Starting a Business in West Virginia – A Comprehensive Guide

How to Start a Business in West Virginia

If you’ve got a brilliant business idea and are considering where to bring it to life, West Virginia might be the place for you. Nestled amid the Appalachian Mountains, this state offers a unique environment for budding entrepreneurs. Welcome to our blog, which is designed to be a comprehensive resource for those considering starting a business in West Virginia. We aim to provide guidance on the benefits and challenges of entrepreneurship and share key insights to help ensure your success.

West Virginia's business community has much to offer those thinking about starting a businessTop Two Benefits of Starting a Business in West Virginia

  1. Cost-Effective Environment: Compared to many states in the U.S., West Virginia offers lower costs of living and doing business. This means reduced overheads, affordable rental spaces, and more capital to invest in your industry.
  2. Supportive Community: West Virginia boasts a tight-knit community that rallies behind local businesses. With various state-sponsored initiatives and training programs, entrepreneurs can tap into a wealth of resources and local support.


Top Two Challenges When Starting a Business in West Virginia

  1. Limited Market Size: West Virginia is a less populated state with a smaller customer base. This can be challenging for businesses that rely on a broad target audience.
  2. Infrastructure Hurdles: While the state is making progress, some areas in West Virginia may still face challenges related to transportation and technology infrastructure, which could be a concern for businesses needing top-notch connectivity and logistics.

To paint a clearer picture, did you know that small businesses make up approximately 98.9% of all companies in West Virginia? This speaks volumes about the entrepreneurial spirit of the state. Join us as we dive deeper into how you can harness this potential and make your business idea thrive in the Mountain State.

Regulatory Factors and Taxes in West Virginia

Starting a business in West Virginia involves understanding the state’s regulatory factors and tax structures, which is crucial for any entrepreneur. One Of the primary taxes companies need to be aware of is the state’s corporate net income tax, which stands at 6.5%. This is a tax levied on businesses’ federal taxable income after modifications.

Furthermore, West Virginia imposes a sales tax, which businesses must collect and remit to the state. As of now, the general state sales tax rate is 6%. However, West Virginia municipalities can impose additional local sales taxes, which can affect the total sales tax a customer pays. Therefore, it’s essential for businesses, especially retailers, to be aware of both state and local rates in their operations area.

Additionally, there’s the business franchise tax, which is imposed on the privilege of doing business in the state. Thankfully for business owners, West Virginia has been phasing out this tax, and its rate has decreased steadily. Still, it’s a good idea for new businesses to check the current rate and understand if and how it might apply to them. Combining these taxes and potential local levies highlights the importance of thorough financial planning and research when starting and operating a business in West Virginia.

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  West 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  West Virginia
Sole Proprietorship 55-60%
Limited Liability Company (LLC) 20-25%
S-Corporation 10-12%
C-Corporation 3-5%
Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) 1-2%

The distribution of resources can differ based on the industry and location within the state. For the most up-to-date and trustworthy information, it’s recommended to seek advice from a legal counselor or local business expert.

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 West Virginia?

Obtaining an EIN is essential to start a business in West Virginia. This vital number is required when establishing a business entity, hiring employees, obtaining business licenses, or opening a business bank account in West 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 the 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 West Virginia – Important Registrations

The State Capitol of West Virginia, pictured here, is where programs to promote starting a business are administeredRegistering My Business Name

Launching your business in West Virginia involves registering your business name with the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office. This foundational step affirms your business’s lawful presence in the state. You can contact the office at (304) 558-8000 or explore their website at .

Registering a DBA (Doing Business As) If Relevant

If you plan on running your business under a name other than your own, it’s essential to register a DBA or “Doing Business As” with the Secretary of State’s Office. West Virginia has 55 counties, each with distinct local governance and stipulations. The state government’s website, , is a valuable resource for insights into local regulations and services.

Registering for Payroll, State Payroll Taxes, and Unemployment Insurance

To handle payroll taxes and unemployment insurance in West Virginia, you must set up an account with the West Virginia Division of Workforce Development. They can be accessed at , or you can contact them at (304) 558-2681.

Registering for Worker’s Compensation Insurance

Businesses in West Virginia are mandated to have worker’s compensation insurance. This insurance is obtainable from an authorized provider. If you use a  payroll service , they should also be able to provide worker’s comp.

Registering for Collecting Sales Tax

In West Virginia, businesses need to register for sales tax collection. This process can be completed through the West Virginia State Tax Department’s website: . Their helpline at (304) 558-3333 is available for further clarification.

Registering for Income Tax

West Virginia imposes a state corporate income tax. The current rate is 6.5%. The State Tax Department’s portal at  is a comprehensive resource for specifics on submissions and payments.

Registering to Pay Property Tax

For details related to property tax in West Virginia, you should connect with the tax office in your specific county. A broader overview and related resources can be found on the State Tax Department’s website under the Property Tax Division:

Permits for Starting a Business in West Virginia

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

At the State Level:  Starting a business in West Virginia often requires adherence to specific state-level regulations and potentially acquiring various permits. The West Virginia Secretary of State’s office can offer general guidance on state-level requirements. Their Business & Licensing division provides various resources and services that can help entrepreneurs identify necessary permits and licenses. It’s advisable to visit their website at or call them at (304) 558-8000 to get started.

Check With Your City:  Depending on your business’s nature and location, you may also need to secure permits at the city level. City-specific regulations often revolve around zoning, signage, or business activities. You should visit your city’s official website or city clerk’s office for details. For example, if you’re in Charleston, their official website can guide you regarding city-specific business permits.

Check Federal Requirements.  For businesses that operate across state lines or are involved in specialized industries like alcohol, tobacco, or firearms, federal permits may be needed. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) can be a handy resource to verify any federal requirements. Their website, , provides a guide on federal business licenses and permits.

Check With Your County:  Lastly, some counties in West Virginia have specific rules or permit requirements for certain business activities. It’s crucial to consult with your county’s commission or courthouse to ensure you’re getting all the local-level permits. Most counties will have a development or business office that handles these queries.

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

When it comes to specialized permits, understanding the requirements tailored to your business type and activities is key.

  1. Industry Associations:  Many industries have specific associations or organizations that offer guidance on standards and regulations. Joining these groups or accessing their resources can provide clarity on special permits.
  2. West Virginia Development Office:  This office provides resources and tools for businesses in the state. They can guide you on specialized manufacturing, tourism, or natural resource permits. Visit their website at  for detailed help.
  3. Local Business Workshops and Seminars:  Many communities in West Virginia hold workshops and seminars to assist local entrepreneurs. These events can be invaluable for learning about unique permit requirements or networking with experienced business owners in your industry.
  4. Legal Counsel:  Consulting with a local business attorney can benefit complex businesses or those in highly regulated industries. They can clarify any specialized permits and ensure your business stays compliant.
  5. Chambers of Commerce:  Local chambers often have a wealth of knowledge about area-specific regulations and permit requirements. Joining or consulting your local chamber can be an efficient way to access this information.

By utilizing these resources, entrepreneurs can ensure they know of any special permits necessary to operate their businesses legally and effectively in West Virginia.

Financing Options for Entrepreneurs in West Virginia

While many entrepreneurs initially consider tapping into their personal assets or even maxing out their credit cards to fund their business endeavors, West Virginia offers many other financing options. Diversifying sources of funds can provide financial stability, ensuring that personal financial health remains separate from business ventures.

Financing a New Business

It’s imperative for businesses, especially startups, to identify and secure credible funding sources. Financing options can range from grants, which don’t require repayment, to seeking investments from venture capitalists or angel investors who, in exchange, often seek equity in the business. Regardless of the chosen financing method, thorough research is pivotal. Ensuring the credibility and terms of any financial agreement can be the difference between success and financial difficulty.

SBA Loans and Microloans

The Small Business Administration (SBA) is committed to bolstering the success of small businesses through various loan programs. One of the noteworthy programs is the microloan initiative, which caters specifically to businesses that require small, short-term funding solutions. These microloans offer swift access to funds, facilitating immediate business needs. For comprehensive details about SBA’s microloan programs and more, entrepreneurs can visit  this link .

SBA Microlenders in West Virginia

Below are some SBA microlenders specific to West Virginia:

The Center for Rural Health Development, Inc.

75 Chase Dr. Hurricane, WV 25526

Phone: (304) 397-4071


First Microloan of West Virginia

Phone: (304) 760-8600


Kanawha Institute for Social Research & Action (KISRA)        

Reginald Jones

131 Perkins Avenue, Dunbar WV, 25064

Phone: (304) 768-8924



State and Local Grants and Incentives

West Virginia is committed to nurturing its local businesses. Mountain State supports startups and small businesses through state and local grants and incentives in their initial phase and expansion.

West Virginia Division of Economic Development

Provides grants and incentives specifically tailored for businesses in West Virginia.


West Virginia Department of Commerce Grants

Facilitates a variety of grants for economic development and business expansions.


Angel Investor Groups

Angel investors, often experienced entrepreneurs, play a vital role in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. They bring in capital and offer industry connections, mentorship, and guidance. In West Virginia, angel investors can be a boon for startups, providing them with the financial leverage necessary in the initial stages of their business.

The importance of angel investors extends beyond mere financial support. Their insights, industry expertise, and strategic decision-making can steer a startup in the right direction. Moreover, having an angel investor makes the business more attractive to subsequent investors.

For those in West Virginia, resources like the  West Virginia Angel Investors Network  offer a platform to connect startups with potential investors. Joining local entrepreneurial meetups, networking events, and business seminars can also provide opportunities to meet and pitch to potential angel investors.

Benefits of a Well-Structured Business Plan

In the picturesque valleys and vibrant cities of West Virginia, businesses big and small are the backbone of the state’s economy. For these businesses, a well-structured business plan isn’t merely a paper exercise; it’s a roadmap to success in a competitive market. A comprehensive business plan in West Virginia clarifies the local market conditions, sheds light on potential competition, and outlines a clear path for growth in the state’s unique economic environment.

One of the significant advantages of a robust business plan in West Virginia is that it helps entrepreneurs gain an in-depth understanding of the local consumer demographics. With a rich mix of urban and rural communities, consumer behaviors and needs can vary drastically from one county to another. A well-researched business plan helps segment these markets and tailor offerings to cater to the specific needs of West Virginians. Additionally, by identifying key industry players and potential partners within the state, businesses can leverage local networks, resources, and partnerships to improve their operational efficiency drastically.

Executing a proper business plan is equally vital. For businesses in West Virginia, this entails regular reviews and updates to the plan, ensuring it remains aligned with the changing economic landscape of the state. Seeking feedback from local business associations, chambers of commerce, and potential customers can offer invaluable insights. Moreover, for those seeking funding or investments, West Virginia’s local banks and financial institutions give precedence to businesses with a clear, structured plan that showcases a deep understanding of the local market. In conclusion, a well-structured business plan in West Virginia isn’t just a tool for direction; it’s a testament to a business’s commitment to understanding, serving, and growing within the Mountain State.

Meeting Lender and Investor Expectations

When seeking capital to fund a venture, whether it’s a startup or an expansion of an existing business, meeting the expectations of lenders and investors is paramount. These financial stakeholders are about to take a risk by placing their trust—and their money—into a business proposition. Hence, they’re not just looking for assurance on paper; they want to be convinced that the business is a viable venture and offers a return on their investment. Their expectations are rooted in objective criteria, like financial health and growth prospects, and subjective criteria, such as trust in the business’s leadership.

Businesses must be thorough, transparent, and professional to meet these expectations. Firstly, a well-structured business plan is crucial—it outlines the business’s goals, strategies, and financial forecasts, offering a tangible insight into its future. But beyond the plan, companies should be prepared with data and metrics that showcase their performance, growth, and profitability potential. This means having clear financial statements, analyses of market trends, and details of competitive positioning. The way this information is presented is equally vital.

Professionalism in communication, punctuality in meetings, and responsiveness to queries demonstrate seriousness and commitment to potential lenders and investors. Lastly, honesty is indispensable. Overpromising and under-delivering can tarnish a business’s reputation in the investment community. Presenting a realistic picture is essential, even if it means acknowledging challenges. Often, investors respect and appreciate forthrightness, viewing it as a sign of a business’s maturity and integrity. In essence, meeting lender and investor expectations isn’t just about showcasing profitability—it’s about building trust, demonstrating commitment, and ensuring clarity in every interaction.

Where Can I Find a Mentor to Help Me Succeed?

Mentorship is invaluable, particularly for those who understand the unique dynamics of a state’s business landscape. In West Virginia, mentors are often seasoned professionals who deeply understand the state’s industries, opportunities, and challenges.

West Virginia provides a robust framework of organizations and platforms to nurture its budding entrepreneurs. Here are some of the top resources that aspiring businesspeople in the state can tap into:

West Virginia SCORE : A partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), West Virginia SCORE provides free mentoring to businesses. With a wealth of workshops, tools, and resources, they guide businesses at every step of their journey.

Phone: 1-800-634-0245


West Virginia Small Business Development Center (WV SBDC) : Offering diverse services ranging from business plan creation to financial insights, the WV SBDC is a pivotal touchpoint for new and seasoned entrepreneurs.

Phone: (304) 558-2960


West Virginia Women’s Business Center : Designed to empower women entrepreneurs, this center provides hands-on business development training, comprehensive counseling, and various networking opportunities.



TechConnect West Virginia : Focusing on innovation and technology-driven entrepreneurship, TechConnect offers programs, events, and resources tailored to the needs of modern businesses in West Virginia.

Phone: (304) 444-2918


By utilizing these West Virginia-centric resources, entrepreneurs can gain the insights and support essential for thriving in the state’s dynamic business arena.

The Economy of West Virginia

West Virginia has strong schools for developing talent to help start a businessIt is essential to thoroughly understand West Virginia’s economy before starting a business venture in the state. Such knowledge gives an entrepreneur the tools to target products or services better, understand the purchasing power and preferences of the local populace, and make informed strategic decisions.

Economic Overview

Average Household Income

The median household income in West Virginia stands at approximately $50,884. This figure is slightly lower when compared to the national average. For new businesses, this could indicate a price-sensitive market or one that prefers value-driven products and services. Recognizing this economic reality can help entrepreneurs shape their offerings to meet local needs and preferences.

Average Level of Education

In West Virginia, around 85% of the population aged 25 and over have completed high school. Furthermore, about 19.9% of West Virginians possess a bachelor’s degree or higher. These numbers highlight a workforce with a strong foundation of basic education, with a significant portion having advanced academic achievements. For businesses, this can translate to a well-educated potential workforce and consumer base that values quality and informed purchasing decisions.

Consumer Spending per Capita

West Virginia’s Consumer Spending per Capita is approximately $37,206. While this figure might be lower than in some other states, it still represents a significant amount of capital in the hands of consumers. Entrepreneurs should interpret this as potential market penetration, especially if they can cater to West Virginian consumers’ demands and constraints.

In conclusion, any entrepreneur eyeing West Virginia for a new venture should thoroughly understand these economic indicators. They don’t just provide raw numbers but also illuminate the economic landscape, highlighting challenges and unveiling opportunities. An informed approach, shaped by these insights, can make the difference between business success and failure in the Mountain State.

Top Industries in West Virginia:

West Virginia has traditionally been known for its vast coal reserves, and the coal industry has played a dominant role in the state’s economy for decades. In recent years, the coal industry has faced challenges due to shifts in energy policies and market demands, but it remains a significant contributor to the state’s revenues. West Virginia is the second-largest coal-producing state in the U.S., accounting for about 10% of the nation’s total coal production.

Another key industry in West Virginia is chemical manufacturing. The state is home to a sizable petrochemical and specialty chemical industry, producing various products from polymers to industrial chemicals. The chemical industry benefits from the state’s rich natural gas reserves, providing a readily available raw material. The state’s location, with easy access to major markets in the Midwest and the East Coast, makes it an attractive hub for chemical manufacturers.

Tourism is another pillar of West Virginia’s economy. The state’s lush mountains, scenic beauty, and outdoor recreational activities attract millions of visitors yearly. Activities such as whitewater rafting, hiking, and skiing make it a popular destination for adventure enthusiasts. The state’s tourism industry supports thousands of jobs and brings significant revenue to local economies.

While these traditional industries remain crucial for West Virginia, the state has also witnessed emerging sectors’ growth. For instance, aerospace manufacturing is steadily growing, with several companies setting up regional operations. Information technology and healthcare are also expanding, diversifying the state’s economic base. With these evolving sectors, West Virginia strategically positions itself for future growth and attracts a new generation of businesses and 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:  In today’s fast-paced business environment, it is advantageous for companies to recognize and collaborate with compatible businesses. By doing so, organizations can enhance their service offerings, expand their customer base, and access new markets without necessarily diversifying their core operations. Partnering with a complementary business also provides opportunities for cost-sharing, co-marketing, and potentially increasing overall profitability. For instance, a coffee shop paired with a bookstore creates an ambiance where customers can sip their favorite brew while diving into a good read, benefiting both establishments.

Leverage Workforce Talent:   The workforce is the backbone of any successful business. Leveraging employees’ diverse skills, knowledge, and experiences can greatly enhance productivity and innovation. Companies that invest in continuous training, encourage knowledge sharing, and promote a culture of lifelong learning are better positioned to adapt to industry changes. By harnessing its workforce’s unique talents and perspectives, a business can foster creativity, drive product or service improvements, and maintain a competitive edge in its market.

Collaborate with Industry Leaders:  Collaboration with industry leaders and pioneers allows businesses to tap into a reservoir of expertise, best practices, and influential networks. Such associations can lead to mentorship opportunities, strategic partnerships, or joint ventures. By aligning with recognized leaders, businesses can gain credibility, improve their market positioning, and access resources or insights that might have been out of reach. Furthermore, these partnerships can accelerate growth by opening doors to new customers, markets, or technologies.

Workforce and Talent

Understanding the demographics and attributes of the workforce and talent in a region is critical for businesses. Knowledge about potential employees’ skill sets, education levels, and work ethic gives businesses a competitive edge in recruitment and operational strategy. By tailoring their approaches based on these insights, companies can make informed decisions that optimize their workforce and cater to the strengths of their region.

Unemployment Rate

The unemployment rate in West Virginia is at 3.30%. An unemployment rate higher than the national average suggests a significant pool of available labor. While businesses might find a readily available workforce advantageous, they should also be aware of the potential economic challenges reflected in this rate. Such conditions could affect business decisions and strategies in the state.

Minimum Wage

In West Virginia, the minimum is set at $8.75 per hour. This rate can influence the cost of doing business, particularly for industries that rely on entry-level positions. While it’s below the wage in some other states, businesses need to consider this when budgeting for labor costs and setting pricing strategies.

Average Age and Demographics

West Virginia has a median age of approximately 42.7 years. The gender distribution is fairly even, with females making up about 50.5% of the population and males representing around 49.5%. These statistics give businesses insights into the primary age groups, they might cater to and can influence marketing, product development, and service offerings. For instance, businesses in the healthcare or retirement sectors might find ample opportunities in regions with an older demographic.

Breakdown of People with Various Levels of Education

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

  • Approximately 20% hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • Around 85% have a high school diploma or equivalent.
  • About 15% do not have a high school diploma.

In summary, a clear understanding of the workforce, its attributes, and regional demographics equips businesses to operate more effectively and tailor their strategies. West Virginia’s unique workforce profile and educational landscape offer opportunities and challenges, making it essential for companies to stay informed and adapt accordingly.

Top Areas of Skilled Workers for Residents of West Virginia

West Virginia’s diverse economic landscape stems from a deep-seated industrial history supplemented by emerging sectors. Among its strengths is the versatile skill set of its residents, which offers vast opportunities for employment and entrepreneurial endeavors.

Historically, coal mining has been the backbone of West Virginia’s economy. Even as the coal industry faces challenges, the state’s coal miners have amassed expertise in equipment operation, safety measures, and specialized underground techniques. These skills have broader applicability; they’re valuable in other resource extraction fields, tunneling, and even large-scale infrastructure projects.

The healthcare sector is another promising avenue. Given West Virginia’s aging demographic, there’s a substantial demand for healthcare professionals. The state’s medical landscape requires skilled nurses, caregivers, physicians, and technicians, especially those specializing in elder care and home health services.

The chemical industry has long roots in West Virginia. Professionals adept in chemical processing, laboratory testing, and safety procedures aren’t just confined to traditional roles. They are finding newer opportunities in the growing biotech sector, emphasizing the adaptability of their skills.

With its breathtaking Appalachian Mountains and picturesque rivers, West Virginia is a haven for nature lovers. This natural beauty underscores the state’s potential in the tourism and hospitality sector. Professionals skilled in hospitality, outdoor recreation, and event management are in a prime position to enhance the tourism experience, showcasing the state’s innate charm to visitors from all over.

An emerging area of growth is the aerospace and defense sector. West Virginia’s move into aerospace parts manufacturing and research opens doors for skilled machinists, engineers, and quality control specialists. These roles, demanding precision and technological understanding, are crucial in commercial aviation and defense-oriented projects.

In essence, West Virginia’s skilled workforce is poised to tap into many opportunities with its blend of traditional and modern expertise. By leveraging these skills, they can ensure that they remain at the forefront of the state’s evolving economic narrative.

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