You've got a phenomenal business idea and want to start a business in Oklahoma. Sounds great. But how do you take your idea and transform it into an actual business?
Starting a company in Oklahoma doesn’t have to mean investing lots of time into navigating bureaucracy. We’ve put together this 7-step guide to cut through unneeded complexity (because, hey, that’s what we do). Below you’ll find a to-do list with resources that empowers you to take the practical legal, financial, and business steps to turn your idea into reality.
Step #1: Put Together a Business Plan
The task of crafting a business plan is crucial to the process of launching a successful business. This is the blueprint that clarifies your aims and strengthens your particular business idea; and the road map that translates your intentions into actionable steps to get your business off the ground.
Your business plan is also the vehicle for getting other crucial teammates on board with your venture. Yes, we mean cash. A traditional business plan includes specific sections that investors or bankers will want to see, like a description of your products and services, funding and financial information, operations and management details, along with an executive summary.
Creating a business plan that communicates your potential may sound intimidating and time consuming, but there’s no need to go it alone. Tulsa's Emerging 100 and SCORE are organizations that provides entrepreneurs like you with free business mentoring, workshops, and extensive tools to help you start or grow your business. You can also check out their downloadable business plan template, a helpful outline as you begin writing your own.
Step #2: Name Your Business
How do you want to introduce your new business to the world? As its founder you may have an intuitive sense of your new company’s identity and potential. The name you select will often be your customers’ first impression of who you are. Choose wisely.
There are different takes on how to go about naming a business. The simplest? Make sure your trade name is relevant to your product or services, is easy to pronounce, and is simple to spell. That’s not to say that your name should be merely descriptive. After all, Apple never sold us any fruit. Your name and logo can also be a powerful way to inspire positive associations with your company.
Picking a distinctive name for your business also means making sure the name isn’t already taken. Since you’re starting a business in Oklahoma:
First, run a name search on the Oklahoma business entities page to see if your business name is available.
Then, reserve your business name with the Secretary of State’s office. This isn’t required, but it’s a good idea. It will eliminate any worries that someone else will come along and use the same name.
You may also want to think strategically about how your name will—or won’t—be able to help you promote your business. While it isn’t necessary, it’s useful to see if you can also use your desired name as a website domain or social media username. Being able to claim your name in those spaces will make your marketing efforts (Step #7 up ahead) more effective.
Step #3: Choose a Business Structure
The next step needed to launch a new business is to choose your business’ legal structure. This impacts your liability and how you file taxes.
Our tip is to choose the option that’s best for your business right now, because you can reevaluate as your business grows and change your business’ structure later. Not sure which one is best? Consult a CPA, attorney, or financial advisor to determine which one suits your business.
Oklahoma has six types of business structures:
Sole Proprietorship. If you’re starting a business by yourself (or with your spouse), a sole proprietorship is probably the best option. It’s also the most common business structure because it’s easy to form, simple to operate, offers flexible management, and has fewer legal restraints. One individual is personally liable for the entire business.
Corporation. A corporation can be for profit or nonprofit, and it is completely separate from the individual. There are potential tax and financial benefits, although there is less personal control.
Limited Liability Company (LLC). This business structure operates like a sole proprietorship without the burdens of a corporation. The individual is not held personally responsible for the debts or lawsuits.
General Partnership. If you have one or more business partners who are investing work, skills, and funds for your business, a general partnership is a great choice. Each business partner shares the profits, debts, liabilities, and management of the business.
Limited Liability Partnership (LLP). In this arrangement, a partner bears the same responsibilities as a general partner, except they are not personally liable for the negligence of the other partner.
Limited Partnership. Do you have partners who are invested in the profits and long-term goals of your business, but not interested in the day-to-day operations? With a limited partnership, the general partners manage the business (including profits, debts, and liabilities), while the limited partners share the profits and minimal losses but not the management.
It’s likely that your business will need a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN). A sole proprietorship with employees, a partnership, corporation, and multiple-member LLCs must file for an EIN. Other types of business structures have the option to have an EIN but are not required to have one.
The EIN is a nine-digit number issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that helps them track your business’ tax returns and helps you open a business bank account and make hires. You can apply on the Internal Revenue Service EIN page.
Step #4: Let Oklahoma Know You Mean Business
Making sure you are properly registered with the state may sound like one of the more intimidating parts of this process but it doesn’t need to be complicated. A few different state offices are involved but we’ve gathered that list here so that you can knock out the paperwork without breaking a sweat.
When you’re ready to register your business with the state of Oklahoma,
The next step is obtaining the necessary business licenses and permits. You can do this online with the Oklahoma Secretary of State, or print out the required forms and submit them to the Secretary of State’s office by mail.
Get the right license or permit for your specific industry. While the state of Oklahoma doesn’t require a general business license, your business must be licensed for your particular industry. Construction, retail, restaurants, wholesale, consumer credit, transporting, auctioneer, home health care or companions, photography, fitness and health, and massage industries all require additional filings. Contact the Oklahoma Depart of Commerce if you need more information about your specific industry.
Apply for an Oklahoma Sales Tax Permit. If your business sells tangible products, rents goods, or provides services, you must register for a sales tax permit.
Bonus Tip: Consider applying for a women and minority business certification!
If you’re a female or minority entrepreneur, a women-owned or minority-owned business certification can expand your contract opportunities, strengthen your advantage when competing for contracts, and give your clients confidence that your business is verified and credible. Learn more from the Oklahoma Department of Commerce.
Step #5: Prepare to Grow by Registering as an Employer in Oklahoma
At this point in your business launch, you may be starting to notice what other talent you’ll want on board. If the business you’re launching in Oklahoma will have employees, before you make your first hire, you need to:
Establish an account with the Oklahoma Tax Commission (OTC) for income tax withholdings, paying federal income taxes, and paying Social Security taxes.
Set up an account with the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OECS) for your employee’s unemployment taxes.
Contact CompSource Oklahoma to create a worker’s compensation insurance policy (unless you have a private policy).
You can consult the Oklahoma Department of Labor website or your attorney for more information about your legal obligations to your employees.
Now go ahead and get back to writing those detailed job descriptions.
Step #6: Open a Dedicated Business Bank Account and Keep Good Records
Opening a business bank account keeps your business finances separate from your personal ones.
Don’t forget to balance your accounts every month. If you get behind on reconciling transactions, your entire budget could be off. Accounting software options can be helpful to create a budget, spend within your means, set reasonable prices, and file your taxes. When selecting the best option for you, The Balance recommends you consider what accounting features you need, how you’ll use it and support options offered. If you’re not consistent or accountable with finances, consider hiring a trusted accountant to keep the books for your business.
It’s also wise to keep all of your receipts in one location, such as a secure filing cabinet. This will make tax season much smoother for you and your accountant.
Remember: Now that you have a dedicated business account, never use it for personal purchases!
Step #7: Put Together Some Great Marketing
Besides your business name and logo, the foundation of marketing in the digital age starts with excellent website design. Your website showcases your business and tells the world how you are making an impact. Does your business need a website or is it ready for refreshed design to maximize your business launch? Have you set up an email system that is ready to handle the web traffic you hope for to help you generate new business? Are you ready to benefit from social media platforms for building your business?
Not to toot our own horn, but that’s why we’re here. We started Websites4Good to take the complexity out of business marketing. Our website design services make marketing your business easy, and we do it all—even blogs and social media. We are here to help put your new company on the map (figuratively and literally).
Contact us now to get started. We’re eager to hear about the business dream you’re bringing to life, to learn about the difference you’re making in the community, and to explain how we can help support your specific mission as you start your small business in Oklahoma.