Make it official
1 - Choose a structure
You have four options available: sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation or limited liability. Your choice depends on the type of business you envision and whether you intend to have employees or go it alone. See dba Florida™ fordetailed descriptions of each.
2 - Choose a name
What will you call your business? The most obvious choice is your own name, but you might also consider keywords that relate to what you do or where you are located. Just be mindful, the best names are:
- Concise – fewer than 10 letters for easy recall and tweets
- Flexible – easily adapted to new product lines or additional locations
- Original – not already in use (search trademarkia.com or uspto.gov to be sure)
Note: If you plan to conduct business under a name other than your own, you must file a Fictitious Name registration application with the Florida Department of State, Division of Corporations. See dba Florida™ for details.
3 - Choose a location
To select the right site for your business, ask yourself these key questions:
- Is the area zoned for my type of business?
- Will I feel safe in this neighborhood?
- Can I afford the monthly rent?
- Are surrounding businesses complementary or competitive?
- Is there an available labor pool I can draw from?
- Do I even need a dedicated location or could I simply work from home?
4 - Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN)
In order to pay federal, state and local taxes, you must have an official federal ID number. If you are operating as a sole proprietor with no employees, your Social Security number is sufficient; otherwise, visit irs.gov/businesses to obtain a free Employer Identification Number (EIN).
5 - Secure Necessary Permits and Licenses
Unless you are working from home as a sole proprietor with no employees, you will likely need one or more of the following to legally open and operate your business:
- Zoning Permit Must be obtained before receiving a business tax receipt. Apply at either the city or county zoning department depending on your location; some jurisdictions require both.
- Business Tax Receipt (aka Occupational License) Cities and counties typically issue separate business tax receipts. If your business is within city limits, you may need both. Contact your municipal and county government offices for clarification.
- State and Professional Business Licenses More than 300 job categories/professions require a license from either the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation or the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Health-related professions/businesses are licensed and regulated by the Florida Department of Health. Costs vary and applicants must meet established criteria.
- Health Permits and Licenses Required for public lodging and public food service businesses; available from the Florida Division of Hotels and Restaurants. For licenses pertaining to retail food stores, food processing plants and food storage/distribution businesses, visit the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
- Beverage Licenses Businesses that sell alcoholic beverages must apply for beverage licenses through the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation; fees depend on types of beverages sold or served. Retailers and wholesalers of beer, wine or liquor must pay federal occupational tax and obtain a control number from the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
- Retail Establishment Licenses Required by the Florida Office of Financial Regulation for any business financing the sale of goods or services sold by installment contract or revolving charge account to a retail buyer. Also subject to licensing: collection agencies, consumer finance companies, mortgage brokers, securities dealers, investment advisors, mortgage business schools.
- Environmental Permits Required for any business that is an actual or potential polluting source; one-time construction permits and renewable operating permits are also required. Permitting is mandated for dredge and fill, stormwater construction, water treatment and sewage treatment activities. Apply through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.