Looking to start a small business in Ohio? 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 Starting a Business webpage also has online checklists available for certain kinds of businesses. You can use a checklist to make sure you’ve taken care of the required start-up tasks.
Pretty much every Ohio business is at least required to register with the state. In Ohio, this registration is commonly called a business license.
In addition, and more specifically, different types of businesses often need additional licenses or permits. Different licenses and permits are issued by different state agencies. You can find detailed information about the required licenses and permits for most kinds of business by going to the Licenses & Permits webpages of the Business section on the ohio.gov website. This is in addition to the information provided in the Starting Your Business in Ohiopublication.
In addition, some required licenses are issued locally. You can find more details by checking the website for the city where you’ll operate your business.
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 businesses must file organizational documents with the Secretary of State (SOS). Check theBusiness Services section of the SOS website for more details.
If you’re a member of any one of many professions and occupations, you’ll need to be licensed by the State of Ohio. Some of the professions requiring state licensing are: physicians, attorneys, dentists, accountants, nurses, architects, engineers, and veterinarians. The alphabetical list in the Licenses & Permits webpages of the Business section on the ohio.gov website includes the professions and occupations requiring licenses. The pages include links to websites for the relevant regulatory boards, applications, and other forms.
Example: Shareen wants to work as a licensed landscape architect. She’ll need to apply for a license through the Ohio State Landscape Architects Board. She can find the link to the Board’s website, as well as to the license application and other forms, by going to “Landscape Architects” on the state government’s Licenses & Permits website.
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 Ohio, corporations and LLCs must file a form with the SOS if they intend to operate under a trade name. Similarly, partnerships and sole proprietorships not operating under the names of their owners must file to operate under a fictitious name (DBA).
Example: John originally organized his car repair business as an Ohio corporation named John’s Sandusky Garage, Inc. He now wants to operate under the trade name Buckeye Erie Foreign Auto Repair, Inc. John must file a Form 534A, Name Registration, including the filing fee, with the SOS. He will indicate that he is filing to register a trade name. (If John were operating as a sole proprietorship under the name Buckeye Erie Foreign Auto Repair, he would file the same form, but indicate that he was filing to register a fictitious name.)
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, by downloading the SOS publication Registering Your Trademark or Service Mark. The publication is available from the Publications section of the SOS website.
Example: Veronica wants to sell her coffee-cocoa candy bars under the name “Vero’s Brown Buzz Chocolate Bars.” So—after checking to make sure the name isn’t already in use—she files a Form 555, 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 Ohio. 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 Ohio. 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.