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Entrepreneurship in the time of COVID-19: Easy guide to setting up a business

Belinda Wan
February 19, 2021

Anchor your business on a really awesome value proposition. Photo credit: Pexels

Ever wanted to run your own business? Well, why not now? After all, 2020 was the year where we reset our priorities and did things we never thought we would end up doing.

Now that the latest news are mostly cautiously pointing toward a gradual recovery in Singapore’s economy this year, there has never been a better time to be an entrepreneur (there never was a perfect time, anyway).

Here’s a quick guide for diving into the unknown – with your mask on, of course.

Have a strong value proposition

Pre-COVID-19, setting up a business was already challenging enough. But now, every one of your business decisions should be made in the context of the pandemic, due to the myriad ways it has changed the way we live and work.

Whether you are mulling over a business in the F&B sector, office services, accounting, or even more daunting ones such as transport and logistics, here are a few crucial questions to consider before you come up with a strong value proposition for your business.

Will your business fulfill an existing need in the market or creating a new one? If it is the latter, is it too niche for the masses? Who is your target market? How do you intend to capture the attention of this market? Who are your business rivals? How can you differentiate your business from competitors? How much working capital do you have and need?

For instance, pumping in capital to make a washable mask with colour-changing properties might be a more feasible idea than becoming a private bus operator. Which brings us to our next point.

Draw up a business plan

Setting up a business without a detailed plan is like a billionaire getting hitched without a pre-nup agreement: Admirable, but foolhardy.

Market needs always evolve, and so should your business plan; but you must at least have a clear sense of what the market is like and who your competitors are. Once you have this information, you will have a clearer idea of how you can get some market share.

As the Chinese saying goes, victory is certain if you know your adversaries, so do some research on your business rivals. Find out how long they have been in business, what they do best and see if you can surpass what they are doing. If not, try to offer something different.

If you are still unsure of how to begin, book a free business consultation with with SME Centre@SMCCI. The Centre helps SMEs and entrepreneurs remain competitive even in a challenging economic climate.

Another valuable resource to tap is SME Centre@Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SME Centre@SICCI), which also offers free business advisory services.

Choose your preferred business model

Before you get your company incorporated, decide how you want to run your business. Each type of business entity comes with its own set of criteria.

A sole proprietorship is, as its name suggests, akin to running a one-man show where the business is not a separate entity from you, the business owner.

You will have unlimited liability, which means you will be held solely accountable for all the liabilities and risks that come with your business. If things go awry, you will have to settle all losses and debts by yourself.

Setting up a private limited company – a business model largely preferred by most entrepreneurs in Singapore – only requires that you have a local company director and least one shareholder. You’ll also need to have a registered office address, company secretary and paid-up capital of at least $1 to get your business incorporated.

Or opt for a partnership, limited partnership, limited liability partnership, or private or public company.

Take stock of your financial situation

No business can be profitable from Day One, so be sure to have a stash of savings to tide you through the early days of your business.

Whether you are relying on your savings or using crowdfunding to raise capital, you need to set aside enough to keep your outfit running for at least six months.

Apart from factoring in scary unknowns that may be looming ahead, you will also need to fork out fixed costs and variable costs. The former refers to recurring fees such as rental and utilities, while the latter refers to costs that change in tandem with business volume, such as costs of raw materials or production fees.

Bear in mind your business needs to be operational for at least six months before you can take up a business loan. But the good news is, Enterprise Singapore has plenty of grants to help you get your company up and running.

Decide if you need a physical office space

The pandemic proved that work can largely be done at home, with the exception of customer-facing roles or jobs that can only be done with special equipment on-site.

Likewise, you can operate a home-based business before investing in a brick-and-mortar space. It may make sense to run your business from home if you are running the show alone, have very few staff, or holding on to your day job as you scour the market for leads.

If you need a physical office to work from, consider opting for a coworking space as the rent is likely to be cheaper.

Some coworking or hotdesking companies include WorkBuddy, The Workshop, The Working Capitol and JustCo, to name a few.

But be it your home or a shared office space, you need to secure an office address before you can register your company.

Stand out with a great name

Just as your name defines your personality, having a good name for your business is a must-have.

The name of your outfit should sum up the nature of your business as succinctly as possible, be easy to remember and have no negative or vulgar connotations. More importantly, it must be unique – as the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) forbids two businesses in Singapore to share the same name.

Do a manual check on BizFile+ to ensure the name you want is not being used by another entity. Corporate service providers can also help you with that.

Ensure the name of your business sounds as distinct as possible from that of your competitors so your target audience won’t confuse your company with that of others.

Once you have ascertained the name is available for use, register it with ACRA. Next, get a domain name for your business’ website.

This should be somewhat similar to the name of your business. It should also be easy to remember and type, and preferably without a hyphen.  

Leading digital loan marketplace Lendingpot connects SMEs to its network of 45 lenders comprising relationship managers from banks, financial institutions, and private and peer-to-peer lenders in Singapore. It aims to help SMEs overcome the information asymmetry problem and lack of transparency prevalent in the SME financing sector by offering SMEs financing options such as business term loans, property loans, revenue-based financing, credit lines, working capital loans, bridging loans, invoice financing, and more.

About the author

Belinda loves thinking about random stuff, and collecting useless bits of facts and trivia. She often roots for the underdog, and believes the world needs more happy endings.

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