Did you know that 45% of Americans usually make a New Year’s Resolution every year? That’s over 143.5 million people! These people are making their resolutions with good reason. January 1st is often viewed as the best time to make a resolution- to do something different, exciting, or to self-improve.

Unfortunately, more than half of New Year’s Resolutions fade away as the months go on, but don’t let this statistic discourage you. After all, everyone has to start his journey somewhere. Why not use the beginning of 2016 as a fresh start? The top ten resolutions are what you would expect: attempting to lose weight, get organized, and live life to the fullest. But there’s one resolution that didn’t make the cut- becoming an entrepreneur. We believe that you should take that leap and start that business as your New Year’s Resolution. We encourage aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners to declare 2016 the year they make their dream business ventures a reality.

Starting a small business will not be easy, but the benefits of doing so can be very rewarding. You probably have a million ideas, thoughts, and fears running through your head. Don’t worry, though! We’ve created a basic step-by-step guide for you to follow throughout 2016.

Make the commitment! The first step is often the hardest and most critical step. Decide that this is the year you’re going to pursue your business venture. You don’t have to overwhelm yourself with all the details right away. Instead, start small. Brainstorm and begin to sort out your business ideas. Most importantly, make the promise to yourself that you will make it happen. Starting a new business will be challenging. Before you’re in too deep, make a list of all the reasons why you’re starting the business so you can empower yourself when times get tough.

Determine your business. Take all your brainstorming and turn it into a single idea. Get all your basics sorted out: what the product or service is, who you think your target audience is, and where you want to sell your product. Then start to question what your challenges and setbacks could be. Document all of this in the rough draft of a business plan so you can stay on track during the next step.

Research, research, research. Now that you have a preliminary business plan, start researching. Do not skip this step! It’s impossible to successfully move forward without knowing the landscape of your industry. What should you be researching? At the minimum, you should look into:

  • Potential competitors
  • Viability of your industry and its regulations
  • All aspects of your market and target audience
  • Product research, including whether your product is in demand or fulfills and unmet need, necessary production equipment, and initial inventory investments
  • Finances, including start up costs, availability of business loans or investors, and the state of the economy
  • Lifestyle changes for you as an entrepreneur

Once your research is completed, you should have a clear picture of your new business. You will be able to fully understand what your product is, who your target audience is and how to reach them, and what your financials should look like. From here, you will be able to make a formal and reliable business plan.

This step may make or break your business idea. Don’t continue on if the results of your research aren’t promising. Entrepreneurs and small business owners need to take risks in order to reach success, but trust your gut instinct. If there are too many red flags, go back to step one and try a new idea.

A quick disclaimer for when you think your business plan is “finished”: a business set on growing never stops researching for new innovations or shifts in demand. Just because you researched once doesn’t mean you should never research again!

Fund your business. If you completed your research and are moving forward with your new business, the next step is securing funding. You should have explored your options in the research phase, but funding sources can include a business loan, investors, or using your own personal savings. Review all your options along with the pros and cons of each. Every business will have a different funding strategy. Choose the strategy that works best for you and your business.

Get ready to launch! Finalize all the details so you can open for business. This includes building inventory and finding retail space. Develop your brand so you can start producing marketing materials. Set up your social media accounts and, most importantly, get a website! Choose a .COM domain name or explore your nTLD options, such as .CLUB, .DESIGN, or even geo-domains like .US. Social media and a branded website are a relatively easy way to build hype around your opening. Spread these links around your network and begin advertising to your target audience. Throw a Grand Opening event to formally announce that you’re ready for business.

Build your brand and grow your business. Now that (mostly) everything is established and open, you’ll need to continue to build your brand. This involves tweaking customer service operations, establishing loyalty reward programs, and other marketing initiatives that provide value to your customers. The more value you provide to your customers, the more they will value your business in return. This is how you foster long lasting and profitable relationships. Expand your network and explore new opportunities to grow the size and scope of your business. If you find yourself in awe of your accomplishments in this step, congratulations! Your business is in motion and you’re living your dream.

Becoming a business owner may be your New Year’s Resolution for 2016, but don’t panic if you’re still working on researching or securing funding well into 2017. This is a basic guide, so each step has hidden questions and undertakings that will pop up. Launching a business with a solid foundation takes time. You’ll never launch a business, though, if you don’t make that commitment on January 1st. Take the leap of faith for 2016. Make it the founding year of your business.