How to Get a Small Business License in Minnesota

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

By , Attorney University of North Carolina School of Law
Updated 2/28/2024

Before opening for business, you need to make sure you follow Minnesota's regulatory requirements and that you obtain the necessary licenses and permits from your state and local governments.

Let's look at the different licenses, permits, and registrations you need to start your Minnesota business.

Which Business Licenses Do You Need for Your Small Business?

When starting a business in Minnesota, you must:

The types of licenses and permits your business must apply for depends on your business structure, industry, and location. The main types of business licenses, permits, and registrations are:

(For more general guidance, see our article on the legal requirements for starting a small business.)

General Business License in Minnesota

In Minnesota, like in many other states, your business doesn't need to apply for a statewide general license to operate within the state. Instead, your company might need to obtain a license specific to your location or business activities.

For example, if you run a plant nursery, then you'll need to get a Minnesota nursery stock dealer or nursery stock grower certificate from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Or, if you operate a child care center, then you must be licensed by the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

Use Minnesota ELicensing to help you determine which state-issued licenses, permits, and registrations are required for your business. You can search by topic or agency. Once you click on your specific area of interest, 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.

You could need to obtain special licensing at multiple levels, such as through the city, county, state, and federal governments. Oftentimes, cities and counties require anyone who wants to operate within the city or county to obtain a license. Some cities and counties require every business to have a license while others require only businesses in particular industries to get a license.

For example, the City of Minneapolis has a business license section on its government website. While the city doesn't require a general operating license, you can learn more about your licensing obligations on the website. For instance, you can view information and instructions related to:

  • alcohol and tobacco
  • animal-related businesses
  • contractors
  • door-to-door and secondhand sales
  • dry cleaning and laundry
  • food and restaurants
  • entertainment and recreation
  • lodging
  • massage, tanning, and body art, and
  • vehicles.

Specifically, you can find details about the application process, including the appropriate form and fee, and links to other resources.

Professional and Occupational Licenses for Businesses and Individuals in Minnesota

Before you start operating your business, you need to make sure you have the licenses and certifications required for your industry. Depending on your field, you might be required to have two separate licenses: one for you and one for your business.

The Minnesota Elicensing portal serves as a central database for most professional licenses. If you search by agency, you can find an alphabetical list of all the state boards, commissions, departments, and agencies. By clicking on an agency, you can access a brief description of the agency, a link to the agency's website, and a list of the licenses, permits, and registration that the agency administers.

If you search by topic, you can filter for "professionals." The professionals tab is further broken down into field subsets. For each license, you can find details about:

  • licensing requirements (including helpful links)
  • processing times, license duration, and license fees
  • rules and statutes
  • application forms (with links), and
  • the licensing agency's contact information.

For example, suppose Liz wants to work as a licensed dietitian and nutritionist. She'll need to apply for a dietitian/nutritionist license through the Minnesota Board of Dietetics and Nutrition Practice. Liz can find information about obtaining the license, as well as the application form, via the Minnesota ELicensing portal. Liz can browse by topic and find "dieticians" listed under the "Health Professionals" tab.

Each profession or occupation has its own rules and requirements. For instance, your profession might require you to pass an initial licensing exam or complete continuing education courses. You should contact your regulatory authority directly if you're unsure about how to apply for or maintain your license.

Minnesota Sales Tax Registration

In general, if you sell or lease tangible personal property or provide taxable services to a final consumer, then you're required to collect and pay sales tax in Minnesota. Before you start making taxable sales in Minnesota, you must register for a:

  • Minnesota tax ID number, and
  • sales and use tax account.

You can register for a sales tax account when you apply for your state tax ID number. You can register your business online with the MNDOR using MN e-Services. You can also register by phone.

After you register, you'll receive your tax ID number and tax account information. Your business will also need a tax ID number for other business taxessuch as use tax, withholding tax, and corporate income tax—using the same application.

Check out the MNDOR's Minnesota Sales and Use Tax Business Guide for more guidance. The guide has information about:

  • who needs to register
  • business registration
  • taxes and rates
  • taxable and nontaxable sales
  • filing frequencies and due dates
  • payment information, and
  • other helpful tax-related topics.

You should also check with your city or county to learn about their tax reporting requirements.

Local Zoning and Building Permits

In some instances—such as, if you plan to build a new space or renovate an existing space—you'll need to get special zoning and building permits from your city or county. To get the required permits or special zoning, you'll typically need to go through some sort of review process that consists of filing an application, attending meetings with local officials, and passing final inspections.

For more extensive work, you might also need to submit site plans or hire a professional architect or engineer. Sometimes, at the end of the process, if the city or county has signed off, you'll receive a clearance letter (or similar document) that allows you to start occupying your commercial space.

The City of Minneapolis has a licenses, permits, and inspection section on its government website with relevant information. This section guides you through the requirements and processes for:

  • business licenses
  • construction permits and certificates
  • environmental permits
  • fire permits and registration
  • housing code
  • rental licenses
  • streets, sidewalks, and utilities, and
  • special and temporary events.

You should talk to your local officials or visit your city or county website for information related to building permits and inspections. You can sometimes find an online application for the type of permit you need. Be sure to also review your local code and ordinances to figure out which zoning and building requirements apply to your business and planned operations.

Zoning laws. If your type of business isn't in line with the zoning code (for example, opening a textile plant in a residential area), it could be a good idea to look for another space for your business. Alternatively, you might be able to apply for a special use permit. A special permit can provide your business with an exception to the current use laws.

Building code. You can work with local departments and agencies to apply for building and construction permits. You'll likely need to have inspections related to your space's structural, electrical, mechanical, and plumbing features.

If you plan to lease a commercial space, make sure you have a section in the commercial lease that ensures that the building and your use of the space are in line with the zoning laws.

Filing a Certificate of Assumed Name in Minnesota

In Minnesota, if you do business under an assumed name or DBA (short for "doing business as"), you must file a Certificate of Assumed Name with the SOS. (Minn. Stat. § 333.02 (2024).)

In Minnesota, an assumed name is any name that's different from your true full name or legal name:

For example, suppose Gordon Bombay teaches private ice skating lessons under the name "Bombay Skating." Because "Bombay Skating" doesn't include Gordon's first name, he'd need to file an assumed name certificate. Or, for instance, suppose Mighty Ducks Hockey, Inc. does business under simply "Mighty Ducks." Because the corporation doesn't do business under its full legal name, it would need to also file an assumed name certificate.

You can register your assumed name online with the SOS. You can also mail in your application or hand-deliver it to the SOS office.

You must renew your certificate every year and pay the associated renewal fee. (Minn. Stat. § 333.055 (2024).)

As of 2024, the filing fee is $50 for expedited service in-person and online filings or $30 if submitted by mail.

For additional information, including links to relevant forms, see the assumed name/DBA webpage on the SOS website.

Other Licenses and Permits Your Business Might Need

In addition to the licenses and permits discussed above, your business might be required to comply with other laws and regulations. For example, your business could need to apply for special licensing or follow special rules related to:

  • safety
  • health, and
  • the environment.

These areas are sometimes encompassed within other licenses, permits, and registrations. However, at other times, these licenses and permits will require a separate process altogether. If you're in a highly regulated field, you're more likely to need additional licenses and permits. For instance, if you're running a plant that could potentially affect water streams or air quality, then you'll probably need to follow additional protocols.

The requirements vary depending on the city or county involved. You should check the websites for the city and county where you'll operate your business for more information. Some businesses might be exempt from local licensing requirements under state or federal law.

Check with your federal, state, and local governments for more information.

Additional Information for Small Businesses in Minnesota

You can find answers to many Minnesota small business questions by checking the website of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). The DEED website's starting a business section contains a webpage on business licenses and permits. On this webpage you can find details about:

  • local licenses and permits
  • local zoning and regulations
  • federal regulations
  • environmental permits
  • bonding requirements, and
  • government resources.

Business owners can also find help with the state's Small Business Assistance Office. The Office offers A Guide to Starting a Small Business in Minnesota. You can also find other guidebooks, consultation services, and frequently asked questions on the Office website.

You can also look for one of Minnesota's nine Small Business Development Centers located around the state. These satellite centers provide advice and guidance on starting and developing your business.

The SOS has its own guide to starting a business in the state. The webpage includes basic information and links to resources, including other state departments and online services.

This article covers only the very tip of the iceberg regarding small business licenses and registrations in Minnesota. In addition to the great state resources, you can also find more information on the small business section of our website. If you want even more information, you can also read Legal Guide for Starting & Running a Small Business, by Fred S. Steingold (Nolo), and The Small Business Start-Up Kit, by Peri Pakroo (Nolo).

For personalized, professional help, consider talking to a Minnesota business attorney. You should try, if possible, to find a lawyer who has experience assisting businesses in your industry. An attorney can help you navigate the steps to get your business license or permit.

Get Professional Help
Talk to a Business Law attorney.
There was a problem with the submission. Please refresh the page and try again
Full Name is required
Email is required
Please enter a valid Email
Phone Number is required
Please enter a valid Phone Number
Zip Code is required
Please add a valid Zip Code
Please enter a valid Case Description
Description is required

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you