For the first time in decades, school started in Philadelphia on Monday, August 27, rather than the traditional start eight days later on the Tuesday after Labor Day. For many, the earlier start date brings an end to the relaxing days of late August and a rude awakening that it is also time to go back to work in full swing. But for those of us who work for ourselves, customary slow times, such as late summer and major holidays, usually do not apply. As an entrepreneur, even if business slows down, you still have the financial obligations, such as paying rent, filing tax returns, and making payroll. Those responsibilities remain whether demand for your goods or services are as strong or not. Many people who launch their own businesses sacrifice nights, weekends and holidays to get their enterprise off the ground and keep it afloat. So as we approach this Labor Day weekend, when we celebrate the American workforce, I would like to also salute the growing number of people who are reshaping how we do business by creating work for themselves and serving as employers for others.

As a Board member of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce (GPCC) and a member of its Roadmap for Growth Advisory Committee, I am proud of the Chamber’s “Map to Thriving Business” initiative which provides programming on how to start and grow a business in various neighborhoods throughout the city. The Roadmap for Growth Action Team, led by Yvette Nunez, Vice President for Civic Affairs, has hosted a series of these events to boost entrepreneurial activity in Philadelphia. Last week, I participated in one such panel at Rittenhouse Soundworks in Germantown. Organized by Brynn Primavera, GPCC Director of Program and Events, and moderated by Darrell Davis, GPCC Manager, Local Government and Civic Affairs, my fellow panelists shared valuable insights with aspiring and growing businesspeople. I was joined on the panel by Rojer Kern, Senior Business Manager, Office of Business Services, Philadelphia Department of Commerce; Melissa Goldstein, Founder, One Part Social, LLC; and Heather Hanowitz, Vice President and Senior Loan Officer, Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC). The combined wisdom and expertise conveyed was more comprehensive than what can be shared here, but there are some key takeaways for entrepreneurs from the start-up stage and beyond which were particularly resonating.

First, it is important to identify what type of business you want to start and who is likely to need your goods or services. From that preliminary decision, whether you start a corner store or offer accounting advice, you can figure out what licenses are required, the space you need to conduct business, whether the location you prefer is zoned to permit that type of activity, and how much staff makes sense with your likely revenues. Other considerations include whether you are going into business alone or with others, the form of the business such as partnership or corporation, and the tax and liability implications of the type of entity you create. The experts recommended an array of funding sources for new businesses that might not be eligible for established bank loans, including options offered by PIDC. We also discussed the importance of protecting and promoting your brand identity (logo, content, website URL, etc.) to attract customers and build a reputation. Furthermore, setting up systems for tracking your expenses and revenues early on is critical to running your business responsibly. As your business expands, hiring and training staff and complying with the laws governing employees is another challenge business owners face. Many of these steps can be addressed by adding a business attorney, an accountant, and a marketing professional to your team from the onset as those roles will be critical in setting your business up for success.

The to-do list of starting a business, growing it over time and sustaining operations over the long haul is challenging, but more and more of us are doing it and reaping the benefits. It is this initiative and desire to create something of our own that drives our economy and creates jobs. So when you go back to work this week or next, if you are not working for yourself, remember that someone with an entrepreneurial spirit sacrificed to provide the opportunity. And if you have the desire and determination, despite the challenges, take the plunge, as nothing feels as good as being your own boss. Have a safe and happy Labor Day weekend.

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