Do you have a passion that keeps you up at night wondering whether it’s something that you could turn into a business? Has not knowing how to actually get started kept you from taking the leap? Well, we can help with that.

For years, M&T product owner Cori Fenster has been working to help entrepreneurs get their small businesses off the ground. So we tapped her to give some tips on how to get started.

Let's get into it.

1. Make a plan.

It’s fun to daydream about what your business would look like, but have you ever taken a moment to write it all down? Understanding the details of how your business operates will uncover your cash flow and overall needs. Start by grabbing a notebook and writing down some main details. Here are some prompts to start getting the ball (point pen) rolling.

  • What do I need to buy?
  • What do I need to build?
  • What do I need to perfect?
  • Who is my target audience?
  • How will I charge clients?
  • Who are my biggest competitors?
  • What will my value proposition be?
  • What kind of financial help do I need?
  • What platforms will my business be on?

It’s important to think about your business from all angles. Imagine a customer walking in or visiting online. Go through their entire journey. Then take it from an employee standpoint, and, of course, the owner's lens. Write down and organize everything you need.

One of the top regrets we hear from customers is not having a clear picture of all the various aspects of their business. A business plan is an amazing tool to better understand your own goals, prepare you for what to expect as your business grows and help get investors on board. Check out the Business Model Canvas, when you’re ready to get a full business plan together.

2. Separate your business and personal finances.

When you’re just getting started, a light bulb here and an online subscription there don’t seem so important, but keeping business funds separate from personal finances helps in a number of ways.

Separate accounts:

  • Make filing business taxes easier
  • Provide a clear view of your business finances for a greater understanding of your cash flow – a critical component of long-term success
  • Add a layer of protection in instances of fraud or theft

You don’t want to fish through your bank statement every month to figure out how much you really spent. Plus, starting a separate account for your business early on will legitimize it more.

3. Find a trusted adviser.

With ever-changing financial opportunities for small businesses, finding financial partners that you trust is key to knowing all the options available to you. If you’re not sure where to start, visiting your local M&T Bank branch is a great first step. Take the time to have important conversations about the products and services that may meet your needs. These conversations will not only uncover your options, but they can reveal important steps to take if you do not yet qualify for funding. Trusted contacts in the financial industry may also be able to help inform you of alternate financing options such as local grants. Making uninformed decisions could mean leaving money on the table or passing on opportunities to better position your business for future growth.


We’ve got your back.

At the end of the day, turning your passion into a business requires a leap of faith. If it’s something you’ve dreamed of for years, it’s worth a try. And we have your back with experts there to guide you through the complexities. It all starts with a conversation. We’re ready, when you are.

Beverly Kelly-Carfagno, Owner of Muddy Creek Soap Company

The content of this page is for informational purposes only. It is not designed or intended to provide financial, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice since such advice always requires consideration of individual circumstances. Please consult with the professionals of your choice to discuss your situation.