Business Start-Up Checklist

Starting a business is a daunting task, one that can take a great deal of time and figuring-out, when you really should be concentrating on perfecting and delivering your product or service.  What’s really needed is a step-by-step checklist, so that the formalities can be swiftly vanquished, and nothing important is forgotten.

Fortunately, we’ve found such a checklist, and it’s even tailored for us here in Maine!

The Maine Small Business Development Center, a program of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, and the University of Southern Maine, offers individualized assistance and management training for Maine entrepreneurs and small business owners.  The following comes straight from their website:

There are many things you must consider when starting a business. The following is a list of steps which provide a general guideline to anyone who is starting a business in Maine. Download and/or Print this List.

If you seek additional assistance or have business-specific questions, don’t hesitate to contact the Maine SBDC to set up an appointment with one of our experienced business advisors in your area. Contact an advisor now.

  • Prepare a written business plan, complete with pro-forma financial statements. This can serve as an operating guide as well as a financing prospectus. Visit our business planning page for more info.
  • Decide whether you wish to operate as a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company or corporation.
  • If you decide to incorporate, form a limited liability company, or a partnership, you should consult an attorney. However, you can obtain incorporation papers from the Maine Secretary of State, Bureau of Corporations, State House Station #101, Augusta, ME 04333. Telephone: 207-624-7736. Forms and information are also available from their website. If already incorporated in another state, obtain an application to do business in Maine as a foreign corporation from the same office.
  • If you decide not to incorporate and wish to protect the name of your business, you may file a TRADEMARK or SERVICE MARK with the Secretary of State’s office. For information regarding filing marks, you may call 207-624-7736 or visit their website.
  • If your business will operate under a business name that is different from your given name, you must register that name in the CITY or TOWN where your business is located. This is called filing a d/b/a (“doing business as”) and the fee varies slightly, according to your location.
  • Determine whether you need to obtain any state licenses or permits to operate your business. Business Answers, a program of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, has a One-Stop Licensing Center for all the information needed to obtain appropriate licenses for your business. This service can be reached at 1-800-872-3838. You should also inquire about local licenses or permits at your local town office or city hall.
  • Check with the local code enforcement officer to determine if your business will be in compliance with local zoning ordinances.

If you decide to incorporate, or if your partnership or proprietorship has employees, you will need to:

  • Register for a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN). Complete and file IRS Form SS-4, EIN. You are required to file this if you: pay wages to one or more employees; or are required to have EIN to use on a specific return, statement or document (often banks will require this for business checking account); or plan to incorporate (in which case owners drawing salaries are considered employees). This form can be obtained from the nearest IRS office, or call 1-800-829-3676. IRS forms and publications can be downloaded from:
  • Register for Maine State Income Tax Withholding and Unemployment Insurance. Complete and file the Application for Tax Registration from the Maine Revenue Services. Telephone: 207-624-5644. The application can be downloaded from
  • Have employees complete and keep in employer’s files: Employee’s Withholding Certificate W-4 obtained from the IRS and Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 obtained from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. This form can be downloaded from: USCIS website or call 800-870-3676.
  • Obtain Worker’s Compensation Insurance from the business’s insurance carrier.
  • Maine employers are required to report newly hired or rehired employees to the Maine Department of Human Services (DHS) within 7 days. The report must include the employee’s address, social security number and date of birth, as well as the employer’s name, address, employer security reference number or employer identification number. Employers may report by sending a copy of the employee’s W-4 form or facsimile thereof. For more information contact DHS Support Enforcement and Recovery at 207-624-4100.
  • Obtain and post the required labor posters that summarize state and federal labor laws by calling the Maine Department of Labor at (207) 623-7900 or visit their website for more information.
  • If you plan to sell a taxable product or service, you must obtain a State Sales Tax Number by filing the Application for Tax Registration with the Maine Revenue Services. Telephone: 207-624-5644. This form is also used to register for State of Maine income tax withholding.
  • If necessary, contact the Maine Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Standards to determine compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Telephone: (207) 623-7900.
  • Contact an insurance agent regarding the necessary insurance coverage your business will require.

If you seek additional assistance or have business-specific questions, don’t hesitate to contact the Maine SBDC to set up an appointment with one of our experienced business advisors in your area.

Maine Small Business Development Centers
210 Main Street, Suite 7
Ellsworth, ME 04605