Start-up Guide

So you’ve got this great idea for a product or service, but now what? We’ve put together this 14-step guide along with some excellent resources as next steps to get your start-up going!

Step 1. Market Research

Okay, so you’ve nailed down your great business idea, but before you get too far, be sure to do some Market Research.

Find out if there is a demand for your product or service simply by searching Google and social media (Instagram and Facebook), conducting interviews, surveys and questionnaires and by creating focus groups. This research will also help you find out a little about your Target Market as well, which is vital information needed for when you start marketing your product or service.

Now that you’ve explored your market, you will want to define your Target Audience – also known as your Buyer Persona. This includes detailed information about the age, gender, interests, etc. about your audience and helps to define the direction of your brand as well as becoming the basis for your marketing strategies.

ZAP Tip: Research your competitors, if you have any. This can provide you with great insight into what is working for them and how you can mimic some of their strategies and set yourself apart. There’s no need to re-invent the wheel, so see what’s working and innovate.

Step 2. Naming Your Business

From researching your competitors, you will have some insight as to who already exists in your field. Choosing a name that is unique is important, and yet straying too far from what your business is about can be misleading and difficult for your customers or clients to understand so it is important to choose a clear, descriptive name.

Example: The name Blue Bird Finishings or Top Notch Eavestrough for an exterior finishing company specializing in eavestroughing.  ‘Blue Bird’ may mean something to you personally, but it doesn’t speak to your business and, ‘Finishings’ could be too vague for your customer to find you, so as a result ‘Top Notch Eavestrough’ would be the name of choice in this scenario.

Now don’t get me wrong, this can still work, if you planned on branching out and offering other exterior finishings other than eavestroughs, you would want to name and brand yourself accordingly, this is why we plan ahead. Once you have brand equity and an established name and reputation, a unique or unrelated name can work just fine, but, until then, we suggest keeping it to-the-point.

If you’re stuck or would like some feedback about your name choice(s), we would love to help, don’t hesitate to reach out!

Step 3. Register Your Business Name

Once your business name has been chosen, you will want to reserve and register your name.

ISC has a step by step guide for how to do this in Saskatchewan. Each province in Canada has a similar process, which is easy to find on Google. Know that there are some costs involved for a name search and registration, but this is necessary to confirm that your name doesn’t conflict with any existing businesses in your province or the country if you plan to be nation-wide.

Step 4. Trademark Your Name and Tagline

If you plan on opening multiple locations or growing/expanding to other provinces you should definitely consider a trademark as this will protect your name as your business grows.

Proceed at your own risk…If you choose not to trademark and another business chooses the same name as you and trademarks it, they will have legal grounds to force you to change your name, which can be a costly process if you have exterior signage and extensive print materials. This process can take from 18-24 months and can cost between $1500 – $5000, depending on how many categories you want to cover.

We highly recommend Luanne Schlosser of Miller Thompson LLP in Saskatoon, she is extremely knowledgeable in this field and happy to help start-ups and small businesses.

Step 5. Write a Business Plan

You can follow a Business Plan Guide like this one from BDC or Square One to get you started. This can seem like a daunting task, but it will help you focus, helping you to create goals, giving you an action plan and a sense of direction.

There are great options for this, including Futurpreneur, who offers a wonderful, helpful program and students from the Edwards School of Business will even do this for you for free as a part of their schooling.

Step 6. Apply for Funding

Apply for funding if needed.

Here are a few great places to start:

BDC – ask for Tommy Norgaard (tell him Zap sent you)

Lending Loop

WESK

Futureprenuer

Gabriel Dumont Institute

SMEDCO

Clarence Campeau

Step 7. Hire an Accountant

Hire a great accountant! One thing you want to make sure you do right from the start is keeping your books and finances in line.

Sayem from 786 Accounting & Tax specializes in helping start-ups and has some incredibly affordable and efficient solutions. We honestly can’t say enough great things about him!

Step 8. Open a Business Bank Account

Once you’ve received your business registration and incorporation documents, you can open a business bank account.

Along with your account, you can order a POS for any payments you may need to take, if necessary. By using a merchant service provided by your bank, you will generally save on transaction fees as well as being able to have your money deposited quicker.

This is a great first step in keeping your transactions involving business separate and organized from your personal purchases (your accountant will love this).

If you are in Saskatoon, we highly recommend Andres Mendoza from the Scotiabank Meadows Branch.

Step 9. Branding

Building your brand is a fundamental step in the success of your business.

What is branding you ask? Branding consists of many elements that represent you as a business including your logo, fonts, colours, writing, etc.

Your brand is the first touch point that people have with your business, leaving a lasting impression on your audience. Your overall brand communicates to the customer who you are, what you do, your reputation and if you’re trustworthy, making it crucial for you to have a strong brand and strategy in place.

We work together with you to create a brand that represents your business well, making you stand out in your market. This step will pave the way for your website and print material design, social media styles and marketing strategies.

Book a consultation with us and we will start with a Discovery Session to learn more about your business and see where we can help!

Step 10. Website Design, Development and Hosting

We help set you up with a domain name, hosting plan and WordPress theme that is ready to scale with your business!

We use a theme called Divi, as it is a leader in the industry and easily understood if you ever plan to modify or add anything to your site on your own.

Our hosting includes nightly backups, added security and an SSL certificate to ensure your visitors that your site is trustworthy. We have multiple packages available depending on your on-going maintenance needs.

*Note: we are an affiliate of this theme, but has proven to be a fantastic and versatile tool, which is why we promote it.

Step 11. SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

This isn’t a mandatory service, but a highly recommended one.

Every day there are over 2 million searches on Google for the term “SEO,” which stands for Search Engine Optimization.

Through producing high quality content, keyword research and building safe, relevant links throughout the internet, SEO is what convinces Google that your business deserves to be listed first. We always implement on-page SEO best practices with our website packages, starting you off on the right foot. With affordable monthly packages and proven strategies, our goal is for you to reach the top of page 1 for your competitive keywords. More traffic = more sales.

Learn more about our SEO services here.

Step 12. Social Media Accounts

In this day and age, it is crucial to set up Facebook and Instagram for your business to interact and engage with your customers and audience as you have access to millions of daily users.

We can help you set up a strategy for the most effective social media platforms to utilize for your business. Blue Moose Media offers a fantastic Digital Marketing Certification course that can help you get off on the right foot.

When opening your social media accounts, be sure that all of your information is accurate and consistent across all platforms. Understanding how to use each platform can be intimidating, we recommend mastering 1-2 to start.

ZAP Tip: Set up accounts on multiple platforms, even ones you may not use on a regular basis as these will also serve as backlinks pointing to your site.

Step 13. Networking

Utilize local networking groups like the BNIAwesomepreneursChamber of CommerceWESKNSBA to get connected.

Making that one right connection to someone you can work together with can make all the difference for your business. Now that you have your product or service, brand, a new website and business cards, it’s time to show off your amazing new business and build some great relationships. 

LinkedIn is also a fantastic platform for B2B connections, adding a boost to your credibility as your network grows.

ZAP Tip: Great and memorable first conversations are always 2-way. Ask questions and find opportunities to compliment those you converse with. Be kind and keep the conversation light. If you have trouble remembering names, try to say “It was great meeting you, their name” at the end of the conversation. Repetition and speaking someone’s name out loud can greatly help your memory.

Step 14. Marketing

Hopefully you have set a budget aside for this in your business plan. Sometimes to start it may not be much, but you will need to spend some money on marketing to get your brand out there.

We can help work within your budgets and recommend the best “bang for your buck” to get you started from Facebook ads to full-size billboards. At ZAP, we are firm believers in a well rounded approach and this often includes a balance between digital and traditional marketing.

Check out more information on our Marketing Services to learn more.

Ready to get started?

Contact us today for your free consultation.