Plan Your Business

Starting a business is a big decision. If you’ve never owned a business before, it's a big task to think through all the topics you need to consider as you launch your business. The good news is that StartUp Spokane has pulled together a roadmap for you, complete with the tools you need to move things forward. Let's explore!

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Understanding your industry helps you make strategic decisions backed by data. Get a birds-eye view of your industry's trends and drivers with these helpful resources.

Knowing who your customers are -- and where to find them --  is a good first step in determining if you have a good business idea.

Who do you plan to sell to?


If you're selling to other businesses, here are a few tools that can help you generate sales leads lists.


If you're selling consumer-based goods or services, these tools can help you find your customers!

Knowing your competition helps you figure out how to position your business's value in relation to what is already being offered.

The general recommendation from business attorneys* is to form a corporate entity. The most common route is to form an LLC. If you're interested in going that route, here are some tools that can help!

*We are not business attorneys, so make sure you consult a business attorney for professional advice.

  • (Most Popular) Legal GPS: Legal GPS is a gamified platform that helps new & existing businesses explore business formation options.
  • Gonzaga School of Law's Business Innovation Clinic. Staffed by second and third-year law students from Gonzaga University School of Law, the Clinic provides free business-related legal advice tailored to meet each client’s unique needs and goals - from choosing the right entity for your startup to ensuring your business complies with the latest state and federal regulations. Contact the Clinic here.
  • Talk to an Attorney (see our TeamUp Mentors page and search for "legal" mentors)
  • The Washington State Department of Commerce has a helpful guide outlining business structure options. View their recommendations here.
  • To file for incorporation, you'll be working with the Washington Secretary of State. The most common structure is a LLC and the starting point for that process can be found here.

Licenses and permits requirements vary on a business-by-business and location-by-location basis. The best starting point would be the State Department of Revenue because they issue business licenses.

Other permits and licenses to keep in mind depending on your business venture:

Prepare for the worst and hope for the best! The best way to protect your business is to do your due diligence ahead of any disasters or emergencies.

A good first step in protecting your business is to form a corporation. Consult a business attorney for professional advice and also take a look at the "Determine Your Business Legal Structure" tab above.

If your business plan includes opening a brick-and-mortar store, finding the perfect spot is key to your business's success!

Having a list of suppliers for your products and services gives you flexibility and peace of mind that you're not locked in to a single-source vendor.

Funding for startups can be really tough. Most banks and credit unions want to see 2-3 years of historical financial records before they'll loan to a business, which leaves startups in a really awkward spot.

Funding for business can be broken up into three main categories: grants, loans and equity funding. Let's tackle each of those separately.


Grants for for-profit entities are really rare. If you're hoping to find a grant, begin with this article: How to Tell If a Government Grant Offer Is a Scam or Legitimate

If you are a non-profit, there are grant research tools available:


For startups, we are lucky to have several organizations here in our region that will consider making a loan to startups:

  • Craft3: Improving lives across the Pacific Northwest by providing responsible capital for businesses, homeowners, nonprofits and communities.
  • Women's Business Center: The Women’s Business Center (WBC) is a one-stop business resource shop. Individual business consulting, premium business training, credit building and business financing are available at one convenient location. Note: the WBC is open to all, not just women.
  • Business Impact NW: From startup to established businesses in need of growth capital, our services are designed with you in mind. We work hard to fund small business owners, especially women, veterans, BIPOC, immigrants, LGBTQ+, and disabled entrepreneurs.
  • Loan Readiness Center: Offering tailored advice and business loan training for entrepreneurs from underserved communities to access funding needed to start and grow a business. Services include financial coaching, credit counseling, loan application preparation, presentations, and workshops.

Equity funding

For companies looking for angel investor, venture capital and/or private equity support, know that such investors tend to look for high-growth and scalable companies.

If you've made it this far, congratulations! Here are resources that can help you create a business plan and provide structure to your startup process.

There are a number of hats to wear as a business owner. That's a fact. While you don't have to be an expert in all subjects, being able to understand and speak the language can be invaluable. These resources can help you dive into more niche aspects of the business world.

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