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How to start a business in Virginia in 7 steps


how to start a business in virginia

Virginia offers a wealth of opportunities for entrepreneurs and small business owners. With a population of over 8.6 million, it's the 12th most populous state in the U.S. The Old Dominion State has a diverse economy, with a strong presence in technology, finance and agriculture industries.


With a business-friendly climate, access to funding and a range of support services, Virginia is a top destination for new ventures to thrive. In fact, there are over 780,000 small businesses in Virginia, making up a significant portion of all businesses within the state.


If you're considering starting a business in Virginia, this guide will walk you through the process. We'll cover everything from developing your business idea and choosing a name to registering your business, obtaining funding and more.


Need to create a business website? Start building yours today.



Start a business in Virginia in 7 steps




01. Come up with a business idea


Starting a business in Virginia can be an exciting and rewarding endeavor. Of course, a successful business begins with a great business idea, but it's also important to thoroughly research your target market, location and how to get your business off the ground.


Luckily, Virginia has a diverse economy with many unique business ideas and opportunities in various industries. These include:


  • Technology: Virginia is home to several major technology companies, making it a hub for innovation. Business ideas in this industry could include software development, IT consulting and data analytics.

  • eCommerce website: Your eCommerce strategy could include selling Virginia-made products, creating a niche online store or even dropshipping products from other businesses.

  • Defense and security: Virginia is home to many military bases and defense contractors, making it a strong market for businesses providing defense and security services.

  • Event planning: Like many states, Virginia is a hot spot for weddings, conferences and other events. Starting a party planning business could include coordinating weddings, corporate events or even political campaigns. These make great small town business ideas, as well as being suitable for larger towns too.

  • Healthcare: Healthcare is a growing industry in Virginia. Business ideas in this industry may involve opening a medical clinic, starting a home health care service or a medical supply business.

  • Tourism: Virginia's rich history and natural attractions make it a popular tourist destination. You may want to think about opening a bed and breakfast, starting a tour company or opening a gift shop. Within the tourism industry there is also likely to be high demand for cleaning services and service-based businesses, such as plumbing services.

  • Education: With many colleges, universities and schools, there is a need for tutoring centers, test preparation services and educational software in Virginia. These are great ways to make money as a teacher, for example.

  • Renewable energy: Virginia is working towards becoming a leader in renewable energy, with goals to produce 100% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2045. Starting a business in the renewable energy industry could include solar panel installation, wind power or even developing innovative renewable energy technology.

  • Agriculture: Virginia is home to many farms and vineyards. This fosters a strong market for businesses that provide agricultural products or services, such as farm-to-table restaurants, wholesale produce distributors or a winery. These are all great ways to make money as a farmer, with a farming business.

  • Manufacturing: Many manufacturers in the aerospace, defense and food industries have settled in Virginia. Business ideas in this industry could include starting a small manufacturing business or providing manufacturing services.



02. Choose a business type


When starting a new business in Virginia, choosing the right business entity and structure from the start is important. The kind of structure you choose will affect your personal liability, tax obligations and management structure, among other things.


Consider seeking guidance from a professional accountant or lawyer to help you understand the pros and cons of each type and determine which structure is best suited for your unique business needs.


There are five basic business types to choose from in Virginia:


  • Sole proprietorship: This is the simplest and most common type of business entity. As a sole proprietor, you have complete control over your business, but you're also personally liable for any debts or legal issues.

  • Partnership: If you have a business partner, a partnership may be the best option. You'll share control, profits and losses, but also share legal and financial responsibility.

  • Limited liability company (LLC): An LLC is a popular choice for small business owners because it offers the liability protection of a corporation but is taxed like a partnership. As an LLC owner, you're not personally liable for the company's debts or legal issues. Learn more about how to start an LLC and you can work with an external party to do this, like Legal Zoom.

  • Corporation: A corporation is a separate legal entity from its owners and provides the most liability protection. However, it can be more complex and expensive to set up and maintain without the help of an accountant.

  • Nonprofit: A nonprofit organization (NPO) is one with a specific purpose other than making a profit. An NPO is tax-exempt and governed by a board of directors. Any profits made must be reinvested back into the organization.


In addition to the business type, consider how your business will operate. Will you be selling goods or services online or from a brick-and-mortar location? Will you have employees or work alone? These factors of business operations can impact which type of entity is best for your business.


Choosing the right legal structure is an important decision, but don't let it hold you back. With the right structure and a solid business plan, your new business can thrive in the vibrant and dynamic business environment of Virginia.



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03. Name your Virginia business


Choosing the right name for your business is an important step toward building a strong brand that resonates with your customers.


Here are some tips on how to choose a name that will help your business stand out:


  • Reflect your brand: Your business name should reflect your brand and the message you want to convey to your customers. Consider the products or services you offer and what sets you apart from your competitors. Brainstorm a list of keywords related to your business and use them to create unique combinations.

  • Be memorable and unique: A great business name is one that people will remember. Choose a name that is unique and catchy but also easy to spell and pronounce. Avoid using complex words or phrases that may be difficult for your customers to remember.

  • Consider your target audience: Consider who your target audience is and what they may be looking for in a business like yours. Choose a name that resonates with them and makes them feel like your business is a good fit for their needs. Think about how your business name will look in a logo design, too.

  • Check availability: Once you've settled on a name that you love, be sure to check that it's available for use via the Virginia State Corporation Commission’s business name search tool. Additionally, use the USPTO trademark search for existing trademarks to ensure you can legally use your chosen business name. Finally, check to see if your business name is available as a domain name.

  • Have fun with it: Naming your business is an exciting opportunity to showcase your creativity and make a lasting impression on your customers. So don't be afraid to get creative and have fun with the process of choosing a name that reflects your unique vision for your business.

With a little creativity and a positive mindset, you can choose a name that will help your business thrive and stand out in Virginia's vibrant business community.


Looking for inspiration? Try Wix’s business name generator tool.



04. License and register your business in Virginia


The Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity (SBSD) provides resources for various aspects of business formation—such as access to capital, workforce development and entrepreneurial workshops—all in one place. Additionally, SBSD provides an efficient online platform called Business One Stop that enables you to register a business with multiple state and local agencies in Virginia simultaneously.


When registering your business in Virginia, you’ll need to anticipate taking the following steps:

  • Register with the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC): Depending on the nature of your business, you may need to register with the SCC by filing the appropriate forms and paying any required fees. This can be done through the SCC's online services or by mail.

  • Register for a federal employer identification number (EIN): You’ll need an EIN from the IRS before registering for taxes or opening a business bank account (among other things).

  • Obtain any necessary business licenses and permits: Licenses and permits can be obtained from the appropriate state and local agencies. This may include permits from the Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Health and Department of Taxation. At minimum, you’ll need to get a sales tax certificate.

  • Register for county or city licenses and permits: Obtain any additional local licenses and permits from the city or county where your business is located.

  • Register for insurance: Register for unemployment insurance and workers' compensation with the Virginia Employment Commission. Explore other insurance options via the SCC site.

  • Open a business bank account: It’s important to keep personal and business expenses separate for liability and tax purposes, so you’ll want to open a business bank account.


As with any important or complex process, it’s a good idea to consult an attorney or accountant to ensure that you're following all applicable laws and regulations when registering your new business with the state of Virginia.



how to register a business in virginia


05. Write your business plan


Crafting a compelling business plan is a necessary step that can be both exhilarating and challenging. However, your business plan is a crucial step towards success. Not only does your business plan serve as a roadmap for your business, but it also outlines your vision, strategies and goals clearly and concisely.


To ensure that your business plan is comprehensive, consider including the following components:


  • Executive summary: A brief overview of your business, including its concept statement, mission, target market, unique selling proposition and financial goals.

  • Business description: A deeper look into your product or service, target customers and industry trends.

  • Market analysis: An in-depth 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, cash flow forecasts and break-even analysis.

  • Risk management plan: Identify potential risks and challenges your business may face and outline strategies for mitigating those risks.


Your business plan is an essential tool that can help you stay motivated and focused during difficult times. As a new entrepreneur, it's important to remember that challenges will arise. However, having a detailed plan to reference can help you navigate those challenges and stay on track toward achieving your business goals.



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06. Secure business funding in Virginia


Knowing how to raise money for a business and secure funding can help you take your business from an idea to a reality. Virginia offers a variety of funding options that you can explore to find the best fit for your unique needs.


  • Angel investors: Angel investors are affluent individuals who invest in start-ups, typically in exchange for convertible debt or ownership equity.

  • Venture capital: Venture capital firms invest in small medium businesses and startups with high growth potential.

  • Crowdfunding: Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo allow businesses to raise funds from a large number of people.

  • The Virginia Small Business Financing Authority: This organization provides financing to small businesses via loan guarantees and direct loans.

  • The Virginia Economic Development Partnership: This organization provides various types of assistance to small businesses, including funding for research and development, export assistance and workforce training.

  • Small Business Administration (SBA) loans: Participating banks and other lending institutions offer SBA loans to small businesses.

  • Community development financial institutions (CDFIs): CDFIs are financial institutions that provide loans and financial services to underserved communities.

  • Business incubators and accelerators: Incubators and accelerators offer funding, office space and resources to support the growth of startups.

  • Bank loans: Banks provide various loan options for small businesses, such as term loans, SBA loans and lines of credit.



07. Create a business website


A well-crafted website is a digital marketing asset that establishes your brand, showcases your products or services, and connects with potential customers. Not only that, but it's an excellent opportunity to expand your reach and increase sales.


To start building your business website, choose a professionally designed business website template that reflects your brand's personality and unique characteristics. Customize the color scheme, typography, visual elements and written content to ensure that your website stands out from competitors in Virginia and beyond.


When building your website, focus on creating high-quality content that resonates with your target audience. Be sure to include information about your products or services and to provide contact details to keep visitors engaged. You can read our complete guide on how to make a business website to help you get started.


Once your website launches, it's time to promote it. You can use various promotional strategies such as email marketing, SEO and social media campaigns to increase visibility and attract relevant audiences to your website.


With a well-crafted website and a solid marketing plan, your small business in Virginia will be well on its way to success.



Business website examples


For more inspiration, here are examples of businesses that have made a website using Wix and are well on their way to living out their entrepreneurial dreams.



Navagant


Located in Richmond, Virginia, Navagant positions itself as a new kind of investment bank focused on creating life-changing outcomes for its clients within the education and training industries. Navagant’s website design is professional, with easy-to-navigate features and plenty of high-quality photos that speak to its target audience.



Elephant Thai Restaurant


Offering authentic Thai cuisine, the Elephant Thai Restaurant uses its website to reach customers locally and make it easy for them to browse the menu, order food and even plan a private event.



How to start a business in Virginia review


7 steps to starting a business in virginia

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How to start a business in Virginia FAQ

How much does it cost to start a business in Virginia?

If you choose to start an LLC in Virginia, the cost is US$100 for the registration. However this is just the cost to register your business entity. You'll also need to cover other costs, such as insurance, registrations and licenses specific to your business type, equipment, staffing costs, office space (if necessary), marketing budget and so on.

Is Virginia a good state to start a business in?

How much does it cost to start an LLC in Virginia?

How to start a business in Virginia with no money?




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