There’s no doubt that the past few years have been tough on Australian business owners. In the 2022/23 financial year, almost 390,000 businesses across the nation closed. But in the same period, more than 406,000 new ones opened. In June 2023, close to 2.6 million businesses were actively trading in Australia – almost one business for every 10 Australians.

Australian businesses span a range of industries, including construction, healthcare, retail, professional services, transport, manufacturing, arts, real estate and agriculture.

In this article, we share insights into how to start a business, plus tips and advice on how to do it successfully.

Checklist: How to start a business

Thinking of starting a business? This checklist will help you on your way.

  • Start with an idea: Have a business idea you just can’t shake? That’s just the beginning. You need to develop your idea into a carefully considered concept. If you’re selling products, where will you source them from? Creating a product yourself? How much time will it take to make? Providing a service? Do you have the skills to pull it off? Spend time developing, testing and mulling over your idea, and if you’re still excited, move on to the next step. If you lose interest in your idea, don’t be disheartened. Head back to the drawing board and start exploring other ideas.
  • Do your research: No matter how good your idea is, it won’t work as a business if there’s no market for it, or if similar businesses already saturate the market. Explore market gaps and consider the customers who are or aren’t being serviced. Run a focus group, conduct surveys through social media and check out the competition. Deep dive into market conditions and your competition to fully understand if there’s a place for your business.
  • Choose a business name: A name differentiates you from competitors and tells customers what you do. It should be unique, inoffensive (and not misunderstood by those who speak another language), easy to spell, pronounce, remember and type into Google. Also, do your research and be aware of other business names that are similar or trademarked.
  • Create a business plan: A business plan gives potential investors or lenders the information they need about your business. It also helps you answer important questions, identify roadblocks and validate your idea. It includes your mission statement, business structure, market analysis, service offering, financial plan and marketing strategy.
  • Source products: If you’re selling products, making them yourself or having them manufactured, thoroughly research suppliers and start building those relationships. Get to grips with supply chains, shipping and transport logistics. Talk to other businesses about where they get their supplies.
  • Do the paperwork: Familiarise yourself with the legal requirements for starting a business in Australia. Decide on a business structure – sole trader, partnership, micro business, SME or company. Take time to understand your legal obligations, as well as the permits, trademarks, registrations and licences you need. Are you trading with overseas suppliers, manufacturers or customers? Get your head around other countries’ rules too. Apply for insurance and source sound legal advice.
  • Develop a brand: A business brand offers a consistent message about your business, so it’s worth engaging a brand consultant to develop your logo, signage and marketing collateral. Great branding creates cohesive messaging and supports business goals.
  • Get your finances in order: There are plenty of funding options for businesses – savings, credit cards, bank loans, investors or crowdfunding. So you’ll need to work out which one is the best option for you. You’ll also need a bank account, a bookkeeper and perhaps a financial advisor. Become comfortable with budgets and profit and loss statements.
  • Find the right tools: Invest in a website and email hosting service, accounting software, point-of-sale system and customer relationship management software.
  • Market your business: To tell people about your business, invest in a tailored and ongoing marketing plan, including traditional media, content and social media strategy.
  • Business location: Unless you’re completely online or run your business from home, you’ll need to set up shop. Consider your business needs before signing a lease. Is the site you’re looking at known for your product or services? Will customers be able to find you? Is there sufficient parking and other amenities? Put yourself in your customers’ shoes.
  • Get help: Join local business groups, build good relationships with suppliers and other businesses, take advantage of workshops and network. The Australian Government’s Business website has loads of helpful information too.

How much does it cost to start a business?

There are many costs you’ll need to factor in when starting your business and it’s important to understand and keep track of expenses as soon as you start planning. Your business plan will help inform your budget. Planning ahead and seeking sound financial advice can increase your chances of success. Here are some common business costs to keep in mind:

  • stock if you’re selling products, raw materials if you’re making products yourself and production costs if you’re having products manufactured for you
  • supplies (such as stationery) and equipment (such as furniture and computers)
  • insurances such as building, public liability, vehicle, workers’ compensation and business asset
  • accounting and legal fees
  • administration charges for business and domain name registration, permits and licences
  • rental costs plus power, phone and internet connection fees if you’re leasing a space
  • security systems for storage areas or your workshop/office
  • website design and domain hosting
  • marketing and advertising
  • design fees for branding and logos plus printing, stationery and signage
  • training programs and courses
  • membership fees for professional bodies or groups
  • wages and contractor fees to help establish your business

You’ll probably outsource most of the tasks associated with setting up a business. One of the advantages of starting a business is that you get to be your own boss. If you’re creative and willing to have a go, save costs by setting up and developing your own website and branding, writing your own content and creating social media posts yourself. Learn what you can do yourself and what you need to outsource.

It’s also a good idea to set aside a budget to cover emergency and running costs while establishing your business, as you may not be making enough money to cover costs in those early months.

Tips on starting a business

Michael Nuciforo is the co-founder and CEO of the all-in-one financial management business Thriday. Michael launched Thriday when he identified a gap in the financial admin market and felt ready to start his own business. “I felt that the regret of not pursuing something scary like starting my own business would be far more significant than the potential regret if the business failed.”

Michael learned a lot along the way. His tips?

  • Invest time in validating your idea and researching the market. “Trust the process and don’t rush the decision.”
  • Once you make a decision, go for it. “Have honest conversations with family and friends about your new work pattern. Your business becomes all-encompassing, so make it clear what your new lifestyle will likely look like.”
  • Lean on others. “Surround yourself with experts in your field and people you trust to provide good advice.”
  • Build a network and ask for help. “There is mutual respect and appreciation among business owners. Building a network of like-minded business owners makes the experience less daunting. I was surprised by how much time people were willing to spend to help me out. Put yourself out there and ask for help.”
  • Be realistic. “There’s no overnight success. Even extremely successful businesses had to work to get there.”

An MBA for business success

Got a great business idea but need the confidence to make it happen? The MBA skills and qualifications offered by MBA Discovery partner universities provide graduates with the practical expertise they need to succeed as business leaders, CEOs and entrepreneurs.

  • Southern Cross University’s MBA course prepares graduates for an ever-evolving and uncertain business world.
  • As part of James Cook University’s Venture Capital and Entrepreneurship unit, students will learn about various capital and seed funding options available to entrepreneurs.
  • The Managing Innovation and Entrepreneurship unit, as part of Victoria University’s MBA, delves into the theoretical concepts of entrepreneurship so students develop the skills to create solutions to contemporary challenges.
  • RMIT’s course features a Digital Entrepreneurship unit designed to assist students in developing an entrepreneurial mindset.

Where to from here?

Have a great business idea? Sourcing useful information about how to start a business, developing a sound business plan and having solid financial footing will help start your business on the right track.

Securing an MBA also provides a great foundation. Speak to a Student Enrolment Advisor about how an MBA can support your entrepreneurial goals.

Speak to a Student Enrolment Advisor

Whether you’re ready to enrol, or just have a quick question, simply fill out the enquiry form below to speak directly to the university’s enrolment team. They will be able to guide you through:

Course eligibility and recognition of prior learning

Course structure and what you will study

Next intakes and how to apply

Fees and time commitments