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Alaska’s state nickname is “the Last Frontier,” a name that referred to its vast, uncharted nature at the time of its purchase from Russia. Today, that land could also be seen as a frontier for new businesses, as well. If you think you’d like to start a business, Alaska does have some advantages for entrepreneurs.
Before you establish a company in Alaska, read our overview of the process below.
At the time of this writing, Alaska’s tourism industry is still struggling to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the natural beauty that has traditionally attracted tourists is still there and not going away anytime soon.
Tourism industry struggles aside, Alaska has other things to benefit small business owners, such as low taxes. The non-profit Tax Foundation ranks Alaska as the third most tax-friendly state in the U.S.
In fact, Alaska is one of only a handful of states in the country that have no individual state income tax. This is especially good news for business entities like limited liability companies (LLCs) and sole proprietorships, whose profits are only taxed at the individual level.
Alaska also has no sales tax at the state level, though several municipal governments do charge their own.
Follow these steps to keep your new venture aboveboard and start making money.
Before you start selling your product or services, it’s essential to first make sure your business idea has a chance to be successful. Writing a business plan that outlines the potential market, target customers, and how you’ll launch can help you prepare. It will also help you identify and manage potential problems that could threaten your success.
Let’s take a look at some of the things that can be included in your business plan:
Your Alaska business must have a business structure, such as a corporation, general partnership, limited liability company (LLC), or sole proprietorship. Let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of each of the most popular entity types.
Corporations protect the personal assets of their owners (called “shareholders”) from liability, so if the business gets into trouble, their homes, cars, and bank accounts can stay safe. However, income for most corporations is taxed twice — once at the level of the corporation, and again on the personal tax returns of its shareholders.
Corporations also require more paperwork and are more regulated in how they’re organized and run than other business entity types. Alaska corporations must also file Articles of Incorporation with the state.
LLCs, general partnerships, and sole proprietorships are among the most popular business structures because they’re considered “pass-through” entities, meaning their profits are reported only on the owners’ personal income tax returns without first being taxed at the business level.
Though the tax benefits make them similar, they’re definitely not equal. LLC owners enjoy personal asset protection for the business owners, which is important in the event the LLC is sued or goes into debt. Alaska LLCs must file Articles of Organization with the state, while sole proprietorships and general partnerships do not.
If you want to form an LLC or corporation but aren’t keen on paperwork, we can handle the process for you with our business formation plans.
Regardless of whether you’re planning to start your company in Fairbanks or Kodiak, you need to calculate your business costs. Think about both one-time charges and ongoing expenses.
Part of your startup costs may include the cost to register your business (if your business type requires registration) and other state fees associated with business licenses or permits. This will vary based on things like your entity type, location, whether you provide professional services, etc.
The kind of business you’re running will play a big role in determining your one-time, fixed, and ongoing expenses. A home-based business, for example, won’t have costs for office space or warehousing but may have special transportation and equipment needs. You might have ongoing expenses like phone and internet service.
Estimate your one-time and monthly costs for marketing, employees, healthcare costs, insurance, travel, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation expenses. Figure out both your startup costs and scaled-up costs once the company starts to grow.
Coming up with the right business name is one of the most creative and fun parts of starting a business. Many choose a name that resonates with their target customers. Others decide to pick names that mean something to them personally.
Regardless of your decision, the name must be the only one of its kind in the state of Alaska, and it must comply with state regulations for business names. To ensure your desired business name isn’t already in use by another organization in the state, do a name search of the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development corporation database. We walk you through the search process on our Alaska business entity search page.
You may also want to reserve your name with the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development until you’re ready to file your business formation paperwork (if your entity type requires filing). If you’d rather not do the paperwork for this process yourself, we have a business name reservation service that can handle it for you.
When picking your own business name, it’s wise to establish an online presence, too, by securing a domain name. If another company has a website with a domain name similar to your desired name, it could be tougher for you to operate online. We have a tool to help you do a preliminary domain name search, and our domain name registration service can help you secure the online name that will best serve your business.
In addition to the paperwork an LLC or corporation must file to register with the state of Alaska, many businesses are required to get a federal employer identification number (EIN), which is your federal tax ID that you also use to hire employees. Note: If you’re a sole proprietor with no employees, you may be able to use your Social Security number as your tax ID, though many experts recommend obtaining an EIN to help avoid identity theft.
Next, open a business bank account to avoid mixing personal and business expenses. Commingling personal and business accounts creates a mess at tax time and makes it hard for you to see the true income and expenses of the business. It can also sometimes make your personal assets vulnerable by negatively affecting the liability protection you would otherwise have from an LLC or corporation. At this time, you can also consider applying for a business credit card to cover small purchases at the start and build your credit.
When it comes to licensing, all businesses in the state are required to have an Alaska Business License, but this may not be the only license you need. Permits and licenses vary by industry, and they can be needed at the federal, state, and/or local levels. There’s no central authority to tell you every license and permit your business requires, so you’ll have to do some research or have someone like us do the research for you with a business license report.
Talk with a qualified Alaska insurance agent to learn what business insurance policies your company may need, such as workers’ compensation, general liability, and others.
A thorough marketing strategy is a necessary piece of your business plan. Consider including a competitive analysis, and set up social media accounts and a business website to start getting your target audience’s attention.
If you have a business with a brick-and-mortar location, consider setting up Google My Business and Yelp accounts and putting your address on other relevant online directories.
Make sure your website is SEO-friendly so you can appear organically for relevant Google searches. Consider running Google ads to appear first for relevant searches that are tied to your niche and location, such as “building contractor in Homer” or “Sitka restaurant.”
Social media marketing is crucial to most modern marketing strategies. Consider having an active presence on platforms with millions of users, such as TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Running paid ads on these platforms is an efficient way to drive attention to your product or service, too.
If you need additional help, consider partnering with an Alaska marketing firm.
If you don’t already have an idea for making yourself a successful entrepreneur, sit down and weigh the variables. What is there a need for in your area? What skills and know-how could you bring to a successful business? Do you want to start a business from scratch, or would you prefer to buy a franchise of some kind?
Here are some business ideas to get you thinking about the possibilities:
The biggest state in the nation could also have big opportunities for the right person with the right idea. If you’re considering launching your dream business in Alaska or anywhere else in the country, we’re here to help. Our many services are designed to help you start, run, and expand your business, allowing you to focus more on the aspects of running your company that you enjoy. Contact us today to learn more.
Disclaimer: The content on this page is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.