Plan It: 7 steps to setting up your business
Structure • Name • Location • Permits and Licenses • Labor Law • Taxes • Business Plan • Online Businesses
Choose a Business Structure
Four options are available: sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation or limited liability company. Which one you choose depends on many factors, including the type of business you want to start and whether you plan to have employees or go it alone. See dba Florida™ for descriptions of each.
Choose a Name
One of your most important decisions. For ideas, think of keywords that relate to what you do or where you are; look to pop culture and literature; brainstorm with friends and family. Above all, remember to keep your name:
Concise Fewer than 10 letters makes it easy to recall, search and Tweet.
Flexible In case you want to one day expand your product line or locations.
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.
Choose a Location
If your business will depend on customer traffic for success, choosing the right site may be as important as choosing a name. Additional factors to consider:
zoning Is the area zoned for your type of business?
affordability Can you afford the monthly rent for this location?
Condition Is the site occupant-ready or will renovations be needed?
Competition Are surrounding businesses complementary or competing?
potential employees Does the area offer a labor pool you can draw from?
Secure the Necessary Permits and Licenses
Unless you’re a sole proprietor working alone from home, you will likely need one or more of the following:
zoning permit Must be obtained before receiving a business tax receipt. If within city limits, apply at the city zoning department; outside city limits, apply at the county zoning department. Note: Some jurisdictions require both city and county permits.
BUSINESS TAX RECEIPT (Occupational License) If your business is within city limits, and the city and county issue separate business tax receipts, contact your municipal and county government offices to determine if you need just one or both.
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. Licenses for retail food stores, food processing plants and food storage/distribution businesses may be obtained from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
BEVERAGE LICENSES Businesses that sell alcoholic beverages must apply for a beverage license 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 such activities as dredge and fill, stormwater construction, water treatment and sewage treatment. Apply through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.