How to Get a Small Business License in Michigan

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



Looking to start a small business in Michigan? 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.

Michigan Small Business Information Programs

You can find answers to many Michigan small business questions by checking the website for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). The Start Up section in particular contains links to key information on many topics including licensing and permits.

Another source of useful information is Michigan’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC). The SBDC can help you with many aspects of your business, such as business plans, raising capital, and financial management.

Finally, you may also find useful information, and options for online registrations, at Michigan’s Business One Stopwebsite. This a state government website currently focused on business tax and financing issues.

Get One or More Business Licenses

Not every Michigan business needs a license. However, many types of businesses either can or must get a license. In many instances, the necessary license is issued by a state agency. The State of Michigan’s primary website, michigan.gov, has a section devoted to state licenses and permits. You can either do a search for a particular type of license or click on a link to view an alphabetical list.

The list of licenses is extensive: It contains hundreds of items, from acupuncture to x-ray technologist. In most cases, by clicking on a link for a particular license, you’ll be taken to a webpage with information on which state agency is responsible for the license, as well as additional information on laws or regulations relating to the license.

File Records For Your Form of Business

Many legal forms of business, such as corporations and limited liability companies (LLCs), must file records with the state. More specifically, corporations, LLCs, and certain other types of businesses must register with theCorporations Division of the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA).

Obtain Professional Licensing

If you’re a member of any of dozens of professions and occupations, you’ll need to be licensed by the State of Michigan. Among the many professions requiring state licensing are doctors, lawyers, dentists, accountants, architects, engineers, nurses, and veterinarians. You can get information about many professional and occupational licenses from the Bureau of Professional Licensing (BPL), which is a division of LARA.

Example: Liz wants to open a licensed cosmetology business. She’ll need to apply for a Cosmetology Establishment License with the BPL. She can find information about getting the license, as well as the application form, by going to the occupational licensing section of the BPL website and clicking on the Cosmetology link.

Licensing for many professions and occupations in Michigan is handled through LARA. You often can find the information you need through the BPL website.

Register an Assumed or Fictitious Business Name

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 Michigan, such as corporations and LLCs, must file a form with the state if they intend to operate under an assumed or fictitious name.

Example: Gordon originally organized his car repair business as a Michigan corporation named Gordon’s Ann Arbor Garage, Inc. He now wants to operate the business under the name Washtenaw Foreign Auto Repair, Inc. Gordon must file a Certificate of Assumed Name with LARA.

Register a Trademark or Trade Name

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 Trademarks, Service Marks and Insignia section of the LARA website.

Example: Gus wants to sell his nut-filled fudge under the name “Gus’s Grand Mackinaw Chunky Chews.” So—after checking to make sure the name isn’t already in use—he files an Application for Registration for Trademark/Service Mark, including the filing fee, with LARA.

Additional Information

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