Looking to start a small business in Connecticut? 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 website known as CT's Business Response Center (CBRC) is a program of the Connecticut Economic Resource Center. The CBRC website has information on starting, purchasing, expanding, and relocating a business in Connecticut. The site includes step-by-step guidance and links to relevant state agencies.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has a district office in Hartford. The office's website lists upcoming events, resources, and news for small businesses. The SBA also publishes a Connecticut-specific Resource Guide for Small Business that you can download from the SBA website.
The Connecticut Small Business Development Center (CTSBDC) has guidance on how to start and grow your business. The website includes information on training sessions and workshops, as well as how to request business advice. The CTSBDC is part of a national network of small business development centers.
Not every Connecticut business needs a license. However, many types of business either can or must get one or more license or permits. Broadly speaking, it's possible to distinguish two categories of state licenses. The first category, professional and occupational licenses, is covered below. The second category, covered here, is often called regulatory or trade licenses and permits.
Different trade licenses are issued by different state agencies. Key categories for these licenses and permits include those relating to:
Check the Smart Start for Business section of the CBRC website for more details. The website allows you to search for licenses and permits by issuing agency, by trade area, or in other ways.
Apart from state trade licenses and permits, some required business licenses are issued locally. The requirements vary depending on the city or county involved. For example, the City of Hartford has its own business license requirements. You can find more details by checking the website for the city and county 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 Connecticut Secretary of the State(SOTS). Check the Business Services section of the SOTS 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 Connecticut. The CBRC website lists professions and occupations that require state licensing. (The listing is combined with the list of regulatory and trade licenses.) By clicking on an item on the list, you'll be taken to a new page with detailed information about the licensing requirements, including the state agency responsible and related forms.
Example: Serena wants to work as a licensed professional audiologist. She'll need to apply for a license through the Department of Public Health. She can find detailed information by clicking on the link for Audiologist (in the subsection covering Medical Services) on the CBRC 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 Connecticut, most businesses that intend to operate under a fictitious or assumed name must file a certificate with the town clerk where the business is located. (Exceptions include LLCs and limited partnerships registered with the SOTS, and general partnerships that include a partner's surname.) You should check with your town clerk for more details.
Example: Cherise originally organized her car repair business as a Connecticut corporation named Cher's Fairfield Garage, Inc. She now wants to operate the business under the name Long Island Sound Foreign Auto Repair, Inc. Cherise must file a Trade Name Certificate, including the filing fee, with the Town Clerk for the City of Fairfield.
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 limited information by going to the Intellectual Property section of the CBRC website. Another option is to check Chapter 621a of the Connecticut General Statutes.
Example: Claire wants to sell her coffee-cocoa candy bars under the name "Claire's Brown Cocoa Buzz Bars." So—after checking to make sure the name isn't already in use—she files a FORM TMA-1-1.0-1, Application for a Certificate of Registration of a Trade or Service Mark, including the filing fee, with the SOTS. She can download a copy of the form the Business Services section of the SOTS website.
This article covers only the very tip of the iceberg regarding small business licenses and registrations in Connecticut. 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 Connecticut. 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.