How To Start A Business In Georgia
Located in the heart of the southeastern United States, Georgia has emerged as a top destination for entrepreneurs and businesses seeking a favorable environment for growth and success. Combining its business-friendly policies, competitive tax rates, highly skilled workforce, strategic location with access to global markets, and an array of resources and support for startups, Georgia presents a compelling case for those looking to start a business. Moreover, the state’s high quality of life and affordable cost of living make it even more attractive for entrepreneurs seeking a balance between work and personal life.
Georgia Small Business Stats
- There are 1.2 million small businesses in Georgia, which is 99.6% of all businesses in the state. (2022 SBA Small Business Profile)
- Exports by small Georgia firms reached $11.5 billion. (2022 SBA Small Business Profile)
- Small businesses in Georgia employ 1.7 million employees, which is 42.5 percent of the total employees in the state. (Statistics of US Businesses, Census Bureau)
- Georgia is the 8th largest state, and Atlanta is the 9th largest metro area in the U.S. (Georgia Department of Economic Development)
- The state of Georgia was named by Area Development magazine as the #1 state for business for the 9th consecutive year.
- Georgia is ranked as the 10th best state for businesses by CNBC, with workforce, cost of living, and economy being the top factors.
Steps to Start a Business in Georgia
Starting a business can be one of the most exhilarating, rewarding, and challenging experiences in life. However, it is also essential to ensure that you have taken all the necessary steps prior to the commencement of your new venture.
A checklist is an important tool for this purpose as it can help guide you in taking the required steps toward launching your enterprise. Our comprehensive checklist will provide handy tips and advice on how each step should be completed so that you are fully prepared and ready to get started!
Step 1: Choose a Business Idea
The success of any small business depends on various factors, such as the specific location, competition, and target market. It is crucial to conduct thorough market research and develop a solid business plan before starting any new venture.
If you are looking for details on hundreds of different industries, check out our library of business ideas to get detailed industry information, trends, costs to start, tips, and lots more.
Step 2: Write a Business Plan
A business plan is a crucial component of starting a business, as it serves as a strategic roadmap for guiding entrepreneurs through the process of launching and managing their venture. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), businesses with a business plan are more than likely to succeed compared to those without a plan.
A well-crafted business plan outlines the company’s objectives, target market, competitive landscape, marketing strategy, operational structure, and financial projections. This comprehensive document enables entrepreneurs to identify potential challenges, mitigate risks, and measure progress against established goals.
Related: How to write a business plan
Step 3: Select a Business Structure
A business structure is the entity under which a business operates, determining its taxation, liability, and overall governance. The choice of business entity can have significant implications on your personal liability and tax obligations.
In Georgia, the most common business entities are sole proprietorships, general partnerships, corporations, and Limited Liability Companies (LLCs). A sole proprietorship is the simplest form of business and is owned and operated by a single individual, with no legal distinction between the owner and the business. This means that the owner is personally responsible for all debts and liabilities of the business. General partnerships involve two or more individuals who share ownership and responsibility for the business. Similar to sole proprietorships, general partners are personally liable for the partnership’s debts and obligations.
Sole proprietors and general partnerships wanting to operate a business using a business name that is different from the owner’s name(s), a DBA (Doing Business As) will need to be filed with the County Clerk’s office in the county where the business is located.
Corporations, on the other hand, are separate legal entities owned by shareholders. This structure provides limited liability to the shareholders, who are generally not responsible for the corporation’s debts beyond their investment. Corporations can be subject to double taxation, where profits are taxed at the corporate level and again when distributed as dividends to shareholders.
Related: How to form a Georgia Corporation
Finally, Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) offer the best of both worlds, combining the limited liability of a corporation with the ease of operation of a sole proprietorship or partnership. In an LLC, members are protected from personal liability for the company’s debts and obligations. Another benefit of the Limited Liability Company is that it has the most tax options to choose from.
Related: How to form a Georgia LLC
Forming a corporation or LLC sounds complicated and expensive, but using an entity formation service guides you through the process so you know it was done right.
Some popular formation services include:
IncFile - Great service and free registered agent the first year.
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Step 4: Register the Business
Getting a business license in Georgia is an important step for any business owner looking to start or expand their operations in the state. It is important to understand all of the requirements before beginning the process so that you can ensure your business is compliant with all applicable laws and regulations.
The common registration requirements for businesses in Georgia include:
Business Licenses – The state of Georgia does not require a general business license, but some types of businesses will need specific licenses from the government to operate. Depending on your business’s location and what it does, you may need to obtain various local licenses and permits from the city or county where your business operates. These may include zoning permits, building permits, health department permits, and occupational tax certificates (formerly known as a business license).
Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN): Most businesses will need to obtain an EIN from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for tax reporting and identification purposes. This number is also often required when opening a business bank account or applying for loans and permits.
Sales Tax Number – Businesses in Georgia are required to register for state tax purposes, such as sales tax, withholding tax, and unemployment insurance tax. Learn more about registering for a Georgia Sales Tax Number through the Georgia Department of Revenue’s Georgia Tax Center website.
Professional Licensing – Some professions and industries require specific licenses or certifications from the relevant state agencies or boards. Examples include contractors, interior designers, accountants, home inspectors, landscapers, and plumbers.
It is crucial to research and obtain all necessary licenses and permits before starting your business in Georgia. Failure to comply with these requirements can result in fines, penalties, and even the closure of your business.
Related: What business licenses and permits are needed in Georgia?
Step 5: Open a Business Bank Account
Opening a business bank account in Georgia is a relatively straightforward process, but is an important step as it keeps your personal funds and business funds separate. Here are some important steps to take before you get started.
First, you’ll need to decide which type of business checking account best suits your needs. Consider factors like the monthly fees and minimum balance requirements for each option. You should also find out what types of digital banking services are available and whether they meet your needs.
Next, you’ll need to gather the necessary documents for opening an account. This includes proof of registration with the public registry, sample signatures from all authorized signatories, and personal identification information for all beneficial owners. Additionally, you may need to provide your Articles of Incorporation/Organization or Employer Identification Number (EIN).
Step 6: Find Financing
In Georgia, small businesses have access to various funding sources to support their operations and growth. These funding options can be broadly categorized into personal savings, conventional bank loans, SBA loan guarantees, and investors.
Personal savings: Many entrepreneurs use their personal savings to fund their new businesses. This method allows business owners to retain full control and ownership of their company while avoiding additional debt. However, depending solely on savings can be risky, as it may deplete the owner’s financial safety net.
Conventional bank loans: Many Georgia-based banks offer conventional loans to small businesses. These loans typically have fixed interest rates, repayment terms, and collateral requirements. Banks generally require a solid business plan, financial projections, credit history, and collateral to secure funding for a new business.
SBA loan guarantees: The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) provides loan guarantees to approved lenders, reducing the risk for banks and encouraging them to lend to small businesses. Some popular SBA loan programs include the 7(a) Loan Program, 504 Loan Program, and the Microloan Program. These loans can be used for a variety of business purposes, such as working capital, purchasing equipment, and real estate.
Investors: Small businesses can seek funding from various types of investors, such as angel investors, venture capitalists, and crowdfunding platforms. Angel investors are typically high-net-worth individuals who invest their personal funds in exchange for equity or debt in a business. Venture capital firms invest in high-growth startups with the potential for significant returns. Crowdfunding platforms, such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, allow businesses to raise funds from a large number of individuals in exchange for product samples, rewards, or equity.
To secure funding from banks or investors, businesses typically need to provide a well-prepared business plan, financial projections, market analysis, management team information, and a clear explanation of how the funds will be used. Additionally, lenders often require collateral, a strong credit history, and evidence of the owner’s personal investment in the business.
Related: Understanding the different types of business funding
Step 7: Hire Employees
As a small business owner who is hiring their first employee in Georgia, there are some necessary state and federal laws to be aware of and steps to take. These can include obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS, verifying employee eligibility, filling out paperwork for new hires such as the new hire report, understanding payroll taxes, and more.
Additionally, it is important to consider not only a candidate’s skills and experience but also their cultural fit with the organization. Taking these steps will help ensure that the process of hiring your first employee goes smoothly.
Step 8: Obtain Business Insurance
Obtaining the right insurance policies can protect your business from various risks and potential financial losses, ensuring that your operations can continue even in the face of unforeseen events. Every business has different risks and insurance needs, but some common types of insurance to consider include:
General Liability Insurance: General liability insurance is essential for nearly all small businesses, as it protects against financial losses due to third-party bodily injury, property damage, or personal and advertising injury claims. This coverage is particularly important for businesses with a physical location or regular interaction with customers and vendors.
Property Insurance: Property insurance is crucial for businesses that own or lease commercial property, such as office space, retail stores, or warehouses. This coverage protects your business assets, including buildings, equipment, inventory, and furniture, from damage caused by fire, theft, or other covered perils.
Workers’ Compensation Insurance: Georgia law requires businesses with three or more employees, including part-time workers, to carry workers’ compensation insurance. This coverage provides medical benefits and wage replacement for employees who suffer work-related injuries or illnesses.
Commercial Auto Insurance: If your business owns, leases, or uses vehicles for business purposes (even personally owned vehicles), commercial auto insurance is necessary to protect against liability and property damage arising from auto accidents involving your vehicles.
Professional Liability Insurance: Also known as Errors and Omissions (E&O) insurance, professional liability insurance is essential for businesses that provide professional services, such as consulting, legal, or accounting services. This coverage protects your business from financial losses due to claims of negligence, errors, or omissions in the services provided to clients.
Cyber Liability Insurance: With the increasing reliance on technology and online transactions, cyber liability insurance is becoming more important for businesses that handle sensitive customer information or conduct business online. This coverage helps protect your business from financial losses due to data breaches, cyber-attacks, or other cyber-related events.
Business Interruption Insurance: Business interruption insurance can provide financial assistance to cover lost income and ongoing expenses if your business is unable to operate due to a covered event, such as a natural disaster or fire. This coverage can help ensure that your business survives during an unexpected interruption.
Step 9: Set up an Accounting System
A good bookkeeping system is essential for businesses to maintain accurate records and ensure compliance with state and federal tax laws. It also helps businesses track their financial performance and make informed decisions about their operations.
The Internal Revenue Service requires businesses to keep detailed records of income and expenses in order to accurately report their taxable income on their annual tax returns. Accurate recordkeeping can help businesses avoid costly mistakes when filing taxes that could lead to penalties or audits from the IRS.
Common questions when starting a business in Georgia
Is Georgia a good place to start a business?
Georgia is an excellent place to start a business due to its business-friendly environment, low taxes, skilled workforce, and strategic location. Here are some reasons why Georgia is a good place to start a business:
Business-friendly environment: Georgia has a reputation for being a pro-business state, with various programs and incentives to support new businesses. The state ranks highly in various business rankings, such as those by multiple publications.
Skilled workforce: Georgia is home to a highly skilled and diverse workforce. The state boasts several prestigious universities, such as Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia, which provide a steady supply of well-educated workers.
Strategic location: Georgia’s location offers easy access to both domestic and international markets. The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world, making it convenient for businesses with global operations. Additionally, the Port of Savannah is the fourth largest container port in the United States, providing access to global trade routes.
Support for startups and entrepreneurs: Georgia has numerous resources, incubators, and programs to support startups and entrepreneurs. The Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) at Georgia Tech, for example, is one of the oldest and most successful technology incubators in the United States.
Quality of life: Georgia offers a high quality of life, with a relatively low cost of living compared to other major metropolitan areas, such as New York City or San Francisco. This attracts talent and entrepreneurs who are looking for an affordable place to live and work.
What are the steps to starting an LLC in Georgia?
There are three main steps to starting an LLC in Georgia. These include:
1. Making sure the LLC name is available
2. Appointing a Registered Agent
3. Filing the Articles of Organization
There are a few more details to consider depending on the business. Learn more about starting an LLC in Georgia.
How much does it cost to start an LLC in Georgia?
The cost to start an LLC in Georgia is $100 to file the Articles of Organization with the Georgia Secretary of State.
What licenses do I need to start a business in Georgia?
There isn’t a general business license required by the state, however, there are potentially several different licenses and permits a business will need to obtain before starting.
Related: What business licenses and permits are needed in Georgia?