Starting a business in Virginia is easy, just follow these 11 steps:
Step 1: Make A Plan For Your Business
Being prepared should be your first step to building a brand in what Forbes has called America’s #1 place for entrepreneurs. Take the time to develop a strong pitch, a convincing executive summary, solid financial forecasts, market perspectives, and so forth. Without these insights in place, driving you and defining your objective, it’s going to be hard to compete.
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. We'll guide you step-by-step through the process and help refine all your core fundamentals: marketing, budgeting, milestones, pitch, etc. into a presentation-ready plan.
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 Virginia Business
Your next major task is going to be registering your business with the state of Virginia. 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:
Most entrepreneurs form an LLC because it has all the benefits of a corporation without the disadvantages like double taxation, boards of directors, and 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
Virginia’s tax code can get a little interesting depending on what type of business you intend on creating and under what sort of legal structure. Take a little time and leverage the countless resources you’ll gain – like Virginia Incentives.
Take Action: If you’re lone ranger-ing this part, you’ll want to bookmark the Virginia Dept. of Taxation Business Section through Virginia.gov. It provides access to their forms, all the tax info you’ll need concerning your rights, localities, etc.
Step 4: Obtain Necessary Business Licenses And Permits
Depending on your industry and where you plan to open up shop, you may have a lot of regulatory red tape or a smidgen. With that being said, you’ve got two resources to make sure you get all licenses and permits taken care of:
- For DYI’ers, the first thing to do is head HERE and see if you need a license or permit. Consider creating an account using their Business One Stop site as well.
- For help finding the licenses you’ll need, a Business License Service is what we highly recommend looking into. 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 five 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: Read our Best Banks for Startups and Entrepreneurs review to find the best online bank, eCommerce banks, the best for tech startups, real estate investment banks, and more.
- 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
From historic Chesapeake Bay to the Appalachian Mountains, Virginia is one of the most influential areas of the modern world. Whether you set up shop in Alexandria or Virginia Beach, you’re going to have it all and be centrally located in the northeast.
Take Action: 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
Virginia’s rocking a $462 billion dollar GDP. Between state-level programs, initiatives, networks, groups, and more, you have no limits. Money flows through Virginia like the Salmon of Capistrano. Just be sure you know how much is needed to get your business off the ground and start there.
Take Action: You can browse our guide on How to Finance a Business to start generating ideas. Keep in mind the email course we mentioned in Step 1 really comes in handy here because planning and finances go together like peas and carrots.
Step 8: Create Your Business Website
All you may really need as a startup is a basic website, or even just a single landing page with all the pertinent details while you bring your business idea to life. What matters is that the world has a way to investigate you, share your news, and engage if they aren’t located in the Virginia area.
Take Action: The first step is finding the right platform, which thankfully there are some great options out there. Head on over to our reviews of the top two in our book (Wix and Weebly) to get a head start if you don’t already have this in the bag.
Step 9: Market Your Business
Whether we’re talking about the digital sphere or the melding of cultures on the ground in Roanoke, where are your ideal customers/clients/users? Be as specific as you can, because each and every one of them are huge reservoirs waiting to be explored.
Take Action: Incentives drive effective marketing. They are used to get your community to create valuable marketing for you, give feedback, and drive follow-through sales (which typically account for the majority of positive margins). How are you using them to drive you brand?
Step 10: Build Your Business's Brand
Now that you’ve taken care of all the essentials above, it’s time to work on building your brand!
There are an abundance of factors that impact your brand image, but two of the significant ones are your business logo and website. When you're ready to design your brand logo, keep the following ideas in mind:
- Capture the essence of your business. When thinking about a design, you should choose something that reflects the nature or mission of your company.
- Differentiate yourself. Check out the colors and shapes used by your direct competitors and consider heading a different direction to help you stand out in the market.
- Make it memorable. Select a sleek, bold design that will leave a lasting impression in people’s minds.
- Hire a professional. This is a very important step for your business, so it’s worth investing a few bucks to get your logo professionally done. (Sites like Fiverr can be great for this.)
You can also use our free logo maker tool to make one yourself! No design experience necessary!
Another hugely important aspect of your brand image is your business website — but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to build a website from the ground up. A simple way to craft a professional, inviting website is to use an existing web-building platform. These services can save you a ton of time and money involved in building a website from scratch.
Step 11: Continue Learning And Stay Inspired
At this point you should be the owner of an official, in-operation and being-marketed business. So please consider Startup Savant a reliable resource to turn to for tools, insight from fellow change-makers, and motivational content that keeps you chugging along, onward and upward.