How to Start a Small Business in Illinois

by Adele Nicholas; Updated September 26, 2017
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Starting a successful small business in Illinois requires more than just a good idea and a catchy name. Illinois business owners face a host of regulations at the state, county and local level. However, Illinois also provides many resources that can help a new business get off to a successful start.

Register Your Business

Start by registering your business with the appropriate government agency. If you plan to structure your business as a partnership, corporation or limited liability company, you will register with the Illinois Secretary of State. If you want to operate as a sole proprietorship, you will register with the clerk of the county where you plan to open your business. Most businesses also are required to register with the Illinois Department of Revenue. To complete the registration process, you will need to provide information about the owners of the business, where the business is located, and who will serve as the "registered agent," meaning the individual authorized to accept legal documents for the business.

Explore Resources

The Illinois Small Business Development Center Network is a group of government agencies that offer free or low-cost resources to small business owners in the state. For instance, you can obtain census data that can help you decide where to locate your business, one-on-one training about operating a business, and financial and tax guidance. The Small Business Administration offers in-person workshops and seminars at locations in Chicago and Springfield, and many publications are available online through the SBA's website.

Obtain Required Licenses

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation requires professionals in certain industries to apply for a special license from the state before providing services to the public. The state regulates a wide range of occupations, including child care, physical therapy, nursing, architecture, interior design and cosmetology. Businesses or individuals operating in regulated industries without the required licenses not only can face fines and penalties, but also run the risk of being shut down by the state.

Consider City Permits

Several major cities in Illinois, including Chicago, Rockford, Naperville and Springfield, have their own separate licensing requirements for small businesses. Each of these cities requires business owners to register with the city government and obtain permission to operate within the city limits. Even cities without their own licensing rules often impose their own regulations, taxes and fees on businesses. Before choosing a location for your business, be aware of not only the statewide requirements, but also any local rules in the specific cities in which you plan to operate.

About the Author

Adele Nicholas is a writer in Chicago. Since 2003, she has been a contributor to publications including Corporate Legal Times, ChicagoMag.com and InsideCounsel magazine. Nicholas holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from Northwestern University and a J.D. from the John Marshall Law School.

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