Starting a Business in DC

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Whether you are starting a new business or relocating an existing one, you will need to know the requirements of operating a business in the District of Columbia. If this is your first business venture, there are a number of factors that you need to consider.

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Business Planning

Developing a business plan is crucial to success as it can help secure funding, market your products and services, and help establish strategic partnerships. While there are different ways of writing a business plan, there are three essential components that should be included in every business plan. These components are:

  1. Description of Business – contains the “who, what, when, where, why, and how.” Examples include location, products and services, management structure, and labor policies.
  2. Market Analysis – contains information regarding your target demographic, how you plan to reach them, potential competitors, timing of and barriers to market entry, your marketing budget, and advertising plan.
  3. Financials – contains balance sheets, cash flow projections, income statements, and break-even analysis.  Also include a breakdown of costs and revenues by month and year for a five-year time period.

For assistance in developing your business plan you can contact the U.S. Small Business Administrations SCORE or the DC Chamber of Commerce’s Business Resource Center.  Additional organizations that provide assistance are listed in Chapter 1: Starting a Business in DC.

Business Location

Your business location is integral in determining which government incentive programs you qualify for (see Financial Incentives), the accessibility to your target market, your ability to attract and retain employees, and the type of occupancy permit you will need, among other issues. You will be required to have a location and submit a Certificate of Occupancy or Home Occupation Permit when applying for your business license. The most important factors to consider when determining a location are:

  • Accessibility;
  • Cost; and
  • Whether it meets your requirements.

The Washington, DC Economic Partnership has an abundance of resources to aid in your search for an ideal business location.  Download our Neighborhood Profiles guide and visit our Retail Site Search page for more information.

Ownership Structure

Your business ownership structure will not only define who owns the business, but also who controls it, who assumes liability, how profits are divided and how your business will be taxed. The eight common business types are: sole proprietorship, general partnership, limited partnership, limited liability partnership (LLP), C (general) corporation, S corporation, limited liability corporation (LLC), and nonprofit.

For details on each of these business types, download Chapter 1 of the WDCEP’s Doing Business in DC Guide.  Prior to determining your type of business, you should consult with a qualified tax professional and a lawyer to determine the appropriate structure for your business.

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Download the DC Doing Business Guide:


Next: Chapter 2: Business Registration & Licensing