Looking to start a small business in Oklahoma? 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 Oklahoma Department of Commerce (DOC) publishes the Oklahoma Business Start-up Guide. You can download a copy from the DOC website. Among other things, the Guide contains basic information on giving a legal structure to and naming your business, employer registration, certain license and permit issues, and certain tax information.
The Oklahoma Secretary of State (SOS) also has useful information for small businesses. For example, there's asection of the SOS website that provides an overview of the main ways of structuring a business (sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and so on).
Not every Oklahoma business needs a license. However, many types of business either can or must get a license. General categories of state business licenses include:
Different types of licenses and permits are issued by different state agencies. You can find more information by going to the Business Licensing & Operating Requirements section of the DOC website.
In addition, some required licenses are issued locally. For example, Oklahoma City requires certain businesses to have licenses. You can find more details by checking the website for the city where you'll operate your business. (Some businesses may be exempt from local 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 file organizational documents with the SOS. You can find limited additional information by going to the Downloadable Business Forms section of the SOS website and then clicking on the registration form for your type of business. Beyond that, you should call the SOS directly or consult with a local business attorney.
If you're a member of any one of many professions and occupations, you'll need to be licensed by the State of Oklahoma. The Professional License Online Services section of the state's ok.gov website covers many of the professions requiring state licensure. The section has lists both for license renewals and license verifications for many professions, running from accountants to well driller firms and operators. If you click an item on the list, you'll be taken to the website for the state regulatory board for that profession or occupation.
Example: Gaby wants to work as a licensed professional land surveyor. She'll need to apply for a license through the Oklahoma State Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors. The Board's website has information on licensing exams, forms, and fees.
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 Oklahoma, corporations and LLCs must file a form with the SOS if they intend to operate under a trade name. Similarly, partnerships not operating under the names of the partners must register a fictitious name with the SOS. In Oklahoma, you generally handle trade name and fictitious name filings online through a section of the SOS website.
Example: Jed originally organized his car repair business as an Oklahoma corporation named Jed's Great Garage, Inc. He now wants to operate the business under the name OK Osage Foreign Auto Repair, Inc. Jed goes to the Entity Filing section of the SOS website, chooses the link to register a Domestic Trade Name, completes the online form, and submits it (along with the filing fee) to 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 by going to the Trademarks section of the SOS website.
Example: Henriette wants to sell her coffee-cocoa candy bars under the name "Henry's Choco-Espresso Buzz Bars." So—after checking to make sure the name isn't already in use—she files SOS Form 0045-6/2001, Trademark Registration, including the filing fee, with the SOS. (She could also file online.)
This article covers only the very tip of the iceberg regarding small business licenses and registrations in Oklahoma. 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 Oklahoma. 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.