Oregon Business

How to Start a Business in Oregon

When it comes to business, the Beaver State can rain profits. From the Oregon Coast to the I-5 corridor, the central Cascades to the eastern high deserts, Oregon’s cities, towns, and rural areas are growing. And where there’s growth, there’s opportunity for anyone willing to learn how to start a business in Oregon.

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The state of Oregon has seen a spike in new business applications, from 9,337 in the third quarter of 2019, to 12,216 a year later. Let this quick guide help you join the ranks of the state’s successful businesses.

Benefits of Opening a Business in Oregon

Long renowned for its quality of life, excellent coffee, and breathtaking outdoor spaces, Oregon also has a friendly climate for business. Your enterprise 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 income tax holiday for job creation, can also help you better use your startup resources.

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How to Start a Business in Oregon

Startup needs vary based on factors like your location, industry, 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 navigate your Oregon startup.

How to Start a Business in Oregon Checklist

  1. Create a business plan
  2. Choose a business structure in Oregon
  3. Determine your business costs
  4. Create a business name
  5. Register your Oregon company, open financial accounts, and get business insurance
  6. Market your Oregon business

1: Create a business plan

Writing your 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.

From concept to opening and ongoing operations to growth, keep in mind how you can 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.

Where you base your business is another crucial consideration, and Oregon’s 98,466 square miles cover a variety of landscapes, and rural and urban areas. Portland, Bend, Eugene, and Springfield are some of the fastest-growing cities.

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.

2: Choose a business structure

How you structure your business is important, and Oregon businesses can choose from a variety of entities.

For example, sole proprietorships 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.

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 business legal or financial trouble, your home, property, and personal finances are at risk.

A popular alternative is the limited liability company (LLC). LLCs can have multiple business owners called members, governed by an operating agreement that lays out how the business is to be run. Unlike a sole proprietorship or general partnership, an LLC 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 in the state.

Starting an Oregon LLC 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.

3: Determine your business costs

Every business has startup costs. In Oregon, those may include:

  • Employees: Recruiting, hiring, payroll, and payroll taxes
  • Equipment: Office supplies, technical gear (such as computers and smartphones), point-of-sale devices
  • Price for business formation
  • Transportation: Vehicles, fuel, and repairs
  • Location: Home office, real estate acquisition, and/or leasing a commercial location

Local and state taxes may vary by location and type of business. Some areas also levy a transit tax, such as for Portland’s TriMet public transportation system. Here’s a guide to typical costs for Portland-area businesses.

Business insurance is an important consideration, too. Common types of coverage include unemployment, workers’ compensation, business owner, general liability, and health insurance. Other insurance is available (and may be required) for certain professions, industries, and locations, such as for a cannabis dispensary, or wildfire insurance for businesses in at-risk areas.

Don’t forget about marketing expenses for your small business, either. 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. The Oregon Marketing Summit can also be a chance to learn and network about how to market to customers in Oregon and beyond.

4: Create a business name

Now that you’ve planned your business, it’s time to name it. This can be pretty straightforward, such as if you plan to trade under your first and last name. Otherwise, check that another Oregon 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 business 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

Consider names that are easy to spell, and that perhaps also 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.

5: Register your Oregon company, open financial accounts, and get business insurance

If you’re filing an LLC or forming a corporation in Oregon, you can register your business entity online. A federal employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS is also necessary for corporations and most LLCs. A sole proprietorship owner can use their personal social security number. 

In addition to checking any licensing requirements at the state’s Business Xpress License Directory, your local area may have its own licensing, permitting, and zoning laws, regulations, and codes your business needs to 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 needs to protect itself, too. 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. Here’s a guide to coverage to consider.

Last but not least, take care of the money. Establish business bank accounts that are solely for your company’s finances, such as business rewards credit cards, business checking accounts, and more as needed.

The Oregon State Chamber of Commerce can also be helpful in understanding specifics about your company, as well as business-related issues under debate in the state capital of Salem.

6: Market your Oregon business

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 initiatives, focuses 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 you plan to use, such as:

  • Social media platforms, like Pinterest, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Facebook
  • Online directories or listings such as Google My Business or Yelp
  • Print publications like Eugene Magazine, The Oregonian newspaper, or other publishers
  • Broadcast media, such as TV and radio stations

Examples of Good Businesses to Start in Oregon

With innovation abounding from the Oregon Coast to Eastern Oregon, Portland to Ashland, it’s no wonder there are lots of businesses to consider starting in the state, in industries such as:

  • Cannabis dispensary
  • Green construction
  • Child care
  • Craft beverages like wine, cider, beer, and spirits
  • Footwear, outdoor apparel, and recreational equipment

Find your path to profits on the Oregon trail

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 your business in the Beaver State could be your own trail to profits.

Oregon Business FAQs

  1. How much does it cost to file an LLC in Oregon?

    Oregon’s LLC filing fee is $100. There are other business registry fees that may apply, too.

  2. Are resources available to help Oregon entrepreneurs?

    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.

  3. Does Oregon have Opportunity Zones?

    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.

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