Looking to start a small business in Idaho? 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 state government's idaho.gov website has a section devoted to business information. The section includes webpages on starting, relocating, and running a business. The available pages on Starting a Business in particular cover things like business plans, business entity types, finding money, and training and events.
The Idaho Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has guidance on how to start and grow your business. The website has information on planning, financing, and marketing your business. It also has information on training sessions and specialized services (such as help with environmental regulations). The SBDC is part of a national network of small business development centers.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has a district office in Boise. The office's website lists upcoming events, resources, and news for small businesses. The SBA also publishes an Idaho-specific Resource Guide for Small Businessthat you can download from the SBA website.
Not every Idaho business needs a license. However, many types of business either can or must get one or more licenses or permits. In some cases, the required licenses or permits will fall into a category that may broadly be called regulatory. Different regulatory licenses and permits are issued by different state agencies. For example, permits relating to agriculture are issued by the Department of Agriculture and permits relating to the environment are issued by the Department of Environmental Quality. The state government website has a Regulatory Requirements Wizard that you can use to help figure out what licenses and permits your particular business may need.
In addition to state regulatory licenses, some required business licenses are issued locally. The requirements vary depending on the city or county involved. For example, Boise and Idaho Falls each have their own business 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 Idaho Secretary of State (SOS). Check the Business Entities 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 Idaho. The Professional Licenses section of the state government website lists many of the professions and occupations requiring a state license. The site also lists links to the state regulatory boards for many of those same professions and occupations. By clicking on the relevant link, you can get detailed information on how to obtain the desired professional license.
Example: Marion wants to work as a licensed professional geologist. She'll need to apply for a license through the Idaho Board of Registration for Professional Geologists (which is located within the state's Bureau of Occupational Licenses). She can find detailed information by clicking on the link for "Geologists, Board of" on the Professional Licenses 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 Idaho, most businesses that intend to operate under an assumed business name (ABN) must register the name with the SOS. For additional information on state requirements, check the Assumed Business Names FAQ section of the SOS website.
Example: Javier originally organized his car repair business as an Idaho corporation named Javi's Boise Garage, Inc. He now wants to operate the business under the name Javier's Rocky Mountain Foreign Auto Repair, Inc. Javier must file aCertificate of Assumed Business Name, including the filing fee, with the SOS.
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 SOS website.
Example: Sonia wants to sell her coffee-cocoa candy bars under the name "Sonny's Espresso Cocoa Buzz Bars." So—after checking to make sure the name isn't already in use—she files an APPLICATION FOR REGISTRATION OF TRADEMARK-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 Idaho. 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 Idaho. 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.