Looking to start a small business in Minnesota? 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 Minnesota small business questions by checking the website for the MinnesotaDepartment of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). The website’s Starting a Business section contains a For Business tab with links to key information on many topics including licenses and permits.
Not every Minnesota business needs a license. However, many types of businesses either can or must get a license. In general, each Minnesota business-related license or permit falls into one of approximately ten possible categories, such as:
Minnesota’s Bureau of Business Licenses (BBL), also known as License Minnesota, has information about the state’s many business licenses. In addition, the BBL publishes a comprehensive State of Minnesota Directory of Licenses and Permits.
You can also find more extensive information online by going to the BBL’s License Minnesota (elicense) website. The website allows you to check lists of licenses in areas like Business, Environment, and Professionals. Once you click on the 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 may also need to get business licenses at the local level. For example, the City of Minneapolis has a department, Business Licenses & Consumer Services, that handles various local business licenses.
In addition to licenses, some legal forms of business, such as corporations and limited liability companies (LLCs), must file certain records. More specifically, corporations, LLCs, and certain other types of businesses must register with the Minnesota Secretary of State (SOS).
If you’re a member of any of a large number of professions and occupations, you’ll need to be licensed by the State of Minnesota. Among the many professions requiring state licensing are: doctors, lawyers, dentists, accountants, architects, engineers, nurses, and veterinarians. You can get information about the state agencies that license and regulate many professions and occupations from the State Agencies section of the License Minnesota website.
Example: Liz wants to work as a licensed dietitian/nutritionist. She’ll need to apply for a dietitian/nutritionist license through the state Board of Dietetics and Nutrition Practice. She can find information about getting the license, as well as the application form, by going to the State Agencies section of the License Minnesota website and clicking on the link for Dietetics & Nutrition.
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 Minnesota, such as corporations, LLCs, general partnerships, and sole proprietorships, must file a form with the Secretary of State if they intend to operate under an assumed or fictitious name. For more information, check the Assumed Names/Sole Proprietorships section of the SOS website.
Example: Gordon originally organized his car repair business as a Minnesota LLC named Gordon’s Twin Cities Garage, LLC. He now wants to operate the business under the name Ten Thousand Lakes Foreign Auto Repair, LLC. Gordon must file a Certificate of Assumed Name with the SOS. The Certificate also must be published for two consecutive weeks in a local newspaper. Because Gordon’s business is located in Minneapolis, he’ll also need to file a motor vehicle repair garage license application with the City.
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 Trademark & Service Mark Forms section of the SOS website.
Example: Harriet wants to sell her chocolate peanut brittle under the name “Harriet’s Happy Brown Peanut Crackle.” So—after checking to make sure the name isn’t already in use—she files a trademark application, including the filing fee, with the SOS.
This article covers only the very tip of the iceberg regarding small business licenses and registrations in Minnesota. 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 Minnesota. 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.