Looking to start a small business in Montana? 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 Montana state government website, montana.gov, has a Business Information section. The section contains links to other state websites that have information on specific business topics. For example, there are links to:
Each of these websites has a wealth of information regarding starting a small business in Montana. This includes information on planning and financing a business, getting technical assistance, information on licensing, and many other matters.
Not every Montana business needs a license. However, many types of businesses either can or must get a license. You can find information about most kinds of state-issued business licenses by going to the Licenses section of the Montana.gov website. The section has an alphabetical list of licenses, relating to everything from accountants to zoo permits.
In addition, some required licenses are issued locally. The cities of Billings and Missoula, for example, require most businesses to obtain a business 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 Montana Secretary of State (SOS). Check the Business Services 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 Montana. Among the professions requiring state licensing are: doctors, lawyers, dentists, accountants, architects, engineers, nurses, and pharmacists. The Licenses section of the Montana.gov website has links to the licensing requirements for most professions.
Example: Selena wants to work as a licensed real estate appraiser. She’ll need to apply for a license through the Montana Board of Real Estate Appraisers.
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 Montana, such as corporations and LLCs, must file a form with the Secretary of State if they intend to operate under an assumed or fictitious name.
Example: Rich originally organized his car repair business as a Montana corporation named Rich’s Butte Garage, Inc. He now wants to operate the business under the name Big Sky Foreign Auto Repair, Inc. Gordon must file an APPLICATION for REGISTRATION of ASSUMED BUSINESS 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 Trademark section of the SOS website.
Example: Charlotte wants to sell her coffee-cocoa candy bars under the name “Charlie’s Deep Brown Buzz Bars.” So—after checking to make sure the name isn’t already in use—she files an APPLICATION for REGISTRATION of MARK, including the filing fee, with the SOS.
This article covers only the very tip of the iceberg regarding small business licenses and registrations in Montana. 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 Montana. 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.