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Starting a Business in Wisconsin

A complete step-by-step guide to start your business and get on the fast track to financial success.

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    Doing Business In Wisconsin

    Wisconsin Business Facts

    Wisconsin’s economy is driven by manufacturing, agriculture and healthcare. The state is also the nation’s leading producer of cheese. The job outlook has improved dramatically to roughly the U.S. average, versus No. 49 earlier in the decade. The high school attainment rate is seventh best in the U.S.

    Small business and Startup environment

    Wisconsin has 406,766 small businesses, according to the most current federal data available. Of those 406,766 small businesses in Wisconsin, 123,349 have employees. The remaining 283,417 are Wisconsin small businesses that have no employees.

    Young professional organizations across Wisconsin are bringing entrepreneurial spirits together to exchange ideas, provide support and foster greater business development and success. Events help connect young professionals with industry resources, startup funding, professional development education and more.

    Through programs like WEDC’s Seed Accelerator Program and Qualified New Business Venture Program, entrepreneurs In Wisconsin® receive the funding and business development support they need to grow and succeed.

    Major companies:

    Wisconsin is home to large companies such as: State of Wisconsin, Johnson Controls, Kohl’s, Tyco International, Menards, Northwestern Mutual, Kohler Co., ManpowerGroup, Fiserv, Regal Beloit

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    STEPS TO STARTING A BUSINESS IN WISCONSIN

    Business Structure

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    Business Name

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    Business Registration

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    EIN Tax Number

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    Bank Account

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    Licenses & Permits

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    Branding & Marketing

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    Resources

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    Step 1: Choose A Business Structure

    The most common business structures are sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and a few different types of corporations—the standard corporation (often called a C corporation or “C corp”), the small business corporation (often called an S corporation or “S corp”), and the benefit corporation (often called a B corporation or “B corp”).

    The most common business structures are:

    Step 2: Choose The Right Business Name

    Choosing a business name is important, you want to make it easier for your customers to remember it, here are some tips:

    1. Avoid hard-to-spell names.
    2. Don’t pick a name that could be limiting as your business grows.
    3. Conduct a thorough Internet search.
    4. Search and purchase a domain name.
    5. Use a name that conveys some meaning.
    6. Conduct a trademark search.

    Step 3: Register Your Business

    Depending on the business structure you chose you will need to register your business.

    Department of corporations 

    SBA Office 

    Chamber of commerce 

    Step 4: Obtain an EIN Tax Number

    With limited exceptions, most businesses require an Employer Identification Number (EIN), also known as a Tax ID Number. An EIN is used to identify a business in its federal tax filings. Without an EIN, you can’t hire employees or open a business bank account.

    Click Here to Apply for EIN number online

    Step 5: Open A Bank Account

    – Open a business bank account:

    • Separates your personal assets from your company’s assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
    • Makes accounting and tax filing easier.

    – Get a business credit card:

    • Helps you separate personal and business expenses.
    • Builds your company’s credit history, which can be useful to raise capital later on.

    Step 6: Licenses & Permits

    Now that you’ve registered your business name you need to obtain a business license for your company – this authorizes your company to do business in your city or county. Typically this also involves registering for state taxes and permits (the city may require them as part of the business licensing process).

    Here are some links for Wisconsin Businesses:

    Selling products? Check Wisconsin Resale Permit

    Business Licensing for the State of Wisconsin

    Step 7: Branding & Marketing

    Your brand is the image customers have of your business, so it’s important to determine who is your audience and what is the message that you want to project. That way, your company’s image will be what you intend it to be. It should be strategic and intentional.

    Step 8: Establish a Web Presence

    Creating an optimized website helps you to gain important visibility for the right terms. A website is a powerful sales tool and one that allows you to address your customers’ concerns, give them the information they need to make a decision and create compelling calls to action.

    In addition to a website, you should also consider other avenues for promoting your business online:

    Join Local Networks

    Wisconsin entrepeneurs  

    Innovate UW  

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