From the September 2002 issue of Startups

Q: Any suggestions on how I can get my business going in a new city? I'm also wondering if my business name, Michele's Designing, is the problem. Can you help?

A: Many states and communities go out of their way to welcome new businesses and residents, both on their Web sites and through personal contact. To shorten the time it takes you to feel at ease in your new business community, look for these local resources and take advantage of all the information they have to offer.

Your local chamber of commerce is another good place to get insights into the economy of your area as well as the names and contact information of other local trade and business organizations. Because chambers have meetings and events, they can also be a great place to meet gatekeepers and potential customers. Gatekeepers are people who, in the process of what they do every day, come into regular contact with people who are in need of your service or product.

One of our quickest techniques to meet gatekeepers and potential customers is walking around different neighborhoods. Since you're offering a business service, focus on commercial streets, office parks and office buildings. Simply walk from business to business, office to office and store to store, introducing yourself and leaving your marketing materials. Repeat this process regularly. By the third visit, those you meet will probably remember you. As a woman who was new to a community in upstate New York found: "This is the best source of business for me. When I get a referral from one of these sources, the client almost always hires me."

Your business name, while personal and friendly-sounding, probably won't be much help in getting established in your new area, because few people know you, Michele, and from the name, it's not clear what type of design services you offer. If printers are going to be your key gatekeepers, how about naming your business (you can use more than one business name) "Printer's Graphic Design Support" or something that communicates what you offer as a service to printers? You might also consider including the name of your new community or county in your business name. This may help you become more readily accepted into the business community.

Finally, ask for feedback from prospective clients on what you name your business. Most people like to help when they're approached as someone with valuable knowledge and judgment, and, as a result, some will feel all the more interested in helping you become successful in your new life.


Paul and Sarah Edwards are the authors of several homebased business books, including Working From Home. Their latest book is The Entrepreneurial Parent.