How To Start A Business In Indiana
Indiana offers an ideal environment for entrepreneurs looking to start a business, boasting a business-friendly climate, low cost of living, strategic location, and skilled workforce. The state’s diverse economy and commitment to fostering business growth, create a fertile ground for success. As a result, Indiana has emerged as a prime destination for businesses across various industries, providing the perfect foundation for entrepreneurs to launch and grow their ventures.
Indiana Small Business Stats
- There are 534,640 small businesses in Indiana, which is 99.4% of all businesses in the state. (2022 SBA Small Business Profile)
- Exports by small Indiana firms reached $4.6 billion. (2022 SBA Small Business Profile)
- Small businesses in Indiana employ 1.2 million employees, which is 43.8 percent of the total employees in the state. (Statistics of US Businesses)
- Indiana was ranked as the 14th best state for business by CNBC, with infrastructure, cost of doing business, and cost of living being the highest ranking factors.
- Forbes called Indiana the best state to start a business.
- Indiana received a 9th place ranking on the 2023 State Business Tax Climate Index from the Tax Foundation.
Checklist to Start a Business in Indiana
Using our checklist, aspiring entrepreneurs will find a clear and structured roadmap that covers the most common steps for starting a small business in Indiana.
The checklist covers essential steps such as choosing a business idea, creating a business plan, selecting a legal structure, registering the business, and more. By following the checklist, individuals can ensure they address critical aspects of business formation, comply with local and state regulations, and access valuable resources and support.
Step 1: Choose a Business Idea
Choosing the right business idea is crucial in launching a successful venture. By carefully considering your passions, skills, and the local market demand, you can identify a niche that aligns with your strengths and has the potential for growth.
If you are looking for that spark or inspiration or deciding whether your idea is worth pursuing, here are a few things that may help in your process:
Resesearch your industry: Dive in and learn all you can about your industry. A good first top is our library of business ideas to get detailed industry information, trends, costs to start, tips, and lots more, but also consider talking with other business owners in your industry (preferably in an area where you aren’t going to be considered a competitive threat), joining industry associations or going to industry conferences.
Identify your strengths and interests: Reflect on your skills, expertise, and passions to determine which business idea would be the best fit for you. Pursuing a business that aligns with your interests will help you stay motivated and committed, even during challenging times.
Analyze market needs: Research the local market to understand the needs and preferences of potential customers. Look for gaps in the market or unaddressed needs that your business could fill. Focusing on a niche with strong demand (and hopefully low competition) will increase your chances of success and growth.
Learn from the competition: Speaking of competition, take a close look at your competitors to understand their strengths and weaknesses. Use this information to differentiate your business, develop unique value propositions, and establish a competitive advantage.
Test and validate your idea: Perhaps the must under-used tip, but before fully committing to a business idea, test and validate it through market research, surveys, or by offering a minimal viable product. This will help you gauge the demand for your product or service, obtain valuable feedback, and refine your business model.
Seek guidance and mentorship: Connect with experienced entrepreneurs, industry experts, or business coaches who can provide guidance and support as you develop your business idea. Take advantage of resources such as the Indiana Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) for free counseling, training, and technical assistance.
Network and collaborate: Attend local business events, workshops, and networking sessions into build relationships with fellow entrepreneurs, potential customers, and industry leaders. These connections can lead to valuable partnerships, collaborations, and opportunities for business growth.
Embrace change and adaptability: Be open to refining and evolving your business idea based on market trends, customer feedback, and new opportunities. It’s easy to want to stay the course, even if the data and customer feedback is telling you otherwise, but big opportunities can come from the smallest suggestions. Adaptability and a willingness to pivot when necessary will help you stay competitive and responsive to market changes.
Step 2: Write a Business Plan
After zeroing in on your business idea, the business plan is the next step in starting a business. A business plan is a crucial element in starting a business, as it serves as a roadmap, guiding entrepreneurs through each stage of their venture.
A well-structured business plan can help increase the chances of success, as it enables business owners to define their objectives, strategies, and potential challenges and see if the idea is feasible. It also plays a significant role in securing funding, as lenders and investors typically require a comprehensive business plan before committing financial resources to a new business.
Related: How to write a business plan
Step 3: Select a Business Structure
Now that there is a solid idea and the business plan is in progress, the next step in starting a business in Indiana is selecting a business structure (which is also referred to as a legal or business entity).
A business structure refers to how a business is legally organized to operate, determining the extent of personal liability, tax obligations, and management responsibilities. In Indiana, there are four common types of business entities: sole proprietorship, general partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC).
A sole proprietorship is a business owned by one individual with no legal distinction between the owner and the business. While the sole proprietorship is the easiest and least expensive entity to start, the owner is personally liable for any legal actions or debts of the business.
While there is no registration required to start a sole proprietorship (and partnerships, too), it’s common to create an Assumed Business Name (sometimes called a DBA or “Doing Business As.” If the business will operate under a fictitious business name like John Smith’s Handyman Service, Mr. Handyman, etc., you will need to file an Assumed Business Name with the County Recorder’s office in the county where the business is located.
In a general partnership, two or more individuals share the management, profits, and liabilities of the business. Like the sole proprietorship, partnerships are easy to form, but each partner is personally liable for the actions of the business.
A corporation, on the other hand, is a separate legal entity that provides limited liability protection for its shareholders and can issue stocks. While corporations are more expensive and difficult to form than sole proprietorships and partnerships, the major advantage is that the corporation provides personal asset protection for the owners, should the corporation be sued. The downside is the compliance requirements and administrative burdens of having a board of directors, annual meetings for directors and shareholders, taking minutes at the meetings, issuing stock certificates, assigning a registered agent (LLCs need one too), and more.
Related: How to form an Indiana Corporation
The Limited Liability Company (LLC) is a popular business entity choice because it provides the liability protection of a corporation with the ease of operation like the sole proprietorship and partnership. The Limited Liability Company does not have the many burdens as the corporation and has the greatest tax flexibility of the four entities.
Related: How to form an Indiana 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.
Northwest - Privacy-Focused: Free registered agent and private business address for 1 year!
ZenBusiness - Easy to use and free registered agent for 1 year!
Step 4: Register the Business
In Indiana, business licenses and permits are required to ensure that businesses operate in compliance with state and local regulations. The licenses and permits needed will vary depending on the type of business, its location, and the specific activities it engages in. Some of the most common licenses and permits are listed below:
Business Licenses: The state of Indiana doesn’t have a general business license; however, many cities require a business license to operate.
Employer Identification Number (EIN): If your business has employees or is a separate legal entity like a corporation or an LLC (unless it is a single-member LLC without any employees), you will need to apply for an EIN from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This number is used for tax identification purposes.
Registered Retail Merchant Certificate – Businesses selling products and certain services or has employees will need to register for a Registered Retail Merchant Certificate with the Indiana Department of Revenue, which will allow the business to collect sales tax or set up a withholding account
Professional Licensing – Some occupations and professions such as home inspectors, interior designers, manicurists, and plumbers in Indiana. While this isn’t a license on the business, licensing is required to provide a licensed service.
Step 5: Open a Business Bank Account
Separating business and personal funds is the next, but a crucial step for several reasons.
First, it helps maintain accurate financial records and simplifies bookkeeping, making it easier to track business expenses and income. Second, it ensures compliance with tax regulations by keeping personal and business expenses separate, reducing the likelihood of errors during tax filing. Finally, it protects personal assets by establishing a clear boundary between personal and business finances, which is especially important for limited liability companies and corporations to maintain their liability protection.
Step 6: Find Financing
Securing the necessary funding is often one of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs. Fortunately, there are many options available to small business owners in Indiana when it comes to financing their venture. The three main sources of funding that entrepreneurs access include:
Conventional bank loans: Traditional bank loans are a popular choice for small businesses. Banks offer a variety of loans, lines of credit, and equipment financing, among other options. To get bank funding for a startup, lenders typically require a business plan, personal investment between 15% and 25% of the total startup costs, and a credit score above 650.
SBA loan guarantees: To help encourage banks to take on riskier loans, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers loan guarantee programs, such as the 7(a) Loan Program and the 504 Loan Program. These programs help small businesses in Indiana obtain loans by guaranteeing a portion of the loan, thus reducing the risk to lenders.
Microloans: There are a number of local economic programs that offer small loans to startups, typically ranging between $500 and $5,000. In some cases, these loans can be used in conjunction with a bank loan.
Investors: Small businesses in Indiana can also seek funding from investors, such as angel investors, venture capitalists, or equity crowdfunding platforms. The Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) offers resources and programs to help connect businesses with potential investors.
Step 7: Hire Employees
Hiring your first employee comes with several responsibilities and registrations.
Besides being familiar with the federal and state labor laws that apply to your business, such minimum wage, overtime pay, record-keeping, and other employment standards, employers are responsible for reporting new hires, verifying employees are eligible to work in the U.S., income tax withholding, unemployment insurance, unemployment taxes, and payroll withholding taxes, including Social Security and Medicare.
Step 8: Obtain Business Insurance
Another step to take as a business owner is whether you need insurance and what types to get. Insurance plays a crucial role in protecting small businesses from potential risks, liabilities, and financial losses. As a small business owner in Indiana, having the right insurance coverage can safeguard your business, employees, and assets, ensuring the long-term stability and success of your company.
Most types of business insurance are optional, except for workers’ compensation insurance which is required for any business in Indiana with employees. Some states will also require professional liability insurance for businesses offering certain services and commercial auto insurance.
Even if insurance isn’t required, and there is a fire, theft, or personal injury lawsuit, the business owner may have to pay out-of-pocket damages and legal fees. Home-based businesses and side-businesses may want to consider business insurance, too, as personal home and vehicle policies may not cover a business loss.
Step 9: Set up an Accounting System
Accounting is an essential part of any business, and a good accounting system is important for recordkeeping and tax reasons.
A well-organized accounting system enables you to track and monitor your business’s financial performance. By maintaining accurate records of your income, expenses, assets, and liabilities, you can gain a better understanding of your company’s profitability and cash flow. This financial insight allows you to make informed decisions on budget allocation, pricing strategies, and growth opportunities.
Also, maintaining accurate financial records is essential for tax compliance. In Indiana, small businesses are subject to various taxes, including sales tax, income tax, and payroll taxes and a good accounting system helps ensure that your business correctly calculates and remits these taxes, avoiding potential penalties and interest for non-compliance. Furthermore, accurate record-keeping facilitates the preparation of financial statements and tax returns, which are necessary for both federal and state tax reporting.
Related: Setting up accounting for a business
This material is property of StartingYourBusiness.com
Common questions when starting a business in Indiana
Is Indiana a good place to start a business?
Indiana is an excellent place to start a business due to its favorable business climate, strategic location, skilled workforce, and competitive cost structure. Here are several reasons why Indiana is a prime location for starting a business:
Business-friendly environment: Indiana consistently ranks as one of the top states for business in the United States by several publications, highlighting its pro-business environment, low taxes, and minimal regulatory burden.
Low cost of doing business: Indiana offers a competitive cost structure for businesses, including affordable real estate, utility costs, and labor costs. The state has one of the lowest living costs in the nation, making it an attractive location for entrepreneurs and employees.
Strategic location and infrastructure: Indiana’s central location within the United States provides easy access to major markets, with over half of the U.S. population reachable within a day’s drive. The state also boasts a robust transportation infrastructure, including highways, railroads, airports, and ports, facilitating the efficient movement of goods and services.
Skilled workforce: Indiana has a diverse, well-educated, and skilled workforce, providing businesses with access to the talent they need to succeed. The state also offers various workforce development programs to support employee training and skill development.
Diverse industry base: Indiana has a strong and diverse economy, with thriving industries such as advanced manufacturing, logistics, agribusiness, technology, and life sciences. This diverse industry base provides opportunities for businesses across various sectors and contributes to the state’s economic resilience.
What are the steps to starting an LLC in Indiana?
There are three main steps to starting an LLC in Indiana. 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, so be sure to check out how to start an LLC in Indiana.
How much does it cost to start an LLC in Indiana?
The filing fee for starting an LLC in Indiana is $95, which is the cost to file the Articles of Organization with the Indiana Secretary of State.
What licenses do I need to start a business in Indiana?
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.