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Checklist for Starting a Small Business in Tennessee, USA

Small business is considered to be the backbone of the state of Tennessee as the small business makes up the majority of all companies in the state. With zero personal income tax, developed infrastructure, established and growing industries, affordable cost of living and a highly educated workforce altogether make the state of Tennessee an ideal small business ground for aspiring entrepreneurs.

You may be surprised to know that some of the most successful businesses were started in the state of Tennessee, and some of the big names like Medium, Dollar General, FedEx, Nissan North America Inc. are headquartered in the state.

Yes, small business scenario in Tennessee is full of challenges, but where in the world you find a business without challenges. So, if you are based anywhere in Tennessee and want to step into the world of entrepreneurship, you are already set to discover the new heights. This article will serve the purpose, if you are looking for answers to queries like:

  • Business grants in Tennessee
  • How to start a sole proprietorship in TN?
  • Business license TN cost
  • Business opportunities Tennessee
  • Business registration TN
  • How to start an LLC in Tennessee
  • TN business tax license
  • Do I need a business license in TN?
  • How to register a business name in TN?

This article will answer all the queries above and will guide you through a quick checklist to start and run a small business anywhere in Tennessee.

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Here goes the checklist items step by step:

1- Find the opportunity; finding the right business idea matters most, when it comes to be successful in your venture, so take time to find an opportunity that has good demand in your target market. Check out these small business ideas for Chattanooga and small business ideas for Memphis for a quick idea and you will have a fair idea of what can be a profitable venture in Tennessee. You might also want to check the complete list of small business ideas for USA to broaden your search. Once, you have a clear business idea, you must map it into a proper business plan, i.e. how you plan to make money out of this business idea.

2- Choose the business name; naming your business should be top priority, as it’s going to be the entity known to customers. Make sure that the business name you choose is not being used by someone else. Use this link to search for the available names. Also ensure that there’s a domain name available for your business name, even if you are not planning to build a business website right now. You may also be interested in buying readily available business names with perfect .com domain or alternatively, follow these articles as a reference to name your business the right way:

3- Determine a legal structure; this is important, because the registration process will depend on type of business you intend to do. Sole Proprietorship, General Partnership, Limited Partnership, Limited Liability Partnership, Limited Liability Company (LLC) and Corporation are the options to choose from. Since, the legal structure of your business will determine the taxes and liability of the company, you need to have clear understanding of the legal structures. Reading yourself is good, but the best way to move forward is to consult an attorney or CPA to determine the best structure for your business needs.

4- Fulfil the licensure requirements; most businesses in Tennessee need an annual business license, however, some business are exempted from the license requirements as well. Consulting an attorney can help you find out the right type of licenses and permits required to start operations, however, you must

  • Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the gov EIN Site.
  • Register with the TN Secretary of State. Followgov ecommerce.
  • Register with the TN Dept. of Revenue. Follow TN Dept of Revenue.
  • Obtain a business license with your Local County and/or municipality.

5- Rent a commercial space or if you plan to do a home business, check with local authorities for zoning laws.

6- If you plan to hire employees, register with the TN Dept. of Labor & Workforce Development or c State Unemployment Tax. Check this for your reference.

7- Know about other regulations, licenses and permits that may be required for your business, i.e. liquor licenses, food & dairy related licenses, special licenses for businesses that effect air natural resources, water use etc. Follow this link for complete list of available licenses and requirements for each.

8- Purchase required equipment and inventory to start operations.

9- Look into the insurance requirements and fulfil the same; getting your business insured before starting operations just keeps you on safer side in case of a disaster, so it’s best idea to get one sooner. You may also get insurance for your workforce as per government laws. If your business deals in goods or services that may affect a person’s health or wellbeing or cause an accident, you must get a public liability insurance.

10- Open business bank account.

11- Get all the necessary software installed, i.e. bookkeeping, antivirus, backup solution, etc.

12- Get your marketing materials ready, i.e. brochures, flyers, print ads, website, social media etc. Having a proper marketing strategy with an actionable marketing plan is a must. Do get the help of an expert if you cannot do it yourself.


The Bottom Line:

Please, be advised that this information is only a general guideline for starting a small business in Tennessee. There may be one or more aspects of your business that may require additional steps, so, it is highly recommended to consult an attorney, CPA or business counselor in your city.

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