Starting a small business in Wisconsin takes a lot of hard work, but anyone can do it with a little planning. Many entrepreneurs discover new levels of freedom when opening a business in Wisconsin. All it takes a few simple steps.

Steps to Starting a Small Business in Wisconsin

The first stage in starting any new enterprise is to think of an idea. If you're already at this point where you're researching how to start a small business in Wisconsin, you've probably got this step covered. The key is to come up with a money-making idea that allows you to do something you love. When you enjoy what you do, starting a small business doesn't seem as difficult.

The next step is to come up with a business plan. You need to know how you will open your business, how you'll market it, and various other aspects related to business operations. Your business plan should see your company through its early stages, helping guide you to the point where the business becomes profitable. This business plan will also help potential investors understand what you're offering.

While most entrepreneurs seek outside funding to get off the ground, many finance their startups from their own savings or through funds provided by friends or family. Obtaining funding from a lender, usually in the form of a personal loan, is easier if you have good credit, but you'll have to come up with other resources if you don't have the right credit score.

When coming up with funding for your Wisconsin business, consider how much money you'll need for the first year. You can then evaluate your options on how to obtain the funds.

Next, choose the right business structure. It's important to register your legal entity and official name with the state, which is a step that requires plenty of research on its own. Many entrepreneurs register limited liability companies (LLCs) to start with because they offer corporation-style benefits without the double taxation and other corporate requirements. If you're trying to raise a lot of outside capital, however, a corporation is the way to go.

Most small businesses start out either as sole proprietorships or general partnerships, depending on how many owners are involved. If you decide on one of these structures, you can always form an LLC or C-corporation later. Consider which business structure provides the liability protection you want and best financing, tax, and financial benefits.

Choosing a Name for Your Small Business in Wisconsin

If you're forming an LLC or corporation, you need to make sure the business name you choose is distinguishable from all others in the state. You can check existing entities via the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions website by performing a business entity search.

If you've found the perfect business name but aren't ready to register it yet, you can reserve the name for up to 120 days by filing a Name Reservation Application form. If you're starting a sole proprietorship or partnership and using a business name that's different than your legal name (or the name of one of your partners), you must file a Registration of Firm Names with your county's Register of Deeds.

It's also a smart idea to reserve a domain name based on your business name so you can create a website later.

Helpful Resources for Starting a Small Business in Wisconsin

The State of Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) website offers a Business Creation section with numerous links for starting a small business within the state. These links will help navigate you to these helpful sites:

  • Wisconsin Technology Council
  • Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation
  • Wisconsin Angel Network
  • Wisconsin Entrepreneurs' Network

Entrepreneurs will also want to check out the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for helpful resources. The Wisconsin SBA office hosts events and provides relevant news for Wisconsin business owners. Be sure to check out the Wisconsin-specific Resource Guide for Small Businesses, which you can download directly from the SBA site.

The Wisconsin Small Business Development Center (SBDC), which is part of a national network of business development centers, offers guidance for every step of starting a small business, including how to manage and grow your venture. Along those same lines, Wisconsin's SCORE nonprofit provides consulting services and training for small businesses as part of a larger national network.

If you need help starting a small business in Wisconsin, post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.