Starting a business in Vermont is easy, just follow these 10 steps:
Step 1: Make A Plan For Your Business
The first and most important step is professionally planning your business venture. Financials, objectives, strategies, your target market and pitch, etc. Along with being required to secure funding, a professional business plan also supports growth, helps manage cash flow and distinguish fly-by-nights from the ones who are serious. It doesn't make sense to get started without 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.
Don’t know what kind of business to start?
Our friends over at howtostartanllc.com have compiled a massive list of business ideas, ranging from personal styling to axe-throwing businesses.
If you’re having trouble finding the perfect business idea for you, we encourage you to check them out!
Step 2: Register Your Vermont Business
Your next major task is going to be registering your business with the state of Vermont. Before you can do that, though, you have to figure out what type of business structure you want to form: an LLC, S Corp, C Corp, or Sole Proprietorship. Then, you can read our detailed guide on naming your business. Let’s take a quick look at each of the business structures:
With your initial plan in the bag you can move on to choosing your business structure and registering it with the state. Doing this will a) secure your brand name, b) register it with the state, c) protect your personal assets like house and car.
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, you should probably form 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: Determine Your Tax Obligations
After becoming a legal entity registered to do business in Vermont, your next step is setting up a tax account through the state. Don’t worry, getting your tax ID number is easy and there are tons of resources to help you leverage their incentive programs (if applicable) and credits. Just be sure to do your homework on this step and get everything taken care of.
Take Action: A great place to start is the Taxes and Your Business section of Vermont’s official state website. They’ve got a helpful checklist ready for you to use.
Step 4: Obtain Necessary Business Licenses And Permits
The last chunk of official "red tape" has to do with acquiring proper licensing/permits which will depend on where you're operating and what kind of business you're starting.
- For DYI’ers head to Vermont.gov’s list of Professional Licenses and Permits and see if any are applicable. If you need help, head to the Agency of Commerce and Community Development.
- If you need additional help, a Business License 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: Separate Your Personal and Business Assets
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
Now that you’ve made it through registering and setting up taxes and licensing for your business, you’ll need to take steps to protect your personal assets and establish your business as an independent entity.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil .
You can go a long way in protecting your assets with these three steps:
- Open a business bank account.
A business bank account separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection. A designated business bank account also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
To open up a bank account for your business, you’ll need to obtain an EIN (Employer Identification Number). You’ll use your EIN in place of your social security number so that this account is completely separate from your personal finances. After this, start doing your research on various business bank accounts. Local options and national banks, like Chase, both have their perks.
Recommended: BlueVine is an online bank with free business checking and no hidden fees. Great for businesses who do not often deal with cash.
- Get a business credit card.
A business credit card helps you separate personal and business expenses. A business credit card will also build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise capital later on.
- Designate an authorized representative.
Make sure all documents are signed by a representative of your LLC and not by you (or other LLC members) directly. This will help separate you from liability incurred by the LLC.
- Keep your accounting and bookkeeping up to date
Make sure to sync up your banking and credit card accounts with an accounting software like QuickBooks as soon as you get the chance. It’s never too soon to start organizing your business’ finances!
A good business credit score will help establish your business’s fundability. It can help with many things, including credit cards that are issued in your business’s name and score instead of depending on your personal credit score, better interest rates on loans, higher lines of credit, and more.
Step 6: Choose A Location For your Business
Unless you were born in Vermont and have lived there a while, at first you’re going to be a flatlander (non-native) but that’s okay. There's really just two critical points to focus on in terms of location:
- Services/Resources: Typically look within 1-5 miles from where you're setting up shop. How many resources are there just waiting to be leveraged?
- Convenience: How much easier will your company be to manage from one location to the next? This is typically where compromises are made, for example choosing a place with a longer commute but more local talent.
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: Fund Your Business
To get an idea for how healthy and business-friendly Vermont is, check out their annual 100+ List of Businesses. There is no shortage of local and state-level programs, groups, networks, CrowdFunders, and social lenders to help you keep the resources flowing into your brand so it can continue growing into the future. Maybe you’ll make the list sooner than you think!
Take Action: The email course we mentioned in Step 1 really comes in handy here because planning and finances go together like farmer’s markets and maple syrup. You can also browse our guide on How to Finance a Business to start generating ideas.
Step 8: Create Your Business Website
Listen, no one’s saying you have to do your website like Vermont does Autumn, it just needs to be user/brand-friendly. By that we mean easy for people to use/navigate and investigate your brand story, products, services and initiatives. Think about it as a digital business card that brings people in.
Take Action: The first step is finding the right platform, which thankfully there are a handful of great options. Head on over to our reviews of Wix and Weebly to get a head start. They’re both very reliable, affordable and easy to use. Plus they offer free trials so you can test the waters!
Step 9: Market Your Business
You’ll notice quickly, depending on how distracted by the scenery, that there are no roadside ads in Vermont. Hell, there wasn’t a Walmart until the late 90s and you still can’t find a McDonalds near the capital, but why? Because no one in the state (and most of modern consumerism in general) wants to be pestered with conventional, mindless, mainstream corporate advertising.
Take Action: What people really respond to is a mixture of well-timed functionality, meaning getting the right product at the right time when it’s needed, and humanity! Make your marketing personal and leave the sales-speak out! Be sure to do some research on which type of marketing is the most effective for your industry.
Step 10: Continue Learning And Stay Inspired
For everything else along the entrepreneurial journey please consider Startup Savant as one of your reliable and savvy sources of free information. We focus on interviewing fellow entrepreneurs and give them the proverbial microphone to share their stories, their trials, and their successes.