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How to Plan and Open a Business in Just a Few Months (and Why It Might Take Longer)

Elizabeth Kellogg

Contributing Writer at Fundera
Elizabeth is a marketing and communications consultant who specializes in expansion, strategy, and branding. With a background in ecommerce, tech, and lifestyle, she's written and managed digital media campaigns for websites and corporations including Glamour and Amazon.

Maybe you’ve mulled over the perfect business idea for a while, or maybe inspiration struck just yesterday. Either way, you’re eager to jump in with both feet. But the process of starting a business can be daunting, especially if you’re hoping to open within a few months. Not to worry—we’re here to help. We’ve pinpointed the key steps that aspiring—and impatient!—CEOs should take to open their businesses ASAP.

We’re not going to sugarcoat it, though: Starting a business in such a short time is a true challenge, and rushed or poor planning might ultimately undermine all that work. But if you’re willing to dedicate the next few months solely toward getting your business off the ground—and making sure to cover all your bases—you might be ready to take on the challenge.

Make Sure Your Business Idea Is Viable

It’s one thing to have a great idea, but it’s another to know that your idea will take off into a profitable business. Even before you launch headlong into planning your business, do your due diligence to make sure your idea is viable.

Find Your Niche

The best businesses pinpoint a common problem or gap in the market, and create a product or service that provides a solution.

Samantha Foster, owner of Chief Insurance Solutions, stumbled upon her calling when she noticed that colleagues at her insurance brokerage firm didn’t understand the intricacies of the products they sold:  

“We ended up getting a lot of phone calls from workers’ compensation clients, almost on the verge of tears because they were about to go out of business if they couldn’t get this workers’ compensation issue resolved… I realized that this is something people need extra help with. Soon, I decided to start my own brokerage specializing in workers’ compensation, so the client can focus on running their restaurant or their retail store or their construction company. They shouldn’t have to know insurance. That’s our job.”

In October 2015, Foster quit her brokerage firm. Within one month, she had Chief Insurance up and running, and within four months, Foster turned a profit. That initial month was a whirlwind as she filled out paperwork, created marketing materials, and cold-called contacts to drum up business.

Entrepreneurship wasn’t easy at first, but Foster hasn’t looked back. She’s on track to have $1 million worth of business by the end of 2018. She’s also expanded her range of services, and hired 10 regional representatives that work under Chief Insurance throughout the Southwest. The future looks bright for Foster—all because she found her niche.

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Ask for Feedback

You can’t know if people will be interested in your product or service unless you ask—like Theo Lee and Mike Kim, cofounders of KPOP Foods, which they began as MBA students at UCLA. While pursuing their degrees, Lee and Kim took their friends downtown for Korean barbeque. When their classmates asked where they could buy some of the ingredients in Korean cuisine, Lee and Kim realized that most were available only at Korean grocery stores, which can be “overwhelming to those new to the cuisine.”

That’s where KPOP Foods began. Their original sauce was born from a family recipe for traditional Korean sauce, which Lee’s grandmother would send to him on campus. Then, Lee and Kim bought small sample containers online, filled them with their sauce, and “handed them out to everyone and sent them through the mail. The response was great.”

But to make sure their idea would really stick, they took their experimentation one step further. “We wanted to get an idea about the branding, our logo, our story, as well as how people were using the sauce, so we conducted a lot of focus groups.” The cofounders discovered a willing test audience in the student population of UCLA, and would tweak their recipe and their marketing strategy based on the students’ feedback.

Lee and Kim observed their focus groups closely. With permission from participants, they videotaped the sessions to observe people’s body language and initial reactions to the sauce. “That first bite, people are really scared because it’s something new, so they’d only try a little bit. But then we saw people pouring on a lot more after that first bite, and that’s when we knew, ‘Okay, we’ve got something here.’”

Bottom line? Test the market, and modify your business model accordingly. Keep in mind that this process can take much longer than a few months, and Lee and Kim likely wouldn’t have been as successful if they’d rushed this process. But it’s worth doing your due diligence and nailing down your business model now, so all the hard work you do later isn’t for naught.

Figure Out the Logistics

Some of these logistical processes—like finding and securing a business location, and registering your business with your state—might take longer than just a few months. But these processes can make or break your business’s success. Be thorough as you follow each of these steps to provide a solid foundation for your business.   

Pick a Business Name

First, you’ll need to decide on the name of your new venture; it should be straightforward, concise, and put your product front and center. This requires careful consideration, as it’s the first impression people get about your enterprise. Ideally, you want it to be memorable.

For Lee and Kim, KPOP’s name was a key component of the business’s branding strategy, as it capitalizes on current trends and is recognizable by people who aren’t otherwise familiar with Korean culture. Lee explains:

“We knew that if we went with a name that was difficult to pronounce or a little too unique, that wouldn’t be reflective of our mission to spread Korean food and flavors to everyone. When we were looking at trends, we saw that K-pop [Korean pop music] is really starting to blow up, and it’s an easy name to pronounce. When we started mentioning the name to people, they were like, ‘Oh, KPOP! Yeah, that definitely sticks.’”

Lee and Kim also trademarked the name—a legal move you might want to contemplate as your venture grows. You’ll also want to research whether another business in your industry already has your name, and look at local and state laws about naming that might apply to your enterprise.

Find Your Location

If you’re launching a brick-and-mortar shop, you’ll next need to determine its location. Consider factors like where your customer base is centered, and where your competition is situated. There may be legal limits on where you can set up shop, which will depend on the nature of your business. Be sure to research local, state, and federal laws that relate to your enterprise, and pay attention to zoning laws.

To keep overhead low—and to cut down on the time it takes to launch—try operating out of your home to start. Just remember that some cities and counties require a Home Occupation Permit to conduct business from your abode. As a renter, be sure your lease allows you to use your residence as headquarters, and even if you own your home, your HOA may have regulations that apply to your enterprise.

You might also consider whether your current area is truly the best location for your small business. Foster relocated from California to Nevada two years ago because her former home state demanded high fees each year—whether her brokerage was profitable or not—and heavily regulated her enterprise.

While moving isn’t an option for everyone, it’s something to think about if your present location demands more from your business than you’re willing to give. But if time is of the essence to launch your enterprise, it might be best to stay put.

Choose Your Business Entity

Make your business legally official by establishing a legal entity—but first, carefully consider which type of business entity makes sense for you.

Many owners who want to launch their enterprises quickly opt for sole proprietorship, since you won’t need to register with your state, and applying for a business license as a sole prop can take up to two weeks. But LLCs are the most popular entity choice among small business owners, because they protect owners against some (but not all) legal responsibility should someone sue their company. Depending on your state, it may take up to 10 business days to create an LLC.

The pros and cons of each entity type can get complicated, so it’s worth taking the extra time to talk to a lawyer and an accountant.

Research and Acquire Licenses, Permits, and Registrations

Speaking of state and local laws, your location may demand that you register your new enterprise. Many states expect you to file articles of organization or incorporation for your business, and to request a business license. Some cities and counties insist upon separate licenses and permits, and if you’re selling an item that’s taxable, you may also need a sales tax permit.

It’s also a good idea to register for your DUNS number (Dun & Bradstreet’s Data Universal Numbering System). You’ll need a separate number for every physical location of your enterprise, but they all can be issued online and are free of charge.

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Plan and Execute a Marketing Plan

There’s no point in opening a business if no one knows about it! But thanks to social media and simple website-builders, it’s easier than ever to quickly plan and implement a marketing strategy.

Many of these marketing strategies will take time to build out properly, and you might not see growth right away. But stick with these tried and true methods, and you’ll be on the right track.

Find Your Voice

First, decide how you want to present your business to the world. This includes things like your logo, slogan, social media presence, and the voice you’ll adopt in written materials, such as your blog or the copy on your website. Your origin story, or the tale of what motivated you to start your business, can be a huge selling point to potential customers, too.

Choose Your Marketing Tactics

Once you’ve determined how you want to represent yourself and your business, you’ll need to determine where and how you’ll channel that voice.

SEO and Content Marketing

Some of the best leads come from Google searches where your business appears on the first page, and people hire Search Engine Optimization (SEO) experts like Ron Lieback, founder of Pennsylvania-based SEO marketing agency ContentMender, to make that happen.

Lieback is a journalist and online content marketer who learned SEO of his own accord a decade ago after “getting burnt” by other companies with poor or questionable practices. When Lieback no longer wished to ply his trade for other agencies, he started ContentMender in March 2017. The launch took six months of afterhours planning while Lieback worked full-time for another firm. And because he turned his biggest freelance client into his first customer, ContentMender was cash flow positive from day one.

There is one area where Lieback is a marketing evangelist, and that’s online content creation. “You have to have a strong content marketing plan because you have to show that you have authority within your industry, no matter if you’re building paper cups or selling SEO services,” he says.

Lieback suggests what he calls, “The Holy Trinity of Content Marketing.”

  • Build a blog on your own website: It’s a great opportunity to highlight your products, as well as to show your customers the human behind the brand.
  • Guest blog on third-party websites: Find sites that are relevant to your brand, and offer to write for them. This will not only generate leads, but also provide links from these websites back to your own—a key component of SEO.
  • Craft your own LinkedIn stories: Lieback says, ”They’re huge. That’s how you create your authority and show thought leadership.”

While online content creation is a key component of any growth marketing plan, remember that it takes dedication and patience. Post consistently, and you will see results—but it might take more than just a few months. “You’re in this for the long haul,” Lieback says.

Social Media

Business owners face an abundance of options these days when it comes to social media, both in terms of platform selection as well as paid and organic opportunities. Which sites you select depend on the demographics of your target market and where those customers spend their time online.

Lee and Kim, for instance, know that most of their audience is between 24 and 35 years old, and likes to try new things. So, they’ve had great success growing their Instagram account, which costs them nothing but time. They’ve also seen some progress through Facebook Ads, which are far more costly and competitive.


One platform our entrepreneurs find undervalued is LinkedIn. As previously mentioned, Lieback suggests that writing articles for LinkedIn—even if they’re just your onsite blog posts rehashed—is an effective way to build credibility and to generate leads for your business.

Email Marketing

In order for email campaigns to bring in new or repeat clients, you’ll need to create a robust email list in the first place. That requires a smart email marketing strategy, like creating drip campaigns or sending product update emails to high-intent customers.

Build a Website

While the business owners we talked to differed on which marketing tools are the most useful (and some rely solely on word of mouth), there is one sales method that all our entrepreneurs agree is essential—your website.

Choose whichever email creation platform you want (Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace are all popular options), but make sure it includes your business’s essential contact information, and that it’s stylish and easily navigable. After all, your website is the online face of your business—make it something to be proud of.

Create a Mini Business Plan

The entrepreneurs we interviewed didn’t have time to complete a full business plan in just a few months. Some opted to do so later in their process, some chose not to create one at all, but several suggested writing a Mini Business Plan as a compromise.

Mini Plans are usually a few pages long, and they summarize the strategy for your enterprise. Mini Plans can provide a high-level roadmap without the detail necessary for a full plan. Here are some possible elements to include in your Mini Business Plan:

  • What need will you fill and how?
  • Who is your primary clientele?
  • What services will your provide, and what will you charge?
  • How will you differentiate yourself from the competition?
  • What legal structure will you adopt?
  • What licenses and permits do you require?
  • Where will you bank? (Don’t forget that you’ll need a separate business bank account.)
  • Who will advise you on taxes and other financial matters?
  • What are your initial marketing tactics?
  • What are your startup costs?
  • How will you fund your first few months of business?

If you answer all these questions in one document, it should help organize your thoughts and move you toward launching your business as quickly as possible.

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Find Your Funding

Securing funding for your startup is one of the most crucial steps in this process—and, potentially, the most difficult, especially if you’re in a rush. Your best plan is to explore several funding avenues, and decide which route works best for your goals and resources.

Bootstrapping

The majority of entrepreneurs we interviewed chose to bootstrap—to fund their entire endeavors themselves. Foster explains:

“I started my business with less than $200 of overhead per month by avoiding outsourcing and doing the vast majority of the work myself—I never had to pull a loan out. Yes, I might have been able to grow faster if I’d gone into debt to start my company. At the same time, for my comfort and for my sanity, it was very rewarding to just put in the hard work, put in the hours, and build my business at a comfortable pace.”

Several business owners we spoke to expressed similar sentiments. As Lieback suggests, “It can be freeing to have no one to answer to but yourself.”

Using your own funds to finance your business doesn’t require filling out any applications, waiting for approval, planning a crowdsourcing campaign, or researching and connecting with outside investors—which might make this the fastest funding method available. You’ll ultimately need to turn toward an alternative financing method when your funds dry out, but bootstrapping might take you through the first few months of your business.   

Traditional Funding

None of the entrepreneurs we spoke with used traditional methods of financing, like small business loans, to launch their venture. That’s likely because brand-new businesses might struggle getting approved for traditional term loans, either from banks or from online lenders. Generally, lenders will only issue loans to the businesses they deem less risky—i.e., established businesses with strong revenue, good credit, and a few years’ worth of profitability under their belts. Soon-to-be-startups simply don’t have those credentials yet.    

A business credit card might be a quick and easy way for startups to finance some of their initial costs. Applying for a business credit card online takes a matter of minutes, and even the newest businesses may be approved on the strength of the business owner’s personal financial history and credit score.

If you opt for a 0% intro APR interest credit card, like the American Express Blue Business Plus, you’ll pay no interest during that 15-month introductory period, so you can pour all your profits back into your business; it’s essentially an interest-free loan for as long as the introductory period lasts. But after your interest-free months are up, a variable APR will set in at a rate depending on your creditworthiness and the market prime rate. So, just make sure you can pay off what you’ve accrued.

Crowdsourced Funding

Crowdsourcing is a popular startup financing method, since it doesn’t require startups to prove their credentials through financial records. Instead, you just need to make the public believe in your mission, message, and offerings.  

Lee and Kim have turned toward crowdsourced funding twice. But before their first round on Kickstarter, they researched the best crowdsourcing tactics. They spoke to lots of other entrepreneurs, some with successful campaigns and some who hadn’t met their goals, and tried to implement what they’d learned.

“The first 24 hours is probably the most important time for your campaign,” they say. “About two weeks before the campaign, we were calling everyone we knew just to make sure they knew about our campaign and that any support within the first day—whether it was sharing it on Facebook, Instagram, or contributing just $1—would be a huge help.” They followed up their phone blitz with a reminder email the night before, and then held a launch party at their graduate school the day of the campaign.

The response was huge. KPOP Foods brought in $10,000 in the first eight hours, and another $10,000, within a week. In total, from April to June 2017, the campaign earned $37,627. This financed the first production run of KPOP sauce, which—thanks to all the money pledged—ended up being much larger than initially planned.

Angel Investors

When done strategically, a crowdsourced funding campaign can generate a surprising amount of revenue. It can also provide new businesses with another valuable asset—exposure. That publicity can of course help you garner a customer base, but it could also lead to another source of funding, like angel investors. In exchange for equity, these wealthy individuals pledge their own capital to help promising startups get off the ground.

“The traction that we generated from the Kickstarter campaign got angel investors interested in us,” Lee and Kim said. Eventually, they were able to raise $100,000 through their investors.

Lee and Kim were lucky that their angels found them organically. In most cases, you’ll need to put in the effort to find your investors, meet with them, and negotiate the terms of their investment—so, it can take longer than you expected to find an angel investor who aligns with your company’s financial goals and vision.     

Can You Open a Business in Just a Few Months?

All told, it is possible to complete all the above steps and get your new business humming in just a few months. Ultimately, though, there is no one timetable that’s ideal for every entrepreneur. Some small business owners we spoke to opened their doors within a few months and with very little planning. But most entrepreneurs take a more measured approach to launching their businesses, and allow their businesses to grow gradually.   

When it comes down to it, you’ll need to decide on the timing that’s right for you as a new small business owner. Even after you launch, it might not be right to rush your growth processes, either. As Foster said of her enterprise:

“I could have easily hired sales reps two years ago, but I waited until I was ready. I waited until the company had enough structure, and then I could really reproduce what I’ve done because I’ve put enough time into it, and I’ve put enough experience out there to find the formula that I can then duplicate. I think that’s really the goal of operating a business.”

Plans for your future business should be less about sticking to a rigid timetable and more about taking the necessary steps in a manner that best suits you, and you alone.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Elizabeth Kellogg

Contributing Writer at Fundera
Elizabeth is a marketing and communications consultant who specializes in expansion, strategy, and branding. With a background in ecommerce, tech, and lifestyle, she's written and managed digital media campaigns for websites and corporations including Glamour and Amazon.

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