When it comes to starting a business, Maryland’s growing population and diverse economy offer great opportunities for entrepreneurs. In fact, the state is home to over 618,000 small businesses, making up 99.5% of all businesses within the state.
Maryland small businesses have a strong presence in a variety of industries, including professional services, retail and hospitality. Additionally, with small businesses accounting for 49.3% of all employees in the state, Maryland offers several programs and incentives to help new businesses succeed, including tax credits, grants and loan programs.
This seven-step guide covers everything you need to start a business, from brainstorming your business idea to finding ways to fund your venture.
Once you’ve got your business idea, create a website to jumpstart your venture.
Start a business in Maryland in 7 steps
01. Come up with a business idea
Before starting a business in Maryland, it’s essential to develop a great business idea that’s both viable and solves a specific problem or meets the needs of consumers in the state. Conducting research specific to Maryland’s market is crucial in this step.
In addition, consider your location and target market, as well as your interests, hobbies and experience. When you choose a business idea that you enjoy and are passionate about pursuing, you’re more likely to be successful at launching and growing your business.
To kickstart your research, here are some startup business ideas that would do well in Maryland’s market:
Consulting and professional services: With its strategic location, highly educated workforce and access to major markets, Maryland is an excellent location for small medium businesses that provide consulting and professional services, such as accounting, legal and marketing services.
Food and beverages: Maryland is known for its seafood and has a growing food and beverage industry, which includes farmers' markets, craft breweries and distilleries.
Ecommerce: With the rise of online shopping and the growth of the digital economy, starting an eCommerce business in Maryland could be a profitable opportunity.
Real estate and property management: Maryland has a strong housing market and a growing population, making it a good location for real estate and property management businesses.
Clean energy: Maryland's clean energy industry is on the rise, providing opportunities for solar, wind and geothermal energy companies.
Cybersecurity: Maryland is home to several major cybersecurity companies and government agencies, making it a great location for cybersecurity startups.
Biotechnology and life sciences: Maryland has a strong presence in the biotechnology and life sciences industries, with several major research institutions and companies in the state.
Towing: Interestingly, Maryland ranks as one of the top states where people spend the most on automobile towing services. You may want to consider offering a niche service like this and starting a tow truck business.
The best type of business to start will depend on your skills, interests and resources. Furthermore, your business idea doesn’t have to be completely original. Some of the most successful businesses in the world started by selling a product or service that already existed—and doing it differently. But, more importantly, ensure that your business idea is affordable, marketable and appropriate to your target audience in Maryland.
02. Choose a business type
Once you have a business idea, consider what business structure you’ll use. Each business entity impacts personal liability, taxes and accounting differently. Therefore, you may want to consult an accountant to determine which business structure is best for you and your business.
Here are the basic businesses types that can be established in Maryland:
Sole proprietorship: A business owned and operated by one individual with complete control and personal responsibility for all debts and obligations.
Partnership: A business entity where two or more individuals share ownership and management, with general or limited liability.
Corporation: A legal entity owned by shareholders and managed by a board of directors, with the ability to raise capital through stock sales and have perpetual existence.
Limited liability company (LLC): A business entity that combines liability protection of a corporation with tax benefits of a partnership, with limited liability for members and pass-through taxation.
Nonprofit: An organization with a specific purpose other than making a profit. A nonprofit organization is tax-exempt and governed by a board of directors. Any profits made must be reinvested back into the organization.
03. Name your Maryland business
When naming your business in Maryland, choose a business name that is memorable, unique, reflects your vision and resonates with your audience.
Think about what products or services you plan to offer and the vision you want to convey to your customers. It may help to brainstorm a list of keywords related to your business and then use the words to create unique combinations.
Complex words or phrases can make your business name harder to remember or spell, so keep it simple. Additionally, consider how you’ll represent your business in marketing materials. For example, what kind of logo design might work well with your chosen business name, and is your business name available as a domain name?
Finally, consider registering your business name as a trademark to protect it from being used by another business, checking first that it’s available via the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) trademark search.
Looking for inspiration? Try Wix’s business name generator tool.
04. License and register your business in Maryland
It’s time to make your business official by submitting the required licensing and registration documents with Maryland and the federal government. When you register a business, check with your local and state government for specific requirements for your business type, as the process and requirements may vary depending on your business type, location and the products or services that you offer.
The steps below will walk you through the process.
Register your business in Maryland: The first thing to do is register your business with the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation. You can register easily using the online filing portal on Maryland’s Business Express website.
Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN): This is a federal tax identification number that is required for businesses that have employees or that file taxes. You can apply for an EIN online through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website.
Apply for Maryland tax accounts: Depending on your business entity and the types of products or services you sell, you may need to set up one or more Maryland tax and insurance accounts. Examples include sales and use tax, withholding tax and others. Tax accounts can be obtained via Maryland’s Business Express website.
Obtain licenses and permits: Certain industries are required to obtain licenses and permits from the state and/or local government. Maryland has created a OneStop registration portal for everything from mechanic and insurance licenses to real estate and home inspection registrations.
Get business insurance: The type of insurance you need depends on your industry, number of employees, business size and desired coverage. For example, if you plan on hiring employees, you’ll want to look into workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance. The Maryland Insurance Administration can assist with all types of business insurance.
05. Write your business plan
A well-crafted business plan tells the story of your business and outlines your vision, strategies and goals in a clear and compelling way.
Here are some key components to consider including in your plan:
Executive summary: A brief overview of your business, mission statement, target market, unique value proposition and financial goals.
Business description: A deeper look into your product or service, target customers and industry trends.
Market analysis: An analysis of your target market, including your competition, customer demographics and growth opportunities.
Marketing and sales strategies: An outline of your plans for marketing and selling your product or service, including pricing, distribution channels and promotional activities.
Operations plan: Details about how your business will operate on a day-to-day basis, including production processes, staffing needs and management structure.
Financial projections: A detailed financial analysis of your business, including revenue and expense projections, operating expenses, cash flow forecasts and break-even analysis.
Risk management plan: Potential risks and challenges that your business may face and outline strategies for mitigating those risks.
Your business plan is your roadmap and helps to guide future growth and direction. Every business faces challenges–some of which can lead to self-doubt or a lack of motivation. In times like these, having a detailed plan to reference can help you stay motivated and focused on why you started this new venture.
06. Secure funding for your business
There are several ways to raise money for a business in Maryland, including:
Self-funding: Using your savings or assets to start and grow your business is a common method used by many entrepreneurs that are just starting out.
Crowdfunding: This method involves raising money from multiple people, typically through an online platform, and can be a good option for your business if you have a compelling story or a unique product or service.
Angel investors: These are individuals who voluntarily invest in your business in exchange for equity. Angel investors are often successful entrepreneurs or professionals with a personal interest in the company.
Venture capital: Financing provided by venture capital firms to businesses with the potential for high growth. Venture capital firms typically invest in companies in the early stages of development with a high risk/high reward profile.
Small Business Administration (SBA) loans: The SBA offers various loan programs to small businesses, including loans that fund startups and help established companies or assist with purchasing commercial real estate and equipment.
Small Business Development Center (SBDC): SBDC offers consulting, training and information on how to access funding, it's a great resource for small business owners.
Maryland Small Business Financing Authority (MSBFA): The MSBFA offers a variety of loan programs to help businesses access the capital they need to start, grow and expand.
It's important to research and compare the options available and consult with a financial advisor or business counselor to determine the best funding options for your business.
07. Create a business website
Creating a business website is a great way to increase visibility around your Maryland business and, of course, land more sales. A well-designed website can help you build your brand, attract potential leads and establish brand credibility.
Start by choosing a business website template. Then, customize it to reflect your brand's personality and unique features. Consider your color scheme, typography, visual imagery and messaging to ensure that your website stands out from competitors.
To further engage with your visitors and drive conversions, focus on creating high-quality content that resonates with your target customer. Clearly communicate information about your products or services, plus provide your contact information and any store policies.
Read also: How to make a business website
After launching your website, promote it to attract relevant audiences. You can use email marketing, SEO and social media campaigns to increase your website's visibility and attract potential customers.
Business examples in Maryland
Here are a couple of examples of business websites, each of which use Wix to get online.
The Ratcliff Architects
Based in Baltimore, Ratcliffe Architects focuses on customization within the private commercial development and high-end residential sectors. Established in 2000, Ratcliffe’s designs can be seen throughout the community, from the Rock Springs Shopping Center to Pat’s Select Pizza.
Founded by Phyllis Brewer, TriVashion is focused on helping individuals develop a personal style that reflects their unique personality. Brewer’s mission is to empower clients and elevate their confidence and self-expression through fashion. She offers one-on-one styling sessions at her studio.
Mexican restaurant and Bar, FajitaGrande, is a family owned business located in Hagerstown, Maryland. They pride themselves on both their quality Tex Mex and authentic Mexican menus and their unique margaritas. They offer weekly happy hours and specials on drinks.