How to Start a Business in Virginia

Have you ever wanted to have your own business? Do you have a solid business idea but never got around to making it real? Starting a small business anywhere can be a difficult thing to do without the right information and guidance. Entrepreneurs in Virginia won’t have to fret because the state boasts a welcoming environment for small businesses.

In this guide, we’ll go over a few steps to help you get your Virginia business started, including what you’ll need to do and which business entity might be best for your idea.

The Benefits of Opening a Business in Virginia

Virginia scores high in many of the top economic indicators, including long-term job growth, productivity growth, and low corporate income tax rates. This means that your small business will have the capacity to grow. How quickly it’ll grow depends on how well you run it and what you do to score customers.

Rankings aside, Virginia is a great place to live and work, with a nice balance between major cities and smaller communities. It’s close to Maryland and Washington, D.C. (great places to raise capital), and has over 8.5 million residents to market your business to.

How to Start a Business in Virginia

Follow these steps to start your Virginia business.

Step 1: Create a business plan

Writing a business plan is a vital first step to getting your business idea off the ground. Take the time to put your idea on paper so you’ve got a strong foundation to work from. You’ll want to start by clarifying ”SMART” goals and addressing the issues your company will solve for customers.

What to Consider

Your plan is an opportunity to research the competition and the market. This gives you the perfect opportunity to take some things into consideration when creating your business plan:

  • Is this idea completely new to the area, or are you entering an already packed field?
  • What businesses in the area already address the problems you’ve identified?
  • How big is your target audience? Is it big enough to sustain a steady cash flow?
  • Will you primarily operate your business online? Will you open a physical location?

The process of drafting a business plan is also a chance to consider state-specific tax breaks and/or local grants. The Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Virginia office is a great resource for exploring tax breaks and grants.

Need help creating a business plan for your Virginia business? We put together a comprehensive library of articles and guides on business planning.

Step 2: Choose a business structure

As the founder of a small business, one of the first decisions you’ll make will be choosing a business structure. While picking the right business entity is important, limited liability companies (LLCs) and sole proprietorships are the most common structures for new businesses. 

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the easiest business entity to set up. However, you’ll want to consider taxes and liability issues before selecting a sole proprietorship format. With a sole proprietorship, the business and the owner are legally the same in many ways.

That means you’ll file profits and losses on your personal tax return. Plus, your personal assets and property are at risk if your company is sued or ends up in debt. 

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

On the other hand, opting to start an LLC as a business structure can protect your personal assets if your business gets into legal trouble. The Articles of Organization filing fee will be paid to the Virginia State Corporation Commission. 


As your business grows, you have the options to adopt a corporate structure as well. You can choose between a C corporation or an S corporation. Both have their benefits, so be sure to do some research and speak with a business attorney to make a sound decision.

Still not sure what business structure to choose for your business in Virginia? Get 100% certain by reading our business structures page.

Step 3: Determine your business costs

As a hopeful business owner, you’re well aware that it costs money to make money. With that in mind, you’ll need to calculate your small business costs before doing business in the Mother of States. These include one-time costs, like filing your Virginia LLC with the state, and ongoing business expenses, like paying employees.

Licenses and Permits

You’ll need to consider the cost of relevant business licenses and permits. The Virginia government’s website provides valuable business resources on permits and licenses, plus associated costs. 

Operating Costs

Variable costs are ongoing expenses that can fluctuate. For instance, taxes and operating expenses are always there, but they change each time you pay them. If you take out loans to fund your business, the monthly premiums are fixed costs. Tip: check out available government resources that assist small businesses.

Hiring Employees

If you hire employees, you’ll also need to consider salary costs and the cost of renting or leasing a commercial or office space to work from. Shared Virginia co-working spaces and meeting spaces can save money. Keep in mind that rent gets pricier as you get closer to Washington, D.C. and Virginia’s larger cities.

Step 4: Create a name for your Virginia business

In Virginia, like most states, the law prevents two businesses from sharing the same name. So, once you have a business name you like, use Virginia’s business name search and look for existing trademarks through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to verify that it isn’t already taken.

Choose a Good Business Name

A good business name sounds professional, provides insight into the products or services you offer, and is easy for people to track down on the internet and social media. Before you settle on yours, see if there’s a good domain name available if you plan to have a business website.

Also, check that no one else has taken the social media handles you’d like to use to grow your web footprint. We can help you register a domain name.

Get a DBA Name

Besides your registered name, you may also want a DBA (doing business as) name for your company for brand identity, credibility, and other benefits. Secure your DBA name with us.

Step 5: Register your Virginia business and open financial accounts

If you chose to start a Virginia LLC, then it’s time to file the paperwork to make it legal. You’ll need to register with the Virginia State Corporation Commission by submitting the Articles of Organization of a Virginia Limited Liability Company.

You’ll need your LLC’s name, a registered agent’s name and their address, the principal office address, and a dated signature by the organizer. If you don’t have a registered agent, we can help you get one.

Get an EIN

As a potential business owner, you will likely need to apply to the IRS for a federal employer identification number (EIN) to utilize when filing federal taxes. You’ll also need to register the business with the state for tax purposes. If you’d like to streamline the process of getting an EIN, we can help with that.

Business Insurance

Next comes business insurance, which is a must for most Virginia companies. In this state, companies with two or more employees need workers’ compensation insurance. It’s also smart to carry general liability insurance, too. Check with a Virginia business insurance partner to learn about the coverage you may need.

Business Bank Account

Last, but definitely not least, you should open a business bank account. Separate bank accounts are a good idea instead of using your own personal account. Using your personal account might bring up liability issues if your business runs into a legal problem. We can help you set up a business bank account.

Step 6: Market your Virginia business

A thorough marketing strategy is a necessary piece of your business plan. Consider including a thorough competitor audit, and set up social media accounts and a website to start getting your target audience’s attention.

Brick and Mortar Business

If you own a business with a brick-and-mortar location, consider setting up a Google My Business account and putting your address on other relevant online directories.

Build a Website

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 like “home builder in Arlington” or “Virginia car dealership” that are tied to your service/product and location. 

Social Media

No modern marketing strategy is complete without social media marketing. Consider posting regularly on platforms with millions of users like Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Running paid ads on these platforms is an efficient way to drive attention to your product or service, too. 

Marketing a new business takes time and planning here are some great actionable ideas for marketing your business.

Examples of Good Businesses to Start in Virginia

The largest industries in Virginia are tech, construction, and retail, but the state is ripe for an entrepreneur in any industry to find success. Here are some of the top businesses to start:

  • Software-as-a-service (SaaS) startup 
  • Residential or commercial homebuilder
  • Real estate investor 
  • Financial advisor
  • Business consultant

Get more information and new ideas about the best businesses to start in Virginia.

We can help

With the state’s wealth, above-average economic indicators, and thriving nearby states, you’ve made a smart decision to start a Virginia business. Close proximity to the nation’s capital, favorable corporate tax rates, and booming areas like Arlington and Richmond make it a potentially profitable place to do business. Our suite of products and services can help you get started!

Top Virginia Cities to Form Businesses

Arlington: Part of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, rich in government and defense sectors. Highly educated workforce, strong in technology. Boosted by Amazon’s HQ2, ideal for tech, consulting, and government services.

Richmond: State capital with a diverse economy encompassing finance, government, and law. Growing presence in biotech and creative industries. Vibrant cultural scene and historical significance enhance tourism and retail opportunities.

Virginia Beach: Largest city in Virginia, with economic strengths in tourism, defense, and healthcare. Home to several military bases, supporting government contracting and services. Coastal location offers quality of life and opportunities in hospitality and retail.

Alexandria: Close to Washington, D.C., known for its historic district and professional services. Specializes in defense, aerospace, and technology. Proximity to federal agencies and a wealthy consumer base.

Norfolk: Major port city with a significant naval base, driving the local economy. Strong in shipping, logistics, technology, and health sciences. Waterfront and cultural amenities support tourism and entertainment industries.

These cities provide a blend of industrial strengths, strategic locations, and supportive business environments, making them suitable for a variety of business ventures in Virginia.

Virginia Business FAQs

  • Richmond, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and Chesapeake are all great cities to start a business in Virginia.rnThey all have large populations, easy access to resources, and strong business environments.

  • In Virginia, the filing fee to register an LLC is $100. Processing typically takes 3 to 12 business days, with expedited service available for an additional fee.rnrnIt also costs $10 to reserve or renew a business entity name.

  • Roanoke, Hampton, and Virginia Beach are some of the most affordable places to live in Virginia. As a bonus, each has a population larger than 100,000.

  • Startup costs depend on many factors, such as industry and business size.rnrnA brick-and-mortar store with lots of equipment and a full staff of employees is going to have very different startup costs than a one-person home consulting business.rnrnAt the bare minimum, you’ll need $100 to register Articles of Organization as an LLC in Virginia.

  • Regulations on business and tax in Virginia vary by business structure. Corporations and most LLCs are required to have a federal tax ID number from the IRS.rnrnYou’ll also need to register online to file and pay Virginia taxes. More details on paying and withholding taxes can be found on the Virginia Department of Taxation website.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for information 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.

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Written by Team ZenBusiness

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