Guide: Start a Business | Bonus Step

Start an Online Business

In today's world, having an online presence for your business is critical. When your business runs solely on ecommerce, it is imperative to provide a strong, well rounded platform for your customers. For some, creating a website and marketing through social media may come with ease, but before you make your first sale, you must check your boxes to be sure you are both legally in a position to sell your products online — and capable of doing so.

In Iowa, running your business online is the same as if you were to have a brick and mortar location. You still need to obtain the proper licensing depending on the type of business you run, choose a business structure, and collect and remit taxes. Where things start to change, is when you begin to sell your products and services outside of the state. 

Before you start selling online, make sure you research each and every state you will be selling in. Look up things like sales tax rates, registering your business within their state as a foreign entity, licensing, and anything else the state requires in order to do business there. When searching, try to find the state’s Secretary of State website, or any other governmental website to learn about requirements. Though it may read a little easier to understand on non-governmental websites, a lot of the time the instructions for setting up your business can be in-accurate or leave a lot of important details. Don’t go the easy route — take the time to do it right!

Before you create a website, ask yourself:

  • What’s the purpose of my website?
  • Is the domain name that I want available?
  • Where will I be hosting my website and what is the cost associated?
  • How many pages do I plan on having?
  • Who is going to write the content for my website?
  • What other kinds of content do I want to have? (videos, documents, blog, shopping cart, etc.)
  • Who is going to maintain my website?
  • What do I want my website to look like? (have at least 3-4 examples or ideas in mind)

Picking a Platform 

If your business operates through an online storefront, you must be sure it is at peak usability. When creating a website, consider the following tools that build platforms specifically for ecommerce and the niche each caters to 

If you need help learning the basics of website design for your Iowa based company, check out these organizations from our Resource Navigator who can help:

  • NewBoCo: From the classroom to the boardroom, NewBoCo helps Iowans of all ages succeed in a changing economy because they believe that with the right tools, mindset, and opportunities anyone can be a world-changing innovator.
  • America's Small Business Development Center (SBDC) - Iowa: America's SBDC Iowa provides no fee, customized business advice and affordable training to entrepreneurs and existing businesses, plus access to other information and experts.
  • Entrepreneurial Development Center, Inc. (EDC, Inc.): EDC is a full service business accelerator providing hands-on mentoring, resource navigation, and networking / educational programs.
  • In need of digital marketing help for your business? The Center for Business Growth and Innovation of the University of Northern Iowa supports the Panther Biz HeadQuarters(PBHQ). The PBHQ partners students with business owners to discuss and understand their unique digital marketing needs. The program works to support businesses with marketing operations by compiling, formatting, and reporting industry-related trends. For further questions or to become involved with the program contact, patrick.luensmann@uni.edu and or complete this brief questionnaire.

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