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Start a Business in Fort Myers

Starting a business involves making key financial decisions and completing a series of legal activities. This guide provides information to help you plan, prepare, and manage your business.

Research and Plan Your Business

A well-written business plan is essential to starting and running a business. Business plans are required when applying for business loans or seeking investors. A good business plan describes in detail a business’ mission and goals, and how these goals will be achieved.

Get Business Assistance and Training

Take advantage of free training and counseling services, from preparing a business plan to getting financing, and help expanding and relocating a business. The U.S. Small Business Administration offers free at-your-own-pace courses on a number of timely business topics, including starting a business, writing a business plan, and more. Click here to learn more »

Choose a Business Location

Get advice about choosing a customer-friendly location and complying with zoning laws. Selecting the right location involves basic considerations such as proximity to customers, ease of access, and leasing and zoning restrictions. Financial incentives and tax credits offered by your local government may also influence your decision. Visit the Lee County Economic Development Office website to get help locating commercial office space and property.

Finance Your Business

Find government backed loans, venture capital and research grants to help you get started. Federal, state and local governments offer a wide range of financing programs to help small businesses start and grow their operations. These programs include low-interest loans, venture capital, and scientific and economic development grants.

Determine the Legal Structure of Your Business

When beginning a business, you must decide what form of business entity to establish. Your form of business determines the amount of regulatory paperwork you have to file, your personal liability regarding investments into your business, and the taxes you have to pay. The most common business structures include Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, Corporation, S Corporation, Limited Liability Company (LLC), Non-Profit and Cooperative.

Visit these resources to learn more about which business structure is right for you:

Guide to Choosing a Business Structure
The U.S. Small Business Administration provides this clear and concise guide covering the most popular business structures. Outlines the advantages and disadvantages of each type of business structure as well as tax requirements.

Tax Information – Business Structures
The Internal Revenue Services provides information on the tax implications of the most common business structures.

Register a Business Name (“Doing Business As”)

Register your business name with your state government. The legal name of a business is the name of the person or entity that owns a business. If you are the sole owner of your business, its legal name is your full name. If your business is a partnership, the legal name is the name given in your partnership agreement or the last names of the partners. For limited liability corporations (LLCs) and corporations, the business’ legal name is the one that was registered with the state government.

Get a Tax Identification Number

Learn which tax identification number you’ll need to obtain from the IRS and your state revenue agency. All businesses are required to pay federal, state, and in some cases, local taxes. Most businesses will need to register with the IRS and state and local revenue agencies, and receive a tax ID number or permit.

Register for State and Local Taxes

Register with your state to obtain a tax identification number, workers’ compensation, unemployment and disability insurance. In addition to business taxes required by the federal government, you will have to pay some state and local taxes. Each state and locality has its own tax laws. The links below provide access to key resources that will help you learn about Florida tax obligations.

Register Online to Collect and/or Report Taxes »
General Tax Information and Forms »
Workers’ Compensation Insurance »
Unemployment Insurance Tax »

Obtain Business Licenses and Permits

Every business needs one or more federal, state or local licenses or permits to operate. Licenses can range from a basic operating license to very specific permits, e.g. environmental permits.

Regulations vary by industry, state and locality, so it’s very important to understand the licensing rules where your business is located. Not complying with licensing and permitting regulations can lead to expensive fines and put your business at serious risk. Click on the link below to find out about specific license and permit requirements in the state of Florida.

Florida Business Licenses and Permits »

Employer Responsibilities

Learn the legal steps you need to take to hire employees. There are many good sources of information about finding the right people, writing job descriptions, interviewing candidates, and managing people once they are on board. While those are all important issues, understanding your regulatory requirements as an employer is crucial to the success of your business.