STEP 1) VERIFY & SECURE YOUR BRAND NAME

Choose a Business Name

To secure and register your brand name it must be unique, not too similar to another registered name, and shouldn’t contain any restricted wording. To check, conduct a Corporate Entity Search through the state and if there are potential trademark issues conduct another quick search using the TESS System through the U.S. Patent Office.

Keep in mind your brand name should contain the words ‘Corporation,’ ‘Company,’ ‘Incorporated,’ or ‘Limited.” Abbreviations for these words are also acceptable. If needed, Illinois will allow you to have it reserved for 90 days by filing a Reservation of Name Application.

STEP 2) APPOINT A REGISTERED AGENT

Choose a Registered AgentYour Illinois Registered Agent is responsible for receiving and helping to handle/process all official documents on behalf of your brand like state filings, tax forms, legal notices and so forth. Here are the qualifications

  • Must be person residing in Illinois or a business entity legally registered with the Illinois Secretary of State;
  • They must have a physical address, typically non-P.O. Box, where the legal notifications for the business will be sent;
  • The Agent must be available at all times during regular M-F business hours.

You can hire an outside professional service and pay up to $160/year, or get a qualified agent free of charge when you incorporate with IncFile or Incorporate.com. They handle this along with so much more depending on the startup package you choose.

STEP 3) FILE ARTICLES OF INCORPORATION

Register an LLCTo become an officially recognized corporation, you’ll need to file Articles of Incorporation with the secretary of state. This is a declarative document this discloses the basics of your Illinois corporation for the public record including:

  • Corporation name, address, and statement of purposes,
  • Name and address of Registered Agent
  • Incorporator information, and so on.
  • Additional information will also be required, so double check the form and only file (mail or online) when you’re ready!

Filing fee: $150 plus preliminary payment for franchise tax at a minimum rate of $25

STEP 4) MAINTAIN A CORPORATE RECORDS BOOK

File Annual Reports & Publication Requirements

Think of this as the hard copy record book where all critical corporate documents are kept like the Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, meeting minutes, stock certificate ledger, stock certificates, stock certificate stubs, stock transfer documents, etc. It’s the ultimate company binder! They’re very common and while not necessary having one is highly recommended for all serious business entities.

You can find them at nearby office supply stores or on Amazon, but we’re huge fans of Corporate Kits which include gorgeous records books/binders you can brand for as little as $99.

STEP 5) ELECT INITIAL DIRECTOR, MEET, DISCUSS BYLAWS

Hold a Meeting with Your Board of Directors

Appoint at least 1 director who among other things will oversee the corporation in Illinois until the first shareholder meeting where new directors will be voted in. Prepare an “Incorporator Statement” with complete names and addresses of each director and keep it in your records book. Once elected, an initial meeting should:

  • Appoint officers & discuss/create Corporate Bylaws.
  • Choose a bank & approve the issuance of stock certificates.
  • Agree on corporate seal and adopt official stock certificate form.
  • Approve s-corp (opt.). Record Minutes of Meeting, have directors sign, then add to records book.

STEP 6) OPEN A BUSINESS BANK ACCOUNT

Best Business Bank Account

Where you choose to bank is no small matter when we’re talking about a corporation. Often startups and solopreneurs just use personal accounts, but that’s not going to fly with a corporation. Instead you and your CFO, if you have appointed one, need to find the best bank or credit union to handle the business banking services you’ll need to grow.

Look at different fee-structures, perks, incentives, and overall costs and savings and think ahead! You could start with a smaller bank for better deals, then switch to a much larger bank when your volume demands it. To get started, check out this quick breakdown of Business Checking Accounts.

STEP 7) HANDLE TAXATION & LICENSING/PERMITS

Business LicensesTo ensure that you will not face penalties, fines, and fees when operating a business, you need to completely fulfill your Illinois business taxes and licenses obligations to the state. To get started, see the resources below:

  1. Get an EIN, or Employer Identification Number, for free through the IRS Website.
  2. Bookmark the Chicago Small Business Admin office and the Sec. of State’s Business Services.
  3. To form an S-Corp, submit Form 2553 with the IRS and be sure all board of directors have signed it.
  4. Consider professional Business License Research packages that take care of the legwork for you.

OPTIONAL) CREATE A BUSINESS PLAN

Write a Business Plan

It’s common to “wing it” during initial bootstrapping phases which tend to be fast and furious. Goals and objectives are immediate and close to home. But as a corporation funding and attracting partners will require something more official and concise.

To be taken seriously when approaching investors, angel funds, banks or VCs you’ll need an executive summary and pitch. You’ll need to show them structured financials and forecasts. You’ll need to have serious marketing methods and other important core fundamentals figured out. Learn more through our free resources below.

  • Our free email-based Business Plan Course is designed to take you smoothly through the process step-by-step.
  • Our guide to Business Planning Software breaks down the best user-friendly solutions to help you strategize. (Spoiler Alert: LivePlan is the clear winner, in our opinion.)

OPTIONAL) BUILD A COMPANY WEBSITE

Build a Business Website

From astonishing marketing potential and room for brand expansion, to ecommerce and social selling, business websites aren’t optional anymore. Not as far as we can tell anyway. The issue is if you don’t have an in-house designer you trust, what do you do?

If you aren’t a designer and you don’t have one in-house, check out platforms like Wix and Weebly. Regardless, get your brand into the digital marketplace and enjoy the prosperous years ahead!

Need Help Forming Your Corporation?

Have a reliable incorporation service like IncFile or LegalZoom do the work for you. Just answer a few questions about your business and they’ll take care of the paperwork.

Although both offer virtually the same service, IncFile is $100 less and our top pick. Enjoy!

Visit IncFile Or Visit LegalZoom

Note that this article on how to form a corporation in Illinois isn’t a legal document or legal advice. It’s for informational purposes and the information above is subject to change. For specific legal questions regarding how to form a corporation in Illinois or business in general, please consult with a lawyer or other accredited professional.