How To Start A Small Business In Wisconsin

A bridge lifts over a waterway in the great state of Wisconsin.
| 12.02.22
Susan G.

Whether you know it as the Badger State or the Dairy State, Wisconsin is so much more than Packers nation and the finest beer around. With over 462,000 small businesses in 2022, the future is bright for all Wisconsin small business owners. If you’re ready to get your own new business off the ground, we have this starting a business in Wisconsin checklist to help you out! Take a note from Wisconsin’s state motto, and go “Forward.”

Starting a Small Business in Wisconsin

Settle on a business idea and name.
Since you’re reading this, you likely already have an idea in mind, and that’s half the battle. In case you don’t, we’ll put a word in for these popular industries in Wisconsin to help you brainstorm: professional and technical services, construction, retail, real estate, and healthcare. There are many small business opportunities in those industries!

Next up is choosing a name. You’ll want your Wisconsin small business name to be memorable, communicate what your business does, and not be too similar to or taken by another business. Think about how people will search for your business online and use some of those words in your business name. One easy way to ensure your business name idea isn’t taken is to search on the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions Corporate Records Search. Satisfied with your small business name? Go ahead and reserve it!

Register your new business.
Now that you’ve committed to a business concept and name, it is time to tell the Wisconsin government about it. To begin, you’ll need to decide what type of business entity your Wisconsin small business will be. These are the basic choices:

  • Sole proprietorship. Your business will be you and you alone. You won’t have employees, partners, or investors. You’ll handle your business taxes on your personal income taxes.
  • Partnership. You and someone else have partnered up to run the business. You won’t have other employees or investors. You’ll want to have a written partnership agreement, and you’ll split up the taxes.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC). An LLC shields your personal assets from liability but requires a little more setup and for business taxes to be paid quarterly. You’ll need to file Articles of Organization with Wisconsin and also appoint someone to be your registered agent. You’ll want an operating agreement to keep things running smoothly, though it is not required.
  • Corporation. Not many small businesses start as corporations. Just in case, know that you’ll need to file Articles of Incorporation with Wisconsin to form a corporation and appoint a registered agent. You’ll want additional layers of planning like bylaws.

Regardless of your business entity type, you’ll want to follow the State of Wisconsin Department of Revenue guidelines for your business type, one of the best Wisconsin small business resources. Wisconsin supports small business creation by making starting up a little easier!

Check out possible locations.
Will your new business be run out of your home, or will you need a leased or purchased location? It is time to scout some possibilities. This is only important if your business will not be completely virtual. Choosing a location is otherwise so important, and your business success could hinge on it. Consider the following:

  • Visibility. Can traffic see your sign? 
  • Parking. Clients and customers will need safe, secure parking.
  • Foot traffic. If opening a retail operation in Wisconsin, you’ll want plenty of foot traffic.
  • Convenience. Are you close to your target market of customers?
  • Lease terms and cost. How long is the lease term, and will you be able to get out of it if needed? Take a close look and consider having a lawyer review it.

Get a small business insurance quote.
Does this seem like it is jumping the gun a bit? It isn’t. To lease business property, you’ll likely need to secure general liability insurance for your small business before signing. You’ll want to go further and consider a business owner’s policy to protect your business from property damage claims and liability claims, even if you work from home. Your homeowners' policy will not cover the area you use for your business or any liability your business adds to your home! There are specialty policies to consider, so check out insurance for your small business in Wisconsin.

Secure licenses and permits.
You know where you’ll be doing business in Wisconsin by this point, so it is time to consider applicable licenses and permits. You’ll need to check with your local town or city government to see if permits are required for your location and line of work. You may need licenses and permit if you work in healthcare, for example, or deal with chemicals. Now is the time to check into it and get what you need!

Open a business credit card and bank account.
Even if you’re a sole proprietor, you’ll want separate accounts for your business purchases and dealings. This makes tax time so much easier! Consider these tips to keep your small business organized. If getting a small business loan is essential to your business, we have information on how to get a business loan, too.

Market your business.
Now it gets to the good part. Making money and making customers and clients happy! Get the word out about your Wisconsin business start-up! We have marketing tips you can use to help. 

Starting your own business in Wisconsin is a wonderful achievement. We hope these steps to starting a small business in Wisconsin have been helpful and given you a good idea of how you can proceed. We wish you success!

About the Author

B2Z Insurance is a small business insurance company that provides coverage for on-the-go business owners: simple explanations, easy application, digital quotes, and mobile claims. A product that is easy-to-use and helps you assess the unique coverage needs of your business with confidence—freeing you up to grow your business.