Below are questions we often receive regarding starting a business and about our resources.

Starting a Business

What are the first steps to starting a business?

Once you have an idea for your business you will want to do some basic research on your potential customers and competitors to understand if people will want to buy your products and/or services and who is currently selling something similar. After this initial research you will want to conduct a feasibility analysis to ensure this business can work for you financially. Writing a business plan is the best way to ensure your business will have a good chance to be successful. Then you will want to structure and license your business, find funding, identify how you will get your product/service to your customers and build your brand. Our no cost Intro to Business course is available online on demand or via a monthly webinar. This course presents 8-steps to starting your business and provides you with a free business startup checklist to download.

How do I select the right structure for my business?

A legal structure is the way the federal, state, and city governments identify and tax your business. You should choose the legal structure that is best suited for your long term goal. Your long term goal is what you envision for your business in 10 years. There is no right or wrong answer, it just needs to be identified as it will help you make decisions about your business now. Here are somethings to consider when choosing a legal structure for your business.

1-Liability: Some legal structures like Limited Liability Companies (LLC) and Corporations provide limited liability to owners, members, and executives. This means if a lawsuit occurs the owner, members or executives’ personal assets are protected from litigation. If someone sues the business they can only sue for business assets.

2-Number of People Involved: How many people are going to be involved in ownership and management of the business? If you have multiple people that will be "owners" of the company and actively work in the organization then you will need to choose a structure that accommodates for that, like an LLC or corporation.

3-Investors: Will you want to have investors who are not involved in the operation of the organization but will be shareholders? If so, you will need a corporate structure. If your goal is long term growth you may need money from investors to make that happen.

4-Taxes: Legal structures are taxed at different rates by the federal government. In structures where owners aren't receiving pay checks then self-employment tax is required.

5-Formation: Some structures like corporations and non-profits have more demanding formation processes that can include legal documents, forming a board of directors, and annual reporting.

6-Separation: Some structures are considered dis-regarded entities by the IRS, meaning that the business and the owner are not separated. This can make the sale or transfer of the business more difficult.

We do offer a course in our Business Enterprise Startup Training entitled “Structuring and Licensing for Startups” that takes you step-by-step through the process of selecting your structure and registering it with the proper agencies. There are scholarships available for this course. Please email info@wcwb.org for scholarship information.

How do I create a Limited Liability Company (LLC)?

You will need to go to the Washington Secretary of State website and create a user account. Then you will need to file Articles of Formation. This entails doing a business name search to ensure your name is available to register in Washington. Then filling out an online application which will ask you who your business mail, related to legal aspects of your business, will go to (your registered agent), who is filling out the application on behalf of the business (the executor), and who will be members/owners of the business(governors). Once you have completed the form, you will need to pay a fee to complete the filing. This process is outlined in our “Structuring and Licensing for Startups” course.

What is an Employer Identification Number (EIN) and why do I need one?

An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is a business tax identification number that is obtained from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The EIN number is used to pay federal taxes on business profit. Most businesses will need to obtain an EIN number on the IRS website There is no cost to get an EIN number and the process can usually be completed in less than 30 minutes. Our “Structuring and Licensing for Startups” can guide you through this process. Scholarships are available for this course.

What licenses to I need to start my business?

In the State of Washington you will need to obtain a state and city business license in order to do business. These can be obtained at the Washington Department of Revenue website. You may be required to obtain additional licensing outside of the normal business licenses depending on the nature of your business. General contractors, massage therapists, martial arts studios, and locations serving alcohol are all examples of businesses that will need to obtain additional licenses from other outside agencies before conducting business. The Business Licensing Wizard tool on the WA Department of Revenue website can help you identify what licenses your business will need. If you would like instructions on the process of obtaining a state and city business license our “Structuring and Licensing for Startups” course can assist you!

How can I register my business and keep my personal information and address private?

If you create a business structure like an LLC through the Washington Secretary of State the person/entity and address you list as the registered agent will become visible to the public. You can hire an organization to provide you with registered agent services. This will then list their organizations name and address as your registered agent in the public record. Organizations like Traction Space in Tacoma, Washington, offer registered agent services for a monthly fee. Keep in mind you cannot use a P.O. Box address in this process. It must be a physical address.

How do I start Non-Profit Organization?

To create a non-profit organization in Washington State you will file Articles of Incorporation with the Washington Secretary of State. Non-profit organizations are required to form a board of directors and create operating bylaws for the organization. Non-profits also need an Employer Identification Number (EIN) and Washington State and City business licenses. Additionally, if you would like to apply for tax exempt status from the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) and allow for individuals to write off donations to your non-profit you are required to apply for tax exempt status. Keep in mind this process can take up to six months for approval so plan accordingly.  

Can I change my business structure in the future?

Yes. But, if you having been doing business as a Sole Proprietor and want to become an LLC, another business may have already registered with your business name as an LLC. If this is the case you will not be allowed to register your own business name. Also, if you have multiple people involved at the owner level of your business you will probably need to hire an attorney to help create bylaws or operating agreements that are legally binding. We recommend starting with the structure that is going to be the best fit for your long term goals.

I’m moving my business to Washington State and need help figuring out state requirements and who to contact.

We can help you understand these requirements through one-on-one advising sessions with the WCWB Women’s Business Center or Lacey/Olympia Small Business Development Center. Additionally, you can reference the Small Business Guide provided by Washington State at no cost at. If you are starting to do business in Washington State but are maintaining your business headquarters in another state then you will need to register as a foreign entity with the Washington Secretary of State.

How do I find a location for my business?

You can start your business location search using the Washington Department of Commerce’s property search tool. You can also look for alternative startup spaces like shared office spaces, share commercial kitchens, makerspaces, and business incubators using the Washington Department of Commerce’s workspaces location tool. If you are looking for a physical location you will need to work with a commercial real estate agent. Additionally, when you find a location it is in your best interest to hire an attorney to help you navigate signing the lease for your new space.

What taxes do I need to pay for my business in WA?

You will need to pay Business & Occupation tax, sales tax, and use tax in Washington State. You can find more information on the taxes you will have to pay here , or at this link. Of course you are also on the hook for federal taxes due to the IRS.

When do I pay my business taxes?

In Washington State, most businesses will pay taxes quarterly through an excise tax filing on the Washington Department of Revenue site. You can read additional information about filing and due dates, here.

Do I need an accounting system?

Yes. QuickBooks is the most common software used for business accounting. Even if you are planning on hiring an accountant and/or CPA you will need to understand how your accounting works and how to read financial statements so you can cross check work done by the firm or person you hire. We offer a Business Enterprise Startup Training course entitled “Accounting for Startups”. This course can help you understand basic accounting terms and needs. It also covers business taxes. Scholarships are available for this course. Please contact info@wcwb.org to inquire.

Where can I find legal assistance for my business?

At some point in your business life you will need an attorney. Typically there are not free resources in this regard. However, the University of Washington does have a program through their law school and some startups may be able to utilize https://www.law.uw.edu/academics/experiential-learning/clinics/entrepreneurial-law.

What social media platforms should I use to market?

Identifying your target market it the first step in selecting appropriate marketing tools for your business. You want to select social media platforms that your most likely customers will most likely be on. So, if you are selling life insurance you probably don’t want to use Instagram, if you are selling skateboards you probably won’t advertise on Facebook. In our Business Enterprise Startup Training suite of courses we offer “Branding and Marketing for Startups”. This course can aid in the process of identifying your target market and selecting the right tools for that target market.

Do I need a website?

Yes. Most businesses should have some type of website.

Where can I find local networking opportunities?

Networking is often one of the most difficult tasks to approach as a small business owner. Often networking meetings can be uncomfortable and unfruitful. Typically a good place to start to network is at your local Chamber of Commerce. If you have been in business more than 2 years, the Washington State Department of Commerce’s ScaleUp program offers no cost training and networking opportunities through the 8-week program.

Why do I need to write a business plan?

A business plan is a risk minimization tool for your business. The reality is that 50% of the businesses that start in Washington State fail within the first 5 years. A business plan can help ensure your business model will work on paper and that you are not missing anything important. Additionally, if you are planning on applying for an SBA Microloan or pursuing investors a business plan is a requirement. Our Business Enterprise Startup Training “Business Plan Writing for Startups” takes the pain out of writing a business plan.

Is a full business plan necessary for my business idea?

If you are not seeking startup funding through a microloan, incubator, or investor then a full business plan is not necessary. Business Canvases or Lean Business Plans are an alternative that may suffice for more simple startups. However, we still recommend a full business plan for most startups. Typically, entrepreneurs that commit to writing a full business plan are significantly more likely to actually start their businesses.

How do I get funding for my startup?

Generally, we see startups funded through personal savings, money from friends and family, incubators, microloans, and investors. To learn more about applying for a microloan in Washington State visit Business Impact NW.

How do I apply for a loan for my startup and/or business?

Microloans are often the only loan startups can qualify for unless you are willing to puta large amount of collateral on the line. Business Impact NW specializes in microloans in the Pacific Northwest. We can help you create the required business plan for the loan application through one-on-one advising, access to our business plan writing course, and our Business Q&A program.

How do I find grants for my startup and/or business?

Grants for startup funding can be rare. Federal funding provided in response to Covid-19allowed us to administer grants during the height of the pandemic, but has since slowed. We continue to look for grant resources but have been unsuccessful thus far.

Program FAQs

Are your classes in person, through webinar or online?

We have classes in all 3 formats.

When is the next ScaleUp Class?

Check out the Washington Department of Commerce’s ScaleUp page to see the next course offerings.

How do Scholarships work for your programs and who qualifies?

We are an inclusive organization and there are no specific requirements for our scholarships. We want to help all entrepreneurs’ access resources at no cost. To inquire about scholarships contact info@wcwb.org.

How do I sign up for trainings and resources?

You can sign up through the resource link at the businessresources.thurstonedc.com website. If you are having trouble accessing resources please email info@wcwb.org or call 1-888-821-6652.

What if I can’t attend a live training?

We have many resources online on demand including our Intro to Business course, Business Enterprise Startup Training, Business TuneUp course and more. View all of our programs here.

Where can I find information on upcoming courses?

On our events calendar. We post events from resource partners and outside organizations as well!