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tarting a new business can be as exciting as it is rewarding, but it also requires careful preparation and attention to detail. You can set yourself up for success by making sure you don't miss a single step.
From identifying your business idea to setting up your finances, this comprehensive guide will walk you through the essentials of how to start a business in Pennsylvania.
Before starting a business in Pennsylvania
Learning how to start a business is a marathon, not a sprint. These preliminary steps will help you make sure your business launches with a strong foundation.
Identify your business idea
The first step to starting a business is identifying a viable and compelling business idea. This process involves a thorough self-assessment of personal passions, skills, and interests, coupled with market research to discover opportunities to fulfill unmet needs.
Think about how your unique skills and interests can cater to unmet needs or improve upon what companies in your industry are currently doing.
Conduct market research on business feasibility
Research is essential to starting your business off on the right foot. Effective market research involves gathering and analyzing data to understand the market landscape, potential customers, competition, and the financial viability of your business idea.
Before you officially start your business, research:
- Your target market's demographics
- Market size and growth potential
- Industry trends and amount of demand for your product or service
- Potential competitors
By learning what existing businesses are doing and where they're falling short, you can find out what to focus on to offer customers something they can't get anywhere else.
Create your business plan
Once you have the basics worked out, draw up a more detailed plan for how you want to launch and run your business. A clear business plan will help you more effectively pitch your ideas to investors, prove your company's viability in loan and grant applications, and provide a roadmap for future business decisions.
There are many types of business plans, but most include:
- An executive summary and description
- An overview of the latest market trends
- Your marketing and sales strategy
- Financial projections
- Your initial management team
Figure out how to fund your business
Any business needs financing to get off the ground, so decide early on how you plan to fund those startup costs. Personal savings, angel investors, crowdfunding, SBA loans, and venture capital are all viable options. Research how to find an investor, review your personal financials, and decide which option works best for you. Just be sure you have a clear sense of your business's financial needs and repayment capabilities before proceeding.
Choose your business structure
A business structure refers to the legal and organizational framework for how a business is set up, owned, and operated. The structure you choose influences how you can raise money, the taxes you'll pay, and your liability.
Types of business structures
There are five main business structures to consider when learning how to start a business in Pennsylvania:
- Sole proprietorships
- Non-profit organizations
Choosing the right business structure
Your business structure will depend on several factors, such as growth plans, business goals, the number of owners, and tax and liability considerations. Here are some things to think about as you choose which structure is best for you:
- Sole proprietorship: This is the simplest and most common form of business structure. The business is owned and operated by a single individual, who is the sole proprietor. This generally means easier setup and fewer regulatory requirements. It also allows you to have complete control over business decisions and operations.
- Partnership: A partnership is when two or more individuals share ownership of the business and contribute to its operations. This structure allows you to pool resources, skills, and expertise. There are limited partnerships and limited liability partnerships. Limited liability partnerships provide equal liability to all partners. Limited partnerships allow one partner to have unlimited liability, and remaining partners have limited liability.
- Limited Liability Company (LLC): This is a popular choice because it provides limited liability protection for owners. Personal assets are typically protected from the company's debts and legal liabilities. LLCs also offer more flexibility in management and taxation compared to corporations.
- Corporation: There are two main types of corporations: C corps and S corps.
- C corps are subject to double taxation, meaning profits are taxed when you make them, and shareholders receive dividends. They can also offer various benefits, such as the ability to issue multiple classes of stock and attract a wide range of investors.
- S corps are pass-through entities for tax purposes, meaning income and losses are passed through to shareholders' personal tax returns, avoiding double taxation. S corporations have more restrictive ownership and operational requirements but offer tax benefits for certain businesses.
- Non-profit organization: Non-profit organizations are formed to pursue charitable, educational, religious, or social causes. They operate for the public benefit and are exempt from state and federal taxes on profits.
Choose your business name
The name you choose shapes your brand identity and first impressions on customers. A well-chosen business name should be memorable, unique, and relevant to your products or services. When brainstorming, devise several choices in case one or more are already taken.
Before deciding on your name, check with the Pennsylvania Department of State to see if it's available.
Register your business in Pennsylvania
You can register your business in Pennsylvania through the Business Filings Services at the Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations.
Below are the main steps to follow to get your business officially registered. Depending on the type of business structure you've chosen, the processes and documents required vary, so be sure to look at Pennsylvania's registration checklist before you begin gathering your documents.
Apply for an EIN
Register a DBA
DBA stands for "doing business as" and is also known as a trade or fictitious name. It can either be the official name of your business or an alternate name.
DBA registration is not required under Pennsylvania law. However, having a registered DBA can provide flexibility with your branding and help you avoid legal issues regarding your business name.
Designate a registered agent
A registered agent is an individual or entity appointed to receive legal and official documents for your business. They act as the contact point between your organization and Pennsylvania's government agencies. In Pennsylvania, this is not legally required. Instead, Pennsylvania offers Commercial Registered Office Providers (CROPs).
Understand Pennsylvania's tax obligations
Here are a few tax obligations in Pennsylvania to consider.
State business taxes
Sales and use tax
In Pennsylvania, sales and use taxes apply to the sale and consumption of tangible goods and some services. Currently, the sales tax rate is 6%, but certain counties have additional sales tax.
As an employer, you will need to calculate, withhold, and remit income taxes on your employees' behalf to remain compliant with state regulations. Rules on employee taxes change, so be sure to stay up to date with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue to ensure compliance.
Obtain necessary business licenses and permits in Pennsylvania
Obtaining the necessary licenses and permits ensures your business operates legally in Pennsylvania.
Determine required licenses and permits
The types of goods or services your business provides will determine what Pennsylvania permits and licenses you need to operate. These might include:
- Sales tax license
- Professional licensing for services such as cosmetology, medicine, or social work
- Hazardous waste permits
- Retail food licensing
- Alcohol license
- Tobacco products license
Obtain licenses and permits
Pennsylvania handles business licenses and permits through the Pennsylvania Licensing System (PALS). Complete the PALS application process once you've identified the necessary licenses and permits.
Set up your business finances in Pennsylvania
Establishing a solid financial foundation is crucial for the long-term success of your business.
Open a business bank account
Separate your personal and business finances by opening a dedicated business bank account. This will make your accounting and financial management more streamlined and help prevent costly mistakes.
When you open a business bank account, make sure you're choosing a service designed for business owners that keeps all your financial management needs in one place. Novo's business banking solutions platform is convenient, helpful, and affordable.
Fund your business
There are many ways to fund your business in Pennsylvania. You can apply for an SBA loan, a merchant cash advance, or take on investors and partners to start and grow your business. Choose a financing method that works for your business structure and your company's needs.
Other steps to consider
As you start your business, you should also consider Pennsylvania's labor laws and insurance requirements.
Hiring employees in Pennsylvania
As an employer in Pennsylvania, be sure you understand the state's labor laws before you start hiring. Here are some key points to consider:
- Minimum wage
- Overtime pay
- Equal Employment Opportunity
- Child Labor Laws
- Family and Medical Leave
- Workers' Compensation
- Hiring Practices
- Payroll and Record-Keeping
- New Hire Reporting
- Paid Sick Leave
Visit the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry's website for updated information on these laws.
Getting your business insured in Pennsylvania
The type of insurance you need depends on your business, but here are some types of insurance to look into:
- General liability insurance
- Property insurance
- Workers' compensation insurance
- Professional liability insurance
Visit the Pennsylvania Insurance Department to find up-to-date information on the insurance you're required to have as a business owner in Pennsylvania.
Let Novo support your business's growth
Starting a business in Pennsylvania offers plenty of challenges, but it also offers great rewards. Once you come up with a great idea and a plan to execute it, you'll need a comprehensive way to keep your business finances in order.
Novo offers a modern business banking solutions platform, business funding, and helpful resources to take your business from a dream to reality.
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The Merchant Cash Advance is provided by Novo Funding LLC, PO Box 311092, Miami, FL 33231. Novo is the marketing name for Novo Platform Inc. and its subsidiaries and affiliates. Novo Funding LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Novo Platform Inc. Credit and Merchant Cash Advance products and services are offered by Novo Funding LLC. The information and materials contained on this website - and the terms and conditions of the access to and use of such information and materials - are subject to change without notice. Not all products and services are available in all geographic areas. Your eligibility for particular products and services is subject to final Novo determination and acceptance.
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