Looking to start a small business in Vermont? 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 Business section of the state government’s vermont.gov website has links to many other websites helpful to small businesses. Linked items include:
There are also many other listed items.
The Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC) has guidance on how to start and grow your business. The website includes an extensive list of Vermont small business development resources with links to websites. It also has information on training sessions, and specific topics such as technology and agribusiness. The VtSBDC is part of a national network of small business development centers.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has a district office in Montpelier. The office’s website lists upcoming events, resources, and news for small businesses. The SBA also publishes a Vermont-specific Resource Guide for Small Business that you can download from the SBA website.
Not every Vermont business needs a license. However, many types of business either can or must get one or more licenses or permits. Different licenses are issued by different state agencies. Some of the main categories of licenses and permits are those relating to:
In addition, some required licenses are issued locally. The requirements vary depending on the city or town involved. For example, the City of Burlington has its own licensing requirements. 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 Vermont Secretary of State (SOS). Check the Corporations/Business 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 Vermont. A good first place to check for information is the Professional Regulation section of the SOS website. The section is maintained by the Office of Professional Regulation (OPR). The section lists many licensed professions and occupations, from Accountancy to Veterinary Medicine. Each item has a link to more detailed information. Some professions, such as optometry, are regulated through a separate board. Others are regulated directly by the OPR. For professions not included in the OPR’s online listings, such as physicians or attorneys, you should check the website for the state professional regulatory board for your particular profession.
Example: Wayne wants to work as a licensed professional audiologist. He’ll need to apply for a license through the OPR. He can find detailed information and a copy of the license application by clicking on the link for Audiologist on the OPR 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 Vermont, most businesses that intend to operate under a trade name must register the name with the SOS. For additional information on state requirements, check the Trade Name (DBA)section of the SOS website.
Example: Cherise originally organized her car repair business as a Vermont corporation named Cher’s Burlington Garage, Inc. She now wants to operate the business under the name Green Mountain Foreign Auto Repair, Inc. Cherise must file a Trade Name (DBA) Registration, including the filing fee, with the SOS. She can complete this process online. She can also download a copy of Form TNAME-1 from the SOS website and file by mail.
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 Trademark Registrations section of the SOS website.
Example: Henriette wants to sell her coffee-cocoa candy bars under the name “Henry’s Brown Cocoa Buzz Bars.” So—after checking to make sure the name isn’t already in use—she files a Form MARK-1, Trademark Registration, including the filing fee, with the SOS. She can download a copy of the form from the Trademark Registrationssection of the SOS website.
This article covers only the very tip of the iceberg regarding small business licenses and registrations in Vermont. 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 Vermont. 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.