Illinois Small Business
Development Center at WIU

Dan Voorhis


You have your business idea and you’re ready to start. Now you’ll have to focus on some critical details like getting a business license and deciding how to structure your new company.

A handy startup checklist includes these steps:
Create a business plan
Decide on a business structure and business name
Get license information and business referrals
Obtain the necessary tax information
Identify sources of financing

Some people will just cold-start a business, jumping right into operations. Others will take the time to write a business plan that states what their business is doing and where they want it to go. A business plan helps you refine the business idea to help you see if the business will be successful enough to create the income you need before you put your money into it. Even if you are willing to risk your own money, most lenders will require that you show them a business plan before they put their money into it!

There are lots of books, guides, and workshops on how to write a business plan. You can also get some hands-on help from a representative at the Small Business Development Center.

Many new business owners are seeking government grants to support them in the business start-up process. Sadly, there are very few programs that provide this type of grant. However, there are a few specific initiatives that provide some start-up financing. For example, the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program provides some limited matching state funding for research projects.

There is no easy way to get government money for a new business start-up. You’re either going to have to fund the business using your own resources and credit (such as the 3 Fs: “friends, family and fools”), or go out and get a loan from a local bank. But, in all of these cases, the money comes in the form of loans. You must qualify for the money, and, of course, you must pay it back!

The Two Rivers Regional Council Revolving Loan Fund, Two Rivers Resource Conservation and Development’s (RC&D) Revolving Loan Fund, and River Valley Community Development Corporation offer financial assistance through loans to new business start-ups. To find out more about the Two Rivers Regional Council’s Revolving Loan Fund, contact Charles Bell at (217)224-8171 ( For more information on the Two Rivers RC&D Revolving Loan Fund, contact the Martha Sheppard at (217)285-4114 ( For more information on the River Valley Community Development Corporation’s business loan program contact Gregg Roegge at (217)322-3323.

It is never too early to understand and begin implementing sound business practices. At this point, you may also want to continue learning about the business start-up process. Illinois’s many training organizations, including the community colleges, and SBDCs, don’t just teach the basics of how to start a business. They offer workshops on lots of useful topics, like how to use QuickBooks financial software or how to do business on eBay.

A word from the wise:
The information in the business plan is much more important than the format. Too many people get tied up in the format without really thinking through the questions they will need to deal with for the business to succeed. The process of business planning is more critical to you than the document. Your lender requires the document to be sure you have planned ahead.

Can you get free government grant money to start your business?
If you ever watch late night television, you’re probably familiar with the commercials that talk of “free government money” for your business. While there are a few very limited sources of government grants, this claim falls in the category of “if it sounds too good to be true, it isn’t true.” Starting a business is hard work, and it requires an extensive financial and personal commitment from you and your family. Because new businesses are so important to Illinois’s economy, government agencies and lots of non-profits work to help budding entrepreneurs. But most of this help is about giving a hand-up, not a hand-out. If you want information or training on how to succeed in business, we can help. If you’re looking for free government money, good luck!

Using technology in starting your business?
The Internet can be a treasure trove of resources, as well as offering convenient access to the information, forms and referrals at your convenience, anytime, anywhere. Federal tax information and forms, state and local licenses, permits, and applications can all be accessed and submitted electronically. The Illinois Technology Development Alliance is a private, not-for-profit, professional services firm that helps technology-based companies define and build their businesses. Our impact on developing high technology companies in this region is the measure of everything we do. (

A good introduction to the use of the Internet in developing your business can be found at All Business. Spoon River College provides a range of technology-related training programs.