How To Start & Grow Your Business

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How to Start a Business in Ohio

Do you want to start a new business in the state of Ohio, but you’re not sure how to get started? You’re in the right space.

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Low living costs make Ohio an attractive state for business — the cost of living for the self-employed is below the U.S. average, and the unemployment rate is also lower than the national average. And, in the last couple of years, Columbus, Ohio has been listed as one of the top 10 cities to do business in by Kiplinger. Ohio is historically known as “The Buckeye State” after its buckeye trees, and Ohioans are also known as “Buckeyes.”

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How to Start a Business

Starting a business can be both exhilarating and challenging. It requires your full attention and energy. It all begins with an idea, an observation that there is a problem and the belief that you have a new solution – or a better one. Allow us to walk you through the steps in this free guide: How to Start A Business.

General resources for starting a business in Ohio

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Fun facts about starting a business in Ohio

Famous business founded in Ohio Jo-Ann Stores

Jo-Ann Stores is a specialty retailer of crafts and fabrics based in Hudson, Ohio, and founded in Cleveland, Ohio in 1943. It operates the retail chains Jo-Ann Fabrics and Jo-Ann Etc. Jo-Ann Stores are now located in 49 states. The only state without a Jo-Ann Store is Hawaii, though, Jo-Ann Stores online will still ship to that state.

Famous entrepreneur born in Ohio Peter B. Lewis

Peter B. Lewis (1933-2013) was a businessman who was the chairman of Progressive Insurance Company. Lewis was also a noted philanthropist.

“Seeing results flow from my gifts is my greatest pleasure as a philanthropist — whether exonerating a jailed innocent or completing a Frank Gehry building. I want to enjoy my philanthropy.”

Peter B. Lewis
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Which type of legal structure is best for my business in Ohio?

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 Ohio.
LLC (Limited Liability Company)
An LLC is a hybrid business organization that combines the pass-through taxation of a sole proprietorship or partnership with the limited liability of a corporation. Each owner of an LLC has limited liability, like a stockholder of a corporation.

Steps to starting an LLC in Ohio:

  • Step 1 — Choose a name for your LLC.
  • Step 2 — Prepare and 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 — Annual Reports -- not required in Ohio.
  • Step 8 — Register foreign LLCs doing business in Ohio.

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

Alternatively, visit the Ohio Secretary of State website.

Other Ohio resources for LLCs:

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

Business Licenses and Permits: You are required to obtain a business license in Ohio. Check out this site for other licenses or permits that may be required of your business.

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.

Ohio Department of Taxation: If you will have employees or will be selling goods, you’ll need to register with this site.

Sole Proprietorship
A sole proprietorship is a one-person business that is very popular among individual self contractors or business owners. Even though there aren’t complicated start-up requirements for establishing a sole proprietorship, there may be local registration, business license, or permit laws you need to comply with to make your sole proprietorship legitimate. The owner of the sole proprietorship is entitled to all profits, and is responsible for all the business’s debts, losses, and liabilities.

Steps to starting Sole Proprietorship in Ohio:

  • Step 1 — Choose a business name.
  • Step 2 — File a fictitious business 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 Ohio we recommend CorpNet (there are fees for their service).

Alternatively, you can visit the Ohio Secretary of State website.

Other Ohio 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.
File your fictitious business name here.

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

Business Licenses and Permits: You are required to obtain a business license in Ohio. Check out this site for other licenses or permits that may be required of your business.

IRS EIN Online: Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for your sole proprietorship here. If you hire employees, you will need an EIN.

Ohio Department of Taxation: If you will have employees or will be selling goods, you’ll need to register with this site.

Partnership
A partnership is a single business where two or more people share ownership. Each partner contributes to all aspects of the business, including money, property, labor, or skill. In return, each partner shares in the profits and losses of the business.

Steps to starting Partnership in Ohio:

  • Step 1 — Name your partnership.
  • Step 2 — File a fictitious business 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 Ohio we recommend CorpNet (there are fees for their service).

Alternatively, you can visit the Ohio Secretary of State website.

Other Ohio 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 fictitious business name here.

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

Business Licenses and Permits: You are required to obtain a business license in Ohio. Check out this site for other licenses or permits that may be required of your business.

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.

Ohio Department of Taxation: If you will have employees or will be selling goods, you’ll need to register with this site.

S Corporation
With an S corporation (or S corp), income and losses are passed through to shareholders and included on their individual tax returns. As a result, there's just one level of federal tax to pay. The shareholders must report the income or loss on their own individual income tax returns. An eligible domestic corporation can avoid double taxation (once to the corporation and again to the shareholders) by electing to be treated as an S corporation.

Steps to starting S Corporation in Ohio:

  • Step 1 — Name your corporation.
  • Step 2 — Prepare and file Articles of Incorporation.
  • Step 3 — Appoint 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 other tax and regulatory requirements.
  • Step 10 — Register foreign corporations doing business in Ohio.

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

Or, you can visit the Ohio Secretary of State website.

Other Ohio resources for S Corporation:

Secretary of State Business Name Search: Search for the availability of your corporate name here.
File your Name Registration here.
File your Articles of Incorporation here.

IRS EIN Online: Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for your corporation here.
Business Licenses and Permits: You are required to obtain a business license in Ohio. Check out this site for other licenses or permits that may be required of your corporation.

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

Ohio Department of Taxation: If you will have employees or will be selling goods, you’ll need to register with this site.

C Corporation
A C corporation, under United States federal income tax law, 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. C corporations are subject to double taxation; that is, one tax at the corporate level on the corporation's net income, and another tax to the shareholders when the profits are distributed.

Steps to starting C Corporation in Ohio:

  • Step 1 — Name your corporation.
  • Step 2 — 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 other tax and regulatory requirements.
  • Step 10 — Register foreign corporations doing business in Ohio.

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

Or, you can visit the Ohio Secretary of State website.

Other Ohio resources for C Corporation:

Secretary of State Business Name Search: Search for the availability of your corporate name here.
File your Name Registration here.
File your Articles of Incorporation here.

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

Business Licenses and Permits: You are required to obtain a business license in Ohio. Check out this site for other licenses or permits that may be required of your business.

Ohio Department of Taxation: If you will have employees or will be selling goods, you’ll need to register with this site.

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Why choose Ohio for my business?

  • 1

    Kiplinger’s “10 Great Cities for Starting a Business” (2014)
    Columbus, Ohio ranks #10. “Business-minded Buckeyes do well in Ohio's capital. Many Fortune 500 companies, including American Electric Power and Nationwide Mutual Insurance, are based in Columbus. But don't let the big guys intimidate you: The city is home to 19,341 companies with just one to four employees, compared with an average of just 9,611 small businesses for all metro areas in the U.S.”

  • 2

    Area Development: “Top States for Doing Business” (2014)
    “The Buckeye State impressed site consultants, as Ohio became the second Midwest state to join the list for 2014, placing No. 9. Like Indiana, much of Ohio’s positive showing stemmed from its legacy advantages. It placed No. 4 in the overall infrastructure/global access category because of its central location, distribution and supply-chain infrastructure, rail and highway access, and water outlook as a Great Lakes state.”

  • 3

    Ohio Business Bonds, Grants, Loans, and Tax Credits
    “The Ohio Development Services Agency has a variety of bonds, grants, loans and tax credits that can assist Ohio companies as they grow and create jobs in Ohio. More information on the various programs is listed below.”

  • 4

    JobsOhio Loan and Grant Programs
    “Ohio's competitive and profitable business environment makes it easier for companies to form, relocate, or expand in Ohio with solid financial footing. Ohio’s strategic location and pro-business climate bring together a full range of benefits that align with the financial needs of growing businesses.”

  • 5

    Ohio Job Creation Tax Credit (JCTC)
    “The Ohio Job Creation Tax Credit Servicing site provides assistance to businesses that have previously been approved for a tax credit by the Ohio Tax Credit Authority (Authority).”

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