Looking to start a small business in New Jersey? 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 New Jersey small business questions online by going to the New Jersey Business Portal and clicking on the link for Starting a Business. The Starting a Business section of the website has links to information on various small business topics, such as:
Apart from these items, the site also has a link to information on licenses and permits.
Not every New Jersey business needs a license. However, many types of business either can or must get a license. Apart from licenses related to professions and occupations (see below), your business may need construction or safety permits, environmental licenses, or licenses or registrations required of certain kinds of businesses such as child care centers, limousine companies, and telemarketing companies.
The Licenses and Permits section of the New Jersey Business Portal has links to information about all the latter kinds of licenses and permits, and many others besides. The section is probably the best place to start your search for official information about state business licenses and permits.
You may also need to get business licenses at the local level. For example, Jersey City has roughly a half dozen business areas that require permits. It's always a good idea to check the website for the city and county where your business is located for possible additional licensing requirements.
In addition to licenses and permits, some legal forms of business, such as corporations and limited liability companies (LLCs), must file organizational documents. More specifically, corporations, LLCs, and certain other types of businesses must register and file with the New Jersey Department of the Treasury (DOT). You can find detailed information in the Business Formation & Registration section of the DOT website. Note: In New Jersey, all businesses must register with the state by filing Form NJ-REG.
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 New Jersey. 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, as well as at least the basic licensing requirements, from either of the following sources:
The Guide is a downloadable document that lists most New Jersey state-licensed professions and occupations, from "Accountant, Business" to "Youth Camp." Along with the name of the profession or occupation, each item in the guide includes the regulating agency, licensing or permit requirement, and amount of any required fee.
The Division of Consumer Affairs website has a Licensing Boards and Committees section that provides similar information. The section, while less extensive than the Guide, provides links to webpages for many of the professions and occupations it lists.
Example: Zenia wants to work as a licensed home inspector. She'll need to apply for a license through the Home Inspection Advisory Committee, which is under the New Jersey State Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors. She can find information about getting the license, as well as the application form, by going to the Licensing Boards and Committees section of the Division of Consumer Affairs website and clicking on the link for Home Inspection.
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, an alternate name, a trade name, or a DBA (for "doing business as"). Many forms of small business in New Jersey, such as corporations, LLCs, and limited partnerships, must file a form with the Division of Revenue (DOR), which is a division with the DOT, if they intend to operate under an alternate name. Note: In New Jersey, a trade name for a sole proprietorship should be filed at the county level at the County Clerk's office.
Example: Sheila originally organized her car repair business as a New Jersey corporation named Sheila's Waterfront Garage, Inc. She now wants to operate under the name Jersey Shore Foreign Auto Repair, Inc. Sheila must file Form C-150, REGISTRATION OF ALTERNATE NAME, along with the filing fee, with the DOR. Because Sheila's business is located in Jersey City, she'll also need to get an auto repair shop license from the local Division of Commerce.
There are separate legal definitions for trademarks, trade names, and service marks. 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. You can register trademarks and service marks with the state. (This is distinct from federal registration.) You can find more information, including forms, on the REGISTER/RENEW STATE TRADE AND SERVICE MARKS page of the DOT website.
Example: Ben wants to sell his fruit-flavored soft candies under the name "Big B's Garden State Gum Drops." So—after checking to make sure the name isn't already in use—he files Form TMSM-01 , Original Application to Register Trademark or Service Mark, including the filing fee, with the DOT.
This article covers only the very tip of the iceberg regarding small business licenses and registrations in New Jersey. 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 New Jersey. 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.