Business Advice to a Friend

A friend of mine wants to create an online furniture store and a few of the questions he had were:

  • How do I turn it into a legal entity.
  • How do I deal with copyright issues if I want to use the same name of a company that’s in a different industry?
  • How should I get the word out and promote the blog?
  • Is there anything else I should think about?

I figured others would have the same questions so this is why I’m posting my brief conversation with him.

* * *

First and foremost, I suggest that you turn your venture into a legal entity other than yourself. This turns most of the liability and risk involved to your business instead of your personal self. If someone sues you, they can only go after your business’ assets instead of your own like your house, car, etc.

If you will be the only owner, I suggest you become a sole-proprietor limited liability corporation (LLC.) Along with the protection against possibly getting sued, you get tax breaks and a resale number/tax ID number that you can use to get supplies and other stuff at wholesale prices.

We used our accountant to set everything up for us. There is a specific site for each state to do it as well. is the site for Florida. A little exploring and you should be able to find one for Pennsylvania. There is a fee to renew your entity each year. This varies from state to state I think.

I’ve heard that is a good place to set things up but haven’t used it myself so can’t tell you what I think about it.

I have no idea what the copyright issues would be if you try to use the same name as another company that is in another industry. That’s something you’d probably want to ask a copyright lawyer about. They are expensive so have you thought about maybe using another name to avoid the issue altogether?

Once you have a legal entity set up, I’d suggest creating a PayPal account to make it easy to do accounting for the business and create an easy way for customers to pay you.

I’d use to buy a domain. We’ve used it for all of ours and it’s a rather simple process….if the domain is available. The domain should be as simple as possible, something catchy, something easy to remember, or better yet, a combination of all 3.

Next you’ll want to find a site to create your store with. We use for our original store. Rather simple but a bit pricy. is cheap but you can’t do as much. would probably be a good site as you’ll be making handcrafted furniture and such. That’s what I was going to use for my furniture store. I’ve heard good things about the community as well.

You’ll definitely want to have a blog along with the site. I wouldn’t suggest Facebook as it whores itself out to companies for money. I get bad vibes from companies who promote on FB and personally pay no attention to them. A waste of money if you ask me.

I’d definitely create a Tumblr as people like to reblog pics and what not. Talk to your followers, ask them their interests, why they follow, etc etc. Be a person; not a company.

Look into and as well. You could create usernames on these or you could just have people post your pics and stuff on these sites because they want to. Focus all your attention on a social network or not at all. Twitter is ok but I’m not much of a fan. You’ll just have to test it out for yourself. It could be a good way to network with other furniture builders and learn from them.

You’ll definitely, definitely want to have great pictures of your furniture and goods.

Don’t ever pay for advertising. Let things grow organically through word of mouth.

You’ll need to figure out how you’re going to ship and with which provider. We use the Postal Service 99% of the time and have hardly had any issues.

Packaging is something that you’ll want to think about as well. Everything is intertwined when you build a brand and shitty packaging won’t help.

Pricing is another interesting point which will take another day lol.

Recommended readings:

$100 Start Up by Chris Guillebeau

Trust Agents by Julien Smith and Chris Brogan

* * *
We’ll probably be exchanging more messages so stay tuned to see how things turn out. Do you have any other suggestions or tips for him?

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