Looking to start a small business in Arkansas? You may need to obtain one or more state licenses or permits, or complete one or more kinds of state registration, as part of the start-up process. Here's a quick look at some of the main informational resources available and a few of the steps you may need to take.
The Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) publishes Starting a New Business: An Educational Brochure for Arkansas Taxpayers. The brochure provides information on various taxes applicable to Arkansas businesses. It also lists contact information for important state agencies. You can download a copy of the brochure from the DFA website.
The Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center (ASBTDC) has guidance on how to start and grow your business. This includes one-on-one confidential counseling and free market research. The ASBDTC also publishes a very helpful guide, License, Permit, & Tax for Arkansas Small Businesses. You can download a copy of the guide from the ASBTDC website. The ASBDTC is part of a national network of small business development centers.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has a district office in Little Rock. The office's website lists upcoming events, resources, and news for small businesses. The SBA also publishes an Arkansas-specific Resource Guide for Small Business that you can download from the SBA website.
Not every Arkansas business needs a license. However, many types of business either can or must get one or more licenses or permits. Some of these permits and licenses are issued by the state. Examples include licenses related to restaurant and food services, contractor licenses, and child care licenses. Different licenses and permits are issued by different state agencies, such as the Department of Health or Arkansas Contractors Licensing Board. Check the ASBTDC guide mentioned above for more details.
You may also need one or more state-issued professional or occupational licenses (see below).
Apart from state licenses, some required permits and licenses are issued locally. This may include zoning permits and local business licenses. The requirements and license names will vary depending on the city or county involved. The City of Little Rock, for example, has its own licensing requirements. Be aware that you may need licensing for each city or county in which your do business. You can find more details by checking the website for each relevant city and county. (Some businesses may be exempt from local licensing requirements under state or federal law.)
Beyond obtaining required licenses or permits, some legal forms of business, such as corporations and limited liability companies (LLCs), are required to file records with the state. More specifically, corporations, LLCs, and certain other types of business must file organizational documents with the Arkansas Secretary of State (SOS). Check the Corporations section of the SOS website for more details.
If you're a member of any one of many professions and occupations, you'll need to be licensed by the State of Arkansas. The Professional Licensing section of arkansas.gov, the state government's primary website, has a list of licensed occupations and professions. The listing also includes many items not related to licensed professions. However, by clicking on a listed profession, you will be taken to a website for the state regulatory board for that profession.
Example: Garrett wants to work as a licensed real estate agent. He'll need to apply for a license through the Arkansas Real Estate Commission. He can find detailed information and a copy of the license application by clicking on the link for Real Estate Agent in the Professional Licensing section of the arkansas.gov website.
Many small businesses don't simply operate under the names of their owners. Instead, they operate under a business name. In addition, some businesses, such as corporations and LLCs, may originally register with the state under one name (sometimes called the registered name, actual name, or true name), but later choose to operate under another name. Depending on where you're doing business and how your business is structured, this alternative business name technically may be known as an assumed name, a fictitious name, a trade name, or a DBA (for "doing business as"). In Arkansas, most businesses that intend to operate under a fictitious name must register the name with the SOS. In addition, most businesses must also file an assumed name or DBA certificate with the county clerk in any county where business is conducted. For additional information, check the Business Services FAQ section of the SOS website.
Example: Louis originally organized his car repair business as an Arkansas corporation named Lou's Fayetteville Garage, Inc. He now wants to operate the business under the name Ozarks Foreign Auto Repair, Inc. Louis must file an Application for Fictitious Name, including the filing fee, with the SOS. He must also file a DBA Certificate, including the filing fee, with the Washington County Clerk.
There are separate legal definitions for trademarks, service marks, and trade names. However, speaking very generally, trademarks, service marks, and trade names are used to uniquely identify goods (products), services, or a business. This includes distinguishing a product, service, or business from potential competitors. Trademarks and service marks can be registered with the state. (This is distinct from federal registration.) You can find more information by going to the Trademark/Service Mark section of the SOS website.
Example: Henriette wants to sell her coffee-cocoa candy bars under the name "Henry's Cocoa Buzz Bars." So—after checking to make sure the name isn't already in use—she files an Application for the Registration of a Trademark or Service Mark, including the filing fee, with the SOS.
This article covers only the very tip of the iceberg regarding small business licenses and registrations in Arkansas. You can find much more information in the many other articles in the Small Business section here on Nolo.com. Many of those articles are part of 50-state series—so you can get plenty of information that's specific to the State of Arkansas. You can also find expanded information in many Nolo books, such as Legal Guide for Starting & Running a Small Business, by Fred S. Steingold, and The Small Business Start-Up Kit, by Peri Pakroo.