WI Business Facts
The Badger State’s economy is driven primarily by manufacturing, agriculture and healthcare. Wisconsin has earned a secondary nickname as America’s Dairyland, as it is the US’ leading cheese producer. A dramatic improvement for job outlook has risen to near the national average, versus being ranked 49th among states in previous years.
Major Companies in Wisconsin
The Badger State is home to an array of large corporations, such as ACS Group, Johnson Controls, Kohl’s, Tyco International Plc, Kohler Co., ManpowerGroup and Ashley Furniture Industries.
Among US states, Wisconsin does not rank highly as good place to start a business. CNBC ranked Wisconsin twenty-one in the nation as recently as 2017 and the same year Milwaukee was ranked 39th on the Kauffman Index of Startup Activity. Despite these low rankings, Wisconsin business owners do benefit from recent tax cuts.
There are 3 basic options: a DBA, a Corporation or an LLC. Click here to learn more about business entities.
Choosing a business name is easier said than done – many legal and business problems can arise from picking the wrong name (you can always change it later but the less times you have to do that the better). In Step 3 we’ll show you how to search for the name in Wisconsin, but we highly recommend you do the following before searching Wisconsin state databases:
TIP: search misspellings, plurals, variations of spelling, sound-alikes and other versions of your chosen name to be sure it’s not already registered.
Restrictions on Wisconsin Business Name & Business Purpose
Each state has its own requirements for registering a business. Now that you’ve chosen a business structure and selected your business name, here are the requirements to register your business in Wisconsin.
How to form an LLC in Wisconsin
How to Incorporate in Wisconsin
NOTE: When registering a new company the state can take several weeks to file the paperwork. You can expedite the process by hand delivering the documents directly to them or one of their field offices and paying an additional fee.
TIP: Check our order form to see how long Wisconsin is currently taking to process regular and expedited orders.
How to File a DBA in Wisconsin
Optional Considerations when registering a Wisconsin business
Ready to register a business in Wisconsin?
Sure, you could do all the steps above or you could spend 5-10 minutes on our order form and let us take care of it while you work on more important things.
Your EIN is like your Social Security Number for your company. It’s required for Corporations and LLC’s and optional for DBA’s (if you don’t have any employees, then it’s required). However, if you are a DBA and don’t obtain an EIN you will be forced to use your Social Security Number on many documents so it’s typically recommended you obtain the EIN to prevent identity theft.
TIP: We will obtain your EIN for you if you we form your company.
To keep business and personal expenses separate, you should open a separate account for your business. In addition, getting business credit cards is how you begin to build a company credit profile (corporation or LLC required) and can later qualify for larger loans and lines of credit. To open the account simply call your chosen bank and inquire on the steps to open a business bank account. Typically you’ll need a) your filed paperwork b) your EIN c) a company resolution authorizing your company to open the account (signed by the owners, members, officers or directors, etc.).
Click here to view a list of our recommended banks in our Vendor Network.
TIP: Our business formation service includes a free banking resolution for your use.
Setup your Accounting and Record-keeping system and learn about the taxes your new company is responsible for paying.
Company documents generally are required to be kept for 3 years, including: a list of all owners and addresses, copies of all formation documents, financial statements, annual reports, amendments or changes to the company. All Tax and Corporate Filings should be kept for at least 3 years. View our “Accounting & Financial Management” section for help with setting up an accounting system and purchasing accounting software.
Now that you’ve registered your business name you might need to obtain a business license for your company – this authorizes your company to do business in your city or county depending on the type of service you offer. Typically this also involves registering for state taxes and permits (the city may require them as part of the business licensing process).
TIP: We can help you identify the necessary forms to obtain your business license.
If you intend to hire yourself or others as a full or part-time employee of your company, then you may have to register with the appropriate State Agencies or obtain Workers Compensation Insurance or Unemployment Insurance (or both). View our “Employees & Payroll” section for help with hiring employees and processing payroll.
Review our list of recommended Payroll Providers in our Vendor Network.
There are many types of insurance for businesses but they are usually packaged as “General Business Insurance” or a “Business Owner’s Policy”. This can cover everything from product liability to company vehicles. A decent policy can run as little as $300/year and offers a great extra level of protection.
Click here to view our list of insurance providers in our Vendor Network.
Prepare the business as if someone needed to take it over and run it for you. This means have a method to process orders, pay bills, pay employees, pay taxes, maintain your permits, etc. Basically, try to make the operational aspect of the business as automated and efficient as possible so you can concentrate on growing your business. View our “Manage Your Company” section for help with systemizing and automating your business.
Now that you’ve set-up the company for success, you need to get the word out. Create a marketing plan for your products and services that targets your ideal customer. View our “Marketing & Sales” section for help for more information.
DBA: Your Wisconsin trade name should be valid for 10 years and may be renewed before the name expires.
LLC: Wisconsin LLCs are required to file an annual report by the end of the filing anniversary quarter each year.
Corporation: Wisconsin corporations must file an annual report each year by the end of the filing anniversary quarter. LLCs and Corporations will pay a filing cost of $25.
Click here to view our MyCompanyWorks Premium™ service which can automate most or your ongoing compliance tasks.
Ready to start a business in Wisconsin?
Division of Corporate & Consumer Services (for Corporation and LLC filings)
4822 Madison Yards Way, North Tower
Madison, WI 53705
Wisconsin Taxation Departments
Wisconsin Labor and Employment Departments
Wisconsin Startup Resources
1. Small Business Administration (SBA) Wisconsin
3. Wisconsin Legal Statutes
5. Wisconsin One Stop Business Portal
6. Wisconsin Angel Investors
7. Wisconsin Business News
8. WEDC – The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) is committed to creating and maintaining a business climate that allows you to maximize your potential.
9. Wisconsin Small Business Development Center
The Wisconsin Small Business Development Center is a statewide network supporting entrepreneurs and business owners through no-cost, confidential consulting and business education.
10. Wisconsin Green Masters Program – a recognition and assessment program for Wisconsin businesses interested in improving and being recognized for their sustainability initiatives.
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