How to Start a Small Business in Tennessee

By Beth Williams

  • Overview

    Tennessee offers numerous incentives to encourage entrepreneurs to start small businesses. For example, the Fast Track Job Training Program helps business owners ensure that their employees receive the career training they need. The state also offers tax incentives and grant and loan programs through the ECD-BERO Micro Loan Fund and the Delta Regional Authority.
    • Step 1

      Develop your business plan, including how you will finance your start-up, the marketing methods you will employ, your mission statement and what you will do to grow your business. If you need help, contact the Nashville or Memphis chapter of the Small Business Administration (SBA) to set up an appointment with an adviser.
    • Step 2

      Consider applying for a trademark with the Secretary of the State in Tennessee. While not required, a trademark will protect your business name or your logo for 10 years.


    • Step 3

      Research your business entity options to determine which will most benefit you. Business structures available in Tennessee include sole proprietorship, general partnership, corporation and Limited Liability Company.
    • Step 4

      Secure a federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) for your business. You can receive your EIN number almost instantaneously by filling out the online application at the IRS website or by calling 1-800-829-4933.
    • Step 5

      Go to the Tennessee Business Tax Registration website, where you will find the forms necessary to register your business with the state. Fees for filing the forms can also be found on the website.
    • Step 6

      Determine if your business is required to apply for a business license by contacting your local city or county clerk. You can find a list of city and county clerks in the state, including contact information, by going to Tennessee.gov.
    • Step 7

      Understand your responsibilities as an employer. For example, you will be responsible for following the Fair Labor Standards Act, which dictates the minimum wage you can pay employees and how you must keep business records.
    • Skill: Moderately Easy
    • Tip: You are not required to register your business name in Tennessee. However, you must do a business name availability search to determine if it is already being used.
    • Tip: Consider sending a press release to business magazines in Tennessee, including BusinessTN, Southern Business Magazine, Business Tennessee and Memphis Business Journal. You might spark a publication's interest.

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