Start Your Own Business in Ohio: Seven Steps You Need to Take

From licenses and permits to taxes and insurance, learn what you need to do to start a business in Ohio.



Here’s an overview of the key steps you’ll need to take to start your own business in Ohio.

Step 1. Decide on a Legal Structure

The most common legal structures for a small business are:

  • sole proprietorship
  • partnership
  • limited liability company (LLC), and
  • corporation.

There also are special versions of some of these structures, such as limited partnerships and S corporations. You’ll want to consider which business entity structure offers the type of liability protection you want and the best tax, financing, and financial benefits for you and your business. Check Choose Your Business Structure on Nolo’s website for more information on how to choose the best ownership structure for your business.

Step 2. Choose a Name

For LLCs and corporations, you will need to check that your name is distinguishable from the names of other business entities already on file with the Ohio Secretary of State (SOS). You can check for available names by doing a Business Search by Name on the SOS website. You can reserve an available name for 180 days by filing aName Reservation with the Ohio SOS. There are certain name requirements for LLCs and corporations (like including a word such as “LLC” for LLCs or “Company” for corporations). See How to Form an LLC in Ohio and How to Form a Corporation in Ohio for more information.

Sole proprietorships and partnerships in Ohio must file a Fictitious Name Registration with the Ohio SOS if they use a business name that is different from the name of the business owner (for a sole proprietorship) or names of the individual partners (for a partnership).

If you plan on doing business online, you may want to register your business name as a domain name. See Choose and Register a Domain Name for more information. In addition, to avoid trademark infringement issues, you should do a federal and state trademark check to make sure the name you want to use is not the same as or too similar to a name already in use. See How to Do a Trademark Search for more information.

Step 3. Create Your Business Entity

  • Sole proprietorship: To establish a sole proprietorship in Ohio, you don’t need to file any organizational documents with the state. For more information, see How to Establish a Sole Proprietorship in Ohio.
  • Partnership: To create a general partnership in Ohio, you don’t need to file any organizational documents with the state. Although not legally required, all partnerships should have a written partnership agreement . The partnership agreement can be very helpful if there is ever a dispute among the partners. For more information, see How to Form a Partnership in Ohio. To form a limited liability partnership (often used by professionals), you must file a Statement of Qualification with the Ohio SOS. For more information, see How to Form a Limited Liability Partnership in Ohio.
  • LLCs: To create an LLC in Ohio, you must file Articles of Organization with the Ohio SOS. You will also need to appoint a statutory agent in Ohio for service of process. In addition, while not required by law, you also should prepare an operating agreement to establish the basic rules about how your LLC will operate. The operating agreement is not filed with the state. For more information, see How to Form an LLC in Ohio andHow to Form a Professional LLC in Ohio (for professionals).
  • Corporations: To create a corporation in Ohio, you must file Articles of Incorporation with the Ohio SOS. You will also need to appoint a statutory agent in Ohio for service of process. Although not legally required, you also should prepare bylaws to establish your corporation’s internal operating rules. Bylaws are not filed with the state. S Corporations must also file IRS Form 2553, Election by a Small Business Corporation, with the IRS. For more information, see How to Form a Corporation in Ohio.

Step 4. Licenses and Permits

Tax Registration. If you will be selling goods in Ohio, you must register for a vendor’s license with the Ohio Department of Taxation (DOT). The license is required in order to collect state sales tax. If you will have employees in Ohio, you must register with the DOT for employer withholding tax. You can register for the both sales tax collection and withholding tax, as well as other business taxes, via the Ohio Business Gateway.

EIN. If your business has employees or is taxed separately from you, you must obtain a federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. Even if you are not required to obtain an EIN, there are often business reasons for doing so. Banks often require an EIN to open an account in the business’s name and other companies you do business with may require an EIN to process payments. You can get an EIN by completing an online application on the IRS website. There is no filing fee.

Regulatory licenses and permits. These cover areas such as:

  • health and safety
  • the environment
  • building and construction; and
  • specific industries or services

For regulatory licenses and permits issued by the state, check the Business section of ohio.gov, where you can find the Starting a Business webpage. The page includes links to several state publications, including:

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