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University of Houston: How much does it cost to start a startup?

Is it a New Year's resolution to start your company? Here's what sort of dollar signs to factor in. Graphic byMiguel 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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Check out these conferences, pitch competitions, networking, and more all happening in September. Photo via Getty Images

From networking meetups to pitch competitions, September has a smorgasbord of opportunities for Houston innovators.

Here's a roundup of events you won't want to miss out on so mark your calendars and register accordingly.

Note: This post might be updated to add more events.

Mark your calendars for November 8 for the annual Houston Innovation Awards, and nominate your company or another deserving business by September 19.

September 5 — Tech + Tequila Talk: Houston Innovation

Natara Branch, CEO of Houston Exponential, will delve into the most recent developments within the Houston Innovation Community, shedding light on Houston Exponential's latest initiatives. She will also provide insights into upcoming events, including the highly-anticipated Tech Rodeo and the forthcoming Innovation Awards Gala. After all of that education and conversation, unwind with an authentic tequila tasting and network with tech industry peers.

The agenda:

5:50 pm - 6 pm: Sign-in/Registration

6 pm - 6:30 pm: Tequila tasting

6:30 pm - 7 pm: Tech talk

7 pm - 8 pm: Networking & Tequilas

This event is Tuesday, September 5, from 6 pm to 8 pm at the Ion. Click here to register.

September 7 — Venture Houston 2023

Venture Houston 2023 is a major event for entrepreneurs, venture investors and ecosystem builders to plug into what is happening in Houston. Come learn how you can decarbonize in a digital world, connect with Houston's best founders, corporate leaders and top tier investors, and develop meaningful relationships.

The agenda:

7 am - 8:45 am: Registration

8:45 am - 12:30 pm: General Programming

12:30 pm - 1:45 pm: Networking Lunch

2:00 pm - 4:15 pm: General Programming

4:15 pm - 6 pm: Networking Cocktail Reception

This event is Thursday, September 7, from 7 am to 6 pm at Stude Concert Hall. Click here to register.

September 8 — Inspire & Transform: Celebrating Women In Data

Hosted by the Houston Chapter of Women in Data and Solidatus, this event will feature influential women who have made significant contributions to the field of data from the City of Houston, Exxon, EY, Google, Houston Methodist and more. The event will discuss and debate "The Intersection of Data, AI and Sustainability" and "What Does Good Look Like" through insightful panel discussions, and networking opportunities. Price of admission is $10.

The agenda:

9 am - Check-in and Network

9:15 am - Welcome

9:20 am - Panel 1: The Intersection of Data, AI & Sustainability

10 am - Networking Break

10:10am - Panel 2: "What Does Good Look Like"

10:45am - Scholarships Awarded

11am - End of event + Networking Opportunities

This event is Friday, September 8, from 9 am to 11 am at 200 Park Place. Click here to register.

September 9 — Revolutionizing Your Work: Eight Innovative Ways Entrepreneurs Can Leverage ChatGPT & AI to Scale, Grow & Succeed

Discover how successful entrepreneurs are harnessing the power of artificial intelligence and ChatGPT to drive their businesses forward. At this event, you'll gain valuable insights from industry experts who have leveraged AI and ChatGPT to grow, scale, and succeed. Learn how these technologies can enhance customer experiences, streamline operations, and drive innovation in your own entrepreneurial journey.

This event is Saturday, September 9, from 12:30 to 1:30pm at The R.O.C.K. - Broadway Campus. Click here to register.

September 13 — Small Business Exchange

The Small Business Exchange, powered by US SBA, is a lively and informative event designed to connect small business owners and entrepreneurs.

At the Small Business Exchange, you'll have the opportunity to network with like-minded individuals, share your experiences, and gain valuable insights from industry experts. Whether you're a seasoned business owner or just starting out, this event offers a unique chance to learn, grow, and collaborate.


This event is Wednesday, September 13, from 11 am to 2 pm at SBDC Office. Click here to register.

September 21 — 20th Rice Alliance Energy Tech Venture Forum

The Energy Tech Venture Forum, hosted by The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, will showcase energy tech innovations to shift towards a more sustainable, reliable and lower carbon future across interactive panels, inspiring keynotes and over 50 dynamic venture pitches, leaders.

At the 20th annual conference, discover more than 90 new technology ventures commercializing energy transition innovations and meet investors looking for disruptive energy technologies that can accelerate clean and renewable energy. Check to see if you are a Rice Alliance member or sponsor to confirm your free registration. Rice university faculty and staff can also attend for free. For non-Rice community members tickets are $245.

This event is Thursday, September 21, from 7:30 am to 5:15 pm at Rice University. Click here to register.

September 21 — UH Energy Symposium: Plastics, Chemicals, Circularity: What’s Next?

Focusing on the multifaceted nature and enormity of the challenge, this discussion will focus on what circularity means for the future of production and consumption, meeting consumer demand, and creating and preserving utility across the value chain, while addressing emissions reduction and waste management through new technologies, standards, regulatory mechanisms like extended producer responsibility, and stakeholder engagement.

This event is Thursday, September 21, from 6 to 7:30 pm at the University of Houston. Click here to register.

September 23 — OPEN Houston 11th Annual Conference

Head over to the OPEN Houston 11th annual conference which will focus on the important players building Houston’s emerging technology and startup ecosystem. Hear from and connect with the founders, executives, investors, and other leaders that are building Houston’s innovation economy. Admission is $25-$50.

The agenda:

9:00 AM - 10.00 AM - Registration

10.00 AM - 10:30 AM - Mayor Sylvester Turner Welcoming

10:30 AM - 11:30 AM - Keynote by Andrew Yang

11:30 AM - 12:30 PM - Founder’s Panel

12:30 PM - 1:30 PM - Lunch

1:30 PM - 3:30 PM - Business Pitch Competition

3:30 PM - 3:45 PM - Award Ceremony

3:45 PM - 4:00 PM - Happy Hour

This event is Saturday, September 23, from 9 am to 4 pm at Moran Hotel. Click here to register.

September 27 — Space IT UP: Demo Day

Presented by ITA and ASI in collaboration with the Space Foundation, this event celebrates the journey of six Italian companies as they launch their groundbreaking space ventures from Houston's thriving space ecosystem. Following a five-week accelerator program, these companies will be pitching their innovative space solutions at this Demo Day.

This event is Wednesday, September 27 , from 5:30 to 8 pm at the Ion. Click here to register.

September 27 — Pearland Innovation Hub Grand Opening

Come learn more about the Pearland Innovation Hub, tour the new space, and celebrate the expansion. Raffle prizes will be available for attendees and f ood and drinks will be provided for registered attendees.

This event is Wednesday, September 27, from 6 to 8 pm at Pearland Innovation Hub. Click here to register.

September 28 — Chevron Technology Ventures Pitch Competition

Chevron is looking for novel technologies or approaches that can be applied to transform their operations. With the goal of removing people from hazardous environments (e.g., confined spaces, working at heights), reducing the environmental impact (e.g., leak detection, emissions monitoring), and increasing the operational efficiency (e.g., autonomous operations, advanced inspection capabilities, predictive asset health capabilities) of their facilities in the decades to come.

Registered attendees will be able to take a tour of the Chevron workspaces within the Cannon West Houston, enjoy refreshments and network.

This event is Thursday, September 28, from 4 to 7:30 pm at the Cannon. Click here to register.

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