How To Start A Business In West Virginia
West Virginia offers a unique blend of opportunities for entrepreneurs seeking to start a business in a state with untapped potential. Despite facing economic challenges in recent years, the state has made significant strides in creating a business-friendly environment by simplifying registration processes and reducing red tape, enabling new businesses to launch and operate with ease.
West Virginia’s dedicated workforce, known for its strong work ethic, and the state’s ongoing efforts to diversify its economy present promising prospects for growth in sectors such as tourism, technology, and manufacturing. The state’s moderate tax burden, streamlined permit and license acquisition process, and supportive resources, like the West Virginia Small Business Development Center, further contribute to a favorable climate for small businesses.
West Virginia Small Business Stats
- There are 111,614 small businesses in West Virginia, which is 98.8% of all businesses in the state. (2022 SBA Small Business Profile)
- 48.6% of West Virginia employees work for small businesses, which is more than the national average. (Statistics of US Businesses)
- Exports by small West Virginia companies reached $1.3 billion. (2022 SBA Small Business Profile)
- Even though West Virginia was ranked as the 44th best state for business by CNBC, the low cost of doing business and cost of living were top-ranking factors.
- Forbes called West Virginia the 24th best state to start a business, primarily due to the low costs of doing business.
Steps To Start A Business In West Virginia
Starting a small business can be overwhelming for even the most seasoned entrepreneurs. With countless details to address, it’s easy to feel lost amidst the maze of tasks needed to bring your vision to life. But fear not! Our extensive step-by-step checklist provides a structured roadmap to help navigate the complex waters of building a successful small business in West Virginia.
Step 1: Choose a Business Idea
Choosing a business idea in West Virginia requires careful consideration of the market, demographics, and competition. Here are a few pieces of advice that could help when researching the best business idea for you:
Identify your passion and strengths: Starting a business requires dedication and hard work. Choose a business idea that aligns with your interests and leverages your skills and expertise, increasing your chances of long-term success and personal fulfillment. When you find a few that resonate with you, check out our library of business ideas to get detailed industry information, trends, costs to start, tips, and lots more.
Conduct Market Research: Identifying gaps in the market that match your skills and interests is essential for any budding entrepreneur. Look at trends in consumer behavior, identify target segments, and analyze potential revenue streams before making a decision.
Collaborate and network: Building meaningful relationships with other entrepreneurs, organizations, and investors within West Virginia can provide valuable insights into the business environment and potentially lead to partnerships or collaborations. Join professional associations, attend networking events, and seek feedback from those already operating in the state.
Focus on economic diversification: As West Virginia seeks to diversify its economy, explore opportunities in growing sectors such as technology, tourism, healthcare, and manufacturing. Aligning your business idea with these industries can position you for success as the state continues to evolve and develop.
Prioritize Scalability and Diversification: Given West Virginia’s susceptibility to economic volatility associated with extractive industries, selecting a scalable business model that caters to diverse markets or focusing on non-extractive industries can help mitigate risk and enhance longevity. Balancing short-term stability with long-term adaptability should top your priority list.
Test your idea: Before fully committing to your business idea, validate its viability through market testing. This could involve creating a minimum viable product (MVP), conducting surveys, or seeking feedback from potential customers. This will help you refine your idea and minimize risks before investing significant time and resources.
Step 2: Write a Business Plan
Once a solid business idea is in place, it’s time to start working on the business plan. A business plan serves as a roadmap for your venture, guiding you through the various stages of business development, enabling you to make informed decisions and stick to your goals along the way.
The business plan is not only a necessary tool when approaching lenders and investors, writing a business plan is the best way to test whether an idea for starting a business is feasible. In this sense, the business plan is your safety net. If working through a business plan reveals that your business idea is not feasible, it will save you a great deal of time and money.
Related: How to write a business plan
Step 3: Select a Business Entity
Our next step begins the process of formally forming the company, and to begin, a business entity (also called legal or business structure) needs to be selected. A business entity is the organizational structure that is created to conduct business. Choosing the right business entity is important because it can affect your taxes, legal liability, and ability to raise capital. There are four common types of business entities in West Virginia: sole proprietorship, general partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC).
A sole proprietorship is the most basic form of business entity. It is owned and operated by one person, and there is no legal distinction between the owner and the business. The owner is personally responsible for all debts and liabilities of the business.
– Easiest to establish and maintain, with minimal paperwork and legal requirements.
– Complete control over the business and decision-making.
– Pass-through taxation, meaning that profits are taxed as personal income.
– Unlimited personal liability, putting the owner’s personal assets at risk.
– Limited fundraising options, as banks and investors may perceive the business as riskier.
– Business continuity is dependent on the owner.
A general partnership is similar to a sole proprietorship, but it has two or more owners. Each partner contributes to the business and shares in the profits and losses. Partners are personally responsible for all debts and liabilities of the partnership.
– Relatively easy to establish and maintain.
– Shared decision-making and responsibilities can lead to better business outcomes.
– Pass-through taxation, meaning that profits are taxed as personal income for each partner.
– Unlimited personal liability for each partner.
– Potential for disagreements and conflicts among partners.
– Business continuity may be jeopardized if a partner leaves or dies.
A corporation is a separate legal entity from its owners. It can be owned by one person or many people. The owners are called shareholders, and they elect a board of directors to manage the corporation (who may just comprise of the owner(s). The corporation is responsible for its own debts and liabilities, though a bank may require a personal guarantee from the shareholders to secure a small business loan.
– Limited liability protection for shareholders.
– Easier to raise capital through the sale of stocks.
– Business continuity is not affected by the death or departure of shareholders.
– More complex and expensive to establish and maintain, with significant legal and regulatory requirements.
– Potential for double taxation, as both corporate profits and shareholder dividends may be taxed.
A Limited Liability Company (LLC) is a hybrid between a corporation and a sole proprietorship/partnership. It provides limited liability protection to its owners (called members) while allowing them to be managed like a sole proprietorship or a partnership.
– Limited liability protection for members (owners).
– Pass-through taxation, meaning that profits are taxed as personal income for each member.
– Flexibility in management structure
– More paperwork and legal requirements than a sole proprietorship or general partnership.
– Potentially higher costs to establish and maintain compared to simpler business structures.
– Some states may impose additional taxes or fees on LLCs.
Related: How to form an LLC in West Virginia
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.
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Step 4: Register the Business
If you are planning to open a West Virginia business, there are several licenses and permits that you will need to obtain. Some common registrations include:
Business Licenses: The state of West Virginia doesn’t have a general business license; however, many cities require a business license to operate.
Business Registration Certificate: The West Virginia State Tax Department requires all businesses to register for a Business Registration Certificate.
Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN): An EIN, also known as a Federal Tax ID Number, is required for most businesses that have employees, operate as a partnership or corporation, or need to file certain tax returns. The EIN is issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Sales Tax Permit: Depending on your business type and activities, you may need to register for various state taxes, such as sales and use tax, employer withholding tax, and unemployment insurance tax. The sales tax permit registration is through the West Virgina State Tax Department.
Business Name Registration: Before a sole proprietorship or partnership can legally operate under a fictitious business name or DBA (Doing Business As) they will need to file a Certification of Trade Name Registration with the County Clerk’s Office in the county where the business is located.
Professional Licensing: Some occupations such as accountants, cosmetologists, landscapers, and massage therapists require licensing in West Virginia. Various state agencies manage the licensing for specific professions
Zoning: Before starting to operate a business (even if it’s home-based), be sure to check local zoning regulations before starting to operate out of a location.
Step 5: Open a Business Bank Account
It is important to separate business and personal finances for a number of reasons. First of all, by keeping business finances separate, they will be more organized and accurate, which is critical at tax time. Separating business and personal funds makes it easier to track expenses, income, and other financial transactions related to the business.
Also, if you operate as a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or corporation, maintaining a clear distinction between your business and personal finances is crucial for preserving the limited liability protection these business structures provide. Commingling funds can lead to a situation called “piercing the corporate veil,” where a court might hold you personally liable for your business’s debts and liabilities.
Step 6: Find Financing
The process of securing adequate funding is crucial for the success of any new business. While funding is at the top of the list of struggles business owners have when starting a business, there are various funding options available to entrepreneurs in the state, each with its own advantages and limitations.
One of the most common sources of funding is personal funds. This includes savings, investments, or any other money that you have access to. It’s important to remember to not exhaust all of your personal funds in case it takes longer to get your busienss off the ground than expected.
Another option is conventional bank loans. These loans can be used for a variety of purposes including start-up costs, expansion, and more. However, they often require a personal investment, collateral and good credit scores in order to qualify.
In conjunction with lenders, the Small Business Administration (SBA) offers loan guarantees which can help businesses obtain financing. These guarantees reduce the risk for lenders and make it easier for businesses to qualify for loans.
Microloan programs are another option available to small businesses in West Virginia. These programs provide small amounts of capital at low-interest rates and with flexible repayment terms. They are often used by startups and entrepreneurs who need access to capital quickly but don’t have the resources or credit history required by traditional lenders.
The West Virginia Capital Access Program (WVCAP) is one microloan programs offered through the West Virginia Small Business Development Center.
Finally, investors can also be a great source of funding for businesses. Investors provide capital in exchange for equity in the company or some form of return on their investment, such as dividends or profits from sales of products or services offered by the company.
No matter what type of funding you choose, it’s important to do your research so that you can make an informed decision about which option is best for your business needs.
Step 7: Hire Employees
Before hiring your first employee, it’s important to ensure that you have taken the necessary steps to comply with all applicable state and federal laws. This includes obtaining the proper licenses and permits, understanding applicable tax requirements, and familiarizing yourself with labor laws.
It’s important to note that there may be additional requirements depending on the size of your business and the industry you’re in, but in general, 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.
Learn more about the steps to hiring your first employee in West Virginia
Step 8: Obtain Business Insurance
While most types of insurance aren’t required, proper insurance coverage is crucial to safeguarding your business’s financial health and longevity.
General liability insurance is perhaps one of the most common and important types of coverage for small businesses, as it helps protect against claims related to bodily injury or property damage caused by your business operations.
Workers’ compensation insurance is another type of policy that is required by law for businesses with employees in West Virginia. This type of coverage helps protect employers from financial losses due to employee injuries or illnesses that occur while on the job.
Professional liability/E&O insurance can also be beneficial for businesses offering professional services, as it helps cover legal costs associated with errors or omissions made by your company.
These are a handful of important policies, but it’s important to remember that each business has unique needs when it comes to insurance. To understand the options that are available, be sure to research further and talk with an experienced business insurance agent to set up a policy to protect your business.
Step 9: Set up an Accounting System
Setting up an accounting system and maintaining accurate financial records is an important step to ensure the long-term success of your business. A few reasons include:
Compliance with legal requirements: Businesses in West Virginia must comply with federal, state, and local tax laws, which require maintaining accurate financial records. Proper bookkeeping ensures you have a complete and up-to-date record of your business transactions, which will help you meet your tax obligations and avoid penalties.
Accurate tax reporting: Maintaining accurate financial records through diligent bookkeeping and accounting practices allows you to correctly identify and categorize your business’s income, expenses, and deductions. This accuracy is crucial for ensuring that your business reports the correct taxable income and claims all eligible deductions, minimizing the risk of errors on your tax returns and potential audits from tax authorities.
Financial visibility and planning: Proper accounting and bookkeeping provide you with a clear understanding of your business’s financial health, allowing you to make informed decisions about budgeting, investments, and growth strategies. Regularly reviewing your financial records can help you identify trends, opportunities, and potential issues, enabling you to proactively address them and optimize your business’s performance.
Cash flow management: Accurate bookkeeping helps you monitor your business’s cash inflows and outflows, ensuring you have sufficient funds to meet your financial obligations, such as payroll, rent, and supplier payments. Effective cash flow management can help prevent financial crises and support the smooth operation of your business.
Related: Setting up accounting for a business
This material is property of StartingYourBusiness.com
Common questions when starting a business in West Virginia
Is West Virginia a good state to start a business?
Whether or not West Virginia is suitable for starting a small business depends on numerous factors ranging from economic conditions and workforce availability to tax requirements, target market, and the effectiveness of the business owner. A few factors to consider when starting a business in the Mountain State include:
State Support: West Virginia has made considerable efforts to create a business-friendly environment. The state has simplified business registration processes and reduced red tape, making it easier for new businesses to launch and operate. Additionally, West Virginia’s Small Business Development Center (WV SBDC) provides resources, support, and guidance to help small businesses succeed.
Economic Stability: West Virginia has faced economic challenges in recent years, particularly in the coal industry. However, the state is working towards economic diversification and growth in sectors such as tourism, technology, and manufacturing. While some regions may still face economic challenges, other areas in the state present opportunities for small businesses to thrive.
Available Workforce: West Virginia’s workforce is known for its strong work ethic and dedication. However, the state has faced labor shortages in recent years, and businesses may need to invest in training and development programs to ensure they have a skilled workforce.
Taxes, Permits, and Licenses: West Virginia has a moderate tax burden for businesses, with a relatively low corporate income tax rate and no local income taxes. However, businesses must be aware of various sales, property, and other taxes. Permits and licenses will vary depending on the type of business and location, but the state’s One Stop Business Portal can help streamline the process of obtaining necessary permits and licenses.
Demographics and Consumer Behaviors: West Virginia has an aging population, with a higher percentage of residents aged 65 and older compared to the national average. Businesses targeting the senior market or offering services to an aging population may find success in the state. Additionally, outdoor recreational activities are popular among West Virginians, and businesses catering to these interests may also succeed.
What are the steps to starting an LLC in West Virginia?
There are three main steps to starting a Limited Liability Company in West Virginia. These include:
There are a few more details to learn about, so be sure to check out how to start an LLC in West Virginia.
How much does it cost to start an LLC in West Virginia?
The Secretary of State filing fee to form a West Virginia LLC is $100.
What licenses do I need to start a business in West Virginia?
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.