Starting a Business in Virginia – A Comprehensive Guide

How to Start a Business in Virginia

If you have a business idea and consider Virginia your launchpad, you’re in the right place. This blog post will serve as a valuable resource, providing you with the essential information you need to navigate the process of starting a business in the Old Dominion.

State capitol of Virginia where programs for helping to start a business are administeredTop Two Benefits of Starting a Business in Virginia

  1. Business-Friendly Environment:  Virginia consistently ranks high in terms of business-friendliness. The state offers a robust infrastructure, a strong workforce, and a strategic location that provides easy access to key markets.
  2. Supportive State Policies:  Virginia provides a variety of incentives for businesses, including tax credits, grants, and financing programs. These incentives and a relatively low corporate tax rate make it an attractive place for entrepreneurs.

Top Two Challenges When Starting a Business in Virginia

  1. Regulatory Compliance:  Like any other state, Virginia has its business regulations, and compliance can be complex. Navigating the various permits, licenses, and regulations can be daunting for new business owners.
  2. Cost of Living:  While Virginia offers many benefits, it’s worth noting that the cost of living can be high in certain areas, particularly in and around major cities. This can impact business expenses, especially if your business requires a physical location.

Did you know? Virginia is home to over 720,000 small businesses, making up about 99.5% of all Virginia businesses. This shows the state’s strong entrepreneurial spirit and potential for new companies.

Regulatory Factors and Taxes in Virginia

Understanding the regulatory factors and tax obligations is crucial when starting a business in Virginia. Companies in Virginia are subject to several taxes. Virginia’s state corporate income tax rate is a flat 6%, which is relatively low compared to other states.

In addition to the corporate income tax, businesses in Virginia are also subject to a state sales tax. The general sales and use tax rate is 4.3%. There is also an additional 1% local tax for a 5.3% combined sales tax on most goods and services. Certain areas have a different regional tax of 0.7%, making the total sales tax rate 6% in those areas.

Another tax to consider is the Virginia Gross Receipts Tax, also known as the Business, Professional, and Occupational License Tax (BPOL). The BPOL tax is levied on businesses’ gross receipts, and the rates can vary depending on the locality and the type of business.

If your business has employees, you must account for unemployment insurance tax. The Virginia Employment Commission determines the tax rate annually, ranging from 0.11% to 6.21% on the first $8,000 in wages paid to each employee during a calendar year.

It’s important to remember that tax laws can change, and it’s always a good idea to consult with a tax professional or the Virginia Department of Taxation for the most current information.

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  Virginia 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.


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.


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  Virginia
Sole Proprietorship 60-65%
Limited Liability Company (LLC) 15-20%
S-Corporation 7-9%
C-Corporation 5-7%
Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) 1-3%

The distribution of the resources varies depending on the industry and location within the state. To obtain the latest and most reliable information, it is advisable to consult a legal counselor or a local business specialist.

What is an Employer Identification Number – EIN?

Definition of an EIN or Employer Identification Number

An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is a unique identifier consisting of nine digits the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) assigns to businesses operating in the United States. This number is crucial for business owners as it simplifies tax administration and is also commonly referred to as the Federal Tax Identification Number or the Federal Employer Identification Number.

Do I Need One to Start a Business in Virginia?

Obtaining an EIN is essential to start a business in Virginia. This vital number is required when establishing a business entity, hiring employees, obtaining business licenses, or opening a business bank account in Virginia. Failure to obtain an EIN can result in significant financial penalties and legal ramifications.

How Do I Get One?

To secure an EIN, you can visit the IRS website and complete the application process online. This method is quick and convenient, providing you with the number immediately after completing the application. Alternatively, you can submit Form SS-4 to the IRS via mail or fax. If you need additional assistance or require more information, you can reach out to the IRS at 1-800-829-4933 or visit their website at .It is important to note that an EIN’s application process is free of charge.

How to Start a Business in Virginia – Important Registrations

Virginia boasts a booming port and strong military underpinning creating   opportunities for business startupsRegistering My Business Name

To get your business up and running in Virginia, register your business name with the Virginia State Corporation Commission. This step is crucial in establishing your business’s legal presence in the state. You can contact the office at (804) 371-9733 or visit their website at .

Registering a DBA (Doing Business As) If Relevant

If your business operates under a name different from yours, you must register a DBA or “Doing Business As” with the Virginia State Corporation Commission. Virginia has 95 counties and 38 independent cities with local government services and regulations. The state government’s website, , can provide valuable information on local rules and requirements.

Registering for Payroll, State Payroll Taxes, and Unemployment Insurance

Managing payroll taxes and unemployment insurance in Virginia requires creating an account with the Virginia Employment Commission.

Registering for Worker’s Compensation Insurance

Businesses in Virginia are also required to secure worker’s compensation insurance. This insurance can be obtained from a licensed provider. If you use a  payroll service , they should also be able to provide worker’s comp.

Registering for Collecting Sales Tax

Businesses in Virginia must register for sales tax collection. This can be accomplished through the Virginia Department of Taxation’s website: . You can call them at (804) 367-8031 for more information.

Registering for Income Tax

Virginia does levy a state corporate income tax. For information about filing and payments, visit the Department of Taxation’s website at .

Registering to Pay Property Tax

For any inquiries about property tax in Virginia, it’s best to contact the tax office in your local county. For further information, visit the Virginia Department of Taxation’s website at .

Permits for Starting a Business in Virginia

Do I Need a Business Permit to Operate a Business in  Virginia?

At the State Level:  Certain types of businesses in Virginia may require a state-level permit or license to operate. The Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR) oversees the licensing and regulation of certain professions and occupations. You can check if your business falls under their purview by visiting their website at  or calling them at (804) 367-8500.

Check With Your City:  Each city in Virginia may have its specific business permit and license requirements. It’s important to check with your city’s local government office to ensure you have all the necessary permits. For example, in Richmond, you can visit the City of Richmond’s official website for more information.

Check Federal Requirements.  At the federal level, certain types of businesses, such as those involved in broadcasting, aviation, or selling alcohol, tobacco, or firearms, may require federal licenses or permits. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) provides a comprehensive guide to federal business licenses and permits on its website at .

Check With Your County:  Remember to check with your county government. Some counties in Virginia may require additional permits or licenses. For example, if you’re in Fairfax County, you can visit Fairfax County’s official website at  or call them at (703) 324-7329 for more information.

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

To learn about any special permits your business might need, there are several resources you can explore. The Virginia Business One Stop website at  Virginia Business One Stop  is a comprehensive resource that provides information on starting, operating, and growing a business in Virginia, including details on specific permits and licenses.

Another resource is the Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity (SBSD) at . They offer many resources and services for small businesses, including information on special permits and licenses.

Lastly, industry-specific associations and organizations can provide valuable insights into special permits and licenses. For example, suppose you’re in the restaurant business. In that case, the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association (VRLTA) at  can provide specific information about the permits and licenses required in the hospitality industry.

Financing Options for Entrepreneurs in Virginia

Starting a business requires capital, and while personal assets and credit cards can be used, there may be more sustainable or advisable options. Entrepreneurs must explore various financing options to make the best decisions for their business’s long-term success.

Financing a New Business

Securing credible funding sources is a critical step in launching a new business. Beyond personal savings, entrepreneurs can consider options like grants, essentially free money that doesn’t need to be repaid, or investments from venture capitalists or angel investors, who provide funding in exchange for equity in the business. It’s crucial to do thorough research to understand the terms and implications of each financing option and to choose the one that best aligns with your business goals.

SBA Loans and Microloans

The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers various loan programs to support small businesses, including microloans. These small, short-term loans provide immediate access to funds for small businesses, helping them manage cash flow, purchase equipment, or even expand operations. More information about SBA microloans can be found at .

SBA Microlenders in Virginia

Below are some SBA microlenders specific to Virginia:

Community Investment Collaborative

Address: 806 East High Street, Charlottesville, VA 22902

Phone: (434) 218-3481


Virginia Community Capital

Address: 7814 Carousel Lane, Suite 100, Richmond, VA 23294

Phone: (804) 344-5484


People Incorporated Financial Services

Address: 1173 West Main Street, Abingdon, VA 24210

Phone: (276) 619-2235


ECDC Enterprise Development Group

Haddish Welday

Address: 901 South Highland Street, Arlington, VA 22204



People Incorporated Financial Services

Cindy Green

Address: 1173 West Main St. Abingdon, VA  24210


State and Local Grants and Incentives

Virginia offers a variety of state and local grants and incentives that can help small businesses get started or expand their operations.

  1. Virginia Small Business Financing Authority (VSBFA)  The VSBFA offers a variety of direct loan and grant programs to help small businesses. More information can be found on their website:
  2. Virginia Economic Development Incentive Grant (VEDIG)  This discretionary incentive is available to assist and encourage companies to invest and create new employment opportunities by locating significant headquarters, administrative, or service sector operations in Virginia. More information can be found here:

Angel Investor Groups

Angel investor groups can be a valuable resource for entrepreneurs seeking funding. These individuals or groups provide startup capital, usually in exchange for ownership equity. They can also offer valuable mentorship and guidance based on their business experiences.

In Virginia, there are several resources for finding angel investors. The Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) maintains a list of active angel investor groups in Virginia .

Another resource is the Angel Capital Association, which has a directory of angel investor groups that can be filtered by location: .

Remember, while angel investors can provide much-needed capital and mentorship, it’s important to thoroughly research any potential investors to ensure they’re a good fit for your business.

Benefits of a Well-Structured Business Plan

A well-structured business plan is a crucial tool for any entrepreneur in Virginia. It serves as a roadmap, outlining your business’s goals and detailing your strategies. With its diverse economy and competitive business environment, a clear, comprehensive business plan can set your venture apart in a state like Virginia.

One of the key benefits of a well-structured business plan is that it helps you understand the market conditions in Virginia. The state is home to various industries, from technology and defense to agriculture and tourism. A good business plan includes market research that identifies your target customers, analyzes your competitors, and understands the specific challenges and opportunities in your sector within the state.

A business plan also helps in financial planning. It can help you estimate startup costs and project sales and anticipate expenses. This is particularly important in Virginia, where costs vary widely depending on location and industry. For example, renting office space in Northern Virginia may be significantly higher than in other parts of the state.

To ensure a proper business plan, businesses can seek help from local resources such as the Virginia Small Business Development Center (SBDC) network, which offers business plan development assistance. Additionally, using business plan software or hiring a professional business plan writer can also be beneficial.

Meeting Lender and Investor Expectations

Meeting lender and investor expectations is crucial for any business seeking external funding. Lenders and investors want to see that you have a solid understanding of your business and its market and a clear plan for using the funds you seek and generating a return on investment.

One of the best ways to meet these expectations is through a well-prepared business plan. This document should provide a detailed business overview, including your products or services, market analysis, marketing and sales strategies, and financial projections. It should also include information about your team and their qualifications, which can give lenders and investors confidence in your ability to execute your plan.

In addition to a business plan, lenders and investors often look for evidence of financial stability and good credit. Regular financial statements and a strong credit history can demonstrate your financial responsibility and increase your chances of securing funding. Remember, every lender or investor may have different expectations, so it’s important to research and tailor your approach to each potential funder.

Where Can I Find a Mentor to Help Me Succeed?

The guidance of a seasoned mentor can be instrumental in navigating the entrepreneurial landscape of Virginia. Mentors can share invaluable insights, practical advice, and industry-specific knowledge to help new businesses thrive in this diverse state.

Virginia offers a robust array of resources dedicated to nurturing its entrepreneurial spirit. The following are notable options for those seeking mentorship and support:

Virginia SCORE:  This affiliate of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) provides free mentorship to businesses at all stages of development. They also offer cost-effective workshops and a wealth of online resources.

Phone: (804) 350-3569


Virginia SBDC:  Offering a wide array of services, including business plan assistance and financial analysis, the Virginia Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) is an invaluable resource for startups and existing businesses.

Phone: (703) 277-7727


Startup Virginia:  This organization nurtures startups by providing entrepreneurial mentorship, strategic connections, and a wide range of business resources.

Phone: (804) 256-5191


By leveraging these resources, entrepreneurs in Virginia can equip themselves with the necessary knowledge and support to thrive in the state’s dynamic business environment.

The Economy of Virginia

Understanding the economy of Virginia is crucial when starting a business in the state. Economic factors such as household income, education levels, and consumer spending can significantly impact the success of your business. These factors can help you understand your target market, set realistic goals, and make informed decisions about your business strategy.

Economic Overview

Average Household Income

The median household income in Virginia is approximately $80,615. This figure is higher than the national average, indicating a relatively affluent population. This could mean a higher purchasing power among consumers, which can benefit businesses, especially those in the retail, dining, and luxury goods sectors.

Average Level of Education

Regarding education, about 90.5% of Virginians aged 25 and over have completed high school, and approximately 38.1% hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. These figures are above the national average, suggesting a well-educated population. This could indicate a strong workforce and a market that values quality products and services.

Consumer Spending per Capita

Consumer spending per capita in Virginia is approximately $42,757. This figure is higher than the national average, indicating that Virginians have a relatively high level of disposable income. This could mean a strong market for businesses, particularly those in sectors where discretionary spending is high.

Understanding these economic factors is crucial when starting a business in Virginia. They can provide insights into the state’s market conditions, helping you tailor your business plan, set realistic goals, and make strategic decisions to ensure the success of your business.

Top Industries in Virginia:

Virginia boasts a diverse economy, with several key industries contributing significantly to its growth. One of the top industries in the state is the technology sector. Virginia has the highest concentration of technology workers in the United States, accounting for over 10% of the state’s workforce. The state’s tech industry includes sectors like software development, cybersecurity, and data centers.

Another major industry in Virginia is the defense sector. The state hosts the Pentagon and several major military bases, contributing to a strong defense and aerospace industry. Virginia also has one of the nation’s largest concentrations of veterans, further bolsters this sector.

The government sector is also a significant part of Virginia’s economy, particularly in Northern Virginia, home to numerous federal agencies and contractors. The proximity to Washington, D.C., makes Virginia a strategic location for government-related businesses.

Tourism is another key industry in Virginia. The state’s rich history, natural beauty, and cultural attractions draw millions of visitors annually. Tourism in Virginia generated $27 billion in revenue and supported over 237,000 jobs.

Looking to the future, several emerging industries show promise in Virginia. The state is becoming a hub for the renewable energy sector, particularly offshore wind energy. The biotechnology sector is also growing, focusing on research and development, testing, and medical laboratories.

In conclusion, understanding these key industries can provide valuable insights for anyone looking to start a business in Virginia. The state’s diverse economy offers opportunities across a wide range of sectors, and its commitment to innovation and growth bodes well for the future of business in the region.

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:  Identifying complementary businesses in Virginia’s diverse business landscape can open up strategic partnerships and collaboration opportunities. For instance, a cybersecurity startup might partner with an established tech firm to offer comprehensive IT solutions. Or a local farm could team up with a restaurant to provide fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. These collaborations can help businesses expand their customer base, improve their product or service offerings, and increase their market reach.

Leverage Workforce Talent:   Virginia boasts a highly educated and skilled workforce, which businesses can leverage to drive innovation and growth. The state’s strong emphasis on education and professional development, coupled with its strategic location near several top-tier universities, provides businesses with access to a talent pool that is diverse and highly specialized. Whether it’s tech professionals for a software company or experienced policy experts for a government consulting firm, businesses in Virginia can tap into the state’s workforce talent to gain a competitive edge.

Collaborate with Industry Leaders:  Collaborating with industry leaders can provide businesses in Virginia with valuable insights, mentorship, and resources. Whether through formal partnerships, networking events, or industry associations, these collaborations can help companies to stay abreast of industry trends, gain exposure to new ideas and technologies, and build relationships that can lead to future opportunities. For example, a small biotech firm might collaborate with a larger pharmaceutical company to gain access to advanced research tools and expertise.

Workforce and Talent

Understanding the demographics and characteristics of Virginia’s workforce and talent pool is crucial for any business. This information can help businesses identify the skills available in the labor market, plan their recruitment strategies, and tailor their products or services to the local population.

Unemployment Rate

According to the most recent statistics, the unemployment rate in Virginia is approximately 2.90%. This is lower than the national average, indicating a relatively healthy job market. However, it also means businesses may face more competition in attracting and retaining skilled workers.

Minimum Wage

The latest data shows Virginia’s minimum wage is $12 per hour. This figure will increase in the coming years, which could impact labor costs for businesses, particularly those in industries with a high proportion of minimum-wage workers.

Average Age and Demographics

The median age in Virginia is approximately 38.1 years. The population is roughly 50.8% female and 49.2% male. These demographics can have various implications for businesses. For example, healthcare or personal care businesses might find a significant market in Virginia due to the relatively high median age.

Breakdown of People with Various Levels of Education

Educational attainment among North Carolinians aged 25 and above is as follows:

  • Approximately 38.1% hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • Around 90.5% have a high school education.
  • About 9.5% have no high school diploma.

Understanding these workforce and demographic factors is essential for businesses in Virginia. They provide insights into the labor market and the potential customer base, helping companies to make informed decisions about recruitment, product development, and marketing strategies.

Top Areas of Skilled Workers for Residents of Virginia

Virginia is a thriving state with an excellent environment for starting a businessVirginia’s diverse economy is supported by a workforce that is skilled in a variety of areas. Some of the state’s top areas of skilled workers include technology, defense, government, and tourism.

Virginia boasts a high concentration of workers skilled in software development, cybersecurity, and data analysis in the technology sector. These skills are in high demand, and businesses in this sector can find ample opportunities for growth and innovation.

The defense sector in Virginia is another area with a high concentration of skilled workers. With several major military bases and defense contractors in the state, there are opportunities for businesses that provide services or products related to defense and security.

Government is another significant sector in Virginia, particularly in Northern Virginia, home to numerous federal agencies and contractors. Skilled workers in this area can find policy analysis, consulting, and government relations opportunities.

Finally, Virginia’s thriving tourism industry offers opportunities for those skilled in hospitality, event planning, and customer service. With the state’s rich history and natural beauty attracting millions of visitors yearly, this sector has ample business opportunities.

The diverse skills of Virginia’s workforce provide a wide range of opportunities for businesses in the state. Whether you’re looking to start a tech company, a defense contractor, a government consulting firm, or a tourism business, you’ll find a skilled workforce ready to help your business succeed.

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