Here's what this wealth management adviser wants you to know before you start your business. Photo via Getty Images

May is Small Business Appreciation month and as a Houstonian, small business owner and wealth management advisor, I understand firsthand the questions, considerations and challenges involved with navigating the nuanced world of small business ventures.

In 2005, I started RSF Wealth Management with my business partner. RSF Wealth Management is a Houston-based firm of Northwestern Mutual focused on comprehensive, collaborative and educational financial planning.

Understanding that every startup is different, I believe there are a few key strategies to keep in mind when starting a business.

1. Create a comprehensive business plan

Any lucrative, viable business has to start with a good plan that outlines what you will need to grow revenue and thrive long-term. Creating this strategic business outline will serve as a roadmap for your beginning years as well as a marketing tool when finding investors. The business plan should highlight what your outlook is for the next five years, how you will leverage your product to make profit, and how much money you will need to achieve and maintain financial success—no matter what scenario may come your way.

2. Establish a solid financial foundation

As most startup businesses take up to five years to turn over profit, it is important to receive funding or set aside extra cash, even if it’s a small amount. My advice to small business owners is to make sure you have at least six months to a years’ worth of liquidity before starting a business venture. Emergency savings funds and other cash reserves can help to cover the operational and overhead costs to startups. If you don’t have enough in your personal savings or cash reserves, there are loan options for small businesses, including the paycheck protection program loan, economic injury disaster loan, traditional SBA 7(A) loan and SBA express bridge loan.

3. Verify everything is documented

Documenting everything is crucial when building the foundation of your business for both legal and tax purposes. Not only will this help if something goes wrong with your business, but it will also keep formal structure between you and your business partner. All startups should complete a buy-sell agreement, which details how your partners’ share will be obtained by the remaining partners in case of their death or leave. I also recommend filing a morality clause contract, which requires all employees to comply to behavioral standards during the life of their contract.

4. Review your insurance and tax options

Small business owners should be regularly reviewing their tax and insurance options to ensure they are updated to reflect changing business needs. For instance, the SECURE Act 2.0 tax credit is a new incentive designed to make it easy and affordable for small businesses to offer employer-sponsored retirement plans. The new legislation allows increased tax credits to small businesses to encourage plan sponsorship and improve retirement readiness.

Additionally, business insurance for startups can help cover costs associated with property damage or liability claims. For example, disability overhead expense insurance provides your business with money to pay for everyday operational expenses in the event you’re unable to work due to an illness or injury. Generally, if you provide coverage for employees and cover the premium, you will be able to deduct those costs as a business expense.

Despite the difficulties of making the jump from employee to entrepreneur, 5 million new businesses were created in 2022 according to a study by the US Census Bureau. New businesses are being created every day and with the excitement of starting a new business also comes the complexities and challenges associated with a new business venture.

Financial advisors and industry experts can help you create a plan, understand what loan option is right for you and how much you will need to have in cash reserves to ensure you can securely and stably run your new business. No matter the size or operation of your business, financial advisors can help document your finances and connect you with the right attorney or accountant to set you up for long-term success.


Keith Rollins is a wealth management advisor with Northwestern Mutual and a founding partner of RSF Wealth Management.

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Houston Innovation Awards opens ticket sales as nomination deadline looms

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You can now buy tickets to the 2023 Houston Innovation Awards on November 8 — but the deadline to nominate deserving individuals and companies for the prestigious awards is just a few days away.

Tickets are available online for the awards event taking place at Silver Street Studios, and InnovationMap has a few options to choose from. Individual tickets are on sale for $80, with a special founder price of $40 available. This year, individual tickets will have seating at a first come, first served basis, but attendees are also able to opt into a reserved table of 10 for $1,000. Sponsors, judges, and finalists and their guests will receive complimentary tickets.

The nomination period for the annual awards is coming to a close next week on Tuesday, September 19. Click here to read about this year's awards categories.The process includes submitting nominations on behalf of yourself or others, and next week, nominees will be sent an application that will be due October 4. A panel of judges will review the applications and finalists will be announced and notified ahead of the event.

If you are interested in joining our partners, which include The Ion, Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, and more, in sponsoring this event, please reach out to

Secure your Houston Innovation Awards tickets now.

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Cultivating an office culture can prevent loneliness, create connections, says Houston expert

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There’s been a lot of chatter about returning to the office and remote work. No matter which side of the argument you’re on, there are valid points to be made for both views. The pandemic forced organizations to rethink operations, with many employees working remote for the first time. And now, we’re in that habit and many don’t want to change.

But here’s the thing. Isolation creates loneliness and we’re in the middle of a loneliness epidemic. A report released by The U.S. Surgeon General titled “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation,” found that even before COVID changed the world, about half of the U.S. adults reported experiencing measurable levels of loneliness. While technology has allowed for work to continue outside of traditional office walls by dialing in to video conferences from home, there is still a missing link. It’s much harder to build community virtually. We haven’t cracked that code yet.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D – Conn, recently introduced legislation to create a national policy to promote social connection and address the soaring rates of loneliness.

“Loneliness is one of the most serious, misunderstood problems facing America today,” Murphy said in a press statement. “This crisis transcends traditional political boundaries, presenting a chance to bring together right and left around a project to help people find connectedness.”

Whether people realize it or not, we all need to feel seen and understood, and when that happens it creates meaningful connection. That connection in turn leads to strong company Whether people realize it or not, we all need to feel seen and understood, and when that happens it creates meaningful connection. That connection in turn leads to strong company culture and more productive, energizing workdays.

Happiness begins with healthy human relationships and companies are being challenged to balance employee flexibility and workplace interactions. While there is no clear-cut right answer, Birkman International is moving to a four-day, in-office workweek. Employees will cut back from 40 to 32 hours-per-week and those hours will be spent at Birkman’s offices.

With employees once again working under the same roof, there will be opportunities for organic spot meetings, team brainstorms and water cooler chatter. While some might see these as “soft” skills, they are essential for a well-performing workplace.

It’s important to remember that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to balancing employee flexibility with returning to the office. Just like every person has unique needs, every company must figure the best solution for its culture, its productivity and most importantly, its people.


Amy Shepley serves as president at Birkman International, an industry-leading organizational performance company.

Houston startup with sustainable biotech solutions lands offtake arrangement with United Airlines

ready for takeoff

An innovative Houston company is celebrating a new deal with a global airline.

Cemvita Corp. announced a new offtake arrangement with United Airlines. Cemvita's first full-scale sustainable aviation fuel plant will provide up to 1 billion gallons of SAF to United Airlines. The 20-year contract specifies that Cemvita will supply up to 50 million gallons annually to United.

It's not the first collaboration Cemvita has had with the airline. Last year, United invested in the biotech company, which used the funding to open its Houston pilot plant.

“Since our initial investment last year, Cemvita has made outstanding progress, including opening their new pilot plant – an important step towards producing sustainable aviation fuel,” United Airlines Ventures President Michael Leskinen says in a news release. “United is the global aviation leader in SAF production investment, but we face a real shortage of available fuel and producers. Cemvita’s technology represents a path forward for a potentially significant supply of SAF and it’s our hope that this offtake agreement for up to one billion gallons is just the beginning of our collaboration.”

Founded in Houston in 2017 by brother-sister team Moji and Tara Karimi, Cemvita's biotechnology can mimic the photosynthesis process, turning carbon dioxide into feedstock. The company's SAF plan hopes to increase reliability of existing SAFs and lower impact of fuel creation.

“Biology is capable of truly amazing things,” Moji Karimi, CEO of Cemvita, says in the release. “Our team of passionate, pioneering, and persistent scientists and engineers are on a mission to create sustainable BioSolutions that redefine possibilities.”

“We are thrilled to partner with United Airlines in working towards transforming the aviation industry and accelerating the energy transition,” he continues. “This agreement featuring our unique SAF platform is a major milestone towards demonstrating our journey to full commercialization.”

Earlier this year, United, which was reportedly the first airline to announce its goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, launched its UAV Sustainable Flight FundSM. The fund, which named Cemvita to its inaugural group of portfolio companies, has raised over $200 million, as of this summer.

Moji and Tara Karimi co-founded Cemvita in 2017. Photo courtesy of Cemvita


This article originally ran on EnergyCapital.