Checklist for Setting up a Small Business in Pennsylvania, USA

The state of Pennsylvania is one of the small business friendly states in the United States; many laws and regulations related to small businesses in PA make it easier for the first time entrepreneurs to establish and operate a small business. For instance, “The Job Creation Tax Credit” program which provides credits to businesses of all sizes if they create new jobs in a three-year time period.

Secondly, the veterans or reserve members are encouraged to establish a small business by waiving some common business fees associated with establishing a small business. Moreover, the state of Pennsylvania has extensive resources for young and old entrepreneurs including infrastructure, human capital and easy access to information and other resources.

This article will be of your interest if you are based anywhere in Pennsylvania and looking for answers to queries related to:

  • Business license in Pennsylvania
  • Registering a business in PA
  • How to start a business in PA with no money
  • PA grants for starting a business
  • How to start a sole proprietorship in PA
  • Starting an LLC in PA
  • How to start an online business in PA
  • Starting a business in PA checklist

Well, there’s no denying the fact that PA is a highly resourceful state for starting and running a small business of any type, however, you must start and run the business according to laws and regulations and to do so, you need to go through a process that involves a list of actionable items.

Let’s start discussing all that you need to start and run a small business startup in Pennsylvania.

1- Find and validate your business idea; there are thousands of opportunities that can prove to be a successful business, but you should go for something that is of your interest and you are sure that you can do it best. Here is a list of small business ideas for Philadelphia for a quick reference or you might want to check a big list of small business ideas for United States as well. This may sound like an easy step but think hard about what exactly you will be selling and whether you have the skills and qualifications to run a business. Know how to check the feasibility of a business idea.

2- Conduct necessary research; it is important to do the market research in order to make sure that your business idea has the potential to earn profits and grow big. Confirm it first that whatever you are going to sell is legal. Find who will buy it and how often, who are the competitors, what costs are involved in producing, marketing and selling the products, what will be the expected profit and how long will it take for your business to be profitable.

3- Start planning; with the research findings in hand, you should be able to create a business plan. Remember that you must have a written business plan even for a home based business and if you cannot spare time to develop a detailed document, for now, have a one page business plan at least. Ideally, a good business plan should include management process, marketing plan, production strategies and financial goals.

4- Identify the business structure; before you register your small business anywhere in Pennsylvania, you must know the right business structure for your company, i.e. sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation or a nonprofit startup etc. The registration process of each type is fairly different as it requires different documentation, i.e. a partnership agreement is required in case of registering a partnership business and articles of incorporation are required for registering a corporation. You can learn more about the differences in business structure and determine the best one for your venture. It is highly recommended to get a help of attorney because ultimately you will need one to prepare the legal documents.

5- Register your business; Find a business name that is not being used by anyone else and make sure to register a domain name too. The next comes registration process and through an attorney will be helping you, make sure to be involved in the whole process to make sure everything is going in the right direction. For registration help, visit the Pennsylvania Department of State, Corporation Bureau or the Online Business Registration Interview (OBRI), a step-by-step wizard that guides users through the process of registering an enterprise with the Departments of Labor & Industry, Revenue, and State. Following are the must haves when registering your business in Pennsylvania:

6- File patent if required; if your product or service is an invention you may want to protect it with filing a patent. Check out the USPTO Inventor’s Assistance Program (IAP).

7- Get done with other necessary registrations if required, i.e. reserve your federal trademark/servicemark, register copyrights etc.

8- Check zoning laws; if you plan to do business from home. Be advised that the zoning ordinances differ among townships and boroughs, so check with your local authorities and also check the PA E-Library.

9- Get your business insurance properly; the insurance requirements may vary depending upon the nature of the business, i.e. some businesses may need public liability insurance while others don’t. Get quotes from various insurance brokers and get one that best meets your requirements.

10- Organize your financial matters; open a bank account for your business and get a suitable accounting or bookkeeping software.

11- Rent out a commercial space if needed and purchase equipment and/or supplies.

12- Install a business phone or extra residential phone lines, if necessary.

13- Get the marketing materials done; i.e. business cards, website, social media, print materials, stationery etc.


The Bottom Line:

The above checklist is a general guideline for starting a small business in Pennsylvania and you may be required to go through some additional steps depending upon your business type. It’s suggested to visit a local SBA office or one of its partner locations and you can access complete resources, services and better assistance from the federal government’s small business program.