Wed 26 Aug 2015 | By:

How to Start a Business in Tennessee: 10 Simple Steps

Step 1: Truly Plan Your Business Idea

Write a Business PlanLike a finely aged bottle of Tennessee Jack or Moonshine, or an amazing show at the Grand Ole Opry, successful companies are the result of time, organization and very serious planning. There’s a fair amount of moving parts, so a central defining game plan is necessary to ensure everything goes off without too many hitches.

Take Action: Seize upon our free and easy email-based Business Planning Course designed to get you from A-to-Z as pleasantly as possible. Plus, we provide tons of other great tools along the way.


Step 2: Choose Biz-Structure & Incorporate

How to Choose a Business StructureOnce you’ve got an initial plan growing, the next step is to choose which legal business structure or entity best serves your ambitions relative to how each is treated by the state of Tennessee. They’ve all got their upsides and downsides so do a little homework here because it goes a LONG way. Don’t just assume an LLC is the way to go without making sure. In the process, especially if you work with an online incorporation provider, parts of steps 3 and 4 get folded in.

Take Action: As this part of starting a business can be rather sensitive, we’ve developed quick-guides for the most popular entities if you want to skip over to those.


Step 3: Sync with the Tennessee Tax Code

Small Business TaxesIs navigating the tax code as fun as a day at Dollywood? Hmm, it’s debatable. Honestly, tons of people are excited to find out how startup-friendly Tennessee can be and what sorts of credits, incentives, programs, and kickbacks apply to their platforms. Not everyone sings the blues when it comes to the regulatory system.

Take Action: Bookmark this Tennessee Business Tax Guide which is a free PDF published online through the TN Dept. of Revenue. It lays out the whole 9 yards.


Step 4: Obtain Proper Licensing/Permits

Business LicensesListen there’s nice. There’s Virginia or Vermont niceness, then there’s Tennessee-style smiles and handshakes. As fast as a few laps around the Bristol Motor Speedway, you’ll have the right paper filed with the right agencies and be officially open for business.

  1. For DYI’ers head to the Registration and Licensing page through to get started.
  2. For $99 you could get IncFile’s Business License Package which is amazing! They determine everything required on Federal, State, County and Municipal levels for you, get the forms, and provide step-by-step filing instructions.


Step 5: Create a Dedicated Business Bank Account

Best Business Bank AccountTo reward you for all that hard work in steps 2 through 4, step 5 is crazy-simple but has profound impact. All that’s on your plate is to find a great place to set up business bank accounts and establish your brand’s financial persona. After syncing it into your accounting software you’re pretty much golden.

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Step 6: Pick a Stellar Tennessee Location

How to Choose a Business LocationOkay, real talk – keep in mind some of the world’s best BBQ is in Memphis and Nashville is the birthplace of country music. From Jackson to Knoxville there’s history and culture wherever you look. Outside the cities there’s gorgeous farmland, so from about May through late August you can go pick just about anything you can imagine, especially berries!

Take Action: We know picking a spot can be tough if it doesn’t somehow happen naturally through your personal/professional networks. If you’d like to brush up on everything that goes into making this decision, refer to our friendly guide on How to Choose the Perfect Location.


Step 7: Finance/Bootstrap Your Platform

How to Finance a BusinessThe #1 question is, “Well, how much money is my business going to need to be successful?” And while no one’s got a crystal ball, chances are it’s going to be more than you’re expecting. Success, sheesh, it’s expensive in most cases! Thankfully you have a great business plan that includes reasonable/promising financial forecasts and a sane budget…right?

Take Action: The email course we mentioned in Step 1 really comes in handy here because planning and finances go together like hang-gliding and The Smokies. You can also browse our guide on How to Finance a Business to start generating ideas.


Step 8: Design & Publish a Business Website

Build a Business WebsiteBusiness requires websites the way horses require spurs at times to get their butts in gear. Who could argue? Question is, what kind of website will work best for your brand? There are basically two components to consider here: investigation and navigation. Your website should first and foremost work like a digital business card that provides info on your brand and what it’s about. Secondly, it should be VERY easy to use. These two together, when done well, are like Moon Pies and RC.

Take Action: If you could use some help in this department the first step is finding the right platform, which thankfully there aren’t too many yet. Head on over to this easy Business Website Builder Guide to get a head start.


Step 9: Market Your Business

Social Media ChannelWant to know the formula? There actually is one, the trick’s understanding that within each segment there really are no rules. Here it is: identify your core value/pitch, define your customers/users/clients, segment them, research the crap out of them, then identify your competition and do “it” better.

Take Action: Smile often, network like there’s no tomorrow, stay out of trouble and work hard.


Step 10: Continue Learning & Stay Inspired

Sign Up For Entrepreneur InterviewsTo cap this guide off we want to humbly ask you keep Startup Savant in your Rolodex of useful resources. Around here we publish content regarding savvy tools, interviews from fellow change-makers, and review-style stuff concerning small biz-friendly software.

Take Action: Tap into our weekly newsletter filled with tips, tricks, lessons, and inspiring stories directly from ambitious professionals like you.

Note that this article is only a guide; thus it is only for information purposes. Please do not take this as a legal advice. Should you need further assistance with regard to starting a new business in Tennessee, talk to your lawyer.

About Liesha Petrovich

Liesha is a small business owner of 20 years, host of Startup Savant, the owner of a karate dojo in Maine, and creator of Work Mobly. During free time she's with her family and working on a Doctorate in Entrepreneurship.