As of 2019, some 1.2 million small businesses have made Illinois their home — comprising an impressive 99.6% of all businesses in the state. And if you’re an aspiring woman entrepreneur, you’d be happy to know that the highest concentration of women business founders in America is in Chicago, where one-third of the city’s startups are run by women. With the lively business community and the availability of many resources, especially for women entrepreneurs, building your own small business in Illinois can be an exciting and rewarding endeavor. Here are a few steps to get you started:
Decide on a Business Name
Once you’ve decided on a business idea you want to pursue, you need to pick a unique name that can distinguish your business from others and strengthen your brand. Make sure it captures the spirit of the product or service you’re offering. Then, you should check its availability with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. If you’re planning to build a business website, you can also visit GoDaddy.com to check for your business name’s domain availability.
Create Your Business Plan
A business plan serves as your roadmap, empowering you to lead your business and showing investors where your business is headed. In creating a business plan, make sure you cover product development, financial planning, and marketing. These can be written down in one or both of the two general formats for business plans: the traditional business plan and the lean startup plan. The former is a type of plan that’s very detailed and comprehensive, which is what investors usually look for. The latter, meanwhile, only contains key elements and may be used when you want to explain or start your business much more quickly. The good thing about these types is that you can edit and shift from one to the other according to your needs.
Choose Your Business Entity
Other than for organization and credibility, the biggest reason for choosing a business entity is liability protection. Business entities distinguish personal and business affairs, which doesn’t happen in sole proprietorships, where there’s only the owner, so there’s no separation of personal assets and liabilities from those of the business. In contrast, forming an LLC in Illinois allows you to separate these two. Registering as an LLC costs around $150 in filing fees, and this gives you the benefit of flexibility and adaptability in the management structure. Unlike corporations, LLCs are exempted from double taxation and have fewer regulations and reporting requirements. Corporations, on the other hand, are more expensive and difficult to form. But they also protect the owners’ personal assets, just like an LLC, should the company be held liable for any damages or debts.
Register Your Business
Once you’ve applied for a federal Employer Identification Number through the IRS, you may register your business under the Illinois Assumed Name Act. The state also requires a registered agent, which may be you or a member of your company, who is at least 18 years old and with an Illinois address. In order for your business to pay taxes, you need to register with the Illinois Department of Revenue as well. Lastly, you need to file your articles of organization or incorporation with the Illinois Secretary of State.
Obtain Licenses and Permits
It’s important to check the different kinds of licenses and permits with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to see which ones apply to your business. These may include liquor, manufacturing, contractor, waste management, air, water pollution control, and land pollution control. Make sure to also check the websites of your city and county for their own regulations, so you can obtain applicable local licenses and permits as well. Once you’ve covered all the above and secured your funding, your business may be good to go. But it wouldn’t hurt to seek support, especially if this is your first time to start a business. Communities like the ‘Become Your Own CEO’ group on Facebook can serve as a safe space, especially for women entrepreneurs seeking advice and new connections with like-minded women.