Phoenix West Valley Startups: Frequently Asked Questions

West Valley entrepreneurial ecosystem resource partners came together to provide answers to the top questions they get from entrepreneurs. We break their answers into action steps every entrepreneur can take to strengthen their venture:

  1. Complete a business license application
  2. Draft a business plan or business model canvas
  3. Create a financial projection
  4. Review the zoning laws in your city

Peoria Forward is a strategic partnership between the City of Peoria and the J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute. We added specific insight and links for entrepreneurs in Peoria, and included are recommendations for every entrepreneur.

Do I need a business license from the city?

Different municipalities in Arizona have different requirements. Arizona Commerce Authority  Small Business Checklist, was created to entrepreneurs enter their information and find out what licensing requirements you have. 

If you are operating any portion of your business in Peoria, legally you need a business license. That includes home-based businesses and services. Getting a business license helps connect you to city resources and helps the city track how the business community is doing. A business license is the main format to collect contact information to communicate to our businesses regarding ordinance changes, funding opportunities, free services available exclusively to the Peoria business community and more.  

When you submit your business license application, you will get an assigned number; that does not mean you have a business license! You do not have a business license until you get a hard copy mailed to you.

Your business connects people in the community in many ways, your license application is reviewed by many departments, and if any of them have questions or concerns, they will reach out to you by phone. When in doubt, reach out if you haven’t heard anything over 30 days or have questions. 

You will need to update your business license with the City of Peoria annually. When there are new resources available or feedback needed from the business community, both the City of Peoria and resources partners will use the business licenses database’s contact information to contact local businesses. Even home-based businesses are encouraged to have and update a business license to keep communication lines open between you and your community. 

Updated business license contract  information was critical during the response to COVID-19. The contacts and feedback received from those contacts were used to shape many of the programs, grants and policies. In short, when discussing new resources, many partners look at the business license information. It is critical that your business is represented so the ecosystem can better support your venture. 

Action step: Complete City of Peoria business license application

Do I need a business plan?

Whether it is a simple one-page business plan, a Business Model Canvas, or a full funding plan, putting together a document that helps you think through your venture before you get started is a good practice. 

Having a simple business plan helps resource partners, mentors and advisors understand your enterprise and your current needs faster.

Here is a template for a simple one-page business plan and a template for necessary financial projections. The Business Model Canvas is another great tool for entrepreneurs looking to build a high-growth firm.

Action step: Draft a business plan or business model canvas

Where do I find grant funding?

The prevalence of grants to start a business is a common misconception. Grants for starting a business are extremely rare and very competitive. When you first start you are currently working with an idea, you need to build a sustainable enterprise around that idea to create value for traditional financial resources like grants and investors.

There are a lot of ways to build new ideas, create a minimal viable product or service to bootstrap your business. Once you have refined your idea and started to build a business model you can further explore diverse funding including micro-loans, crowdfunding and research-based grants. 

While your idea should evolve and iterate over time, starting with a basic financial projection helps you understand whether your idea and current business model are financially viable. There are A LOT of great ideas and support services that are not viable for many people depending on your goals and resources. You should learn this early so you can pivot and find a plan that works for you. 

Don’t be intimidated by financial statements, there are several great online pieces of training to refine your skills. Local surveys found that many West Valley founders don’t put together initial financial projections, resulting in cash flow challenges and increased likelihood of failure. Even without outside funding financial statements are an important tool for running a viable enterprise.

Action step: Create a financial projection for your current business model 

Should I sign a lease?

STOP right there. A common mistake made is signing a lease agreement too early. There are several ways to build an enterprise that doesn’t require a physical location. Early stage businesses are constantly changing and evolving. Waiting until you have a proven model and consistent cash flow helps you find a location that fits your venture. The Phoenix metro area is home to several co-working spaces and the Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute has a network of Place-Based Innovation Spaces to support launching new ideas. 

If you do need a physical location, we highly recommend checking zoning laws BEFORE you sign a lease, speak with a lawyer and put together a STRONG cash flow plan assuming it will take at least two years before your business creates a profit.  

Action step: Contact the Economic Development team within the city you are interested in starting a business in, to check on local zoning laws. The City of Peoria lists their zoning and permitting contacts in the helpful Starting a Business Guide.

This blog is an excerpt from the Peoria Forward Launch email series. The Launch email series includes:

  • Receive copies of key reports from a variety of partners with West Valley information, data, demographics, local statistics and the status of the current entrepreneurial ecosystem
  • Gain access to on-demand training on how to start a business in Arizona 
  • Receive curated resources to build your organization 
  • Gain insight from your fellow entrepreneurs and neighbors on navigating your entrepreneurial journey  
  • Hear from local mentors, trainers and entrepreneurial resource providers about frequently asked questions and what they want you to know 

Sign up here to receive the entire series.

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