Building upon what others have said, I would try to understand the accelerator community around the DC area. Typically becoming a portfolio company or member of groups like this can offer low priced desk and work space as well as access to other services that can be of little to no charge depending on the service.
From one entrepreneir to another, I would suggest the following:
Write up your business plan to have a good foundation on what your ideas are and meet with your local SCORE office. They have some really great free advice on how to start a business and can set you up with a mentor to help guide you.
Before you decide on how to invest, I would suggest laying out the foundation, market analysis, opportunity, competition and financial forecasting etc. If you have done this already, then you have a pretty good idea of what it would cost to set up and break-even and by what year.
There are a number of free resources to help you get started. Research is what I did first, and it opened the doors to a number of people that I networked with who was more than willing to help me learn.
Best of luck and let me know if I can help further.
Velma M. Knowles, MBA
Knowles Consulting Services, LLC
Build YOUR Relevance!
As a business that started with very little, working from my kitchen table, I would strongly advise you to think about this approach. It takes money to make money and though it can be done, you will be spending valuable time and energy worrying about making enough to cover your costs instead of growing your business.
If I were to do it all again, I would not start a business without proper funding. If it is a good idea, there are all kinds of investors out there that can help you and the beauty is many of them will bring their expertise and networks with them Yes, it will cost you some equity but better to have a little of a lot than a lot of a little.
Simple in Two Step you can start your business 1)Create a Unique website 2)SEO and SMM for your website.
You 'll get more then you invest but choose reliable people.
In DC there must be hundreds of potential investors. Find a few to invest for a small percentage and build the company with their money. Your in one of the most competitive markets that I know something about.
The best way to save yourself money is to increase your chances of success. so Whilst I can't give specific advice on your particular service, please research the market to see if there is a demand for your service, will people pay a profitable price for it, what's the current competition like and are they profitable or just breaking even or actually, being run by charities or other voluntary or non profit making companies. keep your overheads to a minimum and have control of your gross margin in particular your variable costs. A lot more can be said and has been said in your responses already. Hope these emphasis help. All the best in it.
These are your steps before you register your business, build a website etc...
Questions to ask yourself:
1. What do I know about event organizing? (What's the typical process)
2. Have I ever organized an event? (Understand logistics to serve providers well)
3. What do I know about event promotion? (if unsure, ask event promoters)
4. Have I ever promoted something successfully? (If not what is driving your desire for this business model?)
5. Who are my social contacts with a huge group of followers?
6. Can I team up with other people to help me promote?
7. Am I a connector, extravert, outgoing person who makes friends easily?
8. Have I done thorough market research to ensure I'm adding value to what's already out there? (plenty of sites promoting cultural entertainment at least in US)
9. Why am I doing this? (goals) & what do I expect to get out of it & how soon.
10. What's my monetization plan. How will I make money (if you launch biz without it, 90% it will fail unless you want another hobby)
11. How will I capture the audience and grow interest?
12. Who will be my partners? content providers? team? How will they contribute?
13. Where will I get the content/info that will be promoted OR if this is suppose to be a network type business, how will I allow people to post their content, moderate it etc?
14. What is my budget to launch this business and invest in the infrastructure?
15. Am I driven, relentless, determined, eager? If not :) don't start.
Quick & Dirty Logistics / Infrastructure:
1. Don't worry about registering your biz just yet until you start making $ and then do DBA under sole proprietor. When liability increases, consider doing LLC.
2. Register Domain / Get Hosting (don't be tempted to set up your site on godaddy, just register with them...choose site5 or similar to host files, godaddy's support is a terrible and that's what matters most with hosting) and of course set up basic branding such as logo...buy stock, set up a logo contest or retain a logo designer.
Alternative is to hold off with a website (depending on what you want to achieve with it) and piggyback ride on social media's reach which means setting up profiles and posting content there only (groups, pages etc). The positive of that is that instead of you needing to drive traffic to your own site you go where your audience is and set up shop on free network sites....ultimately you want all the social content to be funnels into your site to have full control over it in case the networks change rules or start charging $.
3. Install Wordpress on the server (if unsure look up server info or email support as every server is different, site5 that I use has 1 button installation)
4. Buy a premium theme with a theme author who is dedicated and legitimate or hire someone like me to install and set up the site for you. The theme author unless you retain a designer/developer will be your site's limited technical support + your hosting developers... without you needing to initially spend $$. When the traffic to your site increases especially with a highly active database, you might need a webmaster for few hrs a month to clean up and ensure optimal running mode as any website with database can easily get corrupted.
5. Install the theme, do not tinker with the code or try to customize it beyond what admin allows you to set up (this will eliminate version control issues, upgrades/updates of wordpress platform and theme - trust me on this)
6. Content is king....focus on creating great content around culture, entertainment, brand story that will engage, inspire and excite your visitors.
7. Here is the unknown: your actual business model: define it as this might change technology you need to implement, still Wordpress should support you in most cases. Choose an event type theme.
8. Monetization model. Define how you will make $ to not only cover hosting and biz costs but actually make profit. No sense in creating a hobby so don't start without this. Set up payments through paypal.
9. Set up a marketing funnel through the right channels: For example: Landing Page for lead generation funnels emails to a database which then is connected to a mail client such as (mailchimp aweber etc) and connected to Google Adwords for statistics and analytics <-- must have so you don't market on social media blindly as it's very time consuming.
10. Set up social media sites: meetup.com, eventbrite or similar, facebook, google+, linkedin, twitter. They all do different things for your biz and I hope you know what these sites are about. You have to be consistent and engage not just push content.
11. Create content to drive traffic from blog posts, freebies, emails, videos. It's about repurposing few great things you create in different formats vs creating a lot of garbage that will not resonate with people.
12. Create an editorial calendar where you develop systematic, concise production schedule for the content. Focus on what your audience wants, needs. Focus on problem solution type model or entertain by focusing on the social aspect of people connecting with each other.
13. Reach out to industry and social influencers to set up relationships to possibly provide the content you need in exchange for exposure.
14. Launch and do a PR run with submitting site to PR/News sites, directories, disseminating content to announce the new site. Create a hook by having something on your site that will keep the audience around and engaged with your brand such as a contest, or a signup for an event. You need to capture emails to then market to your own mailing list which eliminates you needing to pay Google for ads.
15. Start promoting and focusing on growing by creating a compelling story around your proposition. Branding is crucial to differentiate yourself. Create something that adds value and solves a problem <-- will be easier to promote.
I think I've covered most of the basics. Good luck! When in doubt or need more support email me.
The best and easy way is to use Facebook. Start a Facebook page and start posting the cultural entertainment related content on a daily basis. Dont try to advertise directly. Continue it for a couple of month and you will see the results.
Social Media is like Jogging. You cant expect results unless you are consistent and do it daily
Branding is very important.
If you have not done with a logo i could help you design it for you for free. Pl. feel free to contact me. NO STRINGS ATTACHED. It's totally free because i like to help people come up in business
Tyler, please be careful. The daily deals space is saturated. It never provided tremendous value to merchants. They’ve survived over the last few years only because they’ve reduced the margins they ask of merchants, they extend the length of offers and they make more offers available at any time. Groupon has been giving a bigger slice of sales to deals-weary local businesses. And Amazon has experienced significant losses for its stake in LivingSocial. This space has matured and declined really quickly.
Best advice I can give...focus on your business purpose not profits. Your purpose is to help communicate the wide array of cultural entertainment in DC to the community. Don't deviate from that.
Start simple and surround yourself by like-minded individuals who share your passion of cultural entertainment. Establish relationships with providers of cultural entrainment. This can be as simple as meeting up for coffee. Just be sure to express your genuine interest in what THEY do. Being a promoter will require a much more personal touch, something that website traffic, internet presence and advertising lacks. After you develop relationships with the community, the foundation of your purpose, it would be wise to develop a website. First, lets generate some buzz in the area then worry about sustaining growth.
1 Why are you starting this business - what problem or issue will you service solve? Are other people offering the same service... if so why should anyone choose you?
2. Who is your target market or ideal customer? (start building a list)
3. What 's your offer or message that you want to communicate to your target market?
4 What media will you use to get your message out.
5. Act STRATEGICALLY!! NOT Tactically ( you will get a lot of Tactical advice)
Everyone has great nuggets of wisdom. Since you are on a budget and want to dominate your market (which I assume you want to do), you need to grab the free listings available through local SEO. Having website is great but so does your competition. If you want to stand out as the king of your market you need to dominate your local marketplace (and global as well). The reason I mentioned global is that your dealing with cultural entertainment. Let me give you an example. Say someone in the Uk or Australia sees your ad in their local directory for event coming up in DC. This person just so happens to be heading to DC for pleasure or business. Bottom line is they saw you had a five start reputation with reviews online in their country. They come to a concert you're promoting, and post a review about the concert on Google+. Here's the real kicker, the review they submitted is all over social media as an image. Here's what is might say " 5 stars from John Doe from Sydney. I was here to visit friends from college and we went to concert produced by Tyler Naake. All I can say is wow. The music was great. The venue was awesome, the food and drinks were equally stellar because of XYZ bar. You need to check out Tyler and his company. If I hadn't found him in Australia before coming to DC, I wouldn't have know about his event. Home Run!!" Here is the link for the global directories: https://www.dropbox.com/s/y9y803czddthoma/Global%20Free%20directories.pdf
First, do your down and dirty market research which means hitting the streets to challenge your hypotheses about your market. Take notes. Refine the plan. Rerun the test. Take notes. Refine the plan. Rerun the test. Take notes. Refine the plan. Thus far all you have used is your time, a paper and pencil. Once you start the run over the same data points time and time again then you can figure you've learned that part of the market. Write a business plan that responds to those market conditions. No money spent yet. Give to people to shoot down. Get them together and ask then to take shots. They will likely give you ideas too. Take the reworked plan and run tests and try to prove it wrong. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. When you have the same data points, then go to your group and ask them to shoot it down. If you are still standing, then put up a website with a call to action and contact information, create profiles all over the web, use Hootsuite to put material to every profile and see if you get engagements. You are in the for cost of shoe leather and a website. When you feel you have goodwill to protect, then our clients have found it is time to register your trademarks. In 23 years as a patent and trademark lawyer, I have never found a mark that is out of the gate valuable. The value of a trademark is driven by the value of your goodwill. Do a good job for your customers and you will create more goodwill. Keep building goodwill. Keep protecting it. Remember that goodwill buys you fatter margins and fatter margins earns you more profits. Look at Perdue who convinced Americans that a Perdue chicken is worth more than a chicken. They did that by building goodwill and protecting it. Good Fortune.
It's tough to start a business with little money. Even when attempted the odds of success go down dramatically unless you've hit on a product with pent up demand that will ramp quickly.
Instead of asking the question, how to start a business inexpensively I would think you're better off asking, how much will it cost to start this business.
Create a business plan
Express the purpose of the company
Estimate sales for the first year
Create an expense budget
Name and Logo
Once that's done, you'll be able to ask better questions that return actionable advice For example, you might find that you web expenses are too high, ask how to lower web expenses etc.
Here are some quick tips on getting started.
Express what the company will do
Create a value statement for your product (why is it unique, affordable, needed, valuable etx.)
Express your target audience and how you plan to reach them
Outline your product/its price, cost and profit
Forecast how much of you'll sell over the next 12 and 24 months.
Create your expense budget. I would recommend that you start as a sole proprietor or S Corp. LLC is not necessary for what you have described.
Then do the math. If expense reductions are necessary write back with the plan and maybe you'll get some ideas on how to close the gap.
Consider starting a tax preparation business following the steps at the link below
I am going to agree with most here about getting your website up and running and creating your social media pages. Begin joining groups that relate to your business, in this case pages that are directly related to cultural events in Washington DC. Also, begin a meetup group. If you aren't familiar with meetup http://www.meetup.com/ there is the link. It is a site that allows you to create a group at a fairly low cost. Then research events happening in your area that pertain to your mission of cultural entertainment, inform your members of the event along with any costs associated with the event and plan a meetup at the event. You can do most of the work associated with forming your entity yourself at no or little cost by going to IRS.gov. However, if you plan to create your business as a non-profit make sure you consult a lawyer to help you do that because the process is a bit more complicated.
I think there is some good advice here, but also want to ask whether you have proven the viability of your services before making a significant investment?
I'm definitely an advocate for having a technology presence but so many businesses invest in getting a website, getting incorporated, etc... without even having a single customer first! It's the older marketing paradigm of... "If we build it, they will come." I always ask my customers whether they are able to sell their services or products offline, before going online.
Noah Kagen and Tim Ferriss did an interview and training course on this very issue. You can watch it here http://youtu.be/v47WEyeSMSA It's a different approach but could save you a lot of time, money and stress.
What kind of budget do you have? If your budget is small, the least you can do is set up your pages with Google Plus and Facebook as well as Linkedin. Join any groups you can to begin to brand yourself.
It would be helpful to get a bit more information about what you're doing before giving advice but here are some suggestions that should help get you started:
1) Unless you have a reason that it would be better to form a corporation, you can easily form an LLC without lawyers; it costs ~$100 and you can do it online in most states.
2) I agree with everyone here about getting your website up and running, as well as social media. Website domain name and hosting will cost you less than $100/year and if you use something like wordpress you can build the website yourself, even without coding experience. Social media is also free to set-up and use (aside from your time invested, of course).
3) If you're going to regularly promote cultural events, you'll want to make sure your social media platforms and your website are designed to help you collect email addresses. You can use an email service like MailChimp, which is free until you have a larger list, and free plugins on wordpress to make sure you're collecting everyone's email.
4) DC is a small town (I lived there for ~5 years), so I recommend getting out and networking as well. Going to the type of events you will promote will allow you to meet the type of people who would be interested in what you're doing.
You might have to commit quite a bit of time but, as you can see, you should be able to get started for just a few hundred dollars.
Good luck and feel free to send me a private message if you need more help.