive, capable people. Article Tags: Company Called, Limited Liability, Small Business, Business Checking, Checking Account, Would Have

YOU,WANT,START,WEB,BUSINESS,WE

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