Number Two in the Country
Ranked #2 nationally for best states for business, Florida is seeing a rise in entrepreneurship. From 97,127 business applications in the third quarter of 2019, Florida entrepreneurs filed 176,201 applications in Q3 of 2020. Once you use this guide to learn how to start a business in Florida, you can be on your way to becoming a Florida company owner, too.
Benefits of Opening a Business in Florida
It’s no wonder entrepreneurs flock to Florida. Streamlined regulations can ease startup, and some business owners don’t need licenses to get up and running. Florida’s 21+ million residents also enjoy no personal income tax. Plus, the state’s GDP of nearly a trillion dollars makes Florida’s economy the nation’s fourth-largest.
With a large workforce and innovative business climate, Florida also encourages high levels of private equity investment, workforce training, and women-owned companies. Plus, with over 2 million small companies, you can find your path to profits in this state and find your tribe of fellow entrepreneurs to network with.
Start an Entity in Florida
ZenBusiness offers the following formation services to our customers:
- Florida Limited Liability Company (LLC)
- Florida Professional Limited Liability Company
- Florida Corporation
- Florida Nonprofit Corporation
Those looking to form a business in Florida, or those seeking authority to transact business in this state, will have the capacity to file for the following entities with the Florida Department of State in accordance to Title XXXVI; Corporations, LLCs, GPs, LPs, LLPs, LLLPs. For some domestic entities, online filing has been made available and should be taken advantage of as it greatly streamlines the registration process. Otherwise, for all foreign entities and some domestic, it will be necessary to download a PDF file of the necessary filing form and mail/courier it to the Department of State with the appropriate filing fee. Each filing has a different accompanying fee which will need to be paid for either online using a credit card or by check made payable to the Florida Department of State. The below page should serve as a general guide to all the functions and filings we’ve described in our many tutorials.
Search for a Business Name
A Florida Business Name Search can be useful to research the document number of an entity in order to obtain a Certificate of Status or to research the availability of the desired name upon filing. It is required by Florida State Law that all businesses are represented by a unique name and therefore we always recommend that, before registering, filers employ the use of the business entity search in order to ensure that their filing won’t be rejected on the grounds of an inauthentic designation for their business.
How to Register in Florida
Step 1 – The first step in forming a business entity is the designation of a name under which the business shall operate. When choosing a name, often a company will need to add the entity type at the end (i.e. “Limited Liability Company”, “LLC”,” L.L.C.”). To file under a name pursuant to the State Statutes, perform a Business Entity Search to ensure that it’s unique within Florida. Name reservations are not available in Florida.
Step 2 – You will now have to discern what category of entity your business will fall under. If you represent a pre-existing company that would like to transact business in Florida, you’d be considered foreign, while those wishing to form a brand new business would be considered domestic. A full list of all entity types is shown below; click on the applicable link to find out more on the exact steps needed to register.
Step 3 – After completing the necessary forms, foreign entities will be required to supply and attach a certificate of good standing or similar documentation which has been approved by the Secretary of State or like an authority in the jurisdiction of original formation. Those filing online will have had to have mailed this form within 90 days of filing in order to be considered eligible. This step can be skipped by domestic entities.
Step 4- Once the forms are complete and all certification has been assembled, you will be required to pay the filing fee (listed below). If filing online, you will need to pay this fee using a credit card on the Department of State website. In the case that you’ve decided to, or been required to, use paper filing, a check made out to the Florida Department of State covering the full fee (including the registered agent appointment fee) will need to be attached to all other forms before being sent to one of the below addresses:
- Mailing Address: Department of State: Division of Corporations, Corporate Filings, P.O. Box 6327, Tallahassee, FL 32314
- Courier Address: Department of State: Division of Corporations, Clifton Building, 2661 Executive Center Circle, Tallahassee, FL 32301
These fees include Florida registered agent designation fees
- All corporations-$70
- All LLCs-$125
Florida Name Reservation
Name Reservations, although usually available in most States, at this time do not exist in Florida. This function is usually performed by entities wishing to secure the rights to a particular business name as they prepare for registration. As this is not available in Florida, names are given on a first-come, first-serve basis and will be designated to a business upon filing for its creation or registration with the state. We recommend doing a Business Entity Search to ensure that the name you’d like to operate under has not already been taken.
You can also leverage different names for your business. For example, you could have a primary company name, then get DBAs that you use for marketing. DBA is short for “doing business as.” If your company operates by any name other than its legal name your DBA is your official record that you’re allowed to do business under that name. Florida DBAs need to be filed with the Florida Division of Corporations.
Certificate of Status for Florida
A Certificate of Status often referred to as a certificate of good standing, is accessible online through a PDF download or can be requested upon initial filing with the State (usually costing around $8.75). This certificate is often used to qualify for loans or renew business licenses as it serves as proof of compliance with Florida State law. Furthermore, if you plan on expanding your business to a foreign jurisdiction, it is quite possible (if not probable) that the Secretary of State or like the authority of the new state/country will demand a Certificate of Status upon registration.
Each entity type has an operating agreement of sorts which should be filed with the business’s managing members in order to establish the relationship between members, and between members and the business. This document will contain any provision pertaining to the government and management of the entity in question and will provide a clear representation of the rights and responsibilities of each managing member. Each link below contains a description of the agreement type and a downloadable template in both PDF and MS Word formatting.
- Florida Corporate Bylaw
- Florida LLC Operating Agreement
- Partnership Agreement
Employer Identification Number
After the completion of filing, businesses will be required to apply for an EIN with Internal Revenue Services to be legally identifiable for tax reporting purposes. Companies without an EIN will be unable to perform any financial transactions under the entity name and will find it impossible to operate legally with the use of employees. A tutorial on how to apply can be found here on our site as well as the links for the online application and the PDF Application (SS-4).
Register Your Florida Business and Open Financial Accounts
How you register your new business depends on industry, entity, and locality. For example, while you’ll file your LLC with the state, some sole props may not require any state registration. Regardless of entity, Florida’s cities and counties may have their own individual requirements, so check with your city or county government offices.
The state’s online wizard, via the Department of Business & Regulation, can help you figure out what licenses your business may need. You can also check Florida law, or a registered agent can take some of this work off your plate.
Sorting out a taxpayer identification number will help you with everything from payroll taxes to opening bank accounts. For a sole prop, this could be the owner’s social security number. Other types of businesses will need to apply to the IRS for an employer identification number (EIN), and sole props can apply for one, too.
Along with permits and licenses, finalize your business insurance, register your company’s domain name, and reserve any social media handles.
Separate company and personal bank accounts will help you keep track of your company’s income and expenses. Open business bank accounts — such as a checking account and business credit cards — and you’ll be taking good first steps to secure your firm’s financial health.
Market Your Florida Business
For starters, cover the basics: A website can explain your services and have ways for customers to purchase, ask questions, or set up appointments. Print marketing materials such as business cards, brochures, and postcards can get your brand and message in front of people.
Word of mouth never goes out of style. As you work with customers, ask them to pass your name on to someone else. And consider setting up a rewards program as a way to show gratitude to customers who spread the word.
Also, reserve your business in online directories such as Google My Business. Using social media? Develop a content and engagement plan for sharing online and engaging with people. You don’t have to go it alone. You can partner with one of the best marketing firms in Florida for help.
Examples of Good Businesses to Start in Florida
From tried-and-true companies to innovative industries, many new businesses can succeed in Florida. Here are some ideas to consider as you plan your path to entrepreneurship:
- Cleaning (commercial and/or residential)
- Food truck
- Non-emergency medical transport
- Companion care
- Landscaping and lawn care
- Pool cleaning
- Watercraft rental
Your Business Can Shine Bright in the Sunshine State
While Florida is home to millions of companies, there’s plenty of room for yours, too. With the right business plan, an understanding of your industry, and a willingness to do the work to arrange to finance and set up shop, you could be on your way to your first day of business in Florida.
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