Step 1) Verify & Secure Brand Name
To secure and register your brand name it must be unique, and must not contain any restricted wording. To check if your name is available, conduct a business entity search through the state, and if you expect any potential trademark issues, conduct another quick search using the TESS System through the U.S. Patent Office.
Keep in mind your name must contain the word “Corporation”, “Incorporated”, “Company”, or “Limited”, or the abbreviation “Corp”, “Inc”, “Co” or “Ltd”. If needed, you can reserve the name through the MI Department of Licensing & Regulatory Affairs.
Filing Fee: $10
Quick Note: Before you commit 100% to a name, you may also want to check that there’s a decent URL available for your business. Use WEEBLY to search your options. If there’s a quality domain name for purchase, we advise buying it right away. Even if launching a website isn’t on your radar right now, it’s going to be soon, and you might as well nail down a domain name that’ll make it easy for customers to find you!
Step 2) Appoint A Registered Agent
A Michigan registered agent is a certified individual or business entity that acts as an intermediary between you and the state, receiving official documents on your corporation's behalf. They must be a legal resident of Michigan, or an entity registered to conduct business in the state. Either way, they must have a MI street address where they can be reached during regular work hours (Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm).
You can designate a registered agent by electing someone within your company, hiring an outside professional, or incorporating through a service like IncFile to get a full year of these services for free.
Step 3) File Articles Of Incorporation
Once you’re ready to make your corporation official, it’s time to file Articles of Incorporation with the Department of Licensing & Regulatory Affairs. This document will ask you to disclose some basic information about your brand for the public record, including:
- The name and address of the business
- A statement of purpose
- The number of shares authorized to be issued
- The name and address of your registered agent
- Complete names and addresses of incorporators
You may submit your Articles by mail or in-person at one of the addresses provided on the form. Keep in mind you'll need to include the appropriate filing fee, which will depend on your corporation's number of authorized shares.
Step 4) Start A Corporate Records Book
Think of this as the hard-copy records book where all critical corporate documents are kept, like the Articles of Incorporation, bylaws, meeting minutes, stock certificates, etc. It’s the ultimate company binder!
While it’s not legally required, having one is highly recommended for all serious business entities. You can find one at a nearby office supply store or on Amazon, but we’re huge fans of corporate kits, which include gorgeous custom pieces like printed bylaws and a branded embossing seal.
Step 5) Choose Initial Directors
Appoint at least one initial director who, among other things, will oversee the corporation until the first shareholder meeting (when new directors will be voted in).
Once elected, have an organizational meeting with your director(s), during which you can take care of logistical things like:
Step 6) Open A Business Bank Account
When starting a corporation in Michigan, it’s very important to keep all personal and business assets/accounts completely separate. This requires opening a separate bank account designated for your business' finances.
Where will you start building the financial foundation of your brand? Who is offering the best overall services to corporate clients, relative to location and other conveniences?
If this is unfamiliar territory for you, read our short breakdown of business checking accounts to start brushing up. Where you choose to bank is a critical move for your corporation, which is why it should be discussed at length during your organizational meeting.
Step 7) Handle Taxation & Licensing/Permits
To legally operate in Michigan, you’re required to be 100% compliant with all relevant local/state/federal agencies. Ideally, you should work with an attorney, but at the very least you need to dedicate the time to knock this out on your own.
That said, here are four resources to get you started:
- Get an EIN (Employer Identification Number) quickly and free-of-charge through the IRS Website.
- Bookmark the Detroit Small Business Administration Office & the MI Department of Treasury.
- To form an S-Corp, submit Form 2553 with the IRS.
- Consider using a professional business license service to get some of the legwork taken care of on your behalf.