Starting a new business? Explore our online digital resources.
- Starting a Business in Illinois: A great overview from the Illinois Small Business Development Center.
Planning to Realize Your Dream
A business plan is essential to helping you organize your ideas. Any financial backers (banks, etc.) will want to see your business plan before approving a loan. You need not purchase special software to create your plan; reviewing sample plans and using the resources below should give you a head start on creating your own.
- Business Plans and Finance Templates from SBA’s SCORE
- How to Write a Business Plan from the Small Business Administration
Demographics and Market Research
Doing smart research is a great way to gain insight into your community’s demand for your product or service. You can pinpoint where to focus your marketing efforts, and to whom. You may find the following resources helpful:
- AtoZ: Create and export mailing lists and sales leads from this database of 220 million U.S. residents and 50 million U.S. businesses (Must have a GEPL card to log in).
- Blue Book Marketing Research: From the Marketing Research Association. Includes descriptions of fee-based marketing research companies, services, and facilities.
- Census Business Builder: Small Business Edition contains key data for business plans or to better understand potential markets. It presents data for a single type of business and geography at a time.
- Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports: Newly available to the public, information produced by the CRS for the United States Congress. Continually updated to provide timely, objective, and authoritative research and analysis to committees and Members of both the House and Senate. Use appropriate keywords, such as “small business” to begin.
- Mergent Intellect: Business, financial and consumer data that you can use to generate insightful business intelligence.
- QuickFacts: Get the latest statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau about the community where you live and do business.
- Small Business Administration State Profiles: Gather detailed information on small business at the state level, including demographics of owners, small business income, business turnover, and employment gains and losses by size of business.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Labor market activity, working conditions, and price changes in the economy.
There’s no such thing as “free money;” however, you can apply for seed money grants from government and local agencies, and bank loans are available for small businesses. Some resources to check out include:
- Loans and Grants info from the SBA: Get the facts, advice, and eligibility information about small business loans and government grants.
- Illinois Community Development Assistance Program (CDAP): A federally funded grant program that assists Illinois communities in financing economic development, public facilities, and housing rehabilitation projects.
- Grants from the Federal Government: Find out if your small business is eligible for government funding.
- Business Owner’s Toolkit – Getting Financing for Your Business: Learn the ins and outs of determining the money you need, the best lender for your business, and how to ensure a smooth approval process.
- Business Owner’s Toolkit – Loans from Banks: Read advice on the process of getting a bank loan through different types of lenders.
Register Your Business
In order to operate your business, you’ll need to register with the state. Links to printable applications are below.
Choosing a name is part of the registration process. Use the naming sources below to choose an original name (and avoid trademark violation).
- Advice on Naming Your Business: Learn about the different rules of naming different types of businesses. Also, learn how to file a DBA (“doing business as”) document, if you plan to operate your business under a different name than the one it is officially filed under.
- Corporate Name Database: Check to see if the name you like is already taken. Also includes a link to a Corporate Name Availability Request.
- United States Patent and Trademark Office: Check to see if the name you are thinking about is already trademarked.
Taxes and the IRS
To pay taxes on your business, you’ll need to file with the IRS. The IRS also provides a wealth of online resources for small business tax help.
- Business Owner’s Toolkit: Choosing a Form of Organization: Whether you’re purchasing an existing business or starting one from scratch, you must decide which form of organization is best for your company.
- EIN Application Form: Apply for your EIN (Employer Identification Number) from the IRS here.
- Employer’s Tax Guide: Official IRS document with nuts-and-bolts of taxes for businesses with employees.
- Tax Guide for Small Businesses: Most recent available IRS guide.
- Self-Employment Tax Center: If you are self-employed, get your business tax information here.
Hiring and Employees
- Federal OSHA: If you have one or more employees, you are subject to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) guidelines. Learn about them here.
- Hiring Employees: Resources from the Illinois Department of Employment Security. You must register your business within 30 days of hiring employees.
- Illinois Department of Labor: Be in-the-know about state laws and regulations concerning occupational health and safety.
- Illinois Department of Insurance: Get the latest news on insurance laws and procedures for Illinois businesses.