Famous for its production of cheese, football, cold weather, and good quality of living, Wisconsin is a popular state to start your new business in. But if this is your first time starting a business, you may be unsure where to start setting up a business.
With this step-by-step guide, learn how to choose an idea, pick a name, write a business plan, register your business, and other essential things to successfully start your business in Wisconsin.
Step 1: Choose Your Idea
The first step in starting your business in Wisconsin is choosing an idea. This idea forms the foundation for building your business, which is why you want to ensure that you have a solid foundation to start with.
Answer the following questions to formulate an idea and to see if your idea can be turned into a profitable business:
- Do you have any passions, skills, interests, or hobbies?
- What skills are needed to run the business?
- Do you have the skills to run the business?
- Can any of the above activities be turned into a profitable business?
- Can you see yourself working in the business every day and enjoying it?
- Are there any businesses like yours that already exist?
- Is there a need for your business?
- How is your business solving a consumer’s problem?
On top of asking yourself the above questions, make sure to ask your friends and family for their opinions as consumers as well.
Step 2: Pick a Name
Next, you will have to pick a name for your business. When deciding on a name, you should make sure that the name is easy enough for consumers to read and say, but ensure that it is unique but still relevant to the industry in which your business is based. The name should also ideally give people an idea of your products or services.
The state of Wisconsin will not allow businesses to be registered if they use a name already registered with the state. To check if your desired name is available, you can run a business entity search on the Wisconsin One Stop Business Portal.
You should be 100% happy with your chosen name, as it will appear on all your paperwork and licenses. Changing it after your business is set up may harm your business – especially from a marketing standpoint.
If you are struggling to come up with a name in the first place, use one of the below steps to get your creative gears turning:
- Create a word dump. This is a list of words that pops into your mind when you think about your business and the products and services you offer. Don’t think too hard about what to write down.
- Use an online name generator. These are easy to find online and free, and they come up with randomized names that may be helpful.
- Brainstorm with friends and family.
- Create a poll on your Facebook page.
Step 3: Write a Business Plan
Once you have set up the basis of your business, you need to write a business plan. The business plan is like the manual for your business. It will have everything from your research and planning, product information, how the business will be run, and all the critical financial information.
While this business plan does not have to be submitted to the state, it is a highly important document as it can be used to apply for funding and help you plan and run your business.
There is no hard and fast rule on what you need to include in your business plan for your Wisconsin business. But you should try to answer the following questions in your business plan:
- What is the purpose of your business?
- Why have you started the business?
- What products or services does your business offer?
- Who are your direct competitors?
- Who is your target audience?
- How do you plan on turning your target audience into paying customers?
- How much will you need to start the business?
- Will you need funding?
- How do you plan on getting funding?
- How much will you need to make to break even?
- What equipment is needed?
- What type of employees will you need, if any?
- What are your financial goals and predictions?
If you are struggling to format or write your business plan, there are plenty of ready-to-use business plan templates that you can download off the internet to help you get started.
Step 4: Get Funding
Starting a business in Wisconsin requires a bit of start of money. You must pay for all the paperwork, license applications, equipment, marketing, and registration. All these things add up, so unless you can fund this yourself, you will need to get funding from grants, loans, or an investor.
The state of Wisconsin runs a small business program that offers businesses financial support and advice. Check out their website to see if your business might qualify for state funding. Alternatively, you can go the private route and apply for a loan from a bank. You can even get a loan from friends and family, but if you do, make sure you get the agreement in writing to avoid any possible miscommunication in the future.
Finally, if you do not qualify for a loan or grant, you can have an investor fund the start-up in exchange for some shares and profits in your business.
Step 5: Choose a Business Structure
Each business structure has different features and benefits, so you must choose the correct structure. The four different business structures in Wisconsin are: sole proprietorships, partnerships, LLCs, and corporations.
The sole proprietorship business structure is an informal structure with only one owner. In this business structure, there is no separation between the assets of the owner and the business. This type of business structure is commonly used for low-risk companies.
A partnership is also an informal business structure with no separation between the owner’s assets and the business’s. The only difference between the two business structures is that there is more than one owner in a partnership. All of the owners have equal shares in the business.
Limited Liability Company
A limited liability company, or an LLC, is the most commonly used business structure for small to medium-sized businesses. This is because an LLC combines two business structures, offering advantages from both types. It has the flexibility and ease of a sole proprietorship or partnership with the added liability protection of a corporation.
A corporation is a formal business structure used by large companies with multiple shareholders. A corporation is an entirely separate entity from the owners. This business structure also has some tax benefits.
Step 6: Register The Business
Once you have decided on what business structure to use, you may need to register it with the state of Wisconsin before you can begin trading.
As this is not a formal business structure, you are not required by law to register the sole proprietorship with the state. You will, however, have to file a Doing Business As (DBA) name with the state, if applicable. You can do this on the Wisconsin One Stop Business Portal. Before you can do so, you will need to create a user account.
You don’t need to register a partnership, but as with a sole proprietorship, you can file a DBA on the business portal.
In addition, it is recommended that all business owners draft and sign a partnership agreement in case of any conflicts in the future. You do not need to submit this agreement to the state, but it should be kept with the business’s records.
Limited Liability Company
To register your Wisconsin corporation, fill out the Articles of Incorporation and submit them on the business portal. The fee to register your business is $100.
Step 7: Set Up Your Finances & Accounting
Once you have chosen a business structure and completed all the paperwork, you must set up your finances. To do this, you should open a bank account for the business, apply for a company credit card, and set up a payment method for customers to use. If you have employees or plan to hire some, install a payroll system for managing employee salaries and taxes.
Finances can get complicated, so consider hiring an accountant to help you take care of your business’s books. You will be incredibly thankful for the help when tax season rolls around.
Step 8: Get Business Insurance
Opening a business without any insurance is a risky and costly mistake, as you never know when disaster can strike. While there are many insurance policies to choose from, you should at least have a general liability insurance policy. This broad policy will cover your business from damage or injury and everything you need to run the business daily.
Other insurance policies you can choose from include:
- Business owner’s insurance
- Commercial auto insurance
- Commercial property insurance
- Workers compensation insurance
- Limited liability company insurance
Chat with your local insurance broker for advice on what is best suited for your specific needs.
Step 9: Obtain Any Permits or Licenses Needed
The state of Wisconsin does not issue a state-wide general business license. However, different counties or cities may have their own requirements on what is needed. Additionally, depending on your business type, you may need specific business licenses or permits to remain compliant. You can find out what business licenses you need by creating a user account on the One Stop Business Portal.
You will also need to register for a sales tax permit. This can be done through the Department of Revenue.
Step 10: Build a Website
Having a website nowadays is a must-have as it is a great marketing tool and a way to engage with your customers. You can build the website yourself or pay someone to build it for you.
When you are designing your website, make sure you keep the following in mind:
- Before anything else, make sure your chosen domain name is available for use.
- Ensure all the fonts used are clear and easy to read.
- Make sure the website interface is simple and easy to understand.
- Avoid filling the web pages with unnecessary images and videos, as this will slow down the loading times.
- Ensure that all content is your own; if not, get permission to use it.
- Ensure all information is correct and relevant.
- Provide contact details.
- Link your website to your other social media accounts.
Step 11: Hire Employees (If Any)
If you are hiring employees, you will need to draft up a job post and post it on local and online job boards. When you hear back from candidates, read through their applications, and narrow them down to your top choices. Then, invite them for interviews, and ask various questions that will show a clearer picture of who they are. Offer the job to your preferred candidate.
You are required to report all new hires to the Wisconsin New Hire Reporting Center. This needs to be done within 20 days from the hiring date.
Step 12: Market The Business
The last step of starting your business in Wisconsin is to market it. There is a wide variety of different ways to market your business. Here are just some of the ways you can do so:
- Use social media like Facebook and Instagram to create interest.
- Advertise on your business website.
- Make use of pay-per-click advertising.
- Advertise on Google with your business profile.
- Advertise in your local newspaper.
- Attend markets and expos.
- Attend networking events.
- Run competitions and giveaways.
- Host a launch party or event.
If you prefer to focus on other aspects of the business, consider hiring a marketing expert to take care of the marketing.