Looking to start a small business in Delaware? 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 Business First Steps section of the state government's delaware.gov website has links to many other websites helpful to small businesses. There are also links that cover:
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has a district office in Wilmington. The office's website lists upcoming events, resources, SBA programs, and news for small businesses. The SBA also publishes a Delaware-specificResource Guide for Small Business that you can download from the SBA website.
The Delaware Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has guidance on how to start and grow your business. The website has information on small business financing, training sessions, advisors, and affiliations with other organizations such as Delaware SCORE. The Delaware SBDC is part of a national network of small business development centers.
Every Delaware business (and every non-Delaware business operating in the state) is required to get an annual state business license. The license is issued by the Division of Revenue. You can register for the license online at the One Stop Business Licensing and Registration Service. You can also register on paper using Form CRA,Combined Registration Application Form. Most state business licenses are valid for one calendar year and expire on December 31. The license fee varies, but most often is $75.
You may also need additional state licenses or permits depending on your specific type of business. These licenses and permits may be issued by various state agencies. For example, a restaurant may need a food establishment permit issued by the Division of Public Health within Delaware Health and Social Services.
In addition to state licenses and permits, some required licenses are issued locally. The requirements vary depending on the city or county involved. For example, the City of Wilmington has its own licensing requirements. You can find more details by checking the website for the city and county where you'll operate your business. (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 Delaware Division of Corporations(DOC). Check the DOC 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 Delaware. The Division of Professional Regulation (DPR) oversees the state's many professional regulatory boards. The homepage of the DPR website lists virtually all of the regulated professions. The list runs from Accountancy to Veterinary Medicine. By clicking an item on the list, you'll be taken to a webpage with detailed information about a profession or occupation's regulatory board, licensing requirements, and related forms.
Example: Cindy wants to work as a licensed massage therapist. She'll need to apply for a license through the Board of Massage and Bodywork. She can find detailed information including a license information guide by clicking on the link for Massage and Bodywork on the DPR website and going to the Board 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, a business name, or a DBA (for "doing business as"). Any business that operates in Delaware under a trade name, business name, or fictitious name must register that name with the Office of the Prothonotary of each county in which business is transacted. If you are going to do business in New Castle and/or Kent and/or Sussex Counties, then you must register with each respective Prothonotary's Office. For additional information on the requirements, check the Trade, Business & Fictitious Names section of the Delaware Superior Court website.
Example: Lin originally organized her car repair business as a Delaware corporation named Lin's Rehoboth Garage, Inc. She now wants to operate the business under the name Beachside Foreign Auto Repair, Inc. Lin must file a Registration of Trade, Business & Fictitious Name Certificate, notarized, and including the filing fee, with the Prothonotary's Office in New Castle County, Kent County, and Sussex County.
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 Trademarks and Service Marks section of the DOC website.
Example: Tabitha wants to sell her coffee-cocoa candy bars under the name "Tabby's Cocoa Espresso Buzz Bars." So—after checking to make sure the name isn't already in use—she files an Application for Registration of Trademark or Service Mark, notarized and including the filing fee, with the DOC.
This article covers only the very tip of the iceberg regarding small business licenses and registrations in Delaware. 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 Delaware. 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.