With its economy and population consistently growing, Ohio is arguably a great place to start a business.
Ohio’s economy has a strong focus in retail and healthcare, and in 2021 it had almost a million small businesses. Ohio has also long been known for its strong focus in food and agribusiness. It’s a center for food processing, packaging and distribution with a highly skilled workforce experienced in manufacturing and production.
With all this in mind, if you’re ready to start a business in the Buckeye State, we’ve outlined seven steps for you to follow to get your business off the ground.
Once you’ve got your business idea, create a website to jumpstart your venture.
Start a business in Ohio in 7 steps
01. Come up with a business idea
A great business idea is the foundation of starting any business. Coming up with a profitable idea will take research and some important decision making.
If you’re not sure where to start with your business idea, it's always best to think about your own strengths or experience. Are you good at something that could be turned into a business? Another way is to look at the competitive landscape around you—what other businesses seem to be successful? Or, what is missing in terms of product and service offerings in your area? This could help you establish your unique selling proposition (USP).
Your idea may be original in the market or it may improve on an existing service. Both can serve as successful and profitable businesses if set up and managed properly. But getting to that point will require a thorough understanding of your target audience and all of the other elements that go into running a business.
Ohio as a state has a diverse mix of urban and rural areas, so the business idea you choose may depend on your precise location. Here are a few business ideas that are currently popular in the state:
Manufacturing: Ohio is already home to many large manufacturers in the automotive, aerospace and food processing industries. A potentially viable option could be a business that serves them or their workforce.
Healthcare: The healthcare industry as a whole is currently a large employer in Ohio. The state also boasts large numbers of hospitals and clinics, making it a good place to offer home health care services, medical devices or apps, or alternative medicine.
Agriculture: Ohio is known for its large-scale production of soybeans, corn and other staple crops. It has a considerable and growing agribusiness focus, making it an ideal place to start a farm, landscaping or food business.
Logistics: As a centrally located state, Ohio works well as a logistics center. It’s a great location for a small medium business who can help to move goods and products across the country for logistics and distribution purposes.
Construction: Ohio’s growing population and industrial sectors are generating high demand for those starting a construction business, both residential and commercial. This makes it a promising environment for contractor businesses and tradespeople looking to launch a construction website and services.
The key to a profitable business is a well researched and planned business idea, getting that right from the start is crucial to the future success of your venture.
02. Choose a business type
When it comes to choosing business types, there are several to consider. The one you choose will determine not only how your business is registered, but how it must be legally managed, so it’s important to choose the right business structure from the get-go. Here are some examples:
In addition, the below business models have potential for success in Ohio:
Online businesses: Over the last decade how we conduct business, and how consumers choose and buy products and services has changed dramatically. In response, online businesses have grown in popularity and can be started from almost anywhere. An online business could be an eCommerce website, or it could be offering a physical service that can then be promoted and booked online. It may also be something that can be done completely online, such as starting a virtual assistant business or remote bookkeeping.
Service-based businesses: These are a great type of business to start with low overheads. They may be a better fit for urban areas of Ohio, over rural. They tend to do better in areas with larger, concentrated populations in need of businesses like home cleaning or pet sitting services.
Freelancing and consulting businesses: Consulting businesses, whether in marketing or business related, are popular small business options for professionals looking to start their own business. Taking your professional expertise and skills and turning them into a remote business is a great way to freelance in Ohio.
03. Name your Ohio business
Choosing a business name is an important step in setting up your new venture. There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing the right name. Consider the type of business you plan to start as well as your intended audience and target market.
When choosing your business name, consider your location for inspiration and to make sure your name will resonate with your audience in that location. Be careful of cultural and local sensitivities. Your business name will play a huge role in the branding and identity of your business so you want people to remember it for the right reasons.
Tip: Use a business name generator tool to find your perfect business name. Here are a few business name ideas: Buckeye Bites, Ohio Organics, The Rust Belt Revival.
Once you’ve come up with your business name, it’s a good idea to check if there is a relevant domain name available for your website. You can also visit the Ohio Secretary of State site for name compliance guidelines, and to ensure that your name isn’t already registered or trademarked by another business.
If you're in the clear, apply for a trademark and immediately claim all relevant accounts—including those for your domain, business email and social media—so that no one else beats you to it and forces you to start from scratch.
04. Write a business plan
Writing a business plan is an essential part of starting a business, regardless of its size. Even if you plan to start your business with a team of one, you’d still benefit from a comprehensive and well-researched business plan.
In general, a business plan includes an executive summary, concept statement and vision, research into your target market, analysis on competitors, funding plans, capital commitment and financial projections for once your business is off the ground.
A business plan should additionally include information like your business structure and how you plan to take your business from creation to profitability.
05. License and register your business in Ohio
When starting a business in Ohio, it’s important to understand the precise guidelines and steps to register a business. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind:
Once you've chosen your required business structure, you’ll need to file the appropriation formation documents with the Ohio Secretary of State.
Make sure to register with the Ohio Department of Taxation in preparation for any state taxes, including sales and payroll taxes, that your business might be liable for.
Obtain an employer identification number (EIN) for federal tax purposes. If you are planning on hiring employees or are registered as a partnership, LLC or corporation, you’ll need to apply for an EIN with the IRS.
Check with your local country and city regarding locally required permits and licenses. Requirements vary depending on your industry or business niche. Some industries, such as healthcare, food services and childcare, are often regulated and require specific licenses or certifications. If you plan to sell tangible goods, you’ll need a sales tax permit, for example. No matter what business idea you land on, understanding how to get a business license is a good idea.
Register for insurance. As an employer in Ohio, you must obtain unemployment insurance from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services as well as workers’ compensation insurance. Other insurance coverage is recommended and available for most businesses.
It's important you do all the necessary due diligence to ensure your business complies with the law. Consider consulting a business attorney or accountant to make sure you’re in compliance with all the requirements.
06. Secure business funding
When it comes time to raise money for your business in Ohio, you can consider the following options:
Small Business Administration (SBA) loans: The SBA has a variety of loan programs for small businesses seeking funding. More information on the specific SBA loans available in Ohio can be found here. They can also help you understand more about how to secure a business loan and which type.
Bank loans: As in other states, Ohio banks offer small business loans for new entrepreneurs.
Microloans: These are specific business loans created for small and new business owners with limited access to credit. They can be of quite small amounts, depending on the amount necessary to get a business up and running.
Bootstrapping: This involves using a mixture of personal savings and revenue generated from the business to help it grow. This can be a good option for very small businesses and if you plan to start a business without initially hiring employers.
Local government grants: To understand the full range of local government grants available when starting a business in Ohio, head to the Ohio Chamber of Commerce for all the details.
When it comes to funding a business in Ohio, it’s definitely possible to choose from a combination of the above options. The most important thing is to do your research well in order to find the best combination of funding for your business.
07. Create a business website
Once you’ve started your business, you’ll need a business website. This is a great way to promote your business and build your brand online, even if most of your business is done in person. You can use your website to market your brand and business across the state and beyond—plus, it’s easy to get started when you have hundreds of business website templates to choose from.
Pick a template that suits your brand and customize it to your unique needs. Study how to make a business website that’s both attractive and high-performing. Note that you’ll want to actively promote your site once it’s up to drive traffic from the right types of visitors online.
With a thoughtful web design and a detailed marketing plan, you can increase the visibility of your business far and wide.
Business examples in Ohio
Looking for some inspiration? Check out the below Ohio-based businesses, which all use Wix to expand their online presence.
Used Kids Records
Since 1986, Used Kids Records has operated its brick-and-mortar store from Columbus, Ohio. They sell a huge selection of used and new Vinyl, CDs and DVDs, making them a must-visit business. They also often host local and touring bands for meet-and-greets. On Fridays, they host local bands for free.
Rentals are a great small business to start in Ohio, and Euclid Apartments is one example of that. Euclid Apartments offers affordable homes of all sizes for singles and families. Their goal is to provide comfortable accommodation for Ohio residents, complete with great facilities and security.
Bent Tree Winery
The Bent Tree Winery has been producing small batches of handcrafted wine in Mason, Ohio since 2009. They offer monthly wine tastings, as well as host special events. They additionally provide wine for corporate and personal events, with personalized labels for that special touch.
American Nut Company
The American Nut Company was started in Columbus, Ohio in 2017 by Lisa Robitaille. Combining her family’s entrepreneurial spirit with her love of cooking turned out to be the perfect combination. Today, the business offers many handmade nut flavors, both sweet and savory, as well as warm popcorn options.