Is it a New Year's resolution to start your company? Here's what sort of dollar signs to factor in. Graphic by Miguel Tovar/University of Houston

The process of opening a small business is already stressful enough without even worrying about how to fund it. But it’s good to start thinking about business costs early in order to know where the money will go.

Sammi Caramela, a Business News Daily contributing writer, said in an article to “be realistic” when considering how much starting a business is going to cost. She mentions that things like office space, legal fees, payroll, business credit cards and other organizational expenses are all things that need to be taken into account before even starting.

Caramela offers five things that prospective business owners should do if they don’t know where to start when it comes to funding their company.

Keep a healthy skepticism

Caramela advises to not invest too much money too quickly. You should have a good level of skepticism to balance the optimism you have going into the process. The best thing to do is to is to “start small” and workshop your idea or product on a very small budget.

“If the test seems successful, then you can start planning your business based on what you learned,” Caramela said.

Don't underestimate expenses

Caramela goes on to note that “according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, most microbusinesses cost around $3,000 to start, while most home-based franchises cost $2,000 to $5,000.”

Obviously, every new business is different and will require different expenses. It’s estimated that a prospective entrepreneur will need about six months’ worth of their starting expenses once they open.

“When planning your costs, don’t underestimate the expenses, and remember that they can rise as the business grows…It’s easy to overlook costs when you’re thinking about the big picture, but you should be more precise when planning for your fixed expenses,” serial entrepreneur Drew Gerber told Caramela.

Don’t let your business fail just because you ran out of money. The excitement of starting a company can cause you to overestimate your revenue and underestimate costs.

Distinguish types of business costs

Caramela offers several examples of the type of costs that perspective business owners should consider.

One-time vs. ongoing costs

One-time costs are those that will only need to be paid once. These mostly occur at the beginning of the process. These expenses included things like incorporating a company and equipment purchases.

Ongoing costs are paid regularly, like utilities.

Essential vs. optional costs

“Essential costs are expenses that are absolutely necessary for the company’s growth and development. Optional purchases should be made only if the budget allows,” Caramela said.

Fixed vs. variable costs

Rent would be an example of a fixed expense because it stays the same from month to month. Variable expanses, however, “depend on the direct sale of products or services.” Expect fixed costs to consume most of the company’s revenue in the beginning. If the company grows and is successful, these fixed costs won’t make or break you.

The Most Common Expenses

Caramela composed a list of expenses new business owners will most likely experience.

  • Web hosting and other website costs
  • Rental space for an office
  • Office furniture
  • Labor
  • Basic supplies
  • Basic technology
  • Insurance, license or permit fees
  • Advertising or promotions
  • Business plan costs

She also provides examples and estimated costs.

ItemEstimated Cost
Rent$2,750
Website$2,000
Payroll$175,000
Advertising/Promo$5,000
Basic Office Supplies$80
Total (Annual)$184,830

Want more information? Here are 14 types of business startup costs to consider when launching your company from NerdWallet.

Estimate revenue

“Bill Brigham, director of the New York Small Business Development Center in Albany, advises new business owners to project their cash flows for at least the first three months of the business’s life. He said to add up not only fixed costs but also the estimated costs of goods and best- and worst-case revenues,” Caramela said.

If possible, it’s best to not borrow at all when starting a new business. “Borrowing puts a lot of pressure on any business” and it doesn’t allow for very much wiggle room in the finances.

Factor in funding

If you’re going to borrow, here are a few things you can do. “Personal savings, loans from family and friends, government and bank loans and government grants” are all sources of funding that potential business owners can utilize. Camarela said that most companies use a combination of several of these methods for funding.

Though self-funding is the best option, there’s also options like business credit cards and angel investors.

Caramela suggests to check out SCORE for trainings and workshops targeted toward small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. They also offer some counseling.

What's the big idea?

Starting a business is stressful in any case but now that you know how much money it’s actually going to take, don’t let lack of money stop you from making that next step and starting your business. Remember, skepticism is good but only if it’s a healthy amount. Now you know it’s an expensive process and the different types of funding you will need, but even if you aren’t able to fund it yourself, there are other options out there for you as long as your company is financially able to handle the commitment of borrowing.

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This article originally appeared on the University of Houston's The Big Idea. Cory Thaxton, the author of this piece, is the communications coordinator for The Division of Research.

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Houston cleantech company sees shining success with gold hydrogen

bling, bling

Houston-based cleantech startup Cemvita Factory is kicking things into high gear with its Gold Hydrogen product.

After successfully completing a pilot test of Gold Hydrogen in the oil-rich Permian Basin of West Texas, Cemvita has raised an undisclosed amount of funding through its new Gold H2 LLC spin-out. The lead investors are Georgia-based equipment manufacturer Chart Industries and 8090 Industries, an investment consortium with offices in New York City and Los Angeles.

Gold Hydrogen provides carbon-neutral hydrogen obtained from depleted oil and gas wells. This is achieved through bioengineering subsurface microbes in the wells to consume carbon and generate clean hydrogen.

Cemvita says it set up Gold H2 to commercialize the business via licensing, joint ventures, and outright ownership of hydrogen assets.

“We have incredible conviction in next-generation clean hydrogen production methods that leverage the vast and sprawling existing infrastructure and know-how of the oil and gas industry,” Rayyan Islam, co-founder and general partner of 8090 Industries, says in a news release.

Traditional methods of producing hydrogen without greenhouse gas emissions include electrolysis powered by renewable sources like wind, solar or water, according to Cemvita. However, production of green hydrogen through normal avenues eats up a lot of energy and money, the startup says.

By contrast, Cemvita relies on depleted oil and gas wells to cheaply produce carbon-free hydrogen.

“The commercialization and economics of the hydrogen economy will require technologies that produce the hydrogen molecule at a meaningful scale with no carbon emissions. Gold H2 is leading the charge … ,” says Jill Evanko, president and CEO of Chart Industries.

Investors in Cemvita include Oxy Low Carbon Ventures, an investment arm of Houston-based Occidental Petroleum, as well as BHP Group, Mitsubishi, and United Airlines Ventures.

Oxy Low Carbon Ventures and United Airlines Ventures are financing Cemvita’s work on sustainable jet fuel. United Airlines operates a hub at George Bush Intercontinental Airport Houston.

Founded by brother-and-sister team Moji and Tara Karimi in 2017, Cemvita uses synthetic biology to turn carbon dioxide into chemicals and alternative fuels.

Houston named best city in Texas and No. 11 in U.S. in prestigious report

best in tx

At least according to one new report, Houston is not only the Energy Capital of the World but also the livability capital of Texas.

A new study from Best Cities, powered by Resonance Consultancy, puts Houston at No. 11 among the best cities in the U.S. That’s the top showing among the six Texas cities included in the ranking. Houston appeared at No. 17 on last year’s list.

“Educated, diverse and hard-working, Houston is America’s stealthy powerhouse on the rise,” Best Cities proclaims.

Best Cities notes that while Austin grabs much of the best-city attention, “the promise of the Lone Star State drawing Californians and New Yorkers is quietly being fulfilled in Houston.” The website points out that the Houston metro area has gained nearly 300,000 residents in the past year, thanks to both domestic and international migration.

Here are some of the individual rankings that contribute to Houston’s 11th-place finish:

  • No. 4 for restaurants
  • No. 7 for culture
  • No. 8 for foreign-born population

“Houston is a diverse and vibrant metro where individuals can start a family, grow their business, attend world-class institutions and universities, or be immersed in the 145 languages that are spoken by our residents,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says in a news release. “The quality of life we have in Houston is second to none, and the data we receive from placements such as … Best Cities further reaffirm the strength and resiliency that has come to define this great city of ours.”

A few spots behind Houston on the Best Cities list are No. 14 Dallas and No. 15 Austin.

What lifts Dallas to the No. 14 spot? These are some of the factors cited by Best Cities:

  • Location of more than 10,000 corporate headquarters
  • Strong showing (No. 2) in the airport connectivity category
  • Kudos for the soon-to-be-expanded Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center Dallas
  • Home of the country’s sixth largest LGBTQ+ community
  • Presence of the 28-block, 68-acre Dallas Arts District

Austin comes in at No. 15, one notch behind Dallas.

Best Cities praises Austin as “a place that’s incredibly livable. Talk to any entrepreneur leaving Silicon Valley or Seattle and chances are they’ve considered Austin.”

The website points to a number of Austin’s assets, such as:

  • Growing presence of Fortune 500 headquarters
  • Comparatively low unemployment rate
  • Location of the University of Texas’ flagship campus
  • Status as the Live Music Capital of the World
  • Home of the annual SXSW gathering

Two other Texas cities make the Best Cities list: No. 34 San Antonio and No. 94 McAllen.

Best Cities bases its list of the best U.S. cities on Resonance Consultancy’s combination of statistical performance plus qualitative evaluations by locals and visitors. Those figures are grouped into six main categories. This year’s ranking features 100 U.S. cities. To come up with the ranking, Resonance Consultancy assessed all U.S. metro areas with at least 500,000 residents.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

How a Houston med device startup pivoted to impact global health and diagnostics

HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 153

In the span of a couple years, a Houston startup went from innovating a way for patients with degenerative eye diseases to see better to creating a portable and affordable breath-based diagnostics tool worthy of a prestigious grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation.

Steradian Technologies, founded in 2018, set out to create human super-sight via proprietary optics. In early 2020, the company was getting ready to start testing the device and fundraising. Then, the pandemic hit, knocking the company completely off course.

Co-founder and CEO of the company, Asma Mirza, says on this week's Houston Innovators Podcast that the Steradian co-founders discussed how their optic technology could detect diseases. Something just clicked, and the RUMI device was born.

"We are from Houston, Texas, which is one of the most diverse and accessible cities in the country, and we were having trouble with basic diagnostic accessibility. It was taking too long, it was complicated, and people were getting sick and didn't know if they were positive or negative," Mirza says on the show. "That's when we pivoted the company and decided we were going to pivot the company and use optics to detect diseases in breath."

Fast forward two years and the company has been recognized by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with a grant to sport the development of the tool — which costs about the same price as a latte to make. The impact for global health is huge, Mirza says, allowing for people to test their breath for diseases from their own homes in the same time it takes to take your temperature.

"You blow into a cartrige and we're able to take the air from your breath into a liquid sample," Mirza says, explaining how the device uses photons to produce quick results. "It's wild that we still don't have something like that yet."

She shares more details about the grant and the future applications for the technology — as well as the role Houston and local organizations have had on the company — on the podcast. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.