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Start your Business Checklist

To start you off on the right track we’ve created a “Start your Business Checklist”. Keep in mind that it is not intended to include every step you need to officially open your doors. It should be used as a reference guide only.

Step 1: Plan your Business
  • Start your Research
    Thinking about starting a business? Be sure to know what to expect. Here are useful online resources to start you off. Washington State Small Business Guide and Small Business Administration Starting a Business Guide.
  • Mentoring and Training
    Taking classes and attending workshops are a great way to gain the knowledge you will need to successfully start and run your business. Find out what mentoring and business coaching is available in Tacoma. Also visit our classes and training page for information about upcoming events.
  • Research your Market
    Take time up front to determine who your customers are and where you will find them. For help in researching your market, go to our market research page.
  • Write your Business Plan
    Documenting your ideas will help you create a roadmap for success. You can find free business plans and financial planning templates online at SCORE and on the Small Business Development Center website. Once you have a draft business plan, contact a SCORE mentor to help you review and refine your business plan.
  • Assemble your Business Team
    Many successful entrepreneurs assemble a business team early on to advise them on financial, legal and insurance matters. Check with trade associations and business organizations for qualified attorneys, accountants and insurance providers in the area.
  • Secure Financing
    Funding is an important piece of your business foundation so that you will be prepared for every expense that may crop up along the way. Check on our financing your startup page for more detailed information.
Step 2: Set Up your Business
  • Determine a Business Structure
    Since your business is a legal entity, you will need to decide on a business structure for legal and tax purposes. It is always a good idea to check with an attorney or accountant for guidance on how best to structure your business. For a list of business structures, visit the State of Washington Access WA website.
  • Choose a Business Name
    The name of your business is important for branding everything from business cards to the sign above your door. Do a thorough search on all potential business names to avoid possible infringement on a reserved name. The first step to researching a name for a corporation or a LLC is to search the Office of Secretary of State.  You will also need to register your business or trade name with the State of Washington. For FAQs about researching and registering trade names, visit the State of Washington Business Licensing page. Don’t forget to secure your website domain name so that people can find you online, too. Registered domain name lookup can be found on For more helpful information go to choosing a business name page.
  • Register a Business Structure
    Corporations & Limited Liability companies need to register with  Washington Secretary of State first to obtain a UBI number. Businesses with other business structures register at the Business Licensing Service of Washington State (BLS) to obtain a UBI number.
  • Obtain Licenses
    Be sure to register your business correctly with federal, state, county and city agencies. At a minimum, you will be required to have a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN), Washington State business license and UBI Number, and City of Tacoma business license. Additional licenses and fees may be required and vary by business type. Note: For more detailed information, go to the licenses and requirements page.
Step 3: Decide on a Location
  • Depending on the type of business you plan to open, think through your location options. Will you be launching your business from home or will you need a retail, commercial or industrial space? For more detailed information, go to our location page.
Step 4: Set up Operations

From buying supplies and inventory to setting up internet access, streamlining your internal processes and procedures will pay off.

Step 5: Hire Employees (if applicable)
  • Most businesses start off small. If you need extra staff, learn the difference between hiring an independent contractor and an employee. If you decide to hire employees, you will be required to fill out a new Washington State Business State Application and register them for workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance. Visit the State of Washington Access WA website for detailed information on hiring employees. To find qualified workers, to research wage information and post job openings go to the Washington State Employment Security Department website.
Step 6: Sales and Marketing
  • Now is the time to think through how you will spread the word about your products and services to reach the right customers. Start networking, get advice, or attend a marketing class to get more help with this crucial part of your business success.
Step 7: Open Your Doors – Celebrate!
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Biz Spotlight:

Jamie Brooks, DDS

Brooks Dental Studio

In Business Since 2008
Number of Employees 4

In March 2008, excited by all the changes happening in her hometown, Dr. Jamie Brooks wanted to start her own practice in Tacoma. After researching the market she noticed there were very few dentists in the downtown core, even with so many people now living and working in the area. She identified a need for a dentist that could provide both the highest quality care and one that focused on dentistry as a key part of whole body wellness. She soon left a dental practice in Olympia, WA and opened a solo practice in downtown Tacoma.

A dentist with a heart for art, Jamie chose to locate her office in a converted warehouse space across from the Broadway Garages or “graffiti garages” as they are known. She had her space designed to double as a gallery and regularly features work by local artists. Jamie loves how important art is to Tacoma and is active in helping revitalize the city and its cultural appeal.

“The City staff impresses me with how proactive they are,” says Jamie. “From featuring my practice on its Business Matters cable TV show to being asked for my input on road construction in my business district, it is impressive that the City cares!”