Looking to start a small business in Indiana? 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 & Agriculture section of the state government's indiana.gov website has links to many other websites helpful to small businesses. This includes links to many of the most important state agencies for small businesses. In addition, the state publishes a comprehensive Business Owner's Guide that you can view online or download and print out.
The Indiana Small Business Development Center (ISBDC) provides guidance on how to start and grow your business. The ISBDC website has information on workshops and events. There's also an extensive FAQ page covering—among other topics—starting, managing, marketing, financing, and registering your business. The ISBDC is part of a national network of small business development centers.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has a district office in Indianapolis. The office's website lists upcoming events, resources, and news for small businesses. The SBA also publishes an Indiana-specific Resource Guide for Small Business that you can download from the SBA website.
Not every Indiana business needs a license. However, many types of businesses either can or must get one or more licenses or permits. Indiana does not have a general, state-issued business license. But the state does issue hundreds of different licenses, permits, certifications, and other permissions that are specific to certain business activities.
These various licenses or permits, which are sometimes referred to as occupational or regulatory, are issued by various state agencies. Some of the main categories covered by these licenses and permits are:
Check the Specific Occupational Business Licenses section of the Business Owner's Guide for more details.
In addition to state licenses and permits, some required licenses and permits are issued locally. The requirements vary depending on the city or county involved. For example, the City of Indianapolis and Marion County each have licensing rules that can apply to small businesses. 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 Indiana Secretary of State (SOS). Check the Business Services Division 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 Indiana. The state's Professional Licensing Agency (PLA) oversees many—though not all—of the state's regulatory boards and commissions. Those boards and commissions are in turn responsible for regulating the various licensed professions and occupations. The Professions section of the PLA website lists the many professions and occupations that the PLA oversees. (The Licenses section of the Business Owner's Guide has a similar list.) By clicking a listed profession on the PLA website, you'll be taken to a webpage for the board regulating that profession. From there you can get detailed information about licensing requirements.
Example: Cecile wants to work as a state-certified dietitian. She'll need to apply through the Indiana Dietitians Certification Board. She can find detailed information and a copy of the certification application by clicking on the link for Dietitian on the PLA 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 Indiana, businesses structured as corporations, LLCs, limited partnerships, and limited liability partnerships that intend to operate under an assumed name must register that name with the SOS. Businesses structured as sole proprietorships and general partnerships that intend to use an assumed name must file with the county recorder for each county where an office of the business is located. For additional information on state requirements, check the General Requirements section of the Business Owner's Guide website.
Example: Grady originally organized his car repair business as an Indiana corporation named Grady's Best Garage, Inc. He now wants to operate the business under the name White River Foreign Auto Repair, Inc. Grady must file a State Form 30353, Certificate 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 theTrademarks section of the SOS website.
Example: Carlotta wants to sell her coffee-cocoa candy bars under the name "Carli's Brown Cocoa Buzz Bars." So—after checking to make sure the name isn't already in use—she files a State Form 4430, 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 Indiana. 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 Indiana. 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.