Ask Entrepreneur - Legal Basics For Startups

Making products from vintage magazine photos

How do I find information about using vintage photos from magazine to make products such as coin purses or hats?

I am purchasing scarves overseas at low cost. Can I put my business logo on the scarves and sell them in the U.S. for more money?

Also, can I develop my own designs and have them made there for the same low cost?

My cousin and I are in business together, and I want to branch out into other ventures. How do I determine a fair split in terms of ownership and profit?

My cousin was selling a product and I thought I could improve on it. I approached him and we agreed on a 50/50 split since I was investing in some equipment to create the product as well as investing in a website.

I am now considering a couple of other business ventures that utilize similar machinery. However, I am considering purchasing a different, more advanced machine that will require an investment of approximately $20,000, which I will put up.

I feel somewhat obligated to keep my cousin involved in all the different fields I'm entering. How can I come up with a good, fair split if I'm investing all the money and coming up with all the ideas?

Is it legal for a majority owner of the family business to invest in a competitor because the competitor would sign a 5-year contract to buy products from you?

I am 35 years old and have been working for my parents for 20 years. I have been managing a division of the business for 15 years. My father, who owns 51 percent, wants to buy into and help expand an up-and-coming business owned by a former employee of our biggest competitor. He plans on using our good credit to get a personal loan to do the deal on his own.

How can we handle a disgruntled co-owner?

There are six co-owners of the family farm. We rent the land to a farmer, and each owner gets about $600 per year. One owner always wants things done his way and has refused our fair buyout offer.

Instead, he is threatening to have the court sell the whole farm and then take his share. Can he do this?

Can I legally sell a brand-name item if I decorate the item with my designs?

I am making plans to start a small business with a partner in my hometown. Some of our plans are to decorate clothing items, including Hanes shirts and socks, and Keds shoes. If we decorate these items with our designs can we legally sell these items without penalty? Also, can we trademark our company if we are using products that are already trademarked?

How can I turn a for-profit business into a nonprofit business?

I own a 3-year-old for-profit transportation company catering to senior citizens at discounted prices. I would like to restructure the company as a nonprofit. The company is losing money and the clients don't seem to be able to pay more for services. However, the transportation is vitally needed. I thought restructuring the company into a nonprofit would be a way to keep the company going with subsidized money from local, state and federal funds.

We split the cost of an ecommerce site package, but have decided not to be partners.

Originally we were going to form an LLP, but have since decided that goals are different. How should we proceed from here? Still friends, we would both like to use the software and create our own sites. The hosting company will list us both as owners and each site hosted can be a separate account. Do we need to write up a contract between ourselves? Help! Neither of us would like to buy the other out and it does seem silly to pay these people twice for the same product when the first package can be used for an unlimited number of sites. We are just not sure how to avoid inadvertently creating a new

How do you determine the value of a law firm? This particular one has a $1.4 million dollar contract with the county and also gets private referrals.

My wife wants a divorce and says her law firm is worth nothing because it has no assets. Her cash flow is huge and she has a guaranteed contract to do third-level public defender work for the county where she works.

Is it legal to do accounting in the U.S. for foreign companies?

I have been looking online for at-home accounting jobs. As a result I have been approached by several companies from other countries that want me to handle the accounting for their U.S. customers, accepting U.S. payments and forwarding them to the companies. They claim to need someone in the U.S. to perform this work because U.S. banks will not allow them to have an account here as their businesses are not registered here. Is this legal? It seems like it would be an ideal situation for me.

What are the legal implications of disclosing an employee's private medical information?

We are a 500-employee company. One of our out of state employees has contracted a noncontagious disease. She disclosed this to her manager and told him it is not affecting her job at this time. She said her manager could tell his manager and the head person in HR. Unfortunately, the head person in HR told others in HR, who had a converstion with the employee. In addition, others outside of HR have been told. The employee is extremely upset. Does it matter that others in HR (and outside HR) were informed without the employee's consent? What are the legal implications?

How can I request proof for what an employee says is medically necessary leave?

I have an employee who for the last three years has had the worst luck I have ever seen: Two house break-ins, stolen car, stolen boat, allergic food reactions, and the list goes on. Every incident required a Friday off. Two weeks ago she did not show up for two days because of a hurricane threat that never hit and only closed public schools--not public services, public offices, banks, malls, etc.

Today she claims that she has a women's condition that is going to require treatment on Fridays for the next 52-70 weeks! How can I as a small business owner (10 employees) legally ask for proof?

Can I resell products I buy at wholesale to other retailers?

My next-door neighbor is a Maybelline makeup wholesale distributor. So I can buy the products cheaply, sell them and make a profit. Is it legal to buy the products from my neighbor and try to sell to dollar stores and independent beauty supply firms to obtain them as accounts?

What permits and licenses are generally required to run an online retail business?

I want to run this business out of my home starting out and then eventually expand to a retail store. I want to run a business something like Fingerhut or Brylane Home.


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