Looking to start a small business in Maine? 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.
You can find answers to many small business questions online through Maine’s Department of Economic & Community Development (DCED). Check out DECD’s online Business Answers service. Among other features, the service includes a searchable directory where you can use a keyword to find a specific license or permit.
The DCED and Maine Small Business Development Centers also jointly offer MaineBusinessWorks. This program provides access to many types of business development assistance available through the State of Maine.
More generally, check the Starting a Business section of the Maine.gov website. The section contains many helpful links on subjects like planning, financing, and otherwise getting started with a Maine small business.
General licenses needed to operate a business are handled at the town or city level. You should contact the town or city office where your business is located for more information. You can find contact information for a particular town office through the Maine.gov Local Government portal.
In addition, many legal forms of business, such as corporations and limited liability companies (LLCs), must register with the state. More specifically, corporations, LLCs, and certain other types of business must register with the Bureau of Corporations.
If you’re a member of any of several dozen professions, you’ll need to be licensed by the State of Maine. Among the many professions requiring state licensing are: doctors, lawyers, dentists, accountants, architects, engineers, nurses, and veterinarians.
Example: Linda wants to go into business as a licensed forester. She’ll need to apply for a license with the Board of Licensure of Foresters.
Many professions in Maine are regulated through the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation (PFR). You often can find the information you need through PFR’s website.
Also make sure to check the Resources by Profession section of Maine.gov. The section lists major state-regulated professions, with links to all of the most important forms and information. You can also find licensing information, applications, and regulations, as well as other resources of interest for most state-regulated professions.
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”). Most forms of small business in Maine, such as corporations and LLCs, must file a form with the state if they intend to operate under an assumed or fictitious name.
Example: Stuart originally organized his small dog grooming business as a Maine corporation named Stuart’s Finest Dog Grooming, Inc. He now wants to operate the business under the name The Bangor Dog Barber, Inc. Stuart must file a Statement of Intention to do Business under an Assumed or Fictitious Name with the Bureau of Corporations. He also must include the required filing fee.
The specific form you’ll need to file may depend on the legal form of your business (corporation, LLC, partnership). Check the Corporations section of the Bureau of Corporations website for more details.
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, including forms, in the Marks & Trade Names section of the Bureau of Corporations website.
Example: Charlotte wants to sell her chocolate candy bars under the name “Chunky Charlie’s Chocolate Brick.” So—after checking to make sure the name isn’t already in use—she files Form Mark-1, including the filing fee, with the Bureau of Corporations.
This article covers only the very tip of the iceberg regarding small business licenses and registrations in Maine. 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 Maine. 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.