A Wisconsin business registration is an important step in forming your business in the state. It is not always a requirement that your business needs a license to operate in this state. However, depending on the type of your business, you may need to obtain a license or a permit to operate. 

While some licenses and permits are necessary for regulation purposes and cover certain business activities, there are other license and permits that are also required if your business involves certain occupations and professions. Typically, these licenses and permits are state-issued

Business Licenses in Wisconsin

There may also be licenses and permits that you need to obtain locally, through your Wisconsin county or city. The requirements and steps to obtain these licenses are dependent on the town or county you are in. Once you have determined the city in Wisconsin in which you will operate your business, you can check the website for that city for more details regarding the steps to obtain any necessary licenses and permits. One thing to keep in mind is that there are exemptions for certain businesses for local licensing requirements under federal or state law, so it is important to do research on this topic specific to the type of business you are operating.

Obtaining Professional Licenses in Wisconsin

If you belong to certain professions or occupations, it is a requirement that you obtain a license by the State of Wisconsin. One great resource for more information on professional licensing is to visit the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) webpage. The DSPS website has details regarding all of the professions and occupations requiring a Wisconsin state license. On the website, there are specific categories for business professions, professions in the health field, and trade-based professions, along with education and exam information related to licensing renewal procedures.

Wisconsin Small Business Information

One resource that is helpful for finding out information specific to small businesses in Wisconsin is the Department of Financial Institutions webpage. On this webpage, navigate to the Business Creation Resources section for up-to-date information regarding small businesses in the state. 

Another resource is the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA has a district office within the state. The SBA webpage contains helpful information, including several resources, the latest news on small business topics, and also includes some local upcoming events. There is also a resource guide for small businesses that is specific to businesses in the State of Wisconsin which is available for download on the SBA website.

Additionally, the Wisconsin Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has useful information pertaining to creating, growing, and managing your Wisconsin business. Another helpful resource is SCORE – Counselors to America's Small Business. SCORE is a national organization but has a Wisconsin state location, and it provides consulting services along with training programs for small businesses in Wisconsin.

Registering an Assumed Name or Trade Name in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, and in many states, small businesses do not always operate using the names of the business owners. Rather, the businesses operate using a designated business name. It is also common for businesses, such as LLCs or corporations to register with the State of Wisconsin using a true name, but then down the road choosing to run their business using another name. There are different terms frequently used to describe this alternate name which is dependent on where the business location is and its structure. Some of these terms include:

  • Trade name
  • DBA (doing business as)
  • Assumed name
  • Fictitious name

In Wisconsin, if a business wants to operate using a trade name, that trade name requires registration with the DFI. For sole proprietorships and general partnerships, these businesses may opt to use an assumed name, and registration with the Register of Deeds located in the county in which the business operates is a requirement.

Registering a Trademark or Trade Name

Though there are different legal definitions for the terms trademarks, trade names, and service marks, these are all basically used to provide a unique identification for products, a business, or services in order to differentiate them from competitors. In Wisconsin, you are able to register trademarks as such with the state.

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