top of page


How to start a business in Wisconsin in 7 steps

how to start a business in wisconsin

In this article, we'll look into the process of launching a business in Wisconsin—from coming up with a business idea to secure funding and create a website for your business.

Wisconsin is well known for its strong agricultural and manufacturing industries. However, in recent years, the state has seen a growing number of entrepreneurs looking to start a business in a wider range of industries. Today, small businesses in Wisconsin employ 1.3 million workers, representing 48.8% of the state's workforce.

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

Start a business in Wisconsin in 7 steps

01. Come up with a business idea

Coming up with a business idea is the first step towards starting any business. Get this right and you’re on your way to getting your business off the ground in Wisconsin. So, take your time exploring different options and weighing their pros and cons. Whether you're looking for a small town business idea to suit your location and target audience or a unique business idea to match your skills and expertise.

Several key industries in Wisconsin include:

  • Agriculture and food production: Given the diverse and dynamic agriculture industry in the state, Wisconsin could be a great place to start a dairy farm or other food production business. Learn more about how to start a farming business.

  • Manufacturing: Wisconsin continues to be a leading exporter—some of the top export products include industrial machinery, electrical machinery, medical (see how to create a medical supply business plan) and scientific instruments.

  • eCommerce: Wisconsin may be a great place to start an online retail store or dropshipping business, as it offers a supportive business environment and a market with lots of spending power.

  • Tourism: Known for its natural beauty, lakes and outdoor recreation, Wisconsin offers an idyllic setting for starting a tourism-related business like a bed and breakfast, outdoor adventure company or guided tours company. Consider these outdoor business ideas for further inspiration.

  • Healthcare: The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that over 17.9% of Wisconsin's population is 65 years of age or older. This means that the demand for healthcare businesses—such as medical practices, medical transportation businesses, home health care or assisted living facilities—is likely to increase in the state.

  • Fitness and wellness: Rising consumer interest in health and wellness services like yoga, personal training and alternative medicine make this sector an attractive option to consider. Consider starting a fitness business to tap into this demand.

  • Home renovation and remodeling: Wisconsin has a large number of older homes in need of renovation. So, starting a remodeling service that helps residents realize their dreams could be a profitable venture and a successful way to make money as a handyman.

  • Virtual event planning: With the shift towards remote work, virtual event planning services are an opportunity worth exploring in Wisconsin.

Looking for more business ideas to start in Wisconsin?

02. Choose your business type

Once you have your business idea sorted, you’ll need to decide on a business type for your new venture. This is a vital part of establishing your business entity. There are several to choose from including:

Each type of business has its own unique legal and tax requirements, so make sure to do your due diligence and/or consult a business advisor, such as Legal Zoom, for help.

start a business in wisconsin - types of business entities

03. Select the best name for your business in Wisconsin

Looking to choose a name for your new business? Here are some tips to help you choose a business name that is effective and legally compliant:

  • Make sure the name is unique: Conduct a search of existing business names to ensure that your desired name is not already in use by another company in Wisconsin. You can also use a business name generator.

  • Be mindful of trademarks: The name you choose should not infringe on any existing trademarks or service marks. In fact, you might want to consider registering your business name as a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to protect your brand and ensure exclusive use of the name.

  • Avoid similar names: Even if the name is available, keep in mind that your business name should not be too similar to another company’s name as this could lead to confusion for customers and further legal issues.

  • Consider your target market: Make sure that your business name is relevant to your target market and is easy to remember.

04. Write your business plan

You need a business plan to lay out the foundation for your business. Your business idea, name, executive summary, operating expenses, initial startup capital, funding options, business model and marketing strategies will all be presented in this business plan. It should further describe how you plan on taking your business from its launch to profitability—and how you plan on scaling, too.

start a business in wisconsin - how to develop a business plan

05. License and register your business in Wisconsin

You need to obtain the necessary licenses and permits to establish and run your business in Wisconsin. Keep in mind that these requirements can vary depending on your business type. Here are some important steps to register a business in Wisconsin:

  • Register with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI). Register your business with the DFI by filing in the appropriate forms and paying any required fees. This step is required for LLCs and corporations.

  • Get an employer identification number (EIN) with the IRS. An EIN is used for federal tax purposes, as well as other situations—such as opening a business bank account.

  • Register for taxes. Register your business for any required state and local taxes, including sales tax, income tax and property tax. Register and learn more on the Wisconsin Department of Revenue website.

  • Obtain any necessary licenses and permits. Depending on your industry and business type, you may need to obtain licenses and permits from various state and local agencies.

  • Get any necessary insurance. Assess your business operations and potential risks to decide what insurance coverage you need. Some types of insurance may be mandatory, depending on your line of business.

start a business in wisconsin - 6 steps to register your business

06. Find funding for your business in Wisconsin

There are a number of options to choose from when deciding how to raise money for your business. In Wisconsin specifically, there are a number of government support programs and microfinance options to help new business owners.

The state government provides several funding and support programs for businesses. These include the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), which offers loans, grants and tax incentives to support business development and expansion. It further provides export assistance, workforce development services and community development programs.

The Wisconsin Small Business Development Center (SBDC) provides consulting and training services to small businesses.

Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Women's Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC) provides financial education and counseling services, as well as access to business loans and grants—specifically to women, people of color and people with limited means.

07. Create a business website

Regardless of where you choose to start your business, you should consider building a business website to get your brand and service online. Using an eCommerce website builder to create a website not only helps sell your product or service but also allows you to promote it to a larger audience.

Making a website can help you establish credibility, win over prospective customers' confidence and give them the details they require to make their purchasing decision. Start by choosing a business website template and customizing it to your needs. Then, follow best practices for how to make a business website that performs as well as it looks.

How to start a business in Wisconsin review

steps to starting a business

Looking to start a business in a different state? Check out our steps to starting a business in Arizona or 7 steps to starting a business in North Carolina.

How to start a business in Wisconsin FAQ

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

The main initial expense will be the $130 state filing fee to establish an LLC in the state. This is known as the Wisconsin articles of organization. The fee is $170 if the application is made my mail instead of online.

What's required to start a business in Wisconsin?

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

How to start a business in Wisconsin from home?

Was this article helpful?

bottom of page