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Having a great business idea is the first step to starting a business in Oregon. Where do you go from there? Doing research and seeking help can be a chore. Our guide below can help streamline the process. Learn how to start your own business in Oregon by reading on.
Known for its high quality of life, excellent coffee, and breathtaking outdoor spaces, Oregon boasts a friendly climate for business. It can be easy if you have the right information and tools at your disposal.
Knowing the facts about starting a business in Oregon can make things even easier. For example, you may not even need a business license. Plus, as one of five states that doesn’t charge a sales tax, your accounting can be a bit more manageable.
Oregon attracts growing industries, such as craft beverage producers, specialty manufacturers, and tech entrepreneurs. State and local business incentives, such as the Oregon Investment Advantage, can also help you better use your startup resources.
Startup needs vary depending on your location, industry, business structure, and scale. As you plan, finance, and open your business, there may be licenses to apply for, employees to hire, and more. Whatever business you plan to open, the checklist below can help you.
Writing a business plan is like drawing your own startup road map. With even a few pages, you can focus your business idea, understand your competitors, identify how you’ll stand out in the market, and outline your financing. Remember that the type of business structure you choose can affect how this plan will be formed.
From coming up with a business idea to opening it up and keeping it growing, keep in mind how you want track your progress. By setting SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely), you can gain insights into how your business is doing, what your cash flow is, and whether or not you’re on track for success.
Choosing the right business location is another crucial consideration in how you’ll draft your business plan. Oregon covers a variety of landscapes, rural areas, and urban areas. Portland, Bend, Eugene, and Springfield are some of the fastest-growing cities in the state.
From Astoria to Ashland, Oakridge to Baker City, coastal communities, timber towns, and rural areas are reinventing themselves as recreational hotspots, mountain biking havens, and more. The state’s 86 Opportunity Zones may also grant additional savings on business taxes or other costs.
Adopting the right business structure is important. You can choose from a variety of entities. A few popular ones include:
A popular business structure is the limited liability company (LLC). LLCs can have multiple business owners called members. It’s governed by an operating agreement that lays out how the business is to be run. Unlike a sole proprietorship or general partnership, a limited liability company offers limited liability protection to its owners in the event of a lawsuit against the business. Oregon also requires your company to have a registered agent.
Starting an Oregon limited liability company takes a little more work and upfront cost. In exchange, you are more likely to have personal liability protection from business troubles. Your taxes can also be lower than they would be for a corporation.
Forming a corporation in Oregon can also take some work, but the benefits may outweigh the downsides depending on your situation. You can create a C corporation (which a corporation is designated by default) or an S corporation (a designation used for tax purposes). They both come with advantages and disadvantages, like tax stipulations, for example, that you’ll need to consider.
An Oregon nonprofit is something to consider if you plan to create an entity that benefits the public. One benefit of a nonprofit is that they can apply to be tax exempt at the federal and (mostly) state level. One downside is that the paperwork needed to keep a nonprofit going is pretty high.
A sole proprietorship can be easy to start. You may not even need to register with the state’s business registry. If you’re using an assumed business name, you’ll need to file a DBA (“doing business as”) with the Oregon Secretary of State. Keep in mind that other business entities can benefit from an assumed business name.
However, there are a few downsides to being a sole proprietor. The main one is that there’s no legal separation between your business assets and your personal assets. In the event of legal or financial trouble, your home, property, and personal finances are at risk.
Every business has startup costs. These can result from many factors that in some way affect how the business is run.
In Oregon, a few costs may include:
Local and state taxes may vary by location and type of business. Some areas also levy a transit tax, such as Portland’s TriMet public transportation system.
Business insurance is an important consideration, too. Common types of coverage include:
Other insurance is available (and maybe required) for certain professions, industries, and locations, such as wildfire insurance for businesses in at-risk areas.
Don’t forget about marketing expenses for your business entity. Basic costs may include designing and developing a company website (potentially with an online store component), business cards and other print materials, advertising, and more. If you plan to have a business website, be sure to register a domain name.
The Oregon Marketing Summit can also be a chance to learn and network about how to market to customers in Oregon and beyond. We’ll go into more detail about marketing later.
Now that you’ve planned your business, it’s time to name it. This can be pretty straightforward. You can use your own name for your business name, but this may be best for certain business types. Here are some other things to consider.
Consider names that are easy to spell and convey some of your brand and services. You can also check what domain names are available so you can take your business online. If social media is part of your marketing strategy, see if your business name is available on your chosen social networks, too.
Check if another business isn’t using the name you have your eye on, as Oregon requires businesses to use unique names. As you develop ideas, check Oregon’s business registry name search to see if another company has an active registration for the name you want.
If the name has an active status, go back to the drawing board. If the status is inactive, though, it’s possible the name may be available for you to use. If you want to use a name for your business other than its original, legal name, you can file for a DBA name.
You can reserve your business name as you work toward setting things up.
If you’re filing an LLC or forming a corporation in Oregon, you can register your business entity online. Here’s more information to consider.
In addition to checking any licensing requirements at the state’s Business Xpress License Directory, your local area may have it’s own licensing, permitting, zoning laws, regulations, and codes that your business needs to obtain/follow. Contact your area’s zoning office or check online. For example, the City of Portland has a zoning code app that can help you figure out zoning codes for where you want to locate your business.
Consider talking with a local insurance agent about the right types of coverage your business should have to protect itself. General liability insurance can be a good minimum, but other types of coverage may be useful or required for your company, including workers’ compensation insurance.
You’ll have to manage your money carefully as a business owner. Open a business bank account solely for your company’s finances, such as business rewards, credit cards, business checking accounts, and more as needed. The one thing you don’t want to do is mix your personal and business expenses with a personal account. This can make tax season hard for you.
The Oregon State Chamber of Commerce can also be helpful in understanding specifics about your company, as well as business-related issues.
Consider getting a federal employer identification number (EIN). This acts as an identifier for your business the same way a social security number does for a person. An EIN comes with a few benefits, with one being making it easier to open a business bank account. You can get one with us.
It helps to understand how you’ll appeal to your customer base. For example, some Oregonians may be more receptive to marketing that talks up a business’s sustainability and initiatives, its focus on being a local business, or that pulls in imagery from the state’s natural beauty, such as Crater Lake, the Painted Hills, or Multnomah Falls.
As part of your business plan, include a marketing plan that establishes different types of marketing avenues you plan to use. These include:
With innovation common from the Oregon Coast to Eastern Oregon, it’s no wonder that there are lots of business types to consider. Consider the following:
Whatever the industry, Oregon businesses can find success as long as their owners do their homework and run it as best they can.
Whether it’s the rainy west or the dry east, Oregon’s climate is business-friendly. With a solid business plan, an understanding of your finances, the right marketing, and some perseverance, starting a business in Oregon could be your own trail to profit.
Oregon’s LLC filing fee is $100. There are other business registry fees that may apply, too.
Check out resources such as innovation councils, the Rural Opportunity Initiative, business incubators, Oregon Entrepreneurs Network, and the Oregon Small Business Development Center Network. More resources are available, too, including Small Business Administration offices.
Oregon has 86 qualified opportunity zones, which can help your business leverage savings on various taxes. Current Opportunity Zones designations are in effect until the end of 2028.