Start a small business


For many retirees, starting a small business is an opportunity to go in a new direction or to create a business around a lifelong passion. For others, it’s a good way to leverage the skills, knowledge and industry expertise gained from a professional career with good earning potential. In either case, owning a small business provides an opportunity for hands-on involvement, in which you are actively engaged in both starting and running the business. Your business can be as small or large as you want (and can afford), and either part-time or full-time. As the owner, you can run things your way. Whether you have just begun exploring the idea of starting your own business, or have already determined you want to do so, the information on this page will help give you clarity and direction.

Am I right for this?

10 yes/no questions to help you determine if this is a good direction for you

Do I have entrepreneurial skills?

Do I enjoy sales and business development?

Am I comfortable taking risks?

Do I have, or have access to, capital to launch and run the business over the long haul?

Do I like managing employees?

Am I comfortable with the financial ups and downs of business ownership?

Am I financially astute?

Do I have or am I willing to develop a strong network of business advisors?

Am I resilient and persistent?

Am I willing to devote much of my personal time to develop the business?

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If you answer six or more “yes,” this is probably a good direction to pursue.

Brick-and-mortar businesses that tend to be resilient

  • Health and personal care services
  • Pet supplies
  • Automobiles
  • Discount home furnishings and décor
  • Home appliances
  • Apparel retailers
  • Prescription eyeglass centers
  • Food & grocery
  • Bridal gowns & accessories
  • Staffing
  • Fitness centers
  • Cafés

Essential characteristics of a small business owner

  • Confidence
  • Persistence
  • Goal-oriented
  • Budget-conscious
  • Resilient
  • Creative
  • Optimistic
  • Personable
  • Passionate

Ways to fund a startup business

  • Self-funding
  • Business loans
  • Angel investors
  • Venture capital
  • Crowdsourcing

Ways to structure a small business

  • Sole proprietorship
  • Partnership
  • LLC
  • C-Corporation
  • S-Corporation


Here are questions and answers that address common issues and concerns for those interested in starting a small business.


Most of what I read and hear indicates that brick and mortar businesses are dying and that everything is going online. Is that true?


While in-person shopping in brick-and-mortar stores has taken a dip, it is still alive and well in certain business categories. There are also indications that it is coming back more broadly. That said, online businesses are largely where the action is, and with the right website and search engine capabilities, starting an online business is a relatively easy option with minimal overhead and startup costs.


How should I determine what size business I should start?


Starting a small business can range from something as simple as selling on Ebay to something as complex as opening a retail store or restaurant. The size of your business will directly relate to the type of business you are starting. Do you envision yourself being hands-on in the day-to-day operations? Is it a business you can manage on your own, or is extra staff essential to its success? One important consideration is to do your research on the competitive environment and market potential, and to keep your overhead costs as low as possible until you begin generating sales.


What small businesses don’t involve a lot of upfront investment?


If you need to earn money quickly, and cannot take financial risks, you should consider a small online business or becoming a freelancer (see Solopreneur/Freelancer/Independent Professional in this site). If you have professional skills that are in demand (accounting, marketing, web development, content creation), becoming a consultant (see Be a Consultant, also in this site) could also be a good route for you.


How much revenue could I expect to generate per year?


In 2021, revenue for businesses with 2-4 employees average $387,000; with 5-9 employee average $1,080,000; 10-19 employees average $2,164,000; 20-99 employees average $7,124,000; and 100-499 employees average $40,775,000.  But remember that revenue is not profitability… revenue is the money you take in. Profit flows after all expenses are paid.


How much profit could I expect to make per year?


According to the SBA, the average business with 2-4 employees, the profit is $27,000+; for 5-9 employees, profit is $75,000+; for 10-19 employees, profit is $151,000+, for 20- 99 employees, profit is $498,000+.  Generally, one-person businesses do not generate a significant profit. Keep in mind that is a generalization - some single person businesses make a lot more, some a lot less.


Do I have to have a business background to start a business?


No, but it will be helpful. However, if you have the essential traits of a small business owner, and are a quick learner, you can take advantage of new business trends and thrive in a field where there are few or no “experienced” people. Not long ago no one knew what a CBD store was and nobody had experience in it, so those who saw that opportunity not only entered the market, they created the market. Having the means to finance a startup and a willingness to take on risk are important factors beyond business experience.


At what point should I write a business plan?


After doing your market research, a business plan is your next step. Writing one will guide you through many of the areas you need to consider and will help you determine what size business is right for you. It will also be useful in raising or borrowing money, as any investor or bank will want to see your plan, including financial projections.

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Assess this option against the following eight criteria:

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Next steps:

Step 1

Determine if it makes sense for you to move forward to start a small business, based on the “Is this Right for Me” section.

Step 2

Research the competitive environment and market potential.

Step 3

Create a financial projection of anticipated revenue and expenses.

Step 4

Identify the source of funding.

Step 5

Consult with your accountant on tax issues.

Step 6

Choose a legal structure.

Step 7

Name the business.

Step 8

Write a business plan.

Step 9

Apply for licenses and permits.

Step 10

Open a business bank account.

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Get started

Talk to an expert. Explore the options. Dig a little deeper. See if this is right for you.