How to Start a Business in Florida

Step-by-step guide for new business owners.

1. Name your Business

Starting a business requires that you invest your entire attention in the project from the very beginning. It’s critical that the business model is one with longevity that you feel passionate about. Part of the process of choosing your entity type is deciding on a corporate structure. That means determining if you’ll be the only owner and operator of the business (a sole proprietorship), if you’ll be working as a team (a partnership), or if it’ll be organized in a number of different ways outlined here.

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2. Registering your Business

With the primary fundamentals established, you’ll need to register your business and come up with a name to use that reflects not only your own name, but also your business purpose. It’s helpful if the name is also memorable and easy to share. Once you’ve chosen a name, to make it official, you can choose to file a fictitious name (also known as a“doing business as” or “dba”). This name does not match your personal name, or your legal business entity. The fictitious name act allows individual or business to operate under a name other than their legal name. Because there are 2,180,556 small businesses in Florida, there’s a good chance that someone might have already spoken for the one you have in mind. For that reason we recommend acting as soon as you can and complete the necessary paperwork as efficiently as possible.

Unfortunately, business ownership doesn’t come for free. There are fees associated with filing for a corporation, for or not-for profile, fees for agent designation, and optional fees for a certified certificate of status. The fees for filing an LLC as of 2019 include: $100 for filing, $25 for a registered agent designation, $30 for an optional certified copy, or $5 for an optional certificate of status.

3. Develop a Business Plan

You’ve got the idea. You’ve got a name to go with it. You’ve officially registered. Now it’s time to strategize and put your business in a position for success. First, you should set yourself up to pay taxes. Most businesses pay federal, state, local, and sometimes city taxes. An advantage of acting on small business opportunities in Florida is that compared to the rest of the U.S., businesses in Florida generally pay a smaller amount in taxes. This is because only traditional corporations pay state income taxes, and smaller establishments rarely ever reach the “corporation” level.

Additionally, income taxes are generally less because business owners in Florida are not taxed on income that comes in through the business. Small businesses in the state of Florida must register for identification numbers, permits or licenses for the taxes depending on the service that will be provided. As part of the tax process, you’ll need to apply for a Federal Employee Identification Number, and in addition to registering with the Department of State, most businesses must register with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

There are two main licensing agencies for “skilled trades,” The Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) and The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS), but you may not need a license at all.

What you will need is a business bank account. Separating your personal and business finances will help immensely during tax season and with day-to-day organization. Business bank accounts also come with certain benefits that personal accounts do not, like higher credit limits in case you have to make an emergency equipment purchase to keep your business up and running.

4. Pick Your Location

Location, location, location. It’s always important, but it’s especially important when it comes to getting a business off the ground and keeping it there. In addition to a coastline of beautiful beaches and sparkling cities, with a population of more than 18 million, according to the 2010 census, Florida is the third most populous state in the US, which means there are plenty of customers. There’s also no state income tax and relatively low property taxes, making naturally-beautiful Florida an ideal landing place for any kind of business. This is no secret to entrepreneurs, however, shown by the fact that there are more than 100 startups per 1,000 total firms.

When considering location options in Florida, Miami is an obvious choice. The city is a thriving center for entrepreneurship, small business development, economic growth, and international reach, with connections to both Latin America and Europe. Research shows that locations with populations less than 50,000 are ideal for small business growth, as is being close to larger cities including Miami and Orlando. Starting a business in one of those cities on the outskirts gives entrepreneurs access to a large workforce and more customers hoping to shop small.

5. Grow your Business – Next Steps

Choosing the location is a jumping off point for selecting business insurance—proximity to water and susceptibility to flooding could be factors in this decision—and that may inform your finance structure and method of accounting. Once the location is in place, you can start to settle in, finding a space for lease, identifying employees if necessary, starting a marketing strategy, and more. One of the best parts of starting a business in Florida, besides the sun, tax-friendliness, and low fees, are the local resources available to help you get going and see success.

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