How To Start & Grow Your Business

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How to Start a Business in Wisconsin

Want to start a new business in the state of Wisconsin?

If you’re looking to start a new business in the state of Wisconsin, you’ve come to the right place! At , we have free software and how-to content to help you start, manage, and grow your business.

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Wisconsin’s business taxes are among the lowest in the country due to property tax exemptions for manufacturing machinery, computers, inventories, and pollution-control equipment. With a low cost of living, Wisconsin is second to Michigan in the length of its Great Lakes coastline, and has 15,057 lakes, plenty of parks and forests, and a distinct four seasons to enjoy. Wisconsin is known as “America’s Dairyland” because it is one of the nation’s leading dairy producers, particularly famous for its yummy cheese!

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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 Wisconsin

  • Physical Address
    Office of the Secretary B41 West, State Capitol Madison, WI 53702

  • Wisconsin Tax Forms
    http://www.wbiastate.org

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Fun facts about starting a business in Wisconsin

Famous business founded in Wisconsin Organic Valley

Organic Valley is an independent cooperative of organic farmers based in La Farge, Wisconsin. It was founded in 1988, and it is the largest organic farmer-owned cooperative in the world with over 1,800 farmer-owners across the U.S., Canada, and Australia. Organic Valley markets and sells its products to all 50 states, and exports to 25 countries. In 2015, growing annual sales topped $1 billion

Famous entrepreneur born in Wisconsin Chris Gardner

Chris Gardner (born in 1954) is an entrepreneur, investor, stockbroker, motivational speaker, author, and philanthropist who struggled with homelessness during the 1980s while raising his son. Gardner’s memoir, The Pursuit of Happyness, was published in 2006. As of 2012, he is CEO of his own stockbrokerage firm, Gardner Rich & Co.

“The future was uncertain, absolutely, and there were many hurdles, twists, and turns to come, but as long as I kept moving forward, one foot in front of the other, the voices of fear and shame, the messages from those who wanted me to believe that I wasn’t good enough, would be stilled.“

Chris Gardner
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Which type of legal structure is best for my business in Wisconsin?

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 Wisconsin.
LLC (Limited Liability Company)
An 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.

Steps to starting an LLC in Wisconsin:

  • Step 1 — Give your LLC a name.
  • Step 2 — File a Certificate of Formation with the County Probate Court.
  • Step 3 — Appoint a Registered Agent.
  • Step 4 — Create an Operating Agreement.
  • Step 5 — Determine if there are any publication requirements.
  • Step 6 — Pay your state tax obligations.
  • Step 7 — Comply with other tax and regulatory requirements.
  • Step 8 — Register foreign LLCs doing business in Wisconsin.

For help forming your LLC in Wisconsin we recommend CorpNet (they have fees for their service).
Alternatively, visit the Wisconsin Secretary of State website.

Other Wisconsin resources for LLCs:

Business Name Database: Search for the availability of your LLC name here.

File your “Name Reservation Application”here.

File your “Articles of Organization”here.

File your Annual Reports here.

Wisconsin Business Licenses and Permits: Check this site for licensing and permitting requirements for 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.
Wisconsin Department of Revenue: To fulfill business tax requirements.

Sole Proprietorship
A sole proprietorship is an unincorporated business with one owner who pays personal income tax on profits from the business. With little government regulation, they are the simplest business to set up or take apart, making them popular among individual self contractors or business owners.

Steps to starting Sole Proprietorship in Wisconsin:

  • Step 1 — Name your sole proprietorship.
  • Step 2 — File a trade name.
  • Step 3 — Obtain licenses, permits, and zoning clearance.
  • Step 4 — Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN).

For help forming your Sole Proprietorship in Wisconsin we recommend CorpNet (they have fees for their service). Or, visit the Wisconsin Secretary of State website.

Other Wisconsin resources for Sole Proprietorship:

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 trade name here.

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

Wisconsin Business Licenses and Permits: Check this site for licensing and permitting requirements for your business.

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

Wisconsin Department of Revenue: To fulfill business tax requirements.

Partnership
A partnership is created whenever two or more people do business together for profit and share ownership, even if there is no written agreement to form the partnership. Each partner contributes to all aspects of the business, and each partner shares in the profits and losses of the business.

Steps to starting Partnership in Wisconsin:

  • 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 Wisconsin we recommend CorpNet (they have fees for their service). Or, visit the Wisconsin Secretary of State website.

Other Wisconsin resources for Partnership:

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.

Wisconsin Business Licenses and Permits: Check this site for licensing and permitting requirements for your business.

IRS EIN Online: Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for your partnership here. Partnerships are required to have an EIN, whether or not they have employees.

Wisconsin Department of Revenue: To fulfill business tax requirements.

S Corporation
An S corporation (or S Corp for short), is a special type of corporation created through an IRS tax election. An eligible domestic corporation can avoid double taxation (once to the corporation and a gain to the shareholders) by electing to be treated as an S corporation. 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 Wisconsin:

  • Step 1 — Choose a name for your corporation.
  • Step 2 — 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 Wisconsin Annual Report requirements.
  • Step 10 — Comply with other tax and regulatory requirements.
  • Step 11 — Register foreign corporations doing business in Wisconsin.

For help forming your S Corporation in Wisconsin we recommend CorpNet (they have fees for their service). Or, visit the Wisconsin Secretary of State website.

Other Wisconsin resources for S Corporation:

Business Name Search: Search for the availability of your corporate name here.
File your “Name Reservation Application” here.
File your “Articles of Incorporation” here.
File your Annual Report here.

Wisconsin Business Licenses and Permits: Check this site for licensing and permitting requirements for your business.

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.

Wisconsin Department of Revenue: To fulfill business tax requirements.

C Corporation
A C corporation (or C corp for short), under U.S. 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.

Steps to starting C Corporation in Wisconsin:

  • Step 1 — Choose a corporate name.
  • 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 Wisconsin Annual Report requirements.
  • Step 10 — Comply with other tax and regulatory requirements.
  • Step 11 — Register foreign corporations doing business in Wisconsin.

For help forming your C Corp in Wisconsin we recommend CorpNet (they have fees for their service). Or, visit the Wisconsin Secretary of State website.

Other Wisconsin resources for C Corporation:

Business Name Search: Search for the availability of your corporate name here.
File your “Name Reservation Application” here.
File your “Articles of Incorporation” here.
File your Annual Report here.

Wisconsin Business Licenses and Permits: Check this site for licensing and permitting requirements for your corporation.

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

Wisconsin Department of Revenue: To fulfill business tax requirements.

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Why choose Wisconsin for my business?

  • 1

    Why Wisconsin: Business Incentives
    “Wisconsin is business friendly. It offers a variety of tax incentives for corporations and other businesses to locate or expand their operations within the state. Available tax incentives include exemptions, credits, and other special corporate tax treatment along with preferential treatment of capital gains.”

  • 2

    Why Wisconsin: Business Taxes and Costs
    “Wisconsin’s tax reform measure brought on the following: modification of the calculation of the enterprise zones tax credit based on jobs; an increase in credits available under our state’s angel and early-stage seed investment programs; creation of income and franchise tax credits for investments in healthcare medical records hardware and software, dairy manufacturing modernization or expansion and biodiesel production.”

  • 3

    Incentives for Business Growth and Job Creation in Wisconsin
    “Wisconsin has the expertise, programs and support network to help you and the communities in which you operate. We offer loans, loan guarantees and tax credits to help companies grow and succeed in Wisconsin.”

  • 4

    In Wisconsin: Assistance for Entrepreneurs
    Resources for entrepreneurs in the state.

  • 5

    Wisconsin Minority Business Development Program
    nority community business attraction. This is accomplished through direct grant assistance to qualifying minority business associations in Wisconsin for Revolving Loan Funds (RLF) and administrative assistance.”

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