Looking to start a small business in Missouri? 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 Missouri Business Portal is a website run by Missouri state government. The website contains links to information on many state business topics, such as how to start, grow, and manage your business. Using the portal, you can navigate to information on required business filings, taxes, and various registrations.
Not every Missouri business needs a license. However, many types of business either can or must get a license. Some of the general categories of business licenses and permits in Missouri are:
Different categories of licenses and permits are issued by different state agencies. You can find more information by clicking on the Registering My Business section of the Missouri Business Portal website.
In addition, some required licenses are issued locally. The City of St. Louis, for example, requires most businesses to obtain a Graduated Business License (GBL). Similarly, the City of Springfield also requires most businesses to obtain a license. You can find more details by checking the website for the city where you’ll operate your business. (Some businesses may be exempt from 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 register with the Business Services Division of the Missouri Secretary of State (SOS). Check the Start a Business section of the SOS website for more details.
If you’re a member of one of many professions and occupations, you’ll need to be licensed by the State of Missouri. Among the professions requiring state licensing are doctors, lawyers, dentists, accountants, architects, engineers, nurses, and pharmacists. There are at least two places you can check online for initial information about this kind of licensing:
The Division of Professional Registration website has links to detailed licensing information about each profession. The Missouri Business Portal has a similar set of links.
Example: Monique wants to work as a licensed athletic trainer. She’ll need to apply for a license through the Missouri State Board of Registration for the Healing Arts.
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 Missouri, any person or business operating under a fictitious name (a name other than the “true name”) must register the name with the Secretary of State. For more information, check the Fictitious Name Registration FAQ section of the SOS website.
Example: Gordon originally organized his car repair business as a Missouri corporation named Gordie’s St. Louis Garage, Inc. He now wants to operate the business under the name Western Gateway Foreign Auto Repair, Inc. Gordon must file a Registration of Fictitious 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, including forms, in the Trademarks & Service Marks section of the SOS website.
Example: Harriet wants to sell her coffee-cocoa candy bars under the name “Harriet's’s Rich Chocolate Buzz Bars.” So—after checking to make sure the name isn’t already in use—she files a TRADEMARK AND SERVICE MARK 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 Missouri. 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 a 50-state series—so you can get plenty of information that’s specific to the State of Missouri. 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.