A newcomer’s guide to owning a business in Oklahoma

Immigrants are 80% more likely to start a business in the United States versus native-born Americans. In Oklahoma, 14,453 immigrant business owners accounted for 7 percent of all self-employed Oklahoma residents in 2018 and have generated $252.3 million in business income. Immigrants continue to support the Oklahoma economy in many ways, from their entrepreneurship and contributions to the workforce to their buying power and community involvement. 

New business owners have found Oklahoma to be an excellent place to start a business. The Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce states that 82.31% of startups survive within their first year of business. According to the Kauffman Indicators of Entrepreneurship, Oklahoma boasts the 3rd highest early startup survival rate in the United States. So if you’re new to the United States and dream of opening your own business, you’ve come to the right place. 

Oklahoma visa requirements for starting a business

You do not need to be a US citizen to own a business in Oklahoma or the United States. However, to earn wages at your business, you must have work authorization through a visa. Learn more about your visa options in our article, Starting A Business In Oklahoma Without A Green Card. We also recommend consulting a reputable immigration attorney for knowledgeable advice on which visa is best for your business goals.  

Five questions for a successful business beginning

Long-term business success is built on solving a local need. As you are considering what kind of business to start, these questions can help create a solid foundation for success:

  1. What are you passionate about? Owning a business requires a lot of dedication, time, and commitment. It will play a huge factor in your everyday life. Your business should reflect your interests and passions. 
  2. What is missing from your local economy? Your business should meet the needs of the community. Does your location need another restaurant or is it better served by a grocery store or gas station? The bigger the problem you can solve, the bigger the revenue opportunity. Business success is found when you can solve an issue where your community is lacking. 
  3. Who is your ideal customer? Whom do you hope to help with your business? Understanding your ideal target market can help guide you toward developing solutions or products to help meet their needs. 
  4. Can your business idea help secure a financial future? Will your business idea be viable for years to come? If the basis of your business is a new and trendy product or service, can you pivot quickly when your solution is no longer in demand?
  5. How much funding do you have access to? Before your business can make money, it needs a lot of capital to get started. It’s not uncommon for many entrepreneurs to use a mixture of their own money and money from investors or banks to fund the initial startup.

Creating a business plan

Once you’ve identified a need and how you plan to provide the solution, you will need to put your idea into action. A business plan is a guidebook on how your business will thrive and survive. The purpose is to outline how your business will make money and grow revenue over the next three to five years. 

Your business plan is meant to evolve as you learn more about your business and your customers’ needs. It can also be essential in obtaining funding for your business and defining what success should look like. Investors want to see that you have a thought-out plan for how you intend to supply, market, and grow your business. 

While there is no one way to write a business plan, the US Small Business Administration offers resources to help get you started. Many business plans have these common elements:

  • Company description. This is where you define your company name and business structure. You will need to file your business name and business structure with the Oklahoma Secretary of State. Keep in mind that some business structures require you to be a US citizen. Your company description should also include the location of your business, how many employees, and what your business does. 
  • Market analysis. Know what makes your business different from your competitors. Outline how your business solves your community’s needs and identify your target audience. Describe how you plan to promote your business to help grow your customer base and increase sales. 
  • Operations plan. This section should detail your strategy to manage the day-to-day activities and requirements. Questions to answer in this section should include, what are the essential functions and duties of your employees, who are your product suppliers, what are the hours of operations, how will you price your product or services, what kind of equipment or software is needed to run your business, and who are your operational vendors. 
  • Financial plan. Define what success looks like for your business and what it costs to earn a consistent profit. This section should outline your costs and provide a financial projection of your cash flow management. This section should also answer questions like where you plan on investing your startup funding, whether you have a dedicated bookkeeper to manage taxes, and what your financial outlook is for the next five years. 

Securing investments

If your business requires investments or funding to help get you started, a business plan can help investors feel confident that they will see a return on their investment. There are many funding options available for entrepreneurs in Oklahoma. These may include loans from the US Small Business Administration, loans from a commercial bank, or funding from an investor or venture capital (VC) group active in Oklahoma. 

An angel investor invests their personal funds in a startup, often at the beginning, whereas a venture capital investment funds a business throughout its lifecycle. Venture capital is typically offered in exchange for an ownership share and active role in the company. Current Oklahoma angel investors and VCs include: 

  • Seed Step Angels – SeedStep Angels (SSA) is dedicated to providing quality early-stage investment opportunities for accredited Oklahoma Angel investors and assisting entrepreneurs and early-stage growth companies by serving as a critical source of funding, information, networking, mentorship, and educational resources.
  • Cowboy Technology Angels – Cowboy Technology Angels comprises alumni and other Oklahoma State University friends. Each member of Cowboy Technology Angels is an accredited investor. Members can select their own investments.
  • Oklahoma Venture Forum – Oklahoma Venture Forum (OVF) was founded in 1987 to champion small businesses and economic development by connecting and recognizing venture talents. Their diverse membership includes investors, entrepreneurs, and service providers from various statewide industries.
  • i2E – i2E’s investment arm, i2E Management Company Inc. (iMCI), has more than $92 million of investment capital under management. iMCI serves Oklahoma companies in all phases of the business life cycle, from startups looking for their first round of capital to established businesses seeking funding to expand their markets or products.
  • AngelList: Oklahoma Angel Investors – A comprehensive listing of 4,920 angel investors seeking the opportunity to fund Oklahoma startups.

Business licensing and other considerations

Now that you have a plan for your business and information to help fund your endeavors, your next step is to start turning your business idea into a reality. As a business owner, you’ll need to pay federal taxes, hire employees, open a bank account, and apply for business licenses and permits. To pay taxes for your business, you’ll need a federal tax ID number, also known as an Employer Identification Number (EIN), and an Oklahoma tax ID number. Whether you need an EIN is dependent on the type of business structure you choose. For sole proprietorships, an EIN is optional, although it is required for corporations and LLCs. 

To operate legally in Oklahoma, your new business may need to apply for various permits and licenses. For example, a restaurant will need a liquor license, and a pawn shop will need a reseller’s license. The Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce states, “there is no license required to start or own a business in Oklahoma, but there are specific licenses and permits for different industries and business activities. One of the most common permits is the sales tax permit. It is required for retailers, resellers, or others that sell tangible property on an ongoing basis. Obtain a sales tax permit from the Oklahoma Tax Commission.”

Some businesses in Oklahoma that do not require licenses include:

  • Cleaning services
  • Lawn care services
  • Automotive and truck repair
  • Computer and IT services
  • Business consulting
  • Home and kitchen appliance repair and installation
  • Garage door repair and installation
  • Gutter repair and installation
  • Window and door repair and installation services

Business insurance is also a good idea to protect your business against property damage or legal action. In addition, if your company has employees, you are required by the federal government to have workers’ compensation and unemployment insuranceFor more information on how to start a small business in Oklahoma, read our article, Small business resources for immigrant entrepreneurs. The article includes tips on business owner basics, additional ways of acquiring business capital, and essential business owner information for immigrants. Questions on how your immigration status may affect your business? Contact Stump and Associates for current and knowledgable advice on navigating immigration laws and Oklahoma business guidelines.

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