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Louisiana has a dynamic business landscape, from the bustling streets of New Orleans to the agricultural communities of the Sportsman Paradise region. The Pelican State’s tax incentives and enterprise zone programs make it attractive for budding entrepreneurs, and according to employment projections, its workforce is expected to jump 6% by 2030—great news for employers. Here are eight steps to help you with starting a business in Louisiana.
1. Choose a business idea
The first step to building a business is solidifying a business idea. Will you sell a product, a service, or a combination of both? Will you provide a range of products or services or specialize in just one? You should also ask yourself these two key questions:
- Who is your customer? Will you sell directly to consumers (B2C) or business-to-business (B2B)? Will you sell online, through brick-and-mortar shops, or a combination of both? Understand clearly who you’re selling to and how you’ll reach them.
- What is your path to profitability? It isn’t enough to simply make money; your business needs to earn a profit. You’ll need to make more than you spend—at least in the long run. What’s your break-even point? How many products or services must you sell to cover your costs?
2. Name your business
Once you’ve settled on a viable idea, choose a name for your Louisiana company. There are several considerations to keep in mind when selecting a business name:
- Be original. Your business name must be different from any other business name registered in Louisiana. Check if your desired name is available by searching the Secretary of State’s business filings.
- Include certain words. Your Louisiana business name may need to include certain indicators of your company’s formal business structure. LLC names must contain “Limited Liability Company,” or an abbreviation thereof, and corporation names should contain “Corporation,” “Incorporated,” or abbreviations thereof. Sole proprietorships must operate under the proprietor’s legal name, and partnerships must include the partners’ surnames. For more information on LLC naming rules, you can refer to the Louisiana state code.
- Exclude certain words. Your business name may not contain specific words, including any that could confuse it with a legitimate government agency, like the FBI or Treasury. Your business name can’t contain words suggesting you operate in certain specialized fields, like financial lending or engineering, unless the state licenses the company. You can refer to the Louisiana state code for more information on LLC naming rules.
- Reserve a name and apply. Before submitting an application for your business name to the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office, you must reserve the name, either online or by mail, for a $25 fee. There’s a three- to five-day processing period; however, you can pay $30 for expedited 24-hour processing or $50 for two- to four-hour processing. Make name reservations for up to 120 days through the state’s geauxBIZ filing portal.
- Trade names. Louisiana law dictates that any business operating under a name other than its registered name must apply for a trade name, known elsewhere as an assumed business name or DBA (“doing business as”). Trade names in Louisiana must also be distinct from any other registered business entity in the state. Access the trade name filing forms through geauxBIZ, and apply online or by mail for a $75 filing fee (or $300 for expedited 24-hour processing). Trade names in Louisiana must be renewed every 10 years.
- Reserve domain names and social media handles. Doing business today requires an online presence, even if your company doesn’t engage in ecommerce. To make it easy for potential customers to find you, reserve a domain name (URL) and social media handles that reflect your business name or trade name.
3. Write a business plan
A business plan, though not required by Louisiana state law, is essential for most successful businesses.You can write a business plan from scratch, consult examples for inspiration, or use a customizable template. You can also choose a business plan that adheres to your specific goals, such as a plan for a particular legal business entity type, like a nonprofit. A thorough business plan should include:
- An executive summary
- A detailed company description
- Market analysis
- An outline of the organizational and managerial structure
- A list of products and services
- A customer segmentation report
- A marketing plan
- A logistics and operations plan
4. Choose a business structure
There are different business structures to choose from when forming your Louisiana business. Your structure determines how your company is run, how it is taxed, and how easily you can secure investment. Here are the three most common business structures:
- Sole proprietorship. A sole proprietorship is the default designation for a one-person operation. These are taxed at the business owner’s personal-income rate. You can also form a partnership, similar to a sole proprietorship, but with two or more owners, who are also taxed through their personal tax returns.
- LLC. A Limited liability company, or LLC, is a formal business structure owned by LLC members. LLCs are popular because they offer some of the benefits of a sole proprietorship—for example profits and losses pass through to members, who report them on their personal income tax returns—while offering many of the legal insulations afforded to larger corporations. LLCs provide personal asset protection, meaning owners’ personal assets are not at risk if the company is sued or runs into debt.
- Corporation. Corporations offer a high degree of personal asset protection but take more work to incorporate and maintain. Owners of corporations are taxed on personal income and business revenue. You can form a C corporation or an S corporation, the latter of which enjoys the same pass-through taxation status as LLCs.
Obtaining an EIN
Once you’ve chosen a formal legal structure for your Louisiana business, you can apply for a federal employer identification number (EIN). An EIN allows you to hire employees and set up a business bank account. Although the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issues EINs, federal and Louisiana authorities use them to identify business entities for tax purposes. You can apply for an EIN online for free through the IRS website.With your EIN, you can formally establish your new business in Louisiana. Register your business through the Louisiana Secretary of State’s geauxBIZ portal.
Incorporating in Louisiana
LLCs and corporations in Louisiana must be formally incorporated. For a Louisiana LLC, file Articles of Organization with the Secretary of State online, by mail, or in person, for a $100 filing fee. For a Louisiana corporation, file Articles of Incorporation online, by mail, or in person for a $75 filing fee.
5. Obtain business licenses and permits
Louisiana does not require businesses to carry a state-issued general business license. If you sell or lease goods or services subject to sales tax, however, you must obtain a resale certificate, known in other states as a “seller’s permit.” You can apply for a resale certificate free of charge through the Louisiana Department of Revenue. Depending on your field of business and county, you may also be subject to other licensing and permitting requirements—particularly if your company sells liquor or food items.
6. Look into business insurance options
Business insurance helps you manage risk and attain a degree of liability protection. Standard insurance packages in Louisiana include:
- General liability insurance. A general liability insurance policy protects you from legal damages, losses due to property damage, and injuries on business property (such as customer slip-and-falls). It’s not mandatory for Louisiana businesses, though many commercial leases require it.
- Workers’ compensation insurance. Workers' comp covers injuries and illnesses employees might sustain on the job. Louisiana state law requires all employers to obtain this type of insurance, even if employees are temporary, part-time, or seasonal. Some businesses may qualify for an exemption if each employee owns at least 10% of the business.
- Professional liability insurance. A professional liability insurance policy protects your business against claims that your professional advice or services caused harm to a customer, client, or patient.
7. Understand financial considerations
Starting a business can come with more costs than you might first account for. You can explore loans, lines of credit, investments, grants, and tax benefits to support you with these costs. A strong business banking relationship—at a commercial bank or a credit union—can also help.
You may also need to make other investments to get your Louisiana business off the ground, including hiring professionals or contractors, like lawyers, accountants, or web designers. You might want to pay for digital services, like social media management or hosting for your company website, and you’ll need money to rent space if you decide to run a shop or ship items through a warehouse. If all of this feels overwhelming, resources like Shopify Capital can offer fast funding and flexible payments.
8. Market your business
Once your Louisiana business is set up, marketing is a crucial next step. Marketers hone in on what makes a brand unique. Craft logos, slogans, color schemes, and fonts that align with your message, and find ways to share these qualities with a target audience. Your marketing strategy might include:
- Market research. Research your company’s target customer base.
- Advertising and promotion. Get the word out through paid advertising, awareness content (blog posts, videos, newsletters), and search engine optimization (SEO).
- Social media. Promote your products and services through the most relevant social media channels.
- Public relations. Cultivate relationships with media outlets to increase your visibility.
New business and customer retention. Build authentic relationships with customers that keep them coming back for more and spreading the word to friends and family.
Starting a business in Louisiana FAQ
How much does it cost to register a business in Louisiana?
It costs $75 to register a corporation in Louisiana and $100 to register an LLC (limited liability company). You are also required to file annual reports for your Louisiana business, which cost $30.
What is required to start a business in Louisiana?
To start a business in Louisiana, you must reserve a Louisiana business name before filing the relevant articles, depending on your legal entity type. You must also purchase the necessary local licenses required to operate in your chosen field, including a resale certificate (sometimes known as a seller’s permit) to legally sell certain goods and services.
Is Louisiana a good state to start a business?
Louisiana is a great place to start a business. The state offers a range of tax incentive programs for new companies and some of the lowest costs of doing business in the country.