Ever felt like your business can rise as fast as Tallahassee native Wally Amos’s Famous Amos cookies? Or form in the same state lines as the first Tupperware parties? Whether you’re creating sweet treats, those oh-so-familiar leftover containers, or another business venture completely, we’re here to walk you through how to start your own business in the Sunshine State!
The Benefits of Starting a Business in Florida
There’s always something special in the state of Florida, and business benefits are no different.
Incumbent Worker Training (IWT): provides businesses with the funds to train their workers to stay sharp and competitive in the market.
The Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund (QTI): once you get a bit further along in your businesses phase and perhaps remove the “small” entirely from the title, you could reap the benefits of the QTI, or the Qualified Target Industry Tax refund, which will primarily apply to you once you’re deep into your business journey. It benefits businesses that create more jobs in the state and pay wages at least 115 percent of the state if you’re in a specific target industry.
Seasonality and niche audiences: we’re just as surprised as you are that we went this long without mentioning Disney, but here, there’s no avoiding it. Florida businesses have built themselves from the ground up simply by catering to Disney-goers, studying the season patterns, and finding gaps in the market to bring more feet in the door. (For example, Disney-going families who don’t want to break the bank buying their kids Disney merch or shops that solely focus on amusement park accessories.)
Just a few of Florida’s other tax benefits include the state’s not collecting corporate income tax on subchapter S-corps, LLPs, and LLCs, not taxing business inventories in property tax, and not taxing capital stock as part of the corporate franchise tax.
Now that you’re in a great state to start, just keep going. Here’s how to start (and grow) your business in Florida.
1. Decide on a Business Idea
Your business idea should feel like it’s ready to boil over, and with a sound strategy and robust business plan (we’ll get to that), spill over into an even bigger pot to make even more money than before. Take time to consider what you’re good at, what you love, and what the market needs to meld together the business that you’re keen to bring to the world.
Create a Business You’re Excited About
Social media trends can come and go; your passion for your business should not. While others can help guide your direction, the most critical asset is you. You need to ensure you’re waking up every day working on a business that lights you up.
Check a few more of these boxes off to make sure you’re on the right track:
- Ask trusted business mentors what they think. Get a consensus and work on your strategy before moving on to the next step.
- See if it’s scalable. This will show in your business plan.
- Fill a market need. You might love the idea of a down coat that can fold up and fit into your wallet, but if you’re looking to open a storefront in Florida with these, you need to make sure Floridians will feel the pain of not having a down coat (hint: they might not).
- Explain it clearly. As complex as your business might seem from the inside, others need to see your vision easily. No matter how intricate and well thought-out your educational, entertaining, inspirational, after-school, STEM program for homeschooled kids is, if you can’t explain it in an elevator pitch, others won’t be able to envision it.
Tip: when naming your business, find something that encompasses your business now and has the flexibility to grow. “Doodle’s Dog Grooming” is a terrific name as long as you want to stick to only dogs and only grooming. Otherwise, find something more all-encompassing, like “Doodle’s Pet Corner,” so you can welcome feline friends and offer daycare and pet-sitting services all under one roof.
2. Make a Business Plan
The truth is, nobody’s going to ask you for a business plan when you form your business to pass “go.” You can get away without one— but do you really want to? Think of going into a business like going diving. Would you rather go deep underwater able to see a clear path, or have to guess your way through with closed eyes after you left your goggles on the boat?
Even if nobody asks you for a business plan, make one for yourself so you have a guiding light and the next step to narrate everything from your marketing plan to your pricing to your scalability. Without one, you’ll flounder.
3. Choose Your Business Entity and Register Your Business
Choosing your business type certainly shouldn’t be the most difficult decision in your business. Many small business owners start with an LLC because it’s an established yet relatively simple business to form. Here are a few other business entities to peruse:
Sole Proprietorship— You don’t need to sign any forms to create a sole prop, but you can still get a trade name. (Just know this won’t separate you from your business, which could pose a risk if any legal trouble came upon your business.)
Limited Liability Company (LLC)— A simple business setup, great for first-time business owners and small businesses, and protects an owner’s personal assets from their business ones.
Limited Liability Partnership (LLP)— a dual-member LLC, where partners aren’t liable for other partners’ wrongdoings if something were to happen.
C Corporation (C-corp)— shareholders own the corporation and are taxed separately from the business entity.
S Corporation (S-corp)— a tax election for an LLC or a C-corp to prevent a company from getting double taxed.
To register, go to the Florida Department of State’s Division of Corporations website and follow the directions to start your business. In exchange for your business information and registering with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) through submitting for SS-4, you’ll receive your Employer Identification Number (EIN) and be officially registered with the state!
Tip: After establishing your business, research and invest in relevant insurance plans like general liability insurance and licenses that are required for your business before offering services.
4. Obtain a Bank Account
You know that annoyed feeling when you open your junk drawer and have to rummage for a minute before finding just one piece of mail you were looking for? Now imagine having to go through that every time you manage the finances and bookkeeping of your business.
It’s not required to have a business bank account early on, but it helps draw a clear line between your income and expenditures and your business’s. Track invoices, business subscriptions, and how much you’re paying for outsourcing work, all in one spot without dreading it. (Just putting this out there, but doola offers business checking account services with free wires, international transfers, and ACH transfers.)
5. Figure Out the Funding
There are two main ways to fund your business:
- Using your own money. If you’re a service provider, you probably won’t need too many upfront costs, unless you have to invest in technology that you weren’t using before your business. Keep it frugal from the beginning, investing in what you see can promote a high ROI quickly. Then, once you can start tracking your income through your business bank account, you can invest accordingly.
- Using other people’s money. This is common for startups or businesses like car washes that require lots of upfront fees. Check for business loans through your business bank account or the North Florida District or South Florida District on SBA’s website.
6. Market Your Products and Services
Remember those goals you wrote down in your business plan? Now, you can drive your marketing efforts directed toward them.
Have a coffee shop and want at least 50 customers every day before noon? Play some music for passersby outside your store, keep the door open, and have someone pass out samples outside. Market yourself digitally by creating Instagram stories every morning advertising “half-off coffees before noon!”.
Free Digital Marketing Strategies
- Create Instagram reels around your shop or about your services
- Collaborate Instagram posts with another local business so their audience can meet you
- Post in Facebook groups whenever you have a special deal or offer
Start, Run, and Grow Your Business With a Partner on Deck
Whether you’re creating a community of cookie-lovers through your home-delivery service to Florida foodies, starting your own clothing business for seafaring beach-goers, or starting a remote video editing business so you can work from the comfort of any cabana you’d like, starting your small business in Florida takes passion for your product, grit in your marketing, and strategy for your long-game…
…and a partner who can high-five you when you start and help you keep the wheels turning as you grow. Here at doola, form your business with a few simple clicks, open a business bank account to make space for it to grow, and hire a bookkeeper and tax professional to help keep the wheels of your business ever turning.
How much does it cost to start a business in Florida?
Filing for an LLC in Florida in 2023 is $100 with a $25 registered agent fee. Filing for a corporation is $35 with a $35 registered agent fee.
Can I open a business in Florida as a foreigner?
Yes, doola banking lets you form your business in America even if you don’t live there. You can also open a business bank account, too.
Is it easy to start a business in Florida?
Is Florida good for small businesses?
Florida has some distinctive tax incentives for larger businesses, and a unique tourist community for amusement parks, beaches, and sunny weather.
Do small businesses pay taxes in Florida?
Yes, all small businesses have to pay taxes, but work with a financial professional to see where you can write expenses off!