9 Steps to Starting a Business in Florida
The South Florida Business Journal reported that in a study from American Express, Florida ranked No. 1 in the country for growth in the number of women-owned businesses between 2002 and 2016. The number of women-owned firms increased by 67 percent in that period, according to the Amex OPEN 2016 State of Women-Owned Business Report.
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) offers beneficial resources that will assist you in locating, retaining and growing your business. Specific to starting a business in Florida, the Division of Library and Information Services recommends checking with your County Tax Collector to see if you need a license, registering your business with the Florida Department of Revenue, registering your business with the IRS, and registering with the Florida Department of State (corporate entities or fictitious name registrants).
Below you’ll find resources to help you start your business including writing a business plan, determining your business structure and registering your business, training & mentoring, ways to finance your business, obtain appropriate licenses and permits, comply with federal and state taxes, hiring your first employee and more.
A business plan is a written description of your business’s future — a document that describes what you plan to do and how you plan to do it. It generally consists of 7 key components: executive summary, business description, market strategies, competitive analysis, design and development plan, operations and management plan, and the financial factors. SCORE offers free templates covering business planning, finance, marketing and sales, and management.
Having prepared a good business plan before starting your venture can often be the difference between startup success and failure. I am not saying you need a 50 page detailed report... it is more about taking the time to think through to make sure you know what you are up against in your industry and have reasonable foresight into where the business is heading in terms of go-to-market strategies and financial returns for the company and its investors.
— The 6 Key Components Of Writing A Business Plan, George Deeb
You can learn more on how to write a business plan or the types of business plans on the Small Business Administration’s website or Entrepreneur.com. While many feel that having a business plan should be the first step in your guide to starting a business, others like — Paul Brown — have a different opinion. Read his take in this Forbes article, “Why Business Plans Are A Waste Of Time.”
When starting a business, it’s advisable to find a mentor or counselor to help you avoid common pitfalls and problems. Resources like the SBA, SCORE, the Office of Women’s Business Women’s Ownership, are a great place to start. There are also a number of available programs to assist startups, micro businesses, and underserved groups like Women Owned Businesses, Minority Owned Businesses, Veteran Owned Businesses, Home-Based Businesses, “Green” Businesses.
- SCORE, previously known as the Service Corps of Retired Executives, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides free business mentoring services to entrepreneurs in the United States. Their organization offers free or inexpensive local workshops or webinars to small business businesses and entrepreneurs.
- The Small Business Administration has 85 offices in Florida. Through them, you can find local events on topics such as creating a marketing plan for your business, getting help with crafting your business plan, how to start a non-profit, etc. For a purely virtual experience, head over to their website for a variety of free courses made available through the Learning Center.
- The SBA and the Office of Women’s Business Ownership collaborate with various organizations, such as the National Women’s Business Council, to make resources available to women entrepreneurs — whether they’re starting a business, applying for a business loan, finding government contracting opportunities, or improving an existing business. Learn about the Women’s Business Resources.
- Minority-Owned Businesses: SBA’s 8(a) Business Development program can help qualifying minority-owned firms develop and grow their businesses through one-to-one counseling, training workshops, and management and technical guidance. The program also provides access to government contracting opportunities, allowing these businesses to become solid competitors in the federal marketplace.
When choosing a choosing a physical location for their business, most business choose one that provides exposure to customers. Additional factors to consider include:
- Brand Image – Is the location consistent with the image you want to maintain?
- Competition – Are the businesses around you complementary or competing?
- Local Labor Market – Does the area have potential employees? What will their commute be like?
- Plan for Future Growth – If you anticipate further growth, look for a building that has extra space should you need it.
- Proximity to Suppliers – They need to be able to find you easily as well.
- Safety – Consider the crime rate. Will employees feel safe alone in the building or walking to their vehicles?
- Zoning Regulations – These determine whether you can conduct your type of business in certain properties or locations. You can find out how property is zoned by contacting your local planning agency.
If you’re starting an online business, you’ll need to have a user-friendly website that’s responsive to the variety of devices used to access the web these days. You should utilize search engines to drive targeted buyers to your site, both organically and through pay-per-click advertising. Also, ensure that you have a presence on the social media channels that your customers are active on.
Finance your business
There are a variety of ways to finance your business. Some options include getting a traditional bank loan, using a credit card, tapping into your 401(k), a crowdfunding site like Kickstarter.com, attracting an angel investor, Florida grants, raising money from family and friends, or securing an SBA loan. The SBA offers a variety of loan programs for very specific purposes, such as: General Small Business Loans (7a), Microloans, Real Estate & Equipment Loans, Disaster Loans. Learn more about their loan programs.
Determine the legal structure of your business
Which ownership is right for you? A sole proprietorship, partnership, Limited Liability Company (LLC), corporation, S corporation, nonprofit or cooperative? Learn which business stucture is right for your needs.
Register a business name
Register your business name with the state of Florida. You can start your business name research at the Florida Division of Corporations. They offer a free online search so that you can ensure that the name you’ve selected is available for registration.
Register for state and local taxes
Nearly every state levies a business or corporate income tax. Like federal taxes, your state tax requirement depends on the legal structure of your business. Visit Florida Department of Revenue’s “Doing Business in Florida — What Taxes Are Required?” for more information. If your business will have taxable transactions, you’ll need to register with the Florida Department of Revenue.
Obtain business licenses and permits
If your business is involved in activities supervised and regulated by a federal agency – such as selling alcohol, firearms, commercial fishing, etc. – then you may need to obtain a federal license or permit. Additionally, the state of Florida has its own set of license, permit and regulations for specific businesses.
Understand employer responsibilities
Unless you’re self-employed or an independent contractor, you’ll need to hire employees. Here you’ll find the steps help you start the hiring process and ensure you are compliant with key federal and state regulations.