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How To Start A Business In Florida: 11 Essential Steps

how-to-start-a-business-in-florida:-11-essential-steps
How To Start A Business In Florida: 11 Essential Steps

This content doesn’t contain and isn’t meant to provide legal, tax, or business advice.*

Florida is a promising place to start a business. The Sunshine State is ripe with potential in a business-friendly atmosphere—whether you’re interested in Miami mercantile or building a business in Key West.

“Florida is like several different states in one. Each region offers its own distinct business climate and resources,” says Nancy Allen, president and CEO of the Women’s Business Enterprise Council of Florida. “Wherever you go in Florida, you can plug into a support system designed to foster businesses from start-ups through third-stage growth and beyond.”

In Florida the business landscape is as varied as the scenery, and there’s ample room for your unique and original ideas. This guide compiles resources about how to start a business in Florida.

How to start a business in Florida

  1. Choose a business idea
  2. Name your Florida business
  3. Create a business plan
  4. Choose a business structure and get started
  5. Select a registered agent
  6. Get an EIN
  7. Pay state taxes
  8. Obtain business licenses and permits
  9. Examine insurance options in Florida
  10. Understand financial considerations
  11. Market your business

1. Choose a business idea

Perhaps you’ve been thinking about your new business concept for a long time, or maybe you recently started brainstorming ideas. Either way, it’s important to develop your business idea and be confident it has a market, presents a viable business opportunity, and is the kind of business you want to own.

2. Name your Florida business

Assemble a short list of potential business names that appeal to you. Before you decide on one, search the Division of Corporations’ online database to check if your preferred name is already in use. Next, search the US Patent and Trademark Office database to see if anyone has trademarked the names you like best. 

If you’re starting an LLC or a corporation, you’ll need to include the words “limited liability company” or “corporation” in your company name—or a variant or abbreviation of those terms. If you’re starting a sole proprietorship, your name will be included in the company’s legal name.

To operate your business under a different name (one that doesn’t include your own legal name or a term like “incorporated”), you can register a fictitious name. Also known as a DBA (doing business as), this workaround lets you publicly name your business something catchy and memorable.

You can use a business name generator to find inspiration. Once you’ve narrowed down your list to a few options, use a domain name generator to see if a corresponding web address can be purchased.

3. Create a business plan

A business plan is still an important box to tick when starting a small business in Florida. A business plan is a great way to keep yourself organized, focused on your goals, and concentrated on understanding how your enterprise can grow. If you need to apply for a bank loan, the loan officer likely will want to see a business plan.

A business plan is a document that outlines:

It can be helpful to look at business plan examples for inspiration. When you’re ready, start with a business plan template as your foundation.

4. Choose a business structure and get started

If you’re working through the process of starting a Florida business, you probably know that there are different types of business structures. The three most common structures are sole proprietorship, limited liability company (LLC), and corporation. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Sole proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is an unincorporated business owned by just one person. It is the simplest business structure, requires the least amount of administrative work, and has the lowest startup fees—making it an affordable way to start a business in Florida. Since you’re the sole owner, you keep all the profits. On the flip side, a sole proprietorship provides no personal protection from liabilities such as lawsuits or debts.

You might consider this business structure if you are an individual producer or service professional who doesn’t plan to expand operations or hire employees. Common examples of sole proprietors include accountants, artisans, musicians, and consultants.

Limited liability company

A limited liability company (LLC) is a hybrid business structure that offers some of the simplicity and low cost of sole proprietorship combined with the legal and debt protections of a corporation. Your LLC is subject to federal taxation, but state taxes aren’t required for this type of business in Florida. There are several ways for LLCs to file federal taxes in Florida.

You may consider establishing an LLC if you are a small to medium-sized business that requires employees, or if you’re an early stage startup wanting to launch quickly without the hassle and cost of setting up a corporation.

To register your LLC, fill out and submit your Articles of Organization. This document provides details about your business to the state government, such as official name, certain contact information, address, and more. The filing fee for Articles of Organization is $100.

An operating agreement describes how your LLC will be managed, who the stakeholders are, and how profits are allocated. In Florida, you are not required to submit an operating agreement as part of the LLC registration process. However, if you do not create an operating agreement, state default laws may apply to your business. There are online templates that can help you write your operating agreement.

Corporation

A corporation separates the individual owners from the business, which helps protect the owners’ personal assets from lawsuits and debt collection. This business structure is one of the most complicated and costly to set up and maintain. A key distinguishing feature of a corporation is its ability to issue stock, which allows a business to raise money from investors, offer more varied compensation packages to skilled staff, and attract experienced board members. Here’s what you need to start a corporation in Florida:

Articles of Incorporation

When registering a corporation in Florida, you are required to submit Articles of Incorporation to the Florida Division of Corporations. You can find the requirements and a basic Articles of Incorporation template via the Florida Department of State’s Division of Corporations.

Corporate bylaws

Next, prepare corporate bylaws—a document that determines the structure and governance of your operation. Information on what to include in your corporate bylaws can be found in the Florida Business Corporation Act. You may also want to use a template to make this process a little easier.

Board of directors

Corporations in Florida are required to assemble a board of directors to assist with oversight and management. Rules regarding who can be a director can be found in the Florida Business Corporation Act. Once a board of directors is appointed, host your first board meeting to make it official.

Stock issuance

Stock is a way to distribute ownership, raise funds from investors, and potentially incentivize experienced staff and advisers to bring their talent to a company. Stock is normally issued during the first board meeting. Extensive information on the regulations that apply to stock, how to issue stock, and more, is available in the statutes of the Florida Business Corporation Act.

5. Select a registered agent

A registered agent, or agent for service of process, is the person or entity that you designate to receive court documents on behalf of an LLC or corporation. When you file your Articles of Organization or Incorporation, the forms have a section to fill out to include details about your registered agent.

In Florida, your business entity cannot serve as its own registered agent. However, you can choose someone affiliated with the business or some other legal entity such as a law firm.

6. Get an EIN

An employer identification number (EIN) is an identifier similar to a Social Security number (SSN), except it’s for businesses. You can apply for an EIN with the IRS online. The registration process is free and relatively straightforward. You can also submit an application by fax, mail, or telephone.

7. Pay state taxes

Businesses in Florida pay a state corporate income/franchise tax administered by the Florida Department of Revenue. This is a flat-rate tax of 5.5%. There is no state personal income tax in Florida.

The Florida Department of Revenue oversees sales and use taxes, which are a flat sales tax of 6% (with some exceptions) on most goods and services in the state. Counties may also collect an additional discretionary sales surtax, or county tax, on businesses making sales in their region.

Florida offers a variety of business tax incentives to help encourage commerce and attract entrepreneurs to the state.

8. Obtain business licenses and permits

A general business license in Florida is not required. However, there are licensing requirements for businesses in certain industries. Common licenses include those for:

  • Alcohol sales
  • Construction contractor services
  • Registered landscape architecture

Primary licensing agencies are the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Depending on the nature of your business, it’s possible you also need a license to operate from one of Florida’s state agencies or other licensing agencies. There is no unified licensing system in Florida, so thoroughly review the applicable agency sites for licensing information.

9. Examine insurance options in Florida

Common business insurance types include:

The state of Florida requires that businesses with employees have workers’ compensation coverage. Coverage requirements differ depending on your industry, and number of employees. More information is available from the Florida Department of Financial Services.

10. Understand financial considerations

Open a business bank account, apply for a business credit card, and consider retaining a business accountant, whose experience is likely to be valuable throughout the course of your business journey.

11. Market your business

Marketing plays a key role in the success of your business. Showcasing your venture in just the right way is the last step before launch. Here are several core elements of successful marketing:

Brand your business

Build a brand that represents your business in a way that is recognizable, memorable, and demonstrates the true value of your offerings. Branding includes the following:

  • A company logo that serves as a visual representation of your brand. Try an online logo maker for easy logo creation.
  • Company colors and imagery that convey positive emotions associated with your brand. Use color theory to reflect those feelings.
  • A catchy slogan or impactful tagline that elevates your brand messaging and expands your reach. Check out a slogan maker for inspiration.
  • Official fonts that unify your aesthetic across platforms. Apps such as Fontify allow you to use unique fonts that amplify your brand.

Build a business website

Whether you run an online business or a brick-and-mortar store, you can benefit from a website. A website helps people discover your business while searching online, and it is often the first place potential customers go after learning about your products and services. 

Your website should be branded, easy to navigate, informative, and provide a great experience. You can build a website without design and coding skills and launch quickly with platforms like Shopify.

Promote your business

As your launch date nears, schedule time to create a marketing plan to help promote your business and sell more products and services. Effective marketing strategies include networking and implementing comarketing opportunities. 

“Nurture relationships, because people do business with people they know, they like, and they trust,” advises Allen.

Additionally, your marketing plan can assist your business in finding an audience, growing your customer base, and keeping your promotional efforts on track. Marketing plans often include:

  • Objectives that detail the specific goals you want to achieve through your company.
  • A SWOT analysis that can help you identify what you’re doing right and what needs refinement.
  • Market research that helps you understand your industry, potential customers, and competitors.
  • A budget that keeps your finances under control.

For inspiration, check out these marketing plan examples.

*This post is for information only. You are responsible for reviewing and using this information appropriately. This content doesn’t contain and isn’t meant to provide legal, tax, or business advice. Requirements are updated frequently and you should make sure to do your own research and reach out to professional legal, tax, and business advisers, as needed. Businesses outside of Florida will have different steps and requirements. To sell products using the Shopify platform, you must comply with the laws of the jurisdiction of your business and your customers, the Shopify Terms of Service, the Shopify Acceptable Use Policy, and any other applicable policies.

How to start a business in Florida FAQ

How long does it take to start a business in Florida?

Filing for sole proprietorship in Florida can take a few days. Setting up an LLC or corporation can take weeks or months, depending on the complexity of your business structure, the number of licenses you need, and how quickly you can collect required information to register your business.

How much does it cost to start a business in Florida?

The cost for starting a business in Florida varies by business structure and the number of licenses you need. For LLCs the cost is $100 for filing Articles of Organization or Incorporation.

Do business entities pay taxes in Florida?

There are no personal income taxes in Florida. All LLCs and corporations pay a state corporate income/franchise tax (Form F-1120). Sole proprietors are not required to file a corporate income/franchise tax return.

This article originally appeared on Shopify and is available here for further discovery.
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