Starting a Business in Ohio – A Comprehensive Guide

How to Start a Business in Ohio

Ohio, in the heartland of America, holds numerous possibilities for those with a unique business idea. This article details the steps and considerations needed to bring your concept to life in the Buckeye State. Whether you are an aspiring entrepreneur or a seasoned business veteran looking for a fresh start, this guide provides an accessible resource for launching a successful venture in Ohio.

Ohio state flag flying over a thriving business communityTop Two Benefits of Starting a Business in Ohio

  1. Strategic Location & Infrastructure: Ohio’s central location within the United States provides businesses with access to most of the U.S. market within a single day’s drive, and the state’s robust infrastructure—including highways, railroads, and airports—supports the efficient transportation of goods.
  2. Supportive Business Environment: Ohio offers a range of support for businesses, from financial incentives to counseling services. The state has a strong track record of encouraging entrepreneurship, ranking high in ease of doing business.

Top Two Challenges When Starting a Business in Ohio

  1. Navigating Regulations: As with any state, Ohio has its share of regulations that businesses must comply with, from environmental regulations to zoning laws. It can be a challenge to understand and stay up-to-date with these requirements.
  2. Talent Acquisition and Retention: While Ohio boasts a large and educated workforce, attracting and retaining top-tier talent, especially in highly specialized fields, can be challenging, given the competition from larger cities and tech hubs.

Intriguingly, according to recent data, small businesses in Ohio represent 99.6% of all businesses and employ 46.3% of the workforce, making them a vital part of the state’s economy. Understanding these benefits and challenges can set the stage for a successful enterprise in Ohio.

Regulatory Factors and Taxes in Ohio

Starting a business in Ohio is accompanied by certain regulatory tax obligations that entrepreneurs must be aware of. One significant financial aspect is the state’s corporate income tax. Currently, Ohio has a unique approach to taxing business income. It does not have a traditional corporate income tax. Instead, it levies a commercial activity tax (CAT) on businesses’ gross receipts. The CAT rate is 0.26% on gross receipts above $1 million.

Furthermore, business owners must consider the state’s sales tax. Ohio imposes a state sales tax of 5.75%, though the actual rate can be higher (up to 8%) when you factor in county and transit authority sales taxes. Understanding these tax obligations is crucial to planning a successful business in Ohio.

How do I Choose a Business Structure?

There are five primary types of businesses. Each type of business entity is described below.

Sole Proprietorship

A business owned and operated by one individual with no legal distinction between the business and the owner. The owner is personally responsible for all debts and liabilities of the business. Most small business owners in  Ohio use this business type.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

A flexible business organization that combines the liability protection of a corporation with the tax benefits and simplicity of a partnership. Owners of an LLC are called members, and their assets are typically protected from the debts and liabilities of the business. You have the flexibility to define many aspects of how your business will work in your Articles of Organization.

S-Corporations

A type of corporation allows for pass-through taxation, meaning that profits and losses are passed through to the shareholders and reported on their tax returns. S-Corporations are limited to 100 shareholders and must meet specific eligibility requirements. An S-Corp can be particularly advantageous if the founders or investors have other income. If the business doesn’t generate a profit in any year, the shareholders can use the losses from a tax perspective.

C-Corporations

A separate legal entity from its owners (shareholders) means that the corporation can enter into contracts, own assets, and sue or be sued. C-Corporations are subject to double taxation, meaning that the corporation and the shareholders are taxed on profits.

A Note About S-Corps and C-Corps

For both S-Corporations and C-Corporations, your business formation documents will include Articles of Incorporation, sometimes called a Corporate Charter.  The specific requirements and format of Articles of Incorporation can vary by jurisdiction. It is advisable to consult with a business attorney or online legal service such as Legal Zoom to ensure compliance with local laws and regulations when drafting and filing these documents.

Limited Liability Partnership (LLP)

A partnership that limits the personal liability of its partners. LLPs are typically used by professional service providers such as lawyers, accountants, and architects. Each partner is protected from the other partners’ wrongful acts, omissions, and negligence, but they may still be personally liable for their actions.

Distribution of Businesses

Business Type Percent of Businesses in  Ohio
Sole Proprietorship 60-65%
Limited Liability Company (LLC) 15-20%
S-Corporation 10-15%
C-Corporation 3-5%
Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) 1-2%

It is important to note that the choice of business entity will depend on many factors, including the nature of the business, the number of owners, and the financial and liability considerations.

What is an Employer Identification Number – EIN?

Definition of an EIN or Employer Identification Number

An Employer Identification Number, commonly called an EIN, is a unique nine-digit number assigned by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to businesses operating in the United States. This number serves as a means of identifying businesses for tax purposes and is also known as a Federal Tax Identification Number or a Federal Employer Identification Number.

Do I Need One to Start a Business in Ohio?

In Ohio, obtaining an EIN is often a requirement when establishing a business entity, hiring employees, obtaining business licenses, or opening a business bank account.

How Do I Get One?

To acquire an EIN, interested parties can apply directly through the IRS website or submit Form SS-4 by mail or fax. Obtaining an EIN online is a quick and straightforward process, with the number being issued immediately upon completion of the application. For additional support or to learn more about the process, individuals can contact the IRS directly at 1-800-829-4933 or visit their website at https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/employer-id-numbers .

How to Start a Business in Ohio – Important Registrations

Registering My Business Name

If you’re planning to start a business in Ohio, the first step is to officially register your business name with the Secretary of State’s office. You can get more information at https://www.ohiosos.gov/businesses/information-on-starting-and-maintaining-a-business/starting-a-business/

Registering a DBA (Doing Business As) If Relevant

In Ohio, if your business operates under a different name from your registered one, you must register a DBA or “Doing Business As.” Ohio is divided into 88 counties, each with local rules and services. A directory of Ohio’s local governments can be found on this website: https://ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/site/government/resources . This provides contact details for each county, which is useful for understanding local rules or requirements.

Registering for Payroll, State Payroll Taxes, and Unemployment Insurance

As a business owner in Ohio, you’ll need to establish an account with the Ohio Department of Taxation for payroll taxes and unemployment insurance. Visit their website at https://www.tax.ohio.gov/  or call them at (888) 405-4089.

Registering for Worker’s Compensation Insurance

Businesses in Ohio must also arrange for worker’s compensation insurance. This can be obtained through a licensed provider, or If you use a payroll service , they should also be able to provide worker’s comp.

Registering for Collecting Sales Tax

If your business involves sales, registration for collecting sales tax in Ohio is mandatory. This can be done through the Ohio Department of Taxation’s website: https://www.tax.ohio.gov/ .

Registering for Income Tax

For corporate income state tax, businesses should register for state corporate income tax through the Ohio Department of Taxation. You can reach them at (888) 405-4039 or visit their website https://www.tax.ohio.gov/ .

Registering to Pay Property Tax

You would contact your county’s auditor’s office for property tax obligations in Ohio. More information can be found on the Ohio Department of Taxation website: https://www.tax.ohio.gov/propertytax/

Permits for Starting a Business in Ohio

Ohio has a strong business base of diverse companiesDo I Need a Business Permit to Operate a Business in  Ohio?

At the State Level:  Some businesses in Ohio, such as those in food service, alcohol sales, or lodging, will require state licenses and permits. To determine whether your business requires a state license or permit in Ohio, visit the Ohio Business Gateway website at https://gateway.ohio.gov/  or call them at (866) 644-6468.

Check With Your City:  The requirement for business permits can vary from city to city within Ohio. For instance, Columbus may have specific licensing requirements for certain businesses. You can check with your local city’s official website or city hall. For Columbus, visit https://www.columbus.gov/columbus/businesses  or call (614) 645-7370.

Check Federal Requirements.  At the federal level, you may need to comply with additional licensing or permit requirements, especially for industries such as aviation, alcohol, or wildlife. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) lists federal licenses and permits your business may need on their website at https://www.sba.gov/business-guide/launch-your-business/apply-licenses-permits . You can contact them at 1-800-827-5722. For tax-related queries, contact the IRS at 1-800-829-4933 or visit https://www.irs.gov/businesses .

Check With Your County:  Sometimes, counties have specific requirements or permits. It’s advisable to contact your county’s government office to determine if your business requires any additional permits. For instance, if you’re operating in Franklin County, visit their website at https://www.franklincountyohio.gov/  or call them at (614) 525-3160.

How do I learn about any special permits I need for my business?

Knowing whether your business requires special permits is crucial when starting a business in Ohio. Certain industries, like food services, construction, and medical services, often require special permits. The Ohio Department of Development provides resources to help ascertain what permits your business may need. You can visit their website at https://development.ohio.gov/ .

Furthermore, consulting with a business lawyer or advisor can prove beneficial. These professionals can offer advice based on your specific business type and industry. Local business associations or chambers of commerce can also serve as valuable resources. They often hold informational sessions or workshops on business requirements in Ohio.

Lastly, reach out to your local city or county government. They can provide information about local ordinances or requirements that may apply to your business. As always, it’s better to thoroughly understand these requirements at the beginning to avoid complications later.

Financing Options for Entrepreneurs in Ohio

When starting a business, it’s natural to consider leveraging personal assets or using credit cards as initial funding sources. However, there might be more sustainable and financially healthy ways to kickstart your business than relying solely on these methods. Fortunately, numerous other financing options exist that entrepreneurs can tap into.

Financing a New Business

Securing a reliable funding source is crucial for any new business. Access to capital can help fuel growth, cover operational expenses, and support the execution of your business plan. Various financing options are available, ranging from grants to investments from venture capitalists or angel investors. It’s vital to conduct thorough research to find the best fit for your business model, financial requirements, and long-term goals.

SBA Loans and Microloans

The Small Business Administration (SBA) provides several loan programs designed to support the growth and success of small businesses. A notable program is the SBA’s microloan initiative. Microloans are small, short-term loans that deliver immediate access to funds for small businesses, helping meet various needs, such as working capital, equipment purchases, or inventory procurement. You can learn more about the SBA microloan program and how to apply here .

SBA Microlenders in Ohio

Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI)

Phone: (614) 559-0115

Website: https://www.ecdi.org/

Economic and Community Development Institute

Inna Kinney

1655 Old Leonard Avenue

Columbus, OH43219

Phone(614) 732-0981

email: ikenney@ecdi.org

website: http://www.ecdi.org

Small Business Administration (SBA) – Cleveland District Office

Phone: (216) 522-4180

Website: https://www.sba.gov/offices/district/oh/cleveland

State and Local Grants and Incentives

Ohio’s robust environment for business development is supported by an array of grants, incentives, and resources designed to foster entrepreneurship and business growth. By offering these supports, the state demonstrates a significant commitment to nurturing its small business sector, a vital component of its economy.

Ohio’s state grants are a tremendous boon to entrepreneurs seeking their businesses. These grants, which are often competitive, provide capital that can be paid, making them particularly attractive to new business owners. They are typically aimed at specific sectors such as technology, agriculture, or manufacturing and are designed to stimulate innovation and job creation within those sectors.

In addition to state grants, Ohio also offers various incentives for businesses to help reduce the costs of starting or expanding a business. These incentives come in many forms, such as tax credits, tax abatements, and low-interest loan programs. For example, companies in certain industries or locations may qualify From business development centers offering consulting and training services to agencies assisting with navigating regulatory requirements to initiatives designed to connect business owners with potential investors — Ohio’s commitment to fostering a supportive environment for businesses is extensive and multifaceted.

Angel Investor Groups

Angel Investor Groups can play a vital role in funding new businesses. These are typically individuals or groups who invest their money into promising startups. They often offer expertise and mentorship along with their financial investment, which can greatly help new businesses navigate the early stages of growth. In Ohio, several active angel investor groups exist. These groups have a history of successful investments and can be a source.

  1. Rev1 Ventures is a startup studio that assists both entrepreneurs and corporations in speeding up their innovation process. https://www.rev1ventures.com/
  2. Queen City Angels are the first and largest group of angel investors in the Cincinnati area. Their broad investment focus includes digital technology, healthcare, consumer products, and other sectors. Queen City Angels is known for their supportive mentoring program, where they pair entrepreneurs with experienced mentors to guide them through the crucial early stages of their business. Visit their website for more information: https://www.qca.com/ .

Benefits of a Well-Structured Business Plan

A well-structured business plan is a vital tool for any entrepreneur in Ohio. It acts as a roadmap, detailing a business’s route to grow revenues and increase its market share. This plan is not just about having a document in place; it is about strategic planning, understanding your market, and knowing your competition.

Firstly, having a clear and comprehensive business plan can help Ohio businesses obtain financing. Banks, other financial institutions, and potential investors often require a business plan to understand your vision, the market conditions, and your strategies to achieve your goals. This is particularly relevant in Ohio, where various local and state financing options, such as JobsOhio loans and grants or Ohio’s Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) programs, require a well-documented plan for consideration.

Secondly, a well-structured business plan can assist Ohio business owners in identifying and understanding their target market. Ohio is a diverse state with varied economic sectors ranging from manufacturing and financial services to agriculture and healthcare. Each of these sectors has unique dynamics; understanding these can be the difference between success and failure. A business plan forces you to research and analyze market trends, customer preferences, and competition, helping you tailor your products or services to meet your needs.

Lastly, a business plan is crucial in strategy development and decision-making. It enables Ohio entrepreneurs to plan their milestones, set realistic goals, and measure progress against these objectives. Furthermore, it helps anticipate challenges and formulate strategies to address them, making businesses better prepared to adapt to changing market dynamics and withstand economic downturns.

Meeting Lender and Investor Expectations

Meeting the expectations of lenders and investors is a key consideration for businesses seeking funding. Like anywhere else, lenders and investors in Ohio have specific requirements and expectations that businesses need to fulfill to secure their support.

Firstly, lenders and investors will want to see a strong business plan. This should provide a clear vision for your business, a thorough market analysis, a detailed operational plan, and comprehensive financial projections. It should also articulate your unique selling proposition and how you intend to differentiate your business from the competition. A well-thought-out, realistic, and professionally prepared business plan can increase your credibility and show potential lenders and investors you’re serious about your business.

Lenders and investors will be looking at the financial health and history of your business. They’ll want to see that your business has a steady cash flow or, in the case of a startup, a solid financial projection and a plan to achieve profitability. Having a good credit history, being current with all state and federal tax obligations, and having sound financial management practices will also work in your favor.

Lastly, lenders and investors value transparency and open communication. It’s important to provide accurate information, keep them updated on significant developments, and be upfront about potential risks and mitigation plans. Demonstrating a proactive approach to problem-solving can help build trust and reassure them of your business’s potential for success.

Meeting lender and investor expectations requires careful planning, strong financial management, and open communication. By effectively addressing these areas, businesses in Ohio can increase their chances of securing the financing they need to start or grow their business.

Where Can I Find a Mentor to Help Me Succeed?

In Ohio, mentors with vast experience and a deep understanding of the business landscape are vital resources. They offer critical advice, share industry insights, and provide practical strategies pertinent to Ohio’s business ecosystem.

Ohio boasts a robust network of organizations and resources committed to propelling the success of its entrepreneurs. Here are several options worth considering:

Ohio SCORE:  As part of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), Ohio SCORE provides free business mentoring, affordable workshops, and various resources to support businesses at every stage of development. Contact Info:

Phone: (614) 664-7265

Website: https://columbusoh.score.org/

Ohio Small Business Development Centers (SBDC):  Offering various services, including business plan creation and financial analysis, the Ohio SBDC is an essential resource for new and existing businesses.

Contact Info:

Phone: (614) 466-2711

Website: https://clients.ohiosbdc.ohio.gov/

Women’s Small Business Accelerator (WSBA):  This organization is dedicated to helping women entrepreneurs through business development training, personalized counseling, and networking opportunities.

Contact Info:

Email:  info@wsbaohio.org

Website: https://www.wsbaohio.org/

Rev1 Ventures:  This Ohio-based organization drives innovation and growth, offering programs and events designed to inspire and equip entrepreneurs.

Contact Info:

Phone: (614) 794-2732

Website: https://www.rev1ventures.com/

StartupCincy:  Advocating for Ohio’s entrepreneurial community, particularly in Cincinnati, StartupCincy provides learning opportunities and fosters connections to propel business growth and success.

Contact Info:

Email:  hello@startupcincy.com

Website: https://www.startupcincy.com/

 By leveraging these resources, entrepreneurs can gain the vital knowledge and support needed to navigate Ohio’s business environment successfully.

The Economy of Ohio

Understanding the Economy of Ohio is crucial when starting a business in the state. Economic factors such as household income, education level, and consumer spending habits significantly impact business operations and success. A well-rounded knowledge of Ohio’s economy helps entrepreneurs make informed decisions, plan strategically, and set achievable growth targets.

Economic Overview

Average Household Income

As of 2023, the median household income in Ohio stands at approximately $61,938. This figure positions Ohio slightly below the national average, reflecting a solid middle-class consumer base. For new businesses, it signifies an opportunity to cater to a broad demographic, appealing to the spending habits of middle-income families.

Average Level of Education

In Ohio, approximately 91.1% of the population aged 25 and over have completed high school, while around 29.7% hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. These numbers indicate a well-educated populace, which has implications for the workforce talent available to businesses and the types of products and services likely to find a receptive market.

Consumer Spending per Capita

Consumer spending per capita in Ohio is around $56,483. Compared to other states, this figure indicates a stable economic environment conducive to business. High consumer spending is a good sign for businesses, suggesting that Ohio residents are willing and able to purchase goods and services, which is a positive indicator for new and expanding businesses.

Awareness of these economic factors is important when starting a business in Ohio. It allows entrepreneurs to align their business plans and strategies with the state’s economic realities, enhancing their chances of success.

Top Industries in Ohio:

Ohio’s economy is diverse, with several industries contributing significantly to the state’s GDP. Manufacturing remains a top industry, with Ohio known for producing machinery, automobiles, aerospace technology, and plastics. Ohio’s strategic location and robust transportation infrastructure have also established it as a significant player in the logistics and transportation industry.

Ohio boasts world-class facilities and biomedical research institutions in the healthcare sector, creating a thriving healthcare industry. Furthermore, Ohio’s rich farmland supports a robust agricultural sector, including crop farming and livestock production.

Emerging industries in Ohio include renewable energy and information technology. As Ohio looks towards a sustainable future, businesses focusing on solar and wind power are rising. Meanwhile, Ohio’s tech sector, especially software development and data centers, continues to expand, supported by a growing talent pool from the state’s numerous educational institutions. The business outlook in Ohio remains positive, with diverse industries offering varied opportunities for entrepreneurs.

Network Your Way to Success When Starting a Business

Networking is a skill that most successful business owners have as one of their top talents. You can do it too! Networking is a great way to improve your success and grow your personal and business reputation. Here are a few ways to get started.

Identify Complementary Businesses:  Collaborating with businesses that offer complementary products or services can be a valuable strategy for growth. Such partnerships can lead to shared customer bases, collaborative marketing efforts, and bundled product offerings, increasing customer value.

Leverage Workforce Talent:   Ohio’s well-educated workforce is a significant asset. Businesses can leverage this talent pool to foster innovation, drive growth, and remain competitive. A skilled workforce can enhance operational efficiency and promote the development of high-quality products and services.

Collaborate with Industry Leaders:  Strategic partnerships can provide businesses with unique growth opportunities. It can lead to knowledge sharing, access to larger customer networks, and the potential for joint ventures. Such collaborations can fast-track growth and enhance a business’s reputation within the industry.

Workforce and Talent

Ohio has excellent higher education producing talented people for starting a businessUnderstanding Ohio’s workforce demographics and talent pool is critical to establishing and growing a successful business. The unemployment rate, minimum wage, average age, demographics, and educational attainment of the population all play a significant role in shaping the labor market and influencing business decisions.

Unemployment Rate

As of 2023, the unemployment rate in Ohio stands at approximately 4.0%. A relatively low unemployment rate indicates a healthy economy, but it also suggests high competition for skilled workers, necessitating strategic hiring practices and competitive compensation packages.

Minimum Wage

The minimum wage in Ohio is currently $10.10 per hour. This wage rate impacts operating costs, particularly in retail and food service industries. It is a crucial consideration when planning budgets and setting pricing strategies.

Average Age and Demographics

Ohio’s median age is approximately 39.7 years, with females making up about 51% of the population and males representing 49%. This demographic balance can influence market demand, with businesses needing to cater to a relatively even mix of male and female consumers across various age groups.

Breakdown of People with Various Levels of Education

Focusing on the population aged 25 and above in Ohio, the education level is as follows:

●        29.7% hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.

●        91.1% have a high school diploma or equivalent.

●        7% have no high school diploma.

A comprehensive understanding of Ohio’s workforce and talent pool can inform hiring strategies, product or service development, marketing efforts, and overall business planning. It provides insights into the resources available and the potential challenges and opportunities businesses may face in the state.

Top Areas of Skilled Workers for Residents of Ohio

In Ohio, the depth and breadth of skill areas among the workforce are both wide-ranging and tightly linked to the state’s predominant industries. Not only do these industries provide significant employment opportunities, but they also play a significant role in the state’s economic stability and growth. Industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, transportation, logistics, information technology, and the burgeoning renewable energy sector are key players in Ohio’s economy.

The manufacturing industry in Ohio has a rich history, with the state standing as a national leader in machinery and automobile production. As a result, skilled manufacturing workers are in high demand. Whether it’s operating advanced machinery, quality assurance, or roles in production management, manufacturing offers a variety of career paths for Ohio residents.

Healthcare is another crucial area in Ohio, with a robust and ever-growing sector. The state’s numerous hospitals, research institutions, and healthcare providers require skilled workers ranging from clinical professionals, such as doctors and nurses, to non-clinical roles like health administrators, data analysts, and research scientists. As healthcare continues to evolve with advancements in medical technology and healthcare policy, the demand for a skilled workforce in this sector will persist.

Transportation and logistics, pivotal to Ohio due to its strategic location as a commercial-traffic gateway, also require a highly skilled workforce. Jobs in this sector extend beyond driving and delivery roles, including logistics planning, warehouse management, and supply chain optimization, to name a few.

The information technology sector in Ohio has witnessed significant growth, in line with global trends. As businesses increasingly rely on digital technologies, the demand for software developers, data analysts, cybersecurity experts, and other IT professionals is at an all-time high.

Lastly, Ohio’s emerging renewable energy sector creates new job opportunities for skilled workers. From engineers and technicians in wind and solar energy production to roles in energy policy and sustainability, this sector is an exciting area for growth.

Ohio’s commitment to education and workforce development aids the continuous supply of skilled labor to these industries. Community colleges, trade schools, and universities in the state offer many programs tailored to these industries’ needs. Career centers and state-run initiatives also provide continuous learning and skill-enhancement resources.

Overall, the interplay of these top industries, alongside Ohio’s focus on workforce development, creates a thriving ecosystem. It empowers residents with numerous opportunities to gain valuable skills, engage in rewarding careers, and ultimately contribute to the state’s economic prosperity.

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