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Utah is one of the most dynamic places to start a business in the US—it’s the fourth-fastest growing state, and rated the best economy nationwide in 2022 by the U.S. News and World Report. On top of that, the capital, Salt Lake City, is the fifth-fastest growing city in the country. Companies like Overstock.com and Extra Space Storage were founded in the Beehive State, and it’s also home to branches of large corporations, including Adobe and Goldman Sachs. Here’s our eight-step guide to starting a business in Utah.
Start a Business in Utah
1. Choose a business idea
The first task for small business owners in Utah is to come up with an idea for your venture. Will you sell a product, a service, or some combination of both? Regardless, there are two key questions you should ask yourself:
- Who is your customer? Identify your target customer—who are they, how do they live, and what needs or wants are they looking to satisfy? Will you sell direct to consumer (B2C) or business to business (B2B)? Will you conduct business online, through a brick-and-mortar storefront, or both? To answer these questions, survey prospective customers, conduct market research, and research industry trends.
- What is your projected profitability? The key to business survival is profit—making more money than you spend on business costs. There are several variables to consider when designing your profit strategies, such as price, distribution, and overhead costs. How much do you need to sell to break even then generate a healthy profit margin?
2. Name your business
Once you’ve settled on an idea, it’s time to decide on your business name. Try to select a name that is simple, memorable, and that clearly conveys your core business function and principles. At the same time, you must follow certain state-level naming rules. Here are a few guidelines to follow when choosing a business name in Utah:
- Be original. The name of your Utah business must be totally unique from any other business entity already registered in the state. You can check to see if your desired name is available by running a search through the Utah Division of Corporations and Commercial Code’s website.
- Include certain words. Depending on what legal business entity structure you choose for your Utah company, you may have to include certain words in the name. LLCs, for example, must contain the term “Limited Liability Company,” “Limited Company,” “L.L.C.,” or “L.C.” Your Utah corporation must include the word “Corporation,” “Incorporated,” “Company,” or an approved abbreviation of those three.
- Exclude certain words. The name of your Utah business must not include words like “College,” “Institute,” “University,” or “Institution,” or words suggesting the business is a bank, credit union, trust, or escrow company without the proper approvals.
- Reserve your name. To reserve your business name in Utah, you can file an Application for Reservation of Business Name online or by mail, and pay a processing fee of $22.
- Adopt a DBA. If you’d like to operate your business in Utah under a name other than that which is registered for the state, you can file for a DBA, or “doing business as.” You can register a DBA online or at a Utah Department of Commerce office in person, and pay a filing fee of $22.
- Secure a domain name and social media handles. Businesses in Utah and everywhere else will likely need to maintain an online presence in order to stay competitive. Purchase a domain name (URL) and choose social media usernames that align with your business name or DBA—this way, customers can easily find you on the web.
3. Create a business plan
A business plan lays out your company’s mission, how it’s going to make money, and how it’s going to operate. A thorough business plan articulates your business’s function, presents your market research, lays out a potential org chart, details your range of products and/or services, illustrates your target customer and target market profiles, and outlines strategies for marketing, logistics, and finance. Your business plan should reflect your overall business goals and give a sense of how you want it to run both in the near term and in the future.
4. Choose a business structure and get started
There are a number of business structures to choose from when launching your business in Utah. Each type offers its own set of benefits and disadvantages:
Sole proprietorships are the default designation for anyone engaging in business as an individual in Utah. There are no fees and no special registration required to set up a sole proprietorship in Utah, and earnings are taxed at the proprietor’s personal income level. The downside to operating as a sole proprietorship is that owners are personally liable for most debts and legal damages the business suffers, because the sole proprietorship is not a separate legal entity from the proprietor.
Limited liability company (LLC)
A limited liability company, or LLC, differs from a sole proprietorship in that it can have multiple owners, called “members.” LLCs are classed as pass-through organizations, so members pay tax at their personal income level. Yet unlike sole proprietorships, LLCs are separate legal entities, and consequently, potential creditors and litigants cannot reach members’ personal assets. There is no franchise tax for LLCs in Utah, but they are required to file annual reports, which come with a $15 processing fee.
The main advantage of forming your Utah business as a corporation is the fundraising opportunities. Corporations can issue stocks to shareholders, each of whom pays for an ownership stake in the business. They also enjoy the same personal liability protection enjoyed by LLCs. Corporations in Utah are subject to a 5% corporate income tax, and like LLCs, they must file annual reports, with a filing fee of $15.
Getting a federal employer identification number (EIN)
Once you’ve chosen a legal structure for your Utah business, you need a federal employer identification number, or EIN. EINs are issued by the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Authorities use them to identify business entities and assess their state and federal taxes. You can apply for an EIN online through the IRS website, free of charge.
Incorporating within Utah
The process for registering your business in Utah will differ depending on the business structure you’ve chosen. Sole proprietorships do not require any special registration procedures, but LLCs and corporations do:
- LLCs. To register your LLC in Utah, you must file a Certificate of Organization in person, by mail, or online, and you must pay a $54 processing fee.
- Corporations. To register your corporation in Utah, you must file Articles of Incorporation in person, by mail, or online, and pay a $54 processing fee.
5. Obtain business licenses and permits
All businesses in Utah must obtain a business license for the city or county in which they operate—but there is no general statewide business license required. Contact your local city or county authorities to find out how to apply. If you are a retailer selling products or services that would ordinarily be subject to Utah sales tax, you must also obtain a seller’s permit from the Sales and Use Tax Commission. If you sell certain restricted goods, like alcohol or tobacco, or are operating in health care, law, the building trades, or other regulated industries, you must also obtain the appropriate permit.
6. Examine business insurance options
Purchasing insurance for your Utah business is the key to managing risk—and it has the added benefit of freeing up your mind to focus on everyday business affairs. Utah requires workers’ compensation insurance for all businesses operating in the state and commercial auto insurance for any business that runs vehicles for commercial use, such as semi trucks, delivery trucks, or food trucks. Other common insurance plans for businesses in Utah include:
- General liability insurance. General liability policies protect your business from lawsuits that could result from unforeseen incidents—for example, a customer’s slip-and-fall accident on the shop floor.
- Professional liability insurance. Professional liability insurance is for professional services businesses that must pass a high bar of competency, such as law firms or accounting offices. The policy usually protects them against malpractice claims.
- Business income insurance. If your Utah business can’t operate for a time due to a covered loss, business income insurance can replace some or all of the income you might lose during that period.
7. Understand financial considerations
There are a variety of other investments you’ll need to make to launch your Utah business. They might include rent toward a lease on a brick-and-mortar retail space, paying for a professionally designed website, or buying inventory.In addition to paying employees, you may wish to hire certain contractors to support business operations, such as lawyers, designers, and accountants. There are also resources available to help entrepreneurs cover these costs. Other options for financing your new business include:
- Funding from friends and family. You could raise money through a loan or other type of investment from friends and family. Be sure to spend time breaking down how you’re going to pay them back, maintain that payment schedule, and work to also maintain your personal relationship outside of your business one.
- Outside investors. An individual investor may be interested in helping your company at any stage, while raising funds through a venture capital firm typically means that professional investors will look at your business after it has established a path to profitability. These types of investors typically require stock, or ownership shares, in exchange for their investment, meaning your company will have to be organized as a C corp in order to issue those shares.
- Business loans. Other types of funding may come from microloans, commercial bank loans, and Small Business Administration (SBA) guaranteed loans.
8. Market your business
Getting your Utah business legally registered and adequately funded is a great start—but next you must devise a marketing strategy to get the word out about your products and/or services. Start by building a brand—deciding on logos, slogans, color schemes, fonts, and marketing language—before using that as a foundation for your detailed marketing plan.A thorough marketing plan should cover these strategies to attract and retail customers:
- Paid advertising and promotion. Paid advertising is one of the more traditional, and trusted, methods of marketing. Ads can be print or digital, as large as billboards or as small as branded office supplies or Facebook ads. You can design and pay to place these yourself, or hire an agency to craft them on your behalf.
- Social media accounts. Use social channels like Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, or TikTok to promote your products and services, and make it easier for customers to find out information about your brand.
- Public relations. Identify and reach out to Utah media outlets, and perhaps even national media, to broaden your reach. Cultivate relationships with individual journalists and whole publications that can help you raise your profile.
- New business and customer retention. Work to build relationships with your customers to keep them coming back, and even spread the word to their own friends, families, and colleagues.
Starting a business in Utah FAQ
How much does it cost to open a business in Utah?
The minimum cost to register your LLC or corporation in Utah is $54, plus $15 to file your required annual report.
Is a business license required in Utah?
There is no statewide business license required in Utah, but your city or county business location will require a local license.
Does Utah require a seller’s permit?
Utah requires you to obtain a seller’s permit if your business will sell goods or services that would ordinarily be subject to sales tax