I have owned and operated a business on the side for over 8 years. Initially, I decided to start a business with my father as a hobby. We have a love for building equipment and the pay is definitely a bonus. Since we both had full time jobs when we started the business and we did not make any major investments, we were at very low risk of any type of personal financial failure. To start the business we needed to visit www.sba.gov to register our business. By visiting the U.S. Small Business Administration website, you can determine how to register with federal agencies, state agencies, and local agencies. There is also a link to learn more about trademarking your business, brand or product name.
A business plan should also be created to define your business purpose and your strategy to meet your goal(s). I discuss business plans in greater detail in my blog titled, Creating a business plan. This does not need to be perfect at the beginning and can be adjusted along the way. As you progress forward with your business, more data will be collected, and can be used to form better strategies.
The downfall of having a side business versus a full time business, which provides your main source of income is that the side business will not force you to give it your all. Due to my father and me having other sources of income, we did not really push our side business in the beginning because we felt satisfied with our financial situation. On the other hand, if you are fully dependent on your business, the risk of personal financial failure is higher and you may be in real trouble if your business is not doing well.
If you have a good idea, which will not require you to invest a significant amount of money, I would advise you to move forward with your business and just give it a shot. Only invest what you are willing to lose. It is always better to have other people invest in your business to reduce your own personal risk, but with others investing, you will need to give them a piece of your business. You will also need to deal with the awkwardness of your business failing and your investors being unhappy, if your business fails.
Last thing I will mention is, just know your business. Know everything you can before jumping into a business. If you do not research everything about the business you want to get into, then you are a fool. There are plenty of competitors out there that will do their best to beat you. Knowledge is the best form of defense against your competitors. There is nothing more valuable than knowledge when it comes to starting and owning a business.