Legal Eagle – Starting a Small Business in the Rivertowns

I have heard countless stories during the past year about Rivertown residents considering opening their own local businesses.  Indeed, I am one of them, having opened a law practice and an optometry practice with my wife last year in Irvington.  It is certainly a good time to do it; rents are lower, contractors are accessible, vendors are offering incentives, and people seem to be more conscientious about shopping locally. However, what hurdles will the prospective business owner face?

A new business owner will need to decide what kind of organizational structure to set up.  It can be a corporation, limited liability company, partnership or sole proprietorship, among others, the decision of which is often dictated by tax and liability considerations.  To do so, one should consult a lawyer to analyze the particular business situation, as well as to draft organizational papers and perform necessary filings.

There are various ways to raise or borrow money, if necessary. Small business grants and loans may be available, particularly for businesses engaged in green technologies, owned by veterans, non-profits and those that upgrade their facilities to become more energy efficient. Banks are eager to make small business loans, and venture capitalists may be interested in investing in high-growth technology and other industries.

There is the matter of securing space, brick and mortar, and a  website. For traditional office space, a new business owner will need to negotiate a lease or contract of sale, and perhaps obtain a mortgage. One may also need to apply for local government approvals and permits. In Irvington, for example, a change of use form needs to be filed with the building inspector, proposed structural changes need to be submitted to the planning board, and proposed signage must be submitted to the architectural review board. In some cases, there may be recourse to a zoning board of appeals. Advanced planning is necessary as approvals can take time and most boards meet only once per month.
To set up a website, one must first obtain the domain name, which can be secured on-line through a registrar, and then design the site, either with a standard template or by engaging a website designer.  It is also generally wise to seek trademark protection for the name of the business, its products or services, and/or any logos or tag lines.
A new business owner will also likely need to draft and/or negotiate agreements with vendors, customers and potential employees. In some cases, a standard form may be appropriate, but it is usually important to tailor each contract to the particular facts and circumstances at hand and it is advisable to seek legal advice.  These agreements may lock in the terms of a relationship for many years to come.

Every new venture comes with its own risks, but starting a new business can be an exciting and rewarding opportunity.  I recommend taking the plunge.

[blockquote class=blue]Kenneth M. Bernstein, Esq. has a legal practice on Main Street in Irvington, specializing in intellectual property law, business law, litigation, real estate, and arts and entertainment law. or[/blockquote]

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About the Author: Kenneth M. Bernstein