How To Start & Grow Your Business

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How to Start a Business in North Dakota

Want to start a new business in the state of North Dakota? You’ve come to the right spot!

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North Dakota frequently shows up on “top 10” lists of best states for new business and entrepreneurship. North Dakota can boast the U.S.’s most robust economy over the past five years — topping the charts for job growth, income growth, gross state product growth, and low unemployment. The Bakken oil shale fields can be credited for much of this growth, as well as thriving technology and service industries. For entrepreneurs, the state is very business- friendly, and there are a wide range of tax and finance incentives available.

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How to Start a Business

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General resources for starting a business in North Dakota

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Fun facts about starting a business in North Dakota

Famous business headquartered in North Dakota Scheels All Sports

Scheels All Sports is an employee owned and operated sporting goods and entertainment chain store headquartered in Fargo, North Dakota. Scheels operates 25 store locations in 12 states in the nation. Their slogan is: “Gear. Passion. Sports.”

Famous entrepreneur born in North Dakota Harold Schafer

Harold Schafer (1912-2001) was a businessman and entrepreneur who founded the Gold Seal Company, the original maker of Mr. Bubble bubble bath. He also invested money in the tourist town of Medora, North Dakota and the Medora Musical. Schafer was born in Stanton, North Dakota.

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Which type of legal structure is best for my business in North Dakota?

We strongly recommend you incorporate, but you must consider the tax, legal, and liability implications carefully before deciding on the best structure.

Here are 5 helpful steps to determine what is the best legal structure for your business:

Click one of the buttons below to learn more about the different types of business legal structures and how to start them in the state of North Dakota.
LLC (Limited Liability Company)
A limited liability company (LLC) is the United States-specific form of a private limited company. It is a business structure that combines the pass-through taxation of a partnership or sole proprietorship with the limited liability of a corporation. An LLC is not a corporation; it is a legal form of a company that provides limited liability to its owners.

Steps to starting an LLC in North Dakota:

  • Step 1 — Name your LLC.
  • Step 2 — File Articles of Organization.
  • Step 3 — Appoint a Registered Agent.
  • Step 4 — Prepare an Operating Agreement.
  • Step 5 — Comply with any publication requirements.
  • Step 6 — Comply with other tax and regulatory requirements.
  • Step 7 — File Annual Reports.
  • Step 8 — Register foreign LLCs doing business in North Dakota.

For help forming your LLC in North Dakota we recommend CorpNet (they have fees for their service).

Alternatively, you can visit the North Dakota Secretary of State website.

Other North Dakota resources for LLCs:

Secretary of State Business Name Database: Search for the availability of your LLC name here.
File your “Reserve Name Application” here.
File your “Articles of Organization” here.
File your Annual Report here.

Registered Agents: Search here for a list of registered agents. Every North Dakota LLC must have an agent for service of process in the state.

IRS EIN Online: Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for your LLC here. If your LLC has more than one member, you must get an EIN, even if you have no employees.

North Dakota Office of the State Tax Commissioner: If you will have employees or will be selling goods, you’ll need to register with this site.

Sole Proprietorship
A sole proprietorship, also known simply as a proprietorship, is a type of business entity that is owned and run by one person, and in which there is no legal distinction between the owner and the business. The owner is in direct control of all elements and is legally accountable for all of the finances of such business.

Steps to starting Sole Proprietorship in North Dakota:

  • Step 1 — Choose a business name.
  • Step 2 — File a trade name with the Secretary of State.
  • Step 3 — Obtain licenses, permits, and zoning clearance.
  • Step 4 — Get an Employer Identification Number (EIN).

For help forming your sole proprietorship in North Dakota we recommend CorpNet (they have fees for their service).

Or, you can visit the North Dakota Secretary of State website.

Other North Dakota resources for Sole Proprietorship:

Secretary of State Business Name Search: Search for the availability of your business name here. A sole proprietor may use his or her given name, or an assumed business name.
Register your trade name here.

U.S. Patent & Trademark Office: Federal database for existing trademark registrations. Click on the “TESS” link to conduct a search.

Business Licenses: Depending on the nature of your business, you may be required to obtain a license. Search this site for more information.

IRS EIN Online: Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for your sole proprietorship here. If you hire employees, you will need an EIN.
North Dakota Office of the State Tax Commissioner: If you will have employees or will be selling goods, you’ll need to register with this site.

Partnership
A partnership is a legal form of business operation between two or more individuals who share management and profits. The federal government recognizes several types of partnerships. The two most common are general and limited partnerships. Each partner contributes to all aspects of the business and shares in the profits and losses of the business.

Steps to starting Partnership in North Dakota:

  • Step 1 — Choose a business name.
  • Step 2 — File a trade name.
  • Step 3 — Create a partnership agreement.
  • Step 4 — Obtain licenses, permits, and zoning clearance.
  • Step 5 — Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN).

For help forming your partnership in North Dakota we recommend CorpNet (they have fees for their service).

Alternatively, you can visit the North Dakota Secretary of State website.

Other North Dakota resources for Partnership:

Secretary of State Business Name Search: Search for the availability of your business name here. A partnership may use the surnames of the individual partners, or a fictitious business name.
File your trade name here.

U.S. Patent & Trademark Office: Federal database for existing trademark registrations. Click on the “TESS” link to conduct a search.

Business Licenses: Depending on the nature of your business, you may be required to obtain a license. Search this site for more information.

IRS EIN Online: Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for your partnership here. Partnerships must have an EIN, whether you have employees or not.

North Dakota Office of the State Tax Commissioner: If you will have employees or will be selling goods, you’ll need to register with this site.

S Corporation
An S corporation is a regular corporation that has elected "S corporation" tax status. Forming an S corporation lets you enjoy the limited liability of a corporate shareholder, but pay income taxes as if you were a sole proprietor or a partner. In general, S corporations do not pay any federal income taxes. Instead, the corporation's income or losses are divided among and passed through to its shareholders. The shareholders must then report the income or loss on their own individual income tax returns.

Steps to starting S Corporation in North Dakota:

  • Step 1 — Name your corporation.
  • Step 2 — Prepare and file Articles of Incorporation.
  • Step 3 — Find a registered agent.
  • Step 4 — Set up a corporate records book.
  • Step 5 — Prepare corporate bylaws.
  • Step 6 — Appoint initial corporate directors.
  • Step 7 — Hold your first Board of Directors meeting.
  • Step 8 — Issue stock.
  • Step 9 — Comply with North Dakota Annual Report requirements.
  • Step 10 — Comply with other tax and regulatory requirements.
  • Step 11 — Register foreign corporations doing business in North Dakota.

For help forming your S corporation in North Dakota we recommend CorpNet (they have fees for their service).

Or, you can visit the North Dakota Secretary of State website.

Other North Dakota resources for S Corporation:

Secretary of State Business Name Search: Search for the availability of your corporate name here.
File your Annual Report here.
IRS EIN Online: Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for your corporation here.

IRS S corporations: Specific instructions for your tax requirements as an S corp.

Registered Agents: Search here for a list of registered agents. Every North Dakota corporation must have an agent for service of process in the state.

Business Licenses: Depending on the nature of your business, you may be required to obtain a license. Search this site for more information.

North Dakota Office of the State Tax Commissioner: Register here to fulfill your business tax requirements.

C Corporation
A C corporation (or C corp for short), refers to any corporation that is taxed separately from its owners. A C corporation is distinguished from an S corporation, which generally is not taxed separately. In a C corporation, there can be an unlimited number of stockholders. This allows the corporation to sell shares to a large amount of investors, which allows for more funds to be raised for projects.

Steps to starting C Corporation in North Dakota:

  • Step 1 — Give your corporation a name.
  • Step 2 — Prepare and file Articles of Incorporation.
  • Step 3 — Find a registered agent.
  • Step 4 — Set up a corporate records book.
  • Step 5 — Prepare corporate bylaws.
  • Step 6 — Appoint initial corporate directors.
  • Step 7 — Hold your first Board of Directors meeting.
  • Step 8 — Issue stock.
  • Step 9 — Comply with North Dakota Annual Report requirements.
  • Step 10 — Comply with other tax and regulatory requirements.
  • Step 11 — Register foreign corporations doing business in North Dakota.

For help forming your C corporation in North Dakota we recommend CorpNet (they have fees for their service).

Alternatively, you can visit the North Dakota Secretary of State website.

Other North Dakota resources for C Corporation:

Secretary of State Business Name Search: Search for the availability of your corporate name here.
File your Annual Report here.

IRS EIN Online: Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for your corporation here.

Registered Agents: Search here for a list of registered agents. Every North Dakota corporation must have an agent for service of process in the state.

Business Licenses: Depending on the nature of your business, you may be required to obtain a license. Search this site for more information.

North Dakota Office of the State Tax Commissioner: Register here to fulfill your business tax requirements.

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Why choose North Dakota for my business?

  • 1

    Forbes: “Best States for Business” (2015)
    “North Dakota has boasted the country’s most robust economy over the past five years. It is tops for job growth (4.7% annually is twice as high as any other state), income growth (3.6%), gross state product growth (8.6%) and unemployment (3.2% average).”

  • 2

    CNBC America’s Top States for Business (2015)
    North Dakota ranks #6.

  • 3

    GoDaddy: “The 10 Best States to Succeed with a Small Business” (2015)
    North Dakota ranks #1.

  • 4

    Entrepreneurship funding in North Dakota hits $3.2 million (2015)
    …”Starting July 1, 2015, programs that support entrepreneurship in North Dakota such as Innovate ND and Technology-Based Entrepreneurship Grants (TBEG) will have access to $3.25 million in state funding…”

  • 5

    North Dakota Finance and Incentives
    “North Dakota is strategically positioned with financial packages and tax incentives to assist new and expanding businesses to enhance profitability. The state has specifically designed its business and investment programs to deliver quicker, quality service along with more capital during a company's start-up, expansion or relocation.”

  • 6

    Innovate ND
    “Innovate ND provides access to beneficial venture tools, online entrepreneur education and extensive resources. If you are a North Dakota-based entrepreneur or innovator working on a new concept, you may be eligible for the program.”

  • 7

    Entrepreneur Centers of North Dakota
    “The mission of the Entrepreneur Centers of North Dakota (ECND) is to strengthen businesses in North Dakota through collaborative efforts in finance, training, counseling and technical assistance.”

  • 8

    ND Women’s Business Center
    “Center for Technology & Business operates the North Dakota Women's Business Center (ND WBC). The WBC is partially funded by a grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). North Dakota Department of Commerce provides state matching funds.”

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