How to start a business in Florida

Editorial Team

6 min read
Lake Eola Orlando Florida

It’s no secret that Florida is a top destination for retirees. It also attracts those who are just starting their careers – including entrepreneurs looking to launch businesses. It’s easy to see why, given that Florida was recently ranked in the top three for the most business-friendly states in the country.

If you’re also interested in starting a venture in the Sunshine State, there are many useful resources to point you in the right direction, including Florida’s:

If you’re looking for a high-level overview of these resources, below is a summarized checklist for starting a business in Florida.

1. Pick a business idea and concept

Obviously, every business needs a reason to exist beyond making a profit. At this stage of the startup process, the goal is to determine what kinds of problems people or other businesses are facing – and how your business can help solve these problems.

2. Write a business plan and secure funding

If you’re going to commit time, money, and other resources to this venture, you’ll need a roadmap to keep you on track. The U.S. Small Business Administration has a great resource on writing business plans – complete with tips on forecasting startup costs and profit potential. With these financials worked out, you can begin shopping for financing from banks, investors, friends, family members, or even crowdfunding websites.

3. Research business name availability, trademarks, and branding

Many states have rules against registering two or more companies in the same niche using the same or similar names. To verify whether your business name is still available, be sure to check the Florida Business Name Database. You can also check the status of trademarks using the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Search Database.

Once you’ve chosen a business name and verified it with these databases, you can start designing a brand identity, including the values, logos, taglines, and color palettes that define your business. You can also consider whether it makes sense to try to trademark your business name.

4. Determine a business structure

The next step involves choosing the most appropriate legal structure for your business.

  • Sole proprietorship: This is the easiest structure to set up because it requires the least amount of paperwork. It also offers the least amount of legal protection, as it does not distinguish your personal assets and liabilities from those of your business.
  • General partnership: This structure is a popular option when there are two or more owners involved. Some partnerships blend personal and business assets, while others create a clear separation between the two.
  • Corporation: This structure offers the most liability protection of all entities. It also requires the most setup and maintenance, which is why corporations are more popular among larger, established companies – and less so among startups.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC): This structure is a nice compromise for small business owners. LLCs are relatively easy to set up and maintain. They create a clear separation between your personal assets and liabilities and those of your business.

To see the exact filing requirements for whatever legal structure you choose, visit the state’s Division of Corporations.

5. Apply for an EIN (Employer Identification Number)

Social Security numbers are to citizens what Employer Identification Numbers are to businesses. In both cases, the IRS uses these unique numbers to track taxes and benefits. Without an EIN, you can’t open a business in Florida, or in the U.S. in general. Apply for yours as soon as possible using the IRS’s free online form.

6. Acquire licenses and permits

Many businesses and occupational fields are regulated in Florida. Doctors, nurses, massage therapists, and restaurant owners, for example, all need a certification or license before they can go into business. To see whether your business is also subject to these types of government regulations, use the license search tool on the Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) website.

7. Set up employer obligations

If you plan to hire employees, you’ll need to properly set up payroll and benefits. Depending on the nature of your business, these employer obligations might also extend to OSHA guidelines, workplace safety, and minimum wage regulations. For a more comprehensive overview of employer requirements for starting a business in Florida, visit the state’s Employment and Labor Guide.

8. File appropriate federal, state, and local taxes

Filing taxes for your business is a lot more complex than reporting personal income. Unless you’re a trained professional, consider hiring a certified public accountant (CPA) to make sure your federal, state, and local paperwork are all in order and filed properly.

9. Be prepared to take payments

You need a way to securely process payments before you can start making sales. Many Florida startups choose Clover to help with payment acceptance due to our:

  • Intuitive setup process and 24/7 support

To learn more about our suite of payment processing and business management solutions, schedule a free consultation with a Clover Business Consultant today.

10. Set up a business banking account

Regardless of what legal structure you choose, having a business bank account makes it easier to keep your personal finances separate. You’ll also need a business bank account if you plan to set up a merchant account to accept credit cards, debit cards, and other electronic payments.

11. Initiate marketing strategy and continued business development

The final step when starting a business in Florida involves getting people through the door.

  • Your marketing strategy is how you attract those initial sales. To start, we’ve published a companion piece on writing marketing plans.
  • Continued business development is how you keep folks coming back for more. Our point-of-sale solutions include tools such as customer engagement and loyalty programs, gift cards, and more – all designed to help you generate repeat business.

Ready to get started?

If you’d like to learn more about how our PCI-compliant payment solutions and business management app integrations can help your business thrive, schedule a free consultation with Clover today.

This information is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, financial, or tax advice. Readers should contact their attorneys, financial advisors, or tax professionals to obtain advice with respect to any particular matter.

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