Whether you want to be a solopreneur or dream of your own place in the Fortune 500, learning how to start a business in Georgia could be the beginning of your path to success.
Benefits of Opening a Business in Georgia
For years running, publications such as Area Development and Site Selection have named Georgia #1 for business. Georgia gets consistent high marks for its pro-business environment, high credit ratings, favorable tax climate, skilled workforce, and “Cooperative & Responsive State Government.” Georgia even changed its corporate tax rate from 6% to 5.75% in 2019.
The Peach State is home to vibrant cities like Atlanta, Macon, and Savannah. You can also visit natural wonders like the Okefenokee Swamp and iconic Stone Mountain. Plus, Amicalola Falls is home to Springer Mountain, the southern end of the Appalachian Trail.
With nearly $6.5 billion in investment during 2020, both cities and rural areas have seen economic growth, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. From 2010 to 2018, around 750,000 private sector jobs were created in Georgia, and the Georgia Department of Economic Development has overseen nearly 3,000 economic development locations statewide.
As the fifth-ranked state for women-owned businesses, Georgia makes additional assistance available for women, minorities, and veterans, too. The state also encourages minors to dream big, with youth resources for kid and teen entrepreneurs. Resources abound for aspiring Georgia small business owners.
Start an Entity in Georgia
ZenBusiness offers the following formation services to our customers:
- Georgia Limited Liability Company (LLC)
- Georgia Professional Corporation
- Georgia Corporation
- Georgia Nonprofit Corporation
How to Start a Business in Georgia
Before you jump in, take the time to lay the groundwork for success. Start your journey with the key steps outlined below.
How to Start a Business in Georgia Checklist
- Create a business plan
- Structure your Georgia business
- Determine startup costs for your Georgia business
- Create a business name
- Register your Georgia company, get insurance, and open business bank accounts
- Market your business in Georgia
1: Create a business plan
Opportunity abounds in Georgia, but advance planning can improve your chances of profits and success. An important starting point is writing a business plan. In as little as a few pages, you can examine your business idea, identify how you’ll stand out in the market, understand your target customers, analyze your main competitors, and much more.
For example, where will you base your business? Fortune 500 giants like Delta Air Lines, UPS, and Home Depot call Atlanta home, but that doesn’t mean the ATL is automatically the right fit for your HQ. From Pembroke to Bogart, Smyrna to Ellaville, hundreds of other cities and towns may be perfect for your small business.
How will you track your progress? A business working toward success and profits needs to know where it is and where it’s going. In your plan, outline “SMART” goals and metrics that can help you determine your business’s health and direction.
- Business Site Selector
- UGA Small Business Development Center
- Small Business Administration (SBA) loans
- Invest Atlanta
- Phoenix Fund
- Tax credits
- Startup Atlanta
- Business Improvement Loan Fund (BILF) Program
- Tax exemptions
- Georgia Chamber of Commerce
2: Choose your Georgia business structure
At the outset, one of your biggest decisions will be what business structure to choose, with two of the most popular being a sole proprietorship or LLC.
In Georgia, sole proprietorships are described as “the simplest, least regulated, and most common form of business organization.” You won’t even have to register your sole proprietorship with the Georgia Secretary of State.
That simplicity has some downsides. In a sole proprietorship, there will be no legal separation between your business and you as an individual. In other words, debt or legal troubles in your sole proprietorship could put personal assets, like your savings or assets, at risk.On the flip side, entities such as corporations and LLCs provide separation between your business and your personal property. To form one, you’ll need to file with the state’s Corporations Division. There will be upfront and annual costs, but talk with a trusted business, financial, or legal advisor about which business entity is the right choice for your startup.
3: Determine startup costs for your Georgia business
Georgia may be welcoming to businesses, but your startup still has upfront and ongoing costs to cover. For example, examine the Georgia Department of Revenue for what business taxes, sales and use taxes, and corporate income/net worth taxes your business may need to pay.
There are also other costs, including:
- Location, such as leasing a storefront or office space, purchasing property, or financing new construction.
- Equipment, like copiers, computers, office supplies, and any other equipment, tools, and/or machinery necessary to fulfill products and services, and keep the business running administratively.
- Internal and external signage.
- Accounting, legal, and payroll.
- Marketing, like a company website, social media marketing, advertising (like print, online, and/or broadcast), postcards, and brochures.
Also examine what sort of business insurance you may need. Common types of business coverage include commercial auto, general liability protection, and cyber liability.
4: Create a business name
What will you name your Georgia business? It’s a crucial decision, but not always a straightforward one.
For starters, business names have to be unique. If you start using a name already in use by another company, that could spell legal trouble for you.
Search Georgia’s database of business names to see if another company already trades under the one you’re interested in. Once you’ve identified an available potential name, Georgia allows you to file a name reservation for 30 days while you complete your setup process.
An assumed business name, or “doing business as” name (DBA), can also come in handy. Your DBA can be a trade name you do business under, while you can have a different name for your company.
Once you’ve settled on an available business name, also check to see what domain names you can register for your company’s email and website. Is social media part of your marketing plan? Now is a good time to see what handles or accounts are available for your company, too.
5: Register your Georgia company, get insurance, and open business bank accounts
Once you know your business’s name, you can tend to the nuts-and-bolts foundational stuff of setting up your company.
Georgia’s First Stop Business Guide can walk you through some of the state and local steps your business may need to follow, such as:
- State regulatory requirements
- Workers’ compensation insurance
Most Georgia companies have to get a business license from their county or city, such as Atlanta’s business license and permit requirements, or those in DeKalb, Cobb, or Franklin counties. Other industries or professions may have to be licensed at the local, state, or federal levels, too.
Along with getting a federal employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS — this serves as your tax ID — you can also apply to the Georgia Tax Center for a Georgia State Tax ID number. Note that sole proprietors can use their social security number as their tax ID, though this opens you up to potential identity theft.
In addition to your business registrations, protect your business with insurance. You can also open separate business bank accounts, like credit cards and checking, so you can maintain separate business finances and build your company’s credit.
Also, if your company has annual business registration requirements, those are due April 1.
6: Market your business in Georgia
Marketing is how you’ll get your company in front of customers and persuade them to try your services or products over a competitor’s.
If social media is part of your marketing plan, develop a strategy for posting content and engaging with your customer base on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Also consider posting original, search-engine-optimized articles to your website, or how-to videos to YouTube.
Another option? Reserve, customize, and optimize your company’s profile in directories such as Yelp or Google My Business. Postcard marketing, word-of-mouth referrals, and online, print, or broadcast advertising can also be effective ways to spread the word about your Georgia business.
Examples of Good Businesses to Start in Georgia
From tried-and-true industries to the innovations of tomorrow, many businesses can blossom in the Peach State. Here are a few ideas to consider:
- Real estate
- Commercial cleaning
- Non-emergency medical transportation
- Food truck, caterer, and/or restaurant
- Home health care
- Landscaping and lawn care
- Home inspection
Build your business empire in the Empire State of the South
Large or small, thousands of employees or just one owner, Georgia is renowned for being good for business. With the right business plan, an understanding of the resources and financing options available, and a sense of where there’s opportunity in the market, you can be on your way to building a successful, profitable business in Georgia.
Georgia Business FAQs
How much does it cost to file an LLC in Georgia?
The filing fee for Georgia LLCs or corporations is $100.
What is a good city to start a business in Georgia?
Along with major cities like Savannah and Atlanta, consider Dalton, Waycross, Doraville, Alpharetta, and LaGrange.
- Does my Georgia business need a license?
What is a small business in Georgia?
In Georgia, a business is considered a “small business” if it takes in under $30 million in gross receipts annually or has fewer than 300 employees, and if it is independently owned and operated.