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First-Generation Entrepreneurs: Tips to Start a Successful Business

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    There’s a lot that goes into starting a business, whether you’ve done it before or it’s your first time swinging. Learn everything you need to know about first-generation entrepreneurs and unique tips for starting a company from the ground up.

    What Is a First-Generation Entrepreneur?

    A first-generation entrepreneur is someone who is the first in their family lineage to start their own business — either a first-generation American or from a family that has lived here for generations — typically without a background in business formation or experience in the industry.  

    With so much to do and learn before you get your business off the ground, it can be difficult to know where to start. That’s where we come in, offering expert advice as you form and launch your business so that you don’t have to worry about missing any crucial steps.

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    Resources for First-Generation Entrepreneurs

    From funding to marketing and everything in between, entrepreneurs deserve a helping hand. Check out our roundup of resources below to ensure you all have the information you need for your business.

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    Eight Tips for Starting a First-Gen Business

    Below, you’ll find insider tips and tricks for your first-gen business, taken straight from our industry experts and entrepreneurs with real-world experience.

    1. Find Your Mentors

    Did you know that having a mentor can actually affect your business's bottom line? According to SCORE, their clients that received more than three hours of mentoring reported higher revenues and increased growth for their businesses than those who did not.

    “Having a mentor can be a fast track to success and the difference between making it or closing up shop,” explains Michael Morris, founder of Rough and Tumble Gentleman. “I've found that older mentors — people who don't feel threatened by your success — can be the most helpful. That kind of relationship can really propel you forward.”

    Finding a mentor can be as easy as attending a local event or signing up for a mentorship program online (there’s a reason we linked to SCORE in our resource section, after all). Look for someone with a lot of experience you admire to get the most out of the relationship.

    2. Conduct Funding Research

    Regardless of what type of business you decide to start, you’ll need funding. Whether you win a grant, open up a line of credit or go the more traditional route and get a business loan, money is crucial to your business's longevity as it helps you buy inventory, pay employees, and other overhead.

    “I recommend checking out the Small Business Administration website,” says Zach Larsen, small business owner of Pineapple Money. “They have a ton of information on starting and funding a small business. Additionally, talk to your local chamber of commerce or business development center. They can provide information on resources and programs to help you get started.”

    Before deciding what financing route to go down, do your research. Many financial institutions — and your state and local governments — offer funding opportunities specific to first-generation entrepreneurs to help you change your family’s trajectory for generations to come. Learn more on the business loans and credit section of our blog.

    3. Keep Track of Your Finances

    Your financial to-do list isn’t complete once you get the funding you need. Far from it, in fact. Keeping track of your business finances is an ongoing process that includes taxes, bookkeeping, payroll, and much more.

    Bottom line: It's something that you’ll need to get up to speed on, quickly. However, this isn’t always an easy task.

    “Business can be difficult for first-generation entrepreneurs,” remarks Jeff Mains, CEO of Champion Leadership Group. “Everything they look at can often appear to be written in a foreign language. Even if they have a background in business administration and financial management, entrepreneurs frequently struggle to maintain control of their own businesses.”

    One way to fix your financial woes? Get help from the experts. Our small business accounting service offers access to whip-smart accountants who will help get your finances in shape, leaving you time to focus on running your business.

    4. Create a Business Entity

    When starting a business, you’ll need to determine what business entity your new company will fall under. Your entity will determine your taxes, legal requirements, and much more — so it’s important to choose the right structure.

    For most small businesses, LLCs are often the best fit, as they’re easy to set up and have simple structures. However, other options, such as corporations and sole proprietorships, are available for businesses as well. Learn more about each entity with our business comparison page, or take our business entity quiz.

    5. Stay Compliant

    Not staying up to date on compliance and other legal issues can cost you — big time. Globalscape reports that non-compliance fines and other issues can cost businesses up to 2.71 times more than what they’d pay in order to stay compliant.

    Maintaining your registered agent, paying taxes, and getting the proper licenses are all a part of your ongoing compliance requirements. However, it's worth noting that depending on the type of business you form and what state you form in, those requirements may change. Check out our state and entity compliance guide to learn more.

    6. Get Marketing Help

    Social media, email, blog content, video, paid media, print, and even podcasting…the avenues of marketing your small business are endless. But deciding which channels to prioritize — and who is going to run your marketing campaigns — can be a difficult decision for many small business owners.

    According to our recent digital adoption survey, a majority of small business owners handle their marketing on their own, from social media to emails and everything in between. However, about 8% of small business owners reported that they turned to the experts to help meet their marketing goals.

    Once you decide who is going to run your campaigns, whether you’ll work on it internally or outsource, you’ll still need to determine what channels you’ll focus on and how much you’ll spend.

    “One of the biggest challenges I face as a small business owner is my marketing budget. This forces me to be creative with my campaigns,” says Christos Philippou, Owner of Delaware K9 Academy. “I’ve been able to capture my audience better than my competitors and provide higher levels of customer service, which continues to grow my business.”

    The biggest takeaway when it comes to marketing? Don’t be afraid to mix things up. Try a few different channels to determine which gives you the best ROI, then lean fully into what works best for your individual business.

    7. Look out for PR Opportunities

    There are a lot of ways to increase your brand awareness, though many of these avenues can cost a lot. One way to get your name out there without dropping significant dollars? Try to win awards!

    “Apply for awards wherever you can,” suggests Katie Stone, owner of Katie Stone PA. “They are great for publicity and really force you to look at your business and think about your ‘why,’ which can be very enlightening.”

    In addition, try to create a reputation for yourself as an expert in your field by sharing your wins (and losses) with the masses. 

    “You cannot avoid public speaking,” said Mains. “The ability to communicate effectively is critical for motivating employees, gaining customers, and pitching to investors to raise capital. Most people are uneasy in front of an audience, but you must practice being comfortable.”

    8. Invest in Your Personal Development

    Outside of marketing their business, first-generation entrepreneurs also need to make sure they take time to invest in themselves. It’s a growing trend among their peers, after all.

    “Don't be stingy with money when it comes to your own development,” suggests Zsofia Dobak, owner of Riddle Rooms. “Be selective with what courses and books you spend on, yes. But look at it as an investment into yourself and your business.”

    Whether you're a first, second, or third-generation small business owner, we’ve got the expertise that’ll help your company succeed. Form your new business with us today and we'll take care of all the filing for you.

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    Sarah Hollenbeck

    Sarah Hollenbeck

    Sarah is a copywriter and brand strategist who has helped companies of all sizes reach their audience with targeted content. Outside of her marketing work, Sarah is passionate about creative writing, yoga and hiking with her dog, Otis.


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