The starting a business checklist 2021

Starting a business in 2021? Here’s our starting a business checklist to help you to hit the ground running.

Find a good business idea

A good business idea isn’t just one that turns a profit. It’s one that’s a good fit for you personally, for your target market, and for your location. You’re going to be in business for the long haul, so you really should pick something you can live and breathe.

Identify your strengths and weaknesses

  • Conduct a SWOT analysis on yourself
  • Come up with a business idea that caters to your strengths
  • How to start inventing things (or how to find something to invent)
  • Define what success looks like for you
  • Do your research: What are popular businesses today?

Create a business plan

If you have a great business idea, the first step is to write it down. It’s easy to convince yourself that you don’t need a business plan, but creating a business plan with financial projections forces you to think through details. Keep your plan a living breathing thing that you revisit and adapt regularly.

Your business plan should cover objectives, sales, strategies, marketing and financial forecasts, over a short to long-term period. You can download our business plan template here.

Sole trader vs limited company

One important factor you must consider before you start your business is your legal structure. Most new businesses will either be a sole trader or a limited company. There are advantages and benefits to both. It’s important to note that you don’t need to have a limited company to start a business. You simply register as being self-employed with Revenue. You also need to register a business name with the CRO if you are using a different name to your own.

For some funding, you need to have a limited company. If you do not need funding or additional founders, it’s better to be a sole trader until you start generating significant revenue. You can change to a limited company at any time. There are significant costs in setting up a company and also hiring an accountant to complete your annual return (€1,000 – €1,500). As a sole trader you still need to file an annual return with revenue.

The main disadvantage of being a sole trader is the fact you are personally liable for the debts of your business. There are also significant tax advantages to having a company particularly if you’d like to keep funds within the business to reinvest in future years.

Business name

Once the company has been registered, the business name needs to be registered with the CRO within a month of adopting the business name. All forms and information are on

Open a business bank account

Next, you’ll need to open a business bank account. While Ireland allows both residents and non-residents to open bank accounts, there is some due diligence involved. Limited companies need to provide a signed mandate from each director, while the owners of a Partnership will each need to provide relevant documents.

In addition, you’ll also need to provide a signed Certificate of Incorporation, signed copies of your by-laws, social security forms, proof of identity, proof of economic ties to Ireland, and in some cases, both proof of character and a legal opinion.


A Bank of Ireland business loan will help you get your business idea off the ground. Be sure to read our article on applying for a bank loan to ensure you have everything in order for when you apply.


As a business in Ireland, you have a number of different types of funding available to you. You can find a more complete list here but the below will be specifically related to start-up funding.

Innovation Vouchers (€5,000)

This voucher was developer to establish greater links between the business community and knowledge providers i.e. universities. The voucher allows companies to test a potential business opportunity. The voucher can be redeemed at registered knowledge providers. You must have a limited company in order to qualify for the funding.

Feasibility Study (€15,000)

The feasibility study is designed to help with researching market demand for a product or service. The maximum grant available is 50 per cent of the costs up to a maximum of €15,000. You don’t need to have a company to be eligible for this.

New Frontiers (€30,000)

The purpose of the grant is to accelerate new sustainable business which can contribute to job creation in the economy. It is a programme which is split into three phases: Test, Development and Implementation.

The initial test phase is 8-10 weeks part-time. Phase two, development, is six months full-time and phase three is three months full-time. If you qualify for phase two, you get a support package valued at €30,000 which includes €15,000 tax free and no equity is taken in your business.

Set up a website

Get your website up and running as soon as possible. Today, it’s necessary for credibility. Even if your product is not yet built, you can start with company information.

Register social media profiles

Getting set up on the major social media channels (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram) is crucial and will make marketing a lot easier. Again, even if the product is not yet ready, it will help develop a following and potential customers. You can also post updates on your social channels to inform your followers about progress/launch dates. Conduct research on your competitors or businesses in your area to learn how they operate on their social channels.

Finding an accountant and your legal requirements

The type of accountant you need will vary greatly based on the type of business you have. It’s very important that you find the right accountant for your situation. You don’t want to overpay for services you don’t need. At the same time, you don’t want to hire an accountant who doesn’t have the right experience and the necessary team to help you run your company.

As a start-up, you will need accounting advice. Your focus should be on cost. The services you may need could include company formation, VAT returns, CRO return and a tax return. 

Office space

Owning or renting office space is not a necessity when you are starting off, but if you’re looking to move from the kitchen table or leave the solitude of a home office, this is possible to do at a relatively low cost.

You can register your business to your home address and avail of the many floating desks or hot desks that have been set up by business communities around the country. 

Find a business mentor

Not every entrepreneur needs a business mentor, but it’s an option that is available to you. Whether it’s a business advisor or a financial guru, find someone who will give you honest feedback about your business.

By Stephen Larkin

Published: 15 December 2020