top of page

Small Business Registration

1. Determine What Type of Business You Want to Register As

  • Sole proprietor: A sole proprietorship is a business that is owned and operated by an individual. This is the simplest form of business entity. The business and yourself are one. This is the simplest and the most common type of business out there. The sole proprietor is responsible for everything the business does. You do business under your own name, with no separation of assets and liabilities. This means that you’ll be held personally liable for any debts that the business incurs, any legal implications, and you are only taxed once for revenues.

  • Partnership: A partnership is the relationship between two or more people who join to do business. Each person contributes money, property, labor or skill, and expects to share in the profits and losses of the business. Partnerships comprise two or more people and any profits, debts and decisions related to the business are shared. This does not always mean 50/50 share in the business.

  • Corporation: A corporation is a business organization that has a separate legal personality from its owners. Ownership in a corporation is represented by shares of stock. Think of the big companies like Intel, Pepsi, and Google. The owners, or stockholders, enjoy limited liability but have limited involvement in the company's operations and decision power is based on what proportion of stock you own.

  • Limited Liability Company (LLC): Hybrid forms of business that have characteristics of both a corporation and a partnership. Nonetheless, the owners enjoy limited liability like in a corporation. An LLC may elect to be taxed as a sole proprietorship, a partnership, or a corporation. An LLC is not incorporated; hence, it is not considered a corporation. Starting an LLC also gives you the perk of pass-through taxes, limited liability (obviously), and legal protection for your personal assets. Those who an LLC need not be U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

2. Make Sure You’re Legally Permitted to Use Your Business’ Name

Before you start printing out business cards and buying domain names, make sure the name you chose for your business isn’t infringing on the rights of an already existing business. In most cases, you don't need an attorney for this task, as you can perform a free search online that looks at business names registered with the Secretary of State. Considering you can still infringe on someone else’s trademark even if they’ve never formally registered it with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, you should also do a comprehensive search into all state and local databases (look for an affordable online service to help you with this).

3. Register a Fictitious Business Name/DBA

Remember, your business can operate under