Step 1) Verify & Secure Brand Name
The very first thing to do is ensure that the name you’d like isn’t already taken, doesn’t contain restricted words, or is too similar to another name under the eyes of state law. Before doing anything else, use the Wisconsin Business Entity Search system to check, 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 words like “Corporation”, “Incorporated”, “Company”, or “Limited,” or their abbreviations “Corp.”, “Inc.,” “Co.” or “Ltd.” If needed, you can also file a Name Reservation Application form with the WI Dept. of Financial Institutions that’s good for 120 days.
Filing Fee: $15
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 business 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
Every company in the state must have a Wisconsin Registered Agent to represent their brand; to receive and help to handle/process legal paperwork like all state filings & important business forms, legal notices, etc.
Basic requirements are that this agent be a WI resident/registered business entity with a non-P.O. Box physical street address and available M-F during all regular business hours. That said, you can hire an outside professional and pay up to $160/year, or get a qualified agent free of charge when you incorporate with IncFile or CorpNet.
Step 3) File Articles Of Incorporation
To legally form your Wisconsin corporation, you need to officially file Articles of Incorporation with the WI Secretary of State (can be filed online). Some of the basic information that will be disclosed for the public record includes:
- Corporate name and address,
- Name and address of Wisconsin Registered Agent,
- Number of shares the corporation is authorized to issue,
- Name and address of every incorporator,
- Effective date of your Articles of Incorporation.
Filing Fee: $100 with expedited options
Step 4) Maintain A Corporate Records Book
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.
Step 5) Elect Director, Meet, Discuss Bylaws
Appoint at least 1 initial Director who among other things will oversee the Wisconsin corporation 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:
Step 6) Setup A Corporate Bank Account
As discussed in your initial meeting, now’s the time to set up your brand’s financial groundwork (or have your CFO do it). And this isn’t personal banking, so if you’re new to this then shop around. Look at an assortment of local, state, and national banks as well as credit unions. There’s plenty of great deals, perks, incentives and kickbacks to be leveraged.
The other big important thing to remember is to completely separate your brand’s financials from other data streams and bank accounts of any kind. Here’s a quick breakdown article of Business Checking Accounts from some of the biggest banks to begin the research process.
Step 7) Handle Taxation & Licensing/Permits
As a legally operating Wisconsin corporation, you’re required to be 100% compliant with all relevant local/state/federal agencies. Ideally you should have an attorney or at least be working with a professional filing service. Otherwise, here are four resources to get started:
- Get a free EIN, or Employer Identification Number, quickly through the IRS website.
- Bookmark the Milwaukee Small Business Administration and the state’s SBDC platform.
- To form an S-Corp, submit Form 2553 with the IRS and be sure all board of directors have signed it.
- Consider professional business license research packages that handle the legwork for you.