With a thriving economy and a population of over 7.7 million people, Washington State offers exciting business opportunities for entrepreneurs and small business owners.
Home to companies like Amazon, Microsoft and Starbucks, Washington is known for its tech and manufacturing industries. However, it’s also homebase to more than 645,000 small businesses, which make up a considerable portion of the state's economic growth and success.
In this guide, we will explore starting a business in Washington state, from developing your business idea and choosing a name, to registering your business and securing funding. Whether you're a seasoned entrepreneur or just starting out, this guide will provide the information you need to get your business up and running in the Evergreen State.
Once you’ve got your business idea, create a website to jumpstart your venture.
Start a business in Washington State in 7 steps
01. Come up with a business idea
The state of Washington offers a diverse and thriving business landscape with ample opportunities for entrepreneurs to succeed.
When starting a business, the first step is to develop a solid business idea. You’ll need to ensure that it's a sustainable idea, plus consider the level of risk involved when starting your new business venture.
Here are some potentially profitable and sustainable business ideas that could work well in Washington’s market:
Technology startups: As the birthplace of several major technology companies, including Microsoft and Amazon, Washington State is a perfect place to launch a technology startup. The state's strong focus on cloud computing, software development and data analytics makes it an ideal location for tech entrepreneurs.
Sustainable and clean energy: With a commitment to sustainability and renewable energy, Washington is a fantastic location for businesses in the clean energy sector. Whether you're interested in solar, wind or hydroelectric power, there are plenty of opportunities to impact the environment and the economy positively.
Healthcare: Washington has a thriving healthcare industry, with several major healthcare systems and medical research institutions. As a result, it's a great location for healthcare startups and businesses to flourish.
Outdoor recreation and tourism: With its stunning natural landscapes—including the Cascade Mountains, the Pacific Coast and the Puget Sound—Washington is an ideal location for tourism and outdoor recreation businesses, such as adventure sports, eco-tourism, hiking and camping gear.
Food and beverage industry: Washington has a thriving food and beverage industry, with a focus on local and sustainable farming. There are plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurs to launch craft breweries, wineries and distilleries or to develop innovative food products and services.
Professional services: With a business-friendly environment and a large population, Washington State is a great location for businesses that provide professional services, such as consulting, accounting and legal services. As a result, it's a great place to launch a new startup or expand an existing one.
Ecommerce: With the rise of online shopping in recent years, starting an eCommerce business could prove beneficial. Whether you're interested in developing an online store or a digital marketing agency, there are plenty of ways to tap into this exciting and rapidly growing sector.
Don't worry if your business idea is not entirely original, as successful businesses have been built by offering existing products or services with a new twist. Instead, focus on a business idea that’s cost-effective, marketable and suitable for your target audience in Washington.
02. Choose your business type
Before establishing a new business in Washington, you must select a business type. Each type has pros and cons and will impact your liability protection, taxation, compliance requirements and management structure differently. Consider seeking the advice of a business advisor or mentor to help guide you through the process.
Here are some of the typical business types and their key features:
Sole proprietorship: This is the simplest and most common business entity. It’s owned and operated by a single individual, who is personally liable for all debts and obligations of the business. This entity does not require any formal registration with the state.
Limited liability company (LLC): This is a hybrid entity that combines a corporation's liability protection with a partnership's tax benefits. LLC owners are called members and are not personally liable for the debts and obligations of the LLC.
Limited partnership: This is a partnership that has both general partners and limited partners. The general partners manage the business and are personally liable for all debts and obligations of the partnership, while the limited partners are passive investors who are only liable for the amount of their investment.
General partnership: This is a business owned and operated by two or more individuals who share the profits and losses of the company. Each partner is personally liable for all debts and obligations of the partnership. This entity does not require any formal registration with the state.
Corporation: This is a legal entity that’s separate from its owners. A corporation provides limited liability protection to shareholders but also requires compliance with certain formalities. There are two types of corporations: C corporations and S corporations. C corporations are subject to double taxation, while S corporations are pass-through entities.
Nonprofit: A nonprofit business entity is organized for a charitable, educational, or religious purpose and operates for the benefit of the public. This entity may be exempt from certain taxes and eligible for grants and donations but cannot distribute profits to its members or shareholders. To form a nonprofit in Washington, you will need to file articles of incorporation with the Secretary of State and obtain tax-exempt status from the IRS.
03. Name your Washington business
Naming your business can be an exciting and fun process that reflects your unique vision and connects with your audience.
Here are some tips to help you get started:
Start by brainstorming keywords related to your business. Think about the products or services you offer, your target audience and the message you want to convey. Then, write down as many words as possible, even if they initially seem unrelated.
Mix and match your keywords to create unique combinations. Experiment with different word orders, rhyming, alliteration and other creative techniques. Feel free to get creative and think outside the box. For additional inspiration, try Wix’s business name generator.
Keep it simple and memorable. A great business name should be easy to remember and spell. Avoid overly complex words or phrases that may be difficult for customers to remember or find online.
Consider the visual aspect of your business name. Think about how it will look on your website, social media profiles, business cards, logo design and other marketing materials. A visually appealing business name can help you stand out from the competition.
Get feedback from others. Once you've compiled a list of potential business names, ask your friends, family and potential customers for their opinions. This can help you get a sense of which names are most memorable, resonate with your target audience and have the best potential for success.
Check availability. Before settling on a business name, make sure it's not already used by another business in your industry by searching through the Washington Business Licensing Service and the Secretary of State websites. You'll additionally want to check if the domain name is available and if there are any existing trademarks or legal issues associated with the name.
04. License and register your business in Washington
Registering a business in Washington is a straightforward process that can be completed relatively quickly.
To obtain applicable licensing and register a business in Washington State, you’ll need to follow these basic steps:
Register your business with the Washington Secretary of State. Submit the appropriate paperwork and filing fees, which will vary depending on your business type.
Obtain an EIN. Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by completing Form SS-4. An EIN is assigned to your business for the purposes of employee and tax filing requirements.
Obtain licenses and permits. Depending on your business type and location, you may need to obtain specific licenses and permits from the state and local governments. More information about these requirements is on the Washington State Department of Revenue website.
Register for taxes. Register for state and local taxes, including sales and use tax and business and occupation (B&O) tax. You can file your registration documents with the Secretary of State's office. The registration process involves filling out a form and paying a fee. The fee will depend on your business structure and method of registration.
Comply with labor laws. Comply with state and federal labor laws, including minimum wage, overtime, worker's compensation and unemployment insurance. For more information, visit Washington’s Employment Security Department website.
Explore your insurance options. Consider general liability insurance, professional liability insurance as well as other insurance coverage in order to manage your risk.
Refer to Washington’s Small Business Guide for more information on planning and starting a new business in the state.
05. Write your business plan
Creating a solid business plan is critical to building a successful enterprise.
Your business plan will serve as the foundation for your company's growth and profitability. With a well-crafted plan, you'll have a roadmap for navigating the ups and downs of entrepreneurship and a clear path to achieving your business goals.
A business plan serves several vital functions:
Helps you define your vision: Your business plan should include a clear mission statement that outlines your business's purpose, values and aspirations. This helps to keep your team aligned with your core mission and make informed decisions consistent with your long-term goals.
Attracts investors and partners: A strong business plan can attract investors and partners who share your vision. It should provide a thorough analysis of the market, a comprehensive financial plan and a clear path to profitability that demonstrates the sustainability of your business.
Establishes a growth strategy: Your business plan should lay out a clear strategy for growth, including marketing and sales tactics, product development plans and expansion opportunities. This lets you stay focused as you seek new opportunities and grow your customer base.
Helps you anticipate and manage risks: Your business plan should also include a risk management plan that identifies potential challenges and outlines strategies for mitigating them. By anticipating potential obstacles and developing contingency plans, you can avoid costly mistakes.
Measures performance: Your business plan should include measurable objectives for assessing performance, such as revenue targets, growth milestones and customer acquisition goals. Tracking your progress against these benchmarks can help you stay motivated and on track to achieving long-term success.
06. Secure business funding in Washington State
There are various ways to secure funding and raise money for a business in Washington State. Some of the most common methods include:
Small business loans: Explore small business loan options from credit unions, banks and other lending institutions. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has loan programs that can assist you in obtaining funding, too.
Crowdfunding: Raise funds from a large group of people through crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe or Kickstarter.
Small Business Development Center (SBDC): SBDC is an excellent resource for small business owners, providing consulting, training and information on accessing funding.
Business incubators and accelerators: Look for business incubators or accelerators in Washington State, as they can offer startup funding and resources.
Angel investors and venture capital: Find investors or venture capital firms specializing in businesses in your industry or region.
Government grants: Check into government grants available for small businesses in your industry or region.
Keep in mind that as your business expands and evolves, your funding needs may change, so it's essential to stay informed and adaptable.
07. Create a business website
Having a professional website is a must for promoting your brand and connecting with potential customers. Your business website can establish brand credibility, attract potential customers and build brand awareness. To achieve this, choose a business website template that reflects your brand's personality. Customize the color scheme, typography, visual elements and written content to make it stand out.
To engage with your target audience and drive conversions, focus on creating high-quality content that resonates with them. Be sure to include information about your products or services and provide details on connecting with your business to keep visitors engaged.
Once your website launches, use various promotional strategies to drive traffic to your site. For example, you can use email marketing, SEO and social media campaigns to increase visibility and attract relevant audiences to your website.
For more tips on getting started, check out our guide on how to make a small business website.
Business website examples in Washington State
Check out this Washington-based business that's using Wix to power its business online.
Marsupial is a consulting agency that helps business owners manage and grow their businesses. They’ve chosen a clean and professional website that outlines everything a customer might need to know about the company on one page. Marsupial also provides regular insights and tips through its blog.
How to start a business in Washington State review
Looking to start a business in another state? Check out how to start a business in Indiana or how to start a business in Virginia.
How to start a business in Washington State FAQ
Is Washington a good state to start a small business?
Washington has a strong and diverse economy. The state is known for its technology industry, with major companies like Microsoft and Amazon headquartered there. Additionally, Washington has a robust manufacturing sector, a thriving aerospace industry, and a growing clean energy sector. The state's economy provides opportunities for businesses across various industries.
How much does it cost to start a business in Washington State?
It largely depends on the type of business entity you choose to set up. The filing fee for an LLC in Washington is $200, while filing fees for corporations vary based on the type and structure. On top of this you also need to factor in license, permit and insurance costs.