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How To Start A Business In Maryland [2023 Guide]

How To Start A Business In Maryland [2023 Guide]

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How To Start A Business In Maryland [2023 Guide]

How To Start A Business In Maryland

Maryland stands out as an exceptional choice for entrepreneurs, offering a unique combination of a strategic East Coast location that is close to major markets, a diverse and robust economy, and a highly skilled workforce. With the added benefits of a business-friendly environment and an unparalleled quality of life, Maryland presents an ideal setting for launching and nurturing a thriving business.

Maryland Small Business Stats

  • There are 634,622 small businesses in Maryland, which is 99.5% of all businesses in the state. (2022 SBA Small Business Profile)
  • Exports by small Maryland firms reached $5.2 billion. (2022 SBA Small Business Profile)
  • Small businesses in Maryland employ 1.2 million employees, which is 49.4 percent of the total employees in the state. (Statistics of US Businesses)
  • The state’s key industries are manufacturing, life sciences, cybersecurity, and professional services. These industries have been supported by the government through initiatives such as the Maryland Venture Fund and the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO). These programs provide funding for startups and small businesses looking to expand or launch new products or services in the state.
  • Maryland was ranked as the 27th best state for business by CNBC, with workforce (#10), access to capital (#13), and technology & innovation #14) being the highest ranking factors.

Steps to Starting a Business in Maryland

To help get started, we have created a checklist that provides entrepreneurs with an organized and clear path to navigate the process of setting up a business in Maryland.
While it won’t cover the steps for every business, this checklist covers the common requirements like writing a business plan, setting up the business entity, registering for licenses or permits, and more.

Step 1: Choose a Business Idea

Looking at local market trends, customer demographics, and consumer preferences in Maryland, here are five profitable and popular business ideas that entrepreneurs can pursue. These business ideas offer a high chance of success and capitalize on Maryland’s unique opportunities and advantages:

Healthcare Services: Maryland’s aging population, coupled with the presence of world-class healthcare institutions, creates a strong demand for healthcare services. Entrepreneurs can consider starting a home healthcare business or opening a medical clinic. Start-up costs can vary depending on the scope of services, but the expected ROI is generally high due to the growing demand for quality healthcare.
Challenges – Securing necessary licenses and certifications, recruiting skilled medical professionals, and navigating complex healthcare regulations.

E-commerce: Maryland’s well-developed infrastructure and strategic location on the East Coast make it an ideal hub for e-commerce businesses. Entrepreneurs can start an online store, focusing on niche products or locally sourced items, and benefit from the state’s efficient logistics network. Start-up costs are relatively low, and the expected ROI can be significant with effective marketing and a well-curated product selection.
Challenges – Building a strong online presence, developing an efficient supply chain, and managing customer acquisition and retention.

IT Services & Cybersecurity: Maryland’s robust tech sector and the presence of numerous federal agencies and large tech-focused corporations headquartered in the state create a high demand for IT services and cybersecurity solutions. Entrepreneurs can offer services like network security, software development, or IT consulting. Start-up costs may include equipment, software, and hiring skilled professionals, but the ROI is generally high due to the growing reliance on technology and data security.
Challenges – Keeping up with rapidly changing technology, recruiting and retaining top talent, and maintaining a strong competitive edge.

Food and Beverage: Maryland’s diverse population, vibrant restaurant scene, and thriving tourism industry present a lucrative opportunity for entrepreneurs to start a restaurant, food truck, or catering business. Focusing on niche cuisines, local ingredients, or innovative culinary experiences can help businesses stand out. Start-up costs can be substantial, particularly for brick-and-mortar establishments, but the ROI can be high with the right concept, location, and marketing.
Challenges – Navigating health and safety regulations, managing labor costs, and coping with high competition.

Retail businesses: With its bustling shopping districts and numerous malls across the state, Maryland offers plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurs looking to start their own retail businesses. Options include clothing stores, specialty shops, and consignment shops. Start-up costs will vary depending on the type of business being established, but plenty of resources are available to help entrepreneurs get started. The expected ROI is high due to the demand for retail services in Maryland, and potential challenges include staying competitive in an increasingly crowded market.
Challenges – Convincing customers to spend money at a new store can be difficult, in addition to juggling inventory, capturing leads, staying competitive in pricing and promotions, while keeping up with ever-changing customer expectations

To research some of these and many more, 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

Creating a comprehensive business plan is an essential step for anyone starting a business.

A business plan outlines the key components of a business, such as its marketing strategy, financial projections, SWOT analysis, and more.

While businesses have certainly thrived without a detailed plan, having one not only serves as a document that banks and investors require to obtain funding but is also a roadmap that outlines goals and the strategies needed to achieve them.

Related: How to write a business plan

Step 3: Select a Business Entity

The next step in starting a new business in Maryland is selecting a business entity (also called a legal entity or business structure). A business entity is a legal structure used to conduct business activities. The four most common types of business entities are sole proprietorships, general partnerships, corporations, and Limited Liability Companies (LLCs). Each type of entity has its own advantages and disadvantages for business owners in Maryland.

Sole proprietorships are the most basic and least expensive form of business entity. They provide the owner with complete control over the business but also leave them personally liable for any debts or liabilities incurred by the business.

General partnerships are similar to sole proprietorships but involve two or more people who share ownership and management responsibilities. However, each partner is still personally liable for any debts or liabilities incurred by the partnership.

There is no formal registration for a sole proprietorship or partnership, however if the business will operate with a business name that is different from the owners, a Trade Name Application will need to be filed with the State Department of Assessments and Taxation.

Corporations offer limited liability protection to their shareholders (owners), meaning that their personal assets are protected from any debts or liabilities incurred by the corporation. Corporations also have a more complex management structure than other entities, with a board of directors overseeing operations and making major decisions on behalf of the company. Additionally, corporations can issue stock to raise capital and attract investors.

Related: What is a corporation?

Limited Liability Companies (LLC) combine aspects of both sole proprietorships, partnerships and corporations by providing limited liability protection while allowing for flexible management structures. LLCs are relatively easy to set up and maintain compared to other corporations.

Related: How to form a Maryland 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

Business Licenses – The state of Maryland doesn’t have a general business license; however, many cities require a business license to operate.

Employer Identification Number (EIN): General partnerships, corporations, multi-member LLCs, or businesses with employees need to obtain an EIN.

Trader’s License – Businesses selling physical products will need to obtain a Trader’s License from the Clerk of the Circuit Court.

Sales & Use Tax License – Businesses selling products and certain services will need to register for a Sales & Use Tax License with the Comptroller of Maryland.

Professional Licensing – Some services, such as contractors, accountants, landscapers, and laundry services, require licensing in Maryland.  While this isn’t a license on the business, licensing is required to operate. The Maryland Business Express website offers a licensing portal to look up required licenses.

Related: What business licenses and permits are needed in Maryland?

Step 5: Open a Business Bank Account

As a small business owner, it is essential to keep your business and personal finances separate. By doing so, you will be able to accurately track the income and expenses of your business, as well as prove compliance in case of an audit.

When opening a business bank account in Maryland, there are several important documents that must be provided. These include proof of identity (such as a driver’s license or passport), proof of address (such as a utility bill), and proof of ownership (such as articles of incorporation). Additionally, some banks may require additional business registration documentation such as entity formation documents, operating agreement, bylaws, etc.

When selecting an appropriate bank account in Maryland for your specific needs, make sure to consider factors such as fees and charges associated with the account, minimum balance requirements, transaction limits, access to online banking services, and customer service options.

Step 6: Find Financing

As a small business owner in Maryland, there are a variety of funding options available.

Conventional bank loans are the most common form of funding for small businesses and can provide access to capital relatively quickly. Banks typically take into account several factors when considering loan applications, including credit scores, personal investment, established business record, and other financial criteria. Additionally, the Small Business Administration (SBA) offers loan guarantees for qualified borrowers who may not be able to secure financing through traditional lenders.

Microloan programs are another option for small businesses seeking funding. These programs provide smaller loans with shorter repayment terms and lower interest rates than conventional bank loans. Microloans are often used to finance startup costs or purchase equipment or inventory.

Finally, investors can provide an additional source of funding for small businesses in Maryland. Investors typically look for businesses that have a solid business plan and potential for growth. They also consider factors such as the management team’s experience and qualifications, market size and potential, competitive landscape, and financial projections.

When deciding which funding option is best suited for your business needs, it is important to consider your short-term and long-term goals as well as the amount of capital needed to achieve them.

Related: Understanding the different types of business funding

Step 7: Hire Employees

There are a number of considerations that must be taken into account when hiring, such as following relevant labor laws, obtaining necessary insurance and tax accounts, implementing an effective onboarding program, and more.

First and foremost, it is important for small business owners to understand labor laws and regulations. This includes understanding the minimum wage requirements, overtime regulations, and other labor laws that may apply to their business. 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.

In addition to understanding the legal obligations of being an employer, small business owners should also consider how they will find the right employee for their needs. A good place to start is by creating a job description that accurately reflects the skill set required for the position. This can help narrow down potential candidates who have the necessary qualifications. Small business owners should also consider using online job boards or recruitment agencies to find qualified applicants.

Once a candidate has been selected, it is important for small business owners to create an employee handbook that outlines expectations and policies in detail. This document should include information on wages and benefits, vacation policies, workplace safety protocols, anti-discrimination policies, and any other relevant information related to employment at the company. Having this document in place will help ensure consistency across all employees and protect both parties from any potential disputes or misunderstandings down the line.

Finally, it is important for small business owners to offer competitive wages and benefits packages in order to attract quality employees and retain them long-term. Offering ongoing professional development opportunities can also be beneficial in helping employees reach their full potential while working at your company.

Related: Steps to hiring your first employee in Maryland

Step 8: Obtain Business Insurance

Acquiring the appropriate insurance coverage is an essential step for safeguarding your business assets, ensuring financial stability, and fulfilling legal requirements. Every business will have different needs, but a few types of insurance a small business owner should consider when starting their business in Maryland include the following.

General liability insurance protects your business from third-party claims of bodily injury or property damage. Property insurance covers physical assets such as buildings, equipment, and inventory. Workers’ compensation insurance is required for all employers and helps cover medical expenses and lost wages for employees who are injured on the job. Professional liability insurance protects against claims related to professional negligence or errors and omissions.

Having the right type of insurance coverage is essential for any small business in Maryland. It can help protect your company’s assets and provide peace of mind that you’re covered if something unexpected happens. It’s important to research different types of coverage available and select the policies that best fit your needs. Working with an experienced independent agent can help you find the right coverage at the best price for your unique situation.

Related: Types of insurance your business may need

Step 9: Set up an Accounting System

Businesses in Maryland need a reliable accounting system to ensure effective recordkeeping and staying on top of tax requirements. While a good accounting system helps local businesses succeed in Maryland by ensuring that taxes are filed on time and accurately to avoid costly penalties from the IRS, but the benefits go beyond just avoiding penalties. A good accounting system also provides valuable insights into the financial health of the business. By tracking revenue and expenses over time, businesses can identify trends in their spending habits and make adjustments accordingly. This can help them better understand their cash flow and make more informed decisions about investments or other opportunities that may arise in the future.

Related: Setting up accounting for a business

This material is property of StartingYourBusiness.com

Common questions when starting a business in Maryland

Is Maryland a good state to start a business?

Maryland offers several advantages for entrepreneurs looking to launch their ventures, thanks to its strategic location, diverse economy, and supportive business environment. Here are some reasons why Maryland is a good place to start a business:

Strategic location: Maryland’s position on the East Coast, situated between Washington D.C. and Philadelphia, provides businesses with easy access to major markets and transportation hubs. The state’s extensive infrastructure includes the Port of Baltimore, BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, and well-connected highways and railways, making it convenient for businesses to reach customers and suppliers in the U.S. and abroad.

Diverse economy: Maryland boasts a diverse economy with thriving sectors such as healthcare, biotechnology, information technology, aerospace, and defense. The state is home to numerous federal agencies, universities, and research institutions, offering businesses access to a highly skilled workforce, cutting-edge research, and partnership opportunities.

Business-friendly environment: Maryland offers a range of financial incentives and assistance programs for businesses. In addition, the Maryland Department of Commerce, Maryland Small Business Development Center (SBDC), and other organizations provide resources and support to help entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses.

Skilled workforce: Maryland has a highly educated and skilled workforce, with one of the highest percentages of residents holding a bachelor’s degree or higher in the U.S. This talent pool is an asset for businesses seeking skilled employees and professionals in various industries.

Quality of life: Maryland offers a high quality of life with its diverse cultural attractions, outdoor recreational opportunities, and top-rated schools. This makes the state an attractive place to live and work, helping businesses attract and retain talented employees.

What are the steps to starting an LLC in Maryland?

There are three main steps to starting an LLC in Maryland. 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 learn about, so be sure to check out how to start an LLC in Maryland.

How much does it cost to start an LLC in Maryland?

The cost to start an LLC in Maryland is $100 to file the Articles of Organization with the Maryland Secretary of State.

What licenses do I need to start a business in Maryland?

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 Maryland?

How To Start A Business In Maryland [2023 Guide]

How To Start A Business In Maryland [2023 Guide]

Greg Bouhl

Greg Bouhl

Welcome! My name is Greg Bouhl, and I am a serial entrepreneur, educator, business advisor, and investor.

StartingYourBusiness.com is here because of the many clients I worked with who made decisions based on inaccurate and outdated information.

Starting a business is hard, but here you will find the practical tools, resources, and insider tips to help you successfully start a business.

If there is a question about starting a business or help finding a resource, I'm here to help!

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