How to Get a Small Business License in Hawaii

Learn the steps required to obtain a business license in Hawaii.



Looking to start a small business in Hawaii? 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.

Hawaii Small Business Information

The Hawaii Small Business Development Center (HISBDC) has guidance on how to start, plan, manage, and grow your business. The website includes information on training sessions and workshops, getting business advice, and marketplace analysis. The HISBDC is part of a national network of small business development centers.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has a district office in Honolulu. The office’s website lists upcoming events, resources, and news for small businesses. The SBA also publishes a Hawaii-specific Resource Guide for Small Business that you can download from the SBA website.

Get One or More Business Licenses

Unlike some other states, Hawaii doesn’t have a required general business license for all businesses. However, some businesses may be required to obtain permits from state agencies. For example, a business may need a permit related to the environment or health and safety issued by the Department of Health.

In addition, some required licenses are issued locally. The requirements vary depending on the city or county involved. For example, the County of Hawaii 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.)

File Records For Your Form of Business

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 Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA). Check the Business Registration (BREG) section of the DCCA website for more details.

Obtain Professional Licensing

If you’re a member of any one of many professions and vocations, you’ll need to be licensed by the State of Hawaii. The DCCA’s Professional and Vocational Licensing Division (PVL) is responsible for licensing for 49 different professions and vocations. The PVL website lists each of these professions and vocations. By clicking on an item on the list, you’ll be taken to a webpage with detailed information about licensing requirements. A few licensed professions, such as physicians and attorneys, are not on the PVL list. In those cases, you’ll need to do your own Internet search to find a website for the relevant state regulatory board and licensing information.

Example: Layla wants to work as a licensed massage therapist. She’ll need to apply for a license through the Board of Massage Therapy, which is overseen by PVL. She can find detailed information and a copy of the license application by clicking on the link for Massage Therapy on the PVL website.

Register a Trademark or Service Mark

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 Trade Name, Trademark, Service Mark section of the DCCA website.

Example: Andrea wants to sell her coffee-cocoa candy bars under the name “Andy’s Brown Cocoa Buzz Bars.” So—after checking to make sure the name isn’t already in use—she files a Form T-2, Application for Registration of Trademark, including the filing fee, with the DCCA. She can file online or download a copy of the form from the DCCA website.

Additional Information

This article covers only the very tip of the iceberg regarding small business licenses and registrations in Hawaii. 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 Hawaii. 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.

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