Starting Your Business

4/14/22 10:33:00 AM — Photos of Tulsa Authority of Economic Opportunity projects. Photo by Shane Bevel

First Steps

Have an idea for a business but don’t know where to start? Learn how you can get the ball rolling on starting your business by learning about the basics and starting on your plan.

  • Learning About Entrepreneurship
  • Business Model to Business Plan
  • Market Analysis & Marketing
  • Advisors and Mentors
Learning About Entrepreneurship
8/3/20 11:48:55 AM — Photos of Williams Employees at the corporate headquarters in Tulsa. Photo by Shane Bevel

Do you want to open your own business but are not sure where to start? The Tulsa community is full of resources to help you turn your entrepreneurial idea into a reality.

Online Training and In-person Classes

  • SBA Learning Center. The Small Business Administration offers brief videos on everything you need to know to plan, launch, manage, market, and grow your business in their Learning Center. Get started today and learn at your own pace.
  • Small Business University (SBU). Tulsa Economic Development Corporation (TEDC) leads Small Business university, a series of courses where local entrepreneurs can take focused classes to learn the necessary skills to build and grow their small businesses. Courses are taught by subject matter experts in fields such as Accounting, Self-Employment, Business Planning, and more.
  • Other local resources provide ongoing entrepreneurship classes, including the Hispanic Small Business Association, Build In Tulsa’s Startup School, and 36 Degrees North’s popUP Sessions.
Business Model to Business Plan
A woman wearing goggles does calculations with a pen and sheet of paper

Creating a business plan is one of the first steps to taking your business from idea to reality, but writing a plan can be intimidating, especially if you’ve never done so. The business model canvas can help clarify, on one page, what you want to accomplish with your business and can be a great first step in developing your business plan. With everything on one page, you can tweak, revise, and discuss without having to flip back and forth through the text of larger plan while you’re still working things out.

Once you’ve worked out the model, it should be easier to write your business plan. Your business plan is a written document that describes your company’s main work, goals, and how you plan to achieve those goals. A good business plan guides you through starting and managing your business. Think of it as a roadmap on your entrepreneurial journey!

A business plan can help you get funding. It helps you tell people your strategy for running your business. Whether you are selling software or sandwiches, creating your business plan is a key part of starting a successful business. Each business plan looks a little different so create the plan that works for you. If you need a place to start, here is a short business plan video that helps explain each of the sections you should include.

Market Analysis & Marketing
women smiling at a community event.

Understanding your market is a vital part of ensuring success. A solid market analysis will demonstrate why your business model is needed. It will include information about industry trends, target customers, and your competitors. Your market analysis will help you differentiate your business and identify where and who to market to. Here’s a short video explaining the importance of  understanding your market, and how that might change with more information about your market demographics.

The PartnerTulsa Economic Development Tool is a great way for you to learn about who lives nearby, what kind of businesses you’ll be next to, and more demographic location that can give you the head start your business needs!

Advisors and Mentors
10/29/18 4:07:57 PM -- Fall Colors and social media scenes from the Gathering Place.Photo by Shane Bevel

PartnerTulsa staff can also meet with you one on one to help you with specific questions.  You can also contact the local Small Business Development Center (SBDC), REI Women’s Business Center, or SCORE Chapter to find mentors who can assist you with your business’s development:

  • Jill Dietz, SBDC Associate Business Advisor, jill.dietz@oksbdc.com, 918-877-8174
  • William Griggs, SCORE volunteer & Chair of Recruitment, wgriggs1@outlook.com
  • Leslie Browand, REI Women’s Business Center Coordinator, lbrowand@reiok.org
  • Greenwood Women’s Business Center, http://greenwoodwbc.org/

Getting Real With Your Business

Now that you have got a business plan, it’s time to get real. That means getting registered as a business, getting licensed, and getting online.

  • Licensing Your Business
  • Registering Your Business
  • Building An Online Presence
Licensing Your Business
4/14/22 10:27:55 AM — Photos of Tulsa Authority of Economic Opportunity projects. Photo by Shane Bevel

Only specific types of businesses, like taxis, mobile vendors and outdoor sellers, require licensing with the city. A list of those businesses and their licensing applications can be found here.

Other businesses, like general contractors, retail establishments, restaurants, and others, are licensed through the State of Oklahoma. Some common business types do not have local or state licensing requirements, these include, but are not limited to:

  • Cleaning services or power washing services (with exceptions regarding trailers that have hauled livestock and washing that removes contaminated materials)
  • Lawn or landscape maintenance services
  • Automotive or truck repair services and shops; Engine (large or small) and equipment repair services
  • Home, garage door, or kitchen appliance repair and installation;
  • Guttering, window, or door repair and installation services;
  • Business general consulting: Business general accounting, bookkeeping, tax services, and business brokering (with exceptions regarding real estate and livestock)
  • Computer and IT consulting services.
Registering Your Business
4/14/22 9:06:47 AM — Photos of Tulsa Authority of Economic Opportunity projects. Photo by Shane Bevel

Beyond state and local licensing, here are other steps to consider when setting up your business.

Registering Your Business Name

Have an idea of what you’d like to call your business? You can research name availability through the Oklahoma Secretary of State website. Owners may also consider whether a related website domain is available as well. Once you’ve decided on a name, and determined that it’s available, register the name with the Secretary of State. This is not a required step but registering the name will protect its use in Oklahoma.

File Your Formal Legal Structure

Not sure what legal structure you should use for your business? Learn more about business structures from the U.S. Small Business Administration. Corporations, Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs), Limited Partnerships, and other business structures need to be registered with the Oklahoma Secretary of State. After submittal of the necessary documents and payments, the Secretary of State will issue a certification that the filing for the legal structure has been accepted. Congratulations! You’re in business!

Building An Online Presence
Hispanic Entrepreneurship Academy in Tulsa, OK

Whether you are trying to market to new clients or serve existing ones, creating a digital footprint is key to being seen as a real business. There are many online tools that can help small businesses, but also consider the following strategies for better online marketing. Following these basic tips are a great way to give validity to your business.

Fill Out A Google Profile

Everyone looks up businesses on Google, and making a profile is a great way to share information about your business. With this profile, Google will show your hours, address, website, and other important information. This will also allow customers to find you on Google Maps. You’ll receive a monthly reporting showing how many people visited your profile and how they have used it.

Develop a Social Media Presence

Social media is a great way to quickly publish information about your brand, create a community, and advertise your product. With a variety of platforms to choose it is worth investing in setting up some time to create a page for your business. Many businesses find social media easier to maintain than a website. A website can be great for information that stays relatively stable over time whereas social media can be updated daily, or even throughout the day, to reflect changes in a menu’s daily special or updated times for an event.

Launch your website

Making your own webpage has been as easy as filling in the gaps of a pre-made template or there are numerous vendors that can help develop something unique to your business model. Your website should, at a minimum, include a Homepage; About page, where you share information about your team and company; Products or Services page, where you describe the products and/or services you provide as well as pricing for retail products; and Contact page, where customers can be given information on how to contact you.

 

Opening Your Business

Now that you’ve worked out your business plan, it’s time to work on getting your business up and running starting with a physical location. All the steps in this document may impact the location of your new business. Will you purchase or lease? Will you work from home or open a storefront?

  • Finding a Commercial Location
  • Researching Your Space
  • Permitting Your Space
  • PartnerTulsa Business Services Liaison
Finding a Commercial Location
4/27/22 12:36:16 PM — Photos of Mother Road Market, NOMA, Meadow Gold and Adams Apartments. TAEO images of midtown and downtown Tulsa. Photo by Shane Bevel

Choosing an initial physical location for your business could be as simple as going to your garage, like early founders of Apple Computer, or it could mean finding a storefront or warehouse.

The Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce provides the “SizeUp” business intelligence tool  to help you evaluate locations, competition, and other factors critical to making your first location a success. Just enter the type of business you are interested in, using the pull-down list, and your city to learn about local opportunities, as well as other locations that might need your business’ product.

Researching Your Space
A sign that says For Rent hangs in a window

Zoning Requirements

All properties have a zoning designation that determines what types of buildings can be built (called “uses”) on that land.  To minimize hurdles, find a location that is zoned for your business. For example, investing in a space that was previously a restaurant can save time and construction costs. The Tulsa Planning Office at Indian Nations Council of Governments (INCOG) can assist entrepreneurs with any zoning requirements or changes needed for their property. To explore, check out the following resources:

  • Zoning Map: See the zoning type of each neighborhood and address in Tulsa.
  • Zoning Code: Look up the requirements associated with a properties’ zoning designation in the City of Tulsa Zoning Code.
  • Zoning FAQ’s: Learn the basics of zoning, zoning processes, and where to find more information.

 

Permitting Your Space
4/14/22 9:15:46 AM — Photos of Tulsa Authority of Economic Opportunity projects. Photo by Shane Bevel

If you’re ready to build or renovate a space, consider the permits that will be needed. PartnerTulsa is here to help every step of the way.

The City of Tulsa Development Services Permit Center permits all development within the city and registers the licenses of trade contractors. The Permit Center is located on the 4th Floor of City Hall. Public hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Many of the Development Services forms and processes required for growing a business are available online through the self-service EnerGov portal. EnerGov will guide you through Permit Applications, Permit Request forms, Contractor Registration and Account forms, and Appeal forms, among others.

Although a few of the forms can be found online for paper submittals, it is preferable to access and submit permits by using the online self-service portal. This tool makes growing in Tulsa simple by allowing the applicant to register once and then have access to fill out the application questions and upload plans online. The self-service portal helps users submit, track and pay online. If you have any questions or encounter a problem with self-service, contact the PartnerTulsa Business Services Liaison.

 

PartnerTulsa Business Services Liaison
8/3/20 10:16:09 AM — Photos of Williams Employees at the corporate headquarters in Tulsa. Photo by Shane Bevel

If you have questions about getting a permit, don’t know who to ask, or don’t know what to do next, PartnerTulsa has staff dedicated to helping you through City processes. The Business Services Liaison serves as point of contact to the development community, business owners andentrepreneurs, representing the City in the development review process. Based on your particular needs, they will assemble people and resources from other City departments into meetings or discussions focused on problem-solving and moving the project forward. They can also answer questions about EnerGov, the online self-serve permitting portal.

Contact the Business Services Liaison online or by phone to get help with your project or question.

Contact Us

Jonah Toay
Economic Development Specialist jonah@partnertulsa.org (918)-576-5571