How to start a business in Ohio (10 Simple Steps)

Step 1: Truly Plan Your Business Idea

Write a Business PlanAccording to the U.S. Small Business Admin, a primary benefit of business planning is it allows you to see your entire startup in a very concise and illuminating way. This enables you to spearhead your focus, set realistic objectives and develop a more effective system of accountability. Without one, you’re flying blind. It’s about a structured game plan and the smart approach vs basically winging it.

Take Action: Check out our 100% free Business Planning Guide designed to get you from A-to-Z as pleasantly as possible. Plus, we provide access to tons of other great tools along the way.

Step 2: Choose Business Structure & Register

How to Choose a Business StructureNow it’s time to establish a legal entity and in the process secure your brand name by filing it with the state. Regardless of the type, once registered you and your personal assets (house, car, etc) will be protected and your business gains a variety of tax breaks.

Most entrepreneurs form an LLC because it has all the benefits of a Corporation without the disadvantages like double taxation, board of directors or corporate officers. However if you’re trying to take your company public or raise substantial outside capital, consider forming a Corporation.

Take Action: Since this step is so important and expensive if it’s not done correctly, we highly recommend investing 10 minutes to go over your options through our business structure comparison guide. You’ll get a better idea of the advantages and disadvantages of each while building a solid legal foundation for your business.

Step 3: Sync With The Ohio Tax Code

Small Business TaxesJust breathe, there’s no reason to worry about your business taxes as long as you take care of them. Back in 2013 Site Selection magazine ranked Ohio 4th and low overall tax burden is definitely a factor. Take your time and leverage as many incentives, breaks, and kickbacks as you can.

Take Action: Your best bet early on is to head on over to the Ohio Business Gateway, create an account and reach out if you need help. Be sure to do your homework on this step, it’s important.

Step 4: Obtain Proper Licensing/Permits

Business LicensesUnlike The Great Serpent Mount of Adams County, Ohio’s regulatory environment is hard-or-easy relative to a) where in Ohio you’re creating it and b) what kind of industry you’re in. Don’t be in a rush here, dot every t, and once it’s through you can celebrate. But until then, here are two great resources:

  1. For DYI’ers head to and use their Licenses & Permits section.
  2. If you need help with this step, a Business License Research Service is what we recommend. They determine everything required on Federal, State, County and Municipal levels, get the forms, and provide step-by-step filing instructions.

Step 5: Create A Dedicated Business Bank Account

Best Business Bank AccountOf course your business needs its own unique, separate, and dedicated bank account that isn’t mixed with any other accounts. Not just for all the financial services you get these days, or because it’s the professional move, but for tracking and getting through tax season as well.

  • Shop around at local and national banks to compare features. We typically recommend national online banks like Spark Business from Capital One because of their ‘no fees’ or ‘no minimum balance’ policies. It just makes your life a lot easier as a business owner.
  • User-friendly, fast, secure, tons of automation, easier forecasting, more efficient marketing budgets…the benefits are near endless which is why this startup-tech is indispensable. Check out our guide to Business Accounting Software and sync whichever you choose with your fresh business bank account.

Step 6: Pick A Stellar Ohio Location

How to Choose a Business LocationThe two important points about location are: how many resources are within about 1-5 miles from your office/store, and how much easier the location makes managing the business – for example local talent and short/long commutes.

Take Action: Listen, 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 BusinessNo matter what industry you’re in, your business is likely going to require a steady stream of capital that if all goes well will be ratcheting up over time. Good news is you’ve picked one of the healthiest places in the world when it comes to networks, groups, collegiate stuff, state-level programs galore and anything else you can think of including tons of CrowdFunders and Social Lenders.

Take Action: The email course we mentioned in Step 1 really comes in handy here because planning and finances go together like Organic peanut butter and chocolate. 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 WebsiteOriginally our state-specific startup guides didn’t include this step because we assumed it was default by now, but, we’ve since learned to be more prudent. Yes, for those that don’t know yet for whatever reason, your brand needs a website. These days though you can have a great site setup for far less money and hassle than in years since past through business website builders.

Take Action: The first step is finding the right platform, which thankfully there are a couple fantastic business website builders. Our favorites are Wix and Weebly. No matter which website builder you end up choosing, you’ll be in good hands since each one offers free support.

Step 9: Market Your Business

Social Media ChannelNow after all that, it’s time to sell. It’s brand expansion time. It’s time to get out there and make as big a mark on Ohio as The Christmas Story movie. And from there, the world…but seriously, all it takes is a commitment to your customer. Don’t get too caught up in less personal aspects of digital marketing.

Take Action: Ohioans are a passionate bunch, which is one of the biggest reasons politicians go insane for them every few years or so. Once you set up shop, start as local as possible and work your way from there. Your first clients/users/customers are often the most helpful in terms of optimization.

Step 10: Continue Learning & Stay Inspired

Sign Up For Entrepreneur InterviewsAs you continue forth on your noble journey as a new entrepreneur, keep Startup Savant in your goodie bag because if anyone knows where you’re coming from and what you’re facing…it’s our community. We focus our content on helping you stay motivated and continue your education, updated on the savviest tools for modern business.

Take Action: Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to tap into our daily feed filled with tips, lessons, and inspiring stories directly from entrepreneurs like you. And, when you’re ready don’t be afraid to reach out and tell us about your journey in Ohio.