What You Need to Know to Start Your Own Business in Hawaii

by Thea Lautner
The last couple of months have been quite challenging for small businesses due to the ongoing health crisis. In fact, even programs such as the Paycheck Protection Program and other provisions of the CARES Act, which used to offer funding for struggling businesses, have dried up. But while it might still be a while before the world returns to normal, it’s important to start thinking of ways to regain your economic footing and ensure you’re prepared for the next crisis. Of course, one of the best ways to do this is by starting your own business.

Starting a business is hard enough but doing right now is even more intimidating. However, the Financial Times notes that the silver lining is being able to capitalize on current opportunities — especially as consumer attitudes and practices are changing and shifting towards supporting small and meaningful businesses.

So how exactly can you start your own business in Hawaii? Here are a few things you need to know.

Understanding Customer Demand
Before you even begin, you have to address one key question: who is your business for? Understanding your customer base will make or break your business. But again, consumer demands are changing so this is something you’ll need to keep in mind too. For example, COVID caused a huge decline in tourism in Hawaii. As such, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to start a restaurant, hotel, or other businesses in the hospitality industry for the time being.

Consider starting a business that primarily caters to people in your area, or perhaps the neighboring islands. Essential businesses have been thriving, with many cleaning businesses and food delivery services seeing more customers than ever before.

How to Get Started
One of the first things you have to figure out when starting your business is its structure. This part can be a bit complicated, as you’ve got several options to choose from such as a sole proprietorship, an LLC, partnership or a corporation. Although you may think that a sole proprietorship may be the best option for a small business, an LLC structure might actually have more benefits for you in the long-term.

Forming an LLC means you will enjoy tax benefits, such as avoiding double taxation. Best of all, it creates a clear divide between your personal and business’ assets — which is important in case you run into any legal problems down the line. In addition, starting an LLC in Hawaii can also be quite easy, as many of the requirements and forms can be completed online.

The first thing you need to do is pick a name for your business. Be sure to utilize the Hawaii Business Express website to check if the name you want is available. Then, appoint a registered local agent and file your Articles of Organization, which is what legitimizes your business in the state of Hawaii. The paperwork will also require you to name a registered local agent. While you can name yourself as the agent, it is important to understand that this entails making your personal information public. Lastly, you need to apply for an employer identification number (EIN). As mentioned, most steps can be done in just a few clicks online.

Where to Get Support
Unlike establishing your business, getting your business off the ground may prove to be more difficult. Luckily, there are several ways to get support in Hawaii. Organizations like The Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii holds sponsor events across the different islands. This gives business owners both educational and networking opportunities.

Aside from these events, The Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii also has the Hawaii Business Pivot Grant, aimed at helping businesses adjust to the aftermath of the global pandemic. The grant can provide your business with up to $10,000, along with other forms of technical assistance to help your business navigate a post-pandemic world.

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