Q: Can you advise me of ways to structure my business around my invention?
A: This is a very good question, and one I receive often. Let's look at several steps you can take to get things moving in the right direction. I'll assume you have a finished product and you are the sole owner of the invention. If so, you're ready to go to your local courthouse and file a DBA (doing business as). This will allow you to use your home address for your place of business, and most cities will allow you to file the name of your company as an individual. Check with the courthouse on your county's rules and regulations. If you prefer, you can use an independent postal service such as a Mail Boxes Etc. or Postal Plus to establish a business address; however, most of these places require proof of your filed DBA to open a business post box. You'll also want to go to your city hall and file for a business license for the purpose of doing business in your city.
Next, look into getting an additional phone line inside your home. Set up an e-mail address, and get a cell phone if you haven't already. Make it easy for third-party vendors to get in touch with you. Then create a clip-art logo from your own PC, or go to the library and rent time on the computer to create your letterhead, stationery and business cards.
You'll also want to check with your insurance agent for quotes on product liability insurance. Don't be afraid of these costs. Quite often, you'll be offered an umbrella policy that'll protect you once you start selling your product directly to the retail community or the general public. Consult an attorney, too, and obtain good tax-planning advice for the future sales and revenue derived from your product or service. Take the proper steps to reduce your personal liability at all times when selling consumer products. It takes only one unhappy customer to sue you and send you into financial ruins.
Once you have your structure in place, create a four-color sales sheet on your product containing all the specific information on your product, price, size, lead times, weights, etc., and you're in business. You can always cut financial corners to get the ball rolling! But in the end, do not step over a dollar to pick up a dime. Be smart and swift, and in the end, sell, sell, sell.
Dave Dettman founded Mr. Product LLC ten years ago and currently serves as president and CEO.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.