Out of the Gates: SBA initiative aims to get startups up and running faster

Imagine if all the cumbersome paperwork required to start a small business could be done in one day—and all online? This dream will soon be a reality in Salt Lake City, which recently joined 10 other cities in launching Startup in a Day, a joint initiative between the White House and the Small Business Administration.

Entrepreneurs and small business owners often face countless obstacles and mounds of red tape before realizing their dream of owning their own business. Much of the upfront work required to start a small business in Salt Lake City—such as setting up the legal structure, understanding zoning laws, and obtaining a business license and permits—can now be done all online.

Salt Lake City recently won a $50,000 grant from the SBA to “support the development, implementation, and improvement of online tools that let entrepreneurs learn about the business startup process in their area, including how to register and apply for all required local licenses and permits, in one day or less,” as explained by the SBA’s Startup in a Day webpage.

“We are streamlining internal processes and enhancing our online platforms so small businesses can start up in a single day. Our vision is to have most home-based businesses in Salt Lake City apply online with an easy-to-use website within the next two years,” says Peter Makowski, economic development manager for Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake City already tries to make it as easy as possible for entrepreneurs and small business owners to start their businesses. “Our business licensing department has done a lot work to streamline our processes, but the Startup in a Day initiative will catch some of those easier applications so they can be processed through our system efficiently,” Makowski says.

Jumping hurdles

A common hurdle small business owners encounter is registering and licensing their business. “It is hard enough for small business owners having to create a business plan and getting access to capital, and they can easily get disheartened. We hope to alleviate some frustrations small business owners face through this online initiative,” says Steve Price, deputy district director for the U.S. Small Business Administration in Salt Lake City

Small business owners often have the end goal in mind when it comes to their business, but they may lack the knowledge to execute a detailed plan. “If you are unfamiliar with starting your own business, the process can be complicated, and ‘where do I begin’ is a common first question,” Makowski says.

Some small business owners register their business only with the state and think they are finished, not realizing there is a separate registration process within their city. “This creates some confusion, and we hope Startup in a Day will incorporate an online tool that provides both of these platforms in one place to register your business with both the state and city,” Makowski says. This would make it more convenient for small business owners to register their business and go straight into the business licensing process.

A common question Price encounters is “where do I get the money to start my own business?” Small business owners may not know what type of financing is available to them and what it takes to qualify for special loans. The SBA office offers its services by providing access to its three Cs: capital, counseling and contracting.

“We also provide services with market research and business planning services as well as contracting to ensure small businesses get their fair share of federal contracts,” says Price.

Goals of the initiative

Most net new jobs in the country are created by small businesses, and they are important for the livelihood of communities. “Small businesses are very important to the local economy and we are here to support them so they can get onto the important part of running their business,” Price says.

According to Makowski, one of the goals of the initiative is to streamline the process so more businesses in Salt Lake City are opening faster and contributing to the local economy. “Entrepreneurs and small businesses are the lifeblood of our community, and we want to make it as easy for them as possible to enter the market,” he says. “We are hoping the more businesses we can get through the system faster the more jobs we can create.”

This initiative should also help generate some additional revenue for the city, he says. “If we have businesses looking to improve buildings, this will increase property taxes and ultimately generate more revenue for the city with brick-and-mortar businesses.”