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Starting a Business in Iowa

Starting a business in Iowa involves several steps including planning, completing legal requirements, and making major financial decisions. These 10 Steps courtesy of the Small Business Administration will help you plan, prepare and manage your business.


Step 1: Write a Business Plan

You wouldn't construct a building or a bridge without a plan, and the same holds true for your business.  A business plan is essentially a blueprint or  road map that provides detailed directions so a business can plan ahead for the future and avoid bumps in the road. There are free  resources and organizations available in Iowa to help put together a business plan including the Small Business Development Center, SCORE, and others you can find in The Resource Navigator. Check out our Business Planning page for more information.

Step 2: Get Business Assistance and Training

Take advantage of the many free resources and services available in Iowa that provide training, business counseling, help with preparing a business plan, securing financing, and expanding or relocating a business. Search our Media Navigator for online videos, the Resource Navigator for help near you, or call the Business Concierge at 866-537-6052. 

Step 3: Choose a Business Location 

When starting or expanding a business, determining a location may be one of the most crucial decisions you make, as it requires detailed planning and research. Check out our Business Location page for more tips to help you choose the right location. You will also need to be aware of and local city requirements.

Step 4: Finance Your Business

Loans, personal savings, friends and family, all are options for financing a new or expanding business.  There are many ways to obtain financial assistance in Iowa that are worth exploring and understanding. Be very cautious of opportunities for free financial assistance. There is no such thing as free grant money for business start-ups or expansions, so if it seems too good to be true! It probably is! 

Step 5: Determine the Legal Structure of Your Business

When choosing the type of legal structure for your business you'll need to consider factors such as how you'll pay your taxes and how much personal liability exposure you will risk.  Some of your options include sole proprietorship, partnership, Limited Liability Company (LLC), Corporation, S Corporation, Nonprofit or Cooperative. Visit our page on How to Structure Your Iowa Business for help in determining the best option. 


Step 6: Register a Business Name

All businesses in Iowa must register their business name.  How you register depends on the way you legally structure the business. To be sure the business name you’ve chosen is not already in use in Iowa, do a name search in the Secretary of State Business Entities Search database.

Step 7: Get a Tax Identification Number

The federal Tax Identification Number for businesses is known as an Employer Identification Number (EIN).  It is an unique number used to identify a business, much like a Social Security Number identifies an individual person. In most cases, businesses are required to obtain an EIN. Also, understand and meet the legal requirements of Iowa taxes by visiting the Iowa Department of Revenue. For more information on tax obligations, check out our past tax webinars.

Step 8: Register for State and Local Taxes 

In addition to federal tax requirements, businesses will need to pay state and local taxes, which may vary from location to location.   Register with the state of Iowa to obtain a tax identification number, workers’ compensation, unemployment and disability insurance. For more information, view our page on Licenses and Permits

Step 9: Obtain Business Licenses and Permits

To legally run your business, there may be federal and state licenses you need to obtain. Iowa alone has over 440 different types of business licenses! To see what types of licenses or permits you may need, search our Business License Information Center for a list of Iowa specific licenses, such as a contractors license. Or, call 800.532.1216 for personalized assistance. 


Step 10: Understand Employer Responsibilities

Check out the the Iowa Workforce Development website to determine the legal steps you need to take in order to hire employees in Iowa: 


Want to find programs that can help you start your business?
Contact the Business Concierge for free high quality referrals to our network of over 360 resource providers, located within our Resource Navigator