Guide to Starting a Business in Morgantown
When you’re thinking about starting a business or opening a new location for an existing one, Morgantown is the place to be.
Once named one of the best areas to launch a business, this West Virginia city has plenty of major retailers, but still retains a small town feel that makes it the perfect destination for business owners.
West Virginia University also calls the city home and is the county’s biggest employer. WVU’s Business Incubator is a great place to help startups develop and provides both clientele and a highly educated workforce for your new business.
If you’re ready to start a business in Morgantown, we’re here to walk you through everything you need to know to get up and running as quickly as possible.
Is Your Business Right for Morgantown?
Location is everything when you’re looking for the right area to build a business. Before you start making your business plan or searching for commercial loans in Morgantown, take some time to do market research on the city to see if it’s right for your venture.
Do research on other businesses in the local area, especially those that might be similar to yours, and see where they thrive. It’s also a good opportunity to see if there are any gaps in the market that your business could fill, particularly if you can meet a customer need that isn’t being fulfilled anywhere else. Look at what your potential competitors are doing and decide how you can stand out.
Market research is also a great way to get to know your future community. Pitch your ideas to family, friends, or even neighbors to see what they think. Is there space for what you want to offer? If there’s already three other coffee shops on the street you’re considering, opening another one is probably not the best idea!
The most common types of business structure are:
- Sole proprietorship
- Limited Liability Company (LLC)
- S Corporation Non-Profit
Choosing the right structure is important as each comes with their own income tax and legal considerations. Research the options and speak to your accountant or lawyer before making a final decision.
Choose Your Business Structure
You’ve decided to move ahead with your new business, so what’s the first step that you need to take? Ideally, you’ll make some decisions about your business structure before making any other plans.
Identify Your Resources
If you’re starting your business with a partner, you have a built-in support system ready to go. But even if you plan to run your new business on your own, you’ll still need a team of people to keep things ticking over. When you’re opening a local business, you’ll need products to fill your storefront. That means finding vendors or suppliers who can provide you with your inventory.
Once your business begins to thrive, you may need to hire some additional staff to work alongside you. Where are you going to find these employees? What does the local job market look like in Morgantown for the people that you want to hire?
Learn from the Morgantown Community
Connecting with the Morgantown community as early as possible will be a crucial step in making your business a success. Look for a local mentor who has experience in running a business in the city, especially if they’re still in operation. They can answer any questions that you might have or point you in the right direction.
The city offers plenty of information for new business owners, like how to apply for the various permits and business licenses that you’ll need. But having a trusted person to have one-on-one conversations with whenever you need some help will always be beneficial.
The Morgantown Area Partnership is a good place to look for a mentor, join the Chamber of Commerce, or find a new member of staff. Classes offered by the Small Business Development Center can also be helpful if you’re new to the area or have never owned a business before. For students, faculty, staff, and community members, the WVU Women’s Business Center is another excellent resource for training and business coaching for women business owners in the city.
Write a Business Plan
Before you apply for a business license or business loans in Morgantown, you’ll need to put together a formal business plan. This is a written document that goes into detail about every aspect of your plans. They’ll typically include an executive summary, a product or service outline, marketing strategy and market research analysis, financial planning, and an annual budget. Essentially, it’s the roadmap for how you plan to run and grow your business.
Business plans are a key step in securing funding or the necessary licenses for your operation. They show lenders and government officials that you’re serious about this new venture and have carefully considered the different factors that go into starting and maintaining a small business.
If you’ve never worked on a business plan before, leaning on the resources in the local community is the best place to start. Other business owners and coaches can help you to draft your plan and look over anything before you approach banks or local officials for funds and licensing.
Apply for Your Business License
Ahead of your opening day, you’ll need to apply for various licenses that allow you to operate a business in Morgantown. What industry you’re in and the location of your business will determine what type of license you need. There are several state licenses and permits in West Virginia that you should look into, along with a city license that’s specific to Morgantown.
Before you apply for any licenses though, you should register your business name, either online or on paper. Depending on your business structure, you may be able to complete this at the same time as filing your incorporation paperwork. You’ll also need to register with the tax department, WorkForce, and Worker’s Compensation, along with the West Virginia Dept. of Labor Contractor License Board if you work in construction.
Choose a Home For Your Morgantown Business
In a bustling city like Morgantown, there are plenty of retail locations that you can choose from to house your new business.
The Morgantown Mall is a great choice if you’re looking for an indoor mall option, while Downtown Main Street and the University Town Center are excellent locations if you’re expecting regular foot traffic. The Pierpont Landing Center, in desirable Cheat Lake, and the Suncrest Town Center are two more great retail opportunities.
Once you’ve chosen your ideal location, you’ll need to identify what zoning requirements the property has. Contact the city’s Planning Division to ensure that the building or land you’ve chosen is correctly zoned for business use.
Apply For A Certificate of Occupancy
The final step in securing your new business location is applying for a Certificate of Occupancy. This is required for both new and existing businesses in Morgantown.
The Code Enforcement Office and Fire Marshal will need to be informed at the time of the application submission and should be given at least one week’s notice ahead of opening day to schedule an inspection of the property.
Promote Your Business
As soon as you know for sure that your business is coming to Morgantown, you need to start promoting it! Social media is often a great place to start advertising, whether that’s on your own Instagram page or in local community Facebook groups.
Work with your business mentors to decide what kind of marketing is right for you and to help spread the word about your business. If you’re working with a budget that’s too small for traditional advertising, digital marketing can often be the best alternative. Consider using Google or Facebook ads, along with sponsored social media posts, to get in front of your target audience for a lower cost.
Secure the Necessary Funding
Starting a business can become costly very quickly, but your hard work will pay off in the end. Taking out a business loan to fund your new business is one of the best ways to cover your startup expenses.
Commercial real estate loans can be used for buying both land or an already-built property, and a commercial construction loan can help if you’re building something from scratch. Equipment and Working Capital loans are best if you need any kind of machinery or tools to run your business. While these are usually taken out by restaurant proprietors or contractors, you can buy any business equipment that you might need with these loans, like computers or commercial vehicles.
While loans can be most helpful when you’re getting ready to open, you can apply for different lending options at any point after you’ve already launched. A business line of credit, for example, can be a convenient way to get your hands on some additional cash to support your ongoing expenses. Inventory, rent, and operating costs are all expenses that can be paid for with a line of credit. You can even use it to simplify your cash flow management.
Determine the type of commercial loan you need with expert guidance from your local First Exchange Bank. Our commercial lending team will work with you to decide what loan will be the best fit and help you start your application.
Read more about how to apply for your first business loan.
Apply For A Business Credit Card
Just like a loan, a business credit card can be a good option for paying the everyday expenses that will come up in your business. There are plenty of different corporate credit cards that you can choose from, with many coming with similar rewards to what you would find with a personal credit card.
Set Up A Commercial Bank Account in Morgantown
No matter what business structure you’ve chosen, keeping your personal and business finances separated is very important. Start with a checking account for your business that you can use for daily sales and expenses. Once you’re comfortable with that, you could consider opening a business savings account for setting aside a portion of your profits for a rainy day. As you're setting up business bank accounts, this might be a good time to apply for a business debit card.
Set Up Business Banking Services
The final step to take before opening day is to establish your business banking services like online banking, cash management system, and remote deposit capture system,
First Exchange Bank’s online business banking tools and mobile business banking app gives you the full in-person banking experience without ever having to leave your home or office: View account balances, transaction history, downloadable e-statements, and much more.
Cash Management Systems, also called business payroll accounts, are one of the easiest ways to manage your everyday business cash flow and accounting in-house. First Exchange Bank makes cash management simple, with an efficient and user-friendly digital portal. Whether you’re using it for paying your staff, managing direct deposits, paying bills online, or setting up ACH transfers for vendors, having a cash management system saves you time when it comes to the financial admin of your business.
If your business will be accepting checks as payment, then First Exchange Bank’s remote deposit capture will be a significant time-saver for you. This service gives your business the ability to capture the images and transaction information from checks accepted for payment and deliver this information electronically to your bank, just as if you’d taken the items to one of our physical branch locations.
Make Morgantown The Home of Your New Business
Starting a new business is an exciting process and at First Exchange Bank, we’re here to help you open your doors to the Morgantown community as quickly as possible. From commercial loans to business checking accounts, and business savings accounts, our West Virginia lenders can help you take your business from idea to reality.