It is normal to find entrepreneurs heading to cities and states that are business-friendly when they want to start their business, and Florida is one such state. According to Kauffman Indicators of Entrepreneurship, Florida had the highest rate of new entrepreneurs among all states in 2019, and a startup early survival rate of nearly 78 percent.

Little wonder why they are about 2.5 million small businesses in Florida. They make up 99.8% of all businesses in the state and employ 3.3 million workers, which is about 42.2% of the state’s private-sector workforce. In addition to that, Florida is a tax-friendly state that does not impose an income tax on individuals and has a 6% sales tax.

Corporations that do business in Florida are subject to a 5.5% income tax. However, LLCs, sole proprietorships, and S corporations are exempt from paying state income tax. This article will show you a step-by-step process on how to start and run your business in Florida.

Is It Possible to Start a Business in Florida Without Money?

Yes, it is possible to start a business in Florida without money. As a matter of fact, there are several business ideas you can launch in Florida even if you don’t have a dime. The most important thing is that you must have a workable business idea that is scalable and can easily attract financial support or investment from stakeholders.

It is important to note that even though you may be able to start a business in Florida without money, you will still be required to raise at least the money needed to register the business and also to obtain the required license, permits, and insurance policy covers or else you may be operating the business illegally. Having said that, here is how you can start a business without money in Florida.

How to Start a Business in Florida Step By Step

Step 1: Choose a Workable Business idea or Niche

There are various business ideas that an entrepreneur can choose from. Aside from finance, insurance, real estate, rental, and leasing which happen to be the booming industries in Florida, there are other viable industries. There are loads of business opportunities in the services industry, the transportation industry, health and medical industry, telecommunication industry, social assistance, retail trade, and a host of industries.

The bottom line is that your first step in starting a business starts with choosing a workable business idea that can thrive in your location and a business idea that you are passionate about.

Step 2: Conduct Your Feasibility Studies and Market Survey

Once you have settled on a business plan, the next thing you need to do is to conduct feasibility studies and market surveys.

With the result of your feasibility studies and market survey, you will be able to decide on the type of business to settle for, the location of your office, factory, or store, and the demographic composition of those who would need your services or product, the likely competitions that you will be confronted with, how to source for raw materials or goods and loads of other factors that can either make or mar your business.

Step 3: Choose a Catchy Name for Your Business

After conducting your market survey and feasibility studies, the next step is to choose a catchy name for your business. The truth is that, when it comes to choosing a name for your business, you should be creative because whatever name you choose for your business will go a long way to create a perception of what the business represents.

Usually, it is the norm for people to follow the trend in the industry they intend to operate from when naming their business. Before choosing a name for your business, it won’t cost you anything to go online and check out the names of leading brands in the industry you intend to start a business in so as to be properly guided when choosing a name.

It is recommended that you check to see if the business name you are planning is available as a web domain. Even if you aren’t ready to make a business website today, you may want to buy the URL in order to prevent others from acquiring it.

Step 4: Write a Workable Business Plan

Please note that irrespective of the type or size of business you intend to start in Florida, it is a wise decision to first write a good business plan, complete with Pro-forma financial statements.  The truth is that, in order to successfully run a business, you need to have a good and workable business plan. With a workable business plan in place, you will reduce the trial-and-error approach to doing business.

The whole idea of writing a business plan is not just for the sake of having a business document in place, but a detailed guide on how to effectively run your business. Your business plan should outline strategies on how you intend to manage your business.

The rule of thumb in writing a business plan is to try as much as possible to be realistic and never to over project when putting figures on income and profits et al. As a matter of fact, it is safer to underestimate when writing a business plan so that you won’t be so disappointed when reality sets in.

Step 5: Choose a Legal Entity for Your Business

In Florida and of course, all over the United States, it is illegal to run a business entity without registering it as a legal entity. Registering your Florida company as a legal business entity, such as an LLC or a Corporation, has two major advantages; it will help increase the credibility of the business and help protect the business from personal liability in the event your business is sued.

For most businesses, registering an LLC is a great option. In comparison to other business entities, LLCs are easier to set up and manage and they have favorable tax treatment. The basic total cost of registering an LLC in Florida is $125, which includes the fees for filing the Articles of Organization and the registered agent designation.

Please note that, if you choose not to register your company as a business entity, you will be held personally responsible for the debts and liabilities of your business. In addition, unregistered business owners may need to file a Trade Name, also known as a “DBA.”

Find out if your business is required to file a DBA. Registering a DBA name in Florida requires payment of $50, whether done online or via mail. A Certificate of Status costs an additional $10, and a certified copy costs $30.

Step 6: Register Your Business Name

If you don’t want someone to register your business name, then you should be fast about registering the business name. Of course, you should have done the necessary business name search that will ensure that you are not settling for a name that is already in the database.

Step 7: Source for Business Financing

When sourcing loans for a small business in the United States, Small Business Administration (SBA) is your “Go to Place”. The Small Business Administration has several loan programs that make available the needed funding for thousands of small enterprises that are unable to secure loans from lending institutions on their own.

Research shows that in the fiscal year 2005 alone, the SBA guaranteed $19 billion worth of loans to small enterprises all across the United States of America, the largest in recent time. Loans were provided to more than 80,000 small companies and 28,000 of them were start-ups.

It is on record that a number of Fortune 500 companies in the United States benefited from SBA loans when they were just starting out. Big corporations such as FedEx (Federal Express), Apple, and Intel among others leveraged on loans gotten from SBA.

These organizations’ success, and of course the trend toward small-business start-ups and entrepreneurship in America, has encouraged both the SBA and its lending partners to continue to expand its loan programs. The only reason why you should ignore this step is if you already have the required capital needed to kick-start your business.

Step 8: Source for Financial Partners and Support

It is important to note that it might be difficult to get financing from the Small Business Administration (SBA) if your business is not registered. You can talk to friends, family members, and potential investors to give you the seed funding you need to kick start the business or to scale up and expand the business.

You can as well try getting a loan from family members and friends, liquidate some of your assets, tap your credit line or retirement funds, or leverage on freebies to kick start your business.

Step 9: Obtain the Needed Business Licenses and Permits

The nature of the business you want to run will determine whether you need to obtain licenses or permits to operate your business. But you should have in mind that in order to operate your new business legally, you need to comply with federal, state, and local government regulations. In many cases, this involves obtaining one or more business permits and/or licenses.

For example, the primary step in acquiring a sales tax or vendor’s license is filing a seller’s permit application. Florida allows you to either file the Florida Business Tax Application (DR-1) online or download the form and submit it at a taxpayer service center or directly to the Department of Revenue.

Please note that a license is available for as little as one day on up to a year. The fees start at $95 for a one- to three-day license, $105 for a four- to 30-day license, and $1,000 for an annual license. Interestingly, there is no cost for a sales tax permit in the state of Florida when registering online, however, there is a $5 fee if applying by mail.

STEP 10: Register for a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN)

In order to register for a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN), you are expected to complete and file IRS Form SS-4, EIN. You are required to file this if you: pay wages to one or more employees; or are required to have an EIN to use on a specific return, statement, or document (often banks will require this for a business checking account); or plan to incorporate (in which case owners drawing salaries are considered employees).

This form can be obtained from the nearest IRS office, or call 1-800-829-3676. IRS forms and publications can be downloaded from their website: http://www.irs.gov.

STEP 11: Open a Florida Bank Account

Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection. Please note that when you run your personal and business accounts as one account, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued.

In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil. You can protect your business by opening a business bank account and when you open a business account it helps you separate your personal assets from your company’s assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.

So also, when you open a business account, you will get a business credit card and it will help you separate personal and business expenses, and help you build your company’s credit history, which can be useful to raise capital later on.

STEP 12: Obtain a State Sales Tax Number

With limited exceptions, most businesses require an Employer Identification Number (EIN), also known as a Tax ID Number. An EIN is used to identify a business in its federal tax filings. Without an EIN, you can’t hire employees or open a business bank account.

So also, you should be aware of important Florida taxes that may apply to your business: If you are selling a physical product, you will typically need to register for Florida Sales Tax. If you hire employees in Florida, you will have to register for Unemployment Insurance Tax and Employee Withholding Tax for your employees.

Step 13: Purchase the Needed Business Insurance

The rule of business engagement in Florida is that you can’t operate a business without having some of the basic insurance policy covers that are required by the industry you want to operate from. So, it is important to create a budget for insurance and perhaps consult an insurance broker to guide you in choosing the best and most appropriate insurance policies for your business.

It is important to note that the state of Florida requires employers with four or more employees, full- or part-time, to provide workers’ compensation insurance to their employees. Please note that if you are going to operate your business from home, then you might want to learn about home-based business insurance and how to save money on the cost of business insurance.

Step 14: Lease or Rent an Ideal Office Location

Another important step to follow when establishing a small business in Florida is to choose an ideal location for your office. When it comes to renting an office facility in Florida, the nature of the business you want to start should serve as a guide.

You can check with the local code enforcement officer to determine if your business will be in compliance with local zoning ordinances. Besides, you would need your business license and permit as part of the documents to be tendered before any landlord or realtor will sign any leasing agreement with your business.

Step 15: Launch the Business

Once you can generate the needed finance to start the business, at least the money needed to purchase your goods or the tools you need to start, and the money required to obtain the required license and permits, then the next step is to launch the business.

Even if you don’t have the money to organize a proper launch, at least you should be able to inform your target market about the services you offer or the products you are selling. Remember that your family members and friends and also people in your immediate community are your target market and they should be aware that you are open for business.

In Conclusion,

You cannot start a business in Florida without spending at least some money on basic requirements. For example, if you want to start a food-related business in your home, you will be required to obtain a permit. The Department of Business and Professional Regulation charges a fee to issue the permits. If you want a temporary license, the fee is $455.00. The permanent license fee is $1820.

It is important to state that the information in this article is provided only for general purposes and it is in no way a piece of legal advice. No lawyer-client relationship is established or should any such relationship be assumed. For legal advice, please consult a professional lawyer.