Your checklist when starting a new business

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1. Make an excellent business plan!

Every business starts with a vision and an idea. Putting these on paper is the first step towards a successful business plan. A business plan is an elaboration of your idea, as well as an action plan for the future. Preparing a business plan is extremely important when applying for financial support. In your business plan, you assess whether your plans and ideas are feasible. A business plan prevents you from overlooking essential aspects.

Every business plan starts with a concrete description of your idea, supplemented with a financial plan. This plan indicates how your business will be financed, such as how much money you will need and where this money will come from. A market research study is also required, to indicate the targeted audience, potential clients and competitors. The business plan is of vital importance for a startup company, because it shows whether the idea is feasible and what the long-term perspectives are. Write your own business plan and seek assistance if needed. After all, you know your plans and vision for your future company better than anyone else.

2. Make a realistic financial plan!

To start a business, you need startup capital. If you do not have sufficient equity, then you need to acquire additional startup capital through external funding. It is easy to think of commercial banks as the only possible sources of funding, but in reality there are many other options for obtaining additional financial resources, such as financial institutions (CDI, Qredits and Korpodeko). Besides these alternatives, there are also new and creative alternatives for obtaining funding, such as crowdfunding. Keep in mind that you are not restricted to one type of external funding only. A combination of these funding solutions is also possible.

A good financial plan takes the necessary investments into account based on research. To have a good financial plan, you need to calculate the expected revenue and operating expenses, while planning for the near future by taking the next three years into your estimations. When making the financial plan, always make sure you will be able to fulfill the financial obligations at all times, including the repayment of the funding.

3. Choose a legal structure

The chosen legal structure for your business will depend on your specific situation, the product or services offered, the purpose of your business, whether you are starting the business on your own or with business partners and whether you decide to operate locally or internationally. Some very important aspects to keep in mind when choosing a legal structure are the tax benefits and liabilities of each structure.

The tax benefits are relatively favorable in the beginning in case of a proprietorship, because such companies are usually not so profitable in the beginning, and also because a proprietorship involves low startup expenses for the legal structure. If the chosen legal structure is a proprietorship, then you are personally liable for the debts incurred by the company. This also applies if the company goes bankrupt. If you are married in community of property, your partner will also be subject to this liability.

After a legal structure is chosen, it can later be changed. However, this will have legal, fiscal and administrative consequences.

4. Choose a unique business name

The business’s name should be original, distinctive and unique in your branch and region. Choose an understandable, easy to remember business name that will stick in your targeted audience’s head, preferably one that fits your core business. Think of the future. Will it still be the perfect business name ten years from now? To check the availability of your desired business name, consult the Curaçao Chamber of Commerce and Industry. As soon as the company has been registered at the Curaçao Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the company’s name will automatically be registered too and will not be available for others to use.

5. Choose an appropriate business location

A business location can make or break your business. Many underestimate the importance of choosing the perfect location. Depending on the type of business, location can be a deciding factor. Retail businesses and other brick and mortar businesses need to deal with their costumers face to face. Therefore, foot traffic and accessibility are key factors, and not only for your costumers, but also for your staff and support services. Having said that, keep in mind that top locations are far more expensive, which will affect your bottom line. Keeping operational expenses in check is an important factor for new businesses.

6. Register the new business

The first step to establish the new company is to get it registered at the Curaçao Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Subsequently, the company must be registered at the Tax Administration and at the Social Insurance Bank. The company is not completely legal and transparent if these additional registrations have not been completed.

7. Apply for business permits

In some cases, starting a business in Curaçao requires an authorization for establishment. An authorization for establishment can be requested at the Permits Office (Vergunningenloket) and will be issued by the Ministry of Economic Development. Authorizations for establishment are not always required for proprietorships. If the person starting the business was born in Curaçao or in the former Netherlands Antilles prior to the year 2010, or in Aruba prior to 1986, no authorization is required. For everyone else starting a business in Curaçao, regardless of the legal structure, an authorization for establishment is mandatory.

8. Introduce your business to the world!

One of the first priorities of a new business is making sure the world knows what it is that you are offering. The faster people get to know your business, the bigger the targeted audience is, and the more potential clients you can reach. There are several ways to market your business in order to better affect sales. Some marketing methods require professional assistance, but there are many other less expensive ways to market your business. Nowadays, having an online presence is key and should therefore be seriously considered.

There are many inexpensive ways to market your business online, such as creating a social media platform. If you have the opportunity to invest in a website and matching domain name, DO IT! Besides being an access point for potential clients, it will also give your company more credibility. The same applies to business cards. Whatever way you decide to promote your business, make sure that all information is up-to-date and that all communications have a cohesive feel to them.

9. Open a business bank account

As soon as the business is registered at the Curaçao Chamber of Commerce and Industry and at the Tax Administration, it will be entitled to open a business bank account. This is of vital importance for startups. Having a business bank account helps you manage tax and practical money issues. This way, business funds will be kept separate from personal funds.

10. Maintain sound accounting and record-keeping practices

Having an overview of the finances is of vital importance in a business. Many underestimate this aspect, but running a successful business requires having a proper and up-to-date overview of the revenues and operational expenses. A proper accounting system must be able to show a transparent overview of the financial situation at all times, such as income and expenses, invoices, the amount of sales tax collected and such. Filing of contracts, invoices and legal documents is also important. Depending on your abilities and business situation, you should consider outsourcing such back-office tasks to a proper and reliable firm.