skip to main content

Start Your Business

How to Start a Retail Business

Ensure you have the required licenses and legal protections.

Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation


The sky's the limit for any entrepreneur who decides to open a retail company! Retailers can sell anything from clothes to cupcakes to auto parts or pet supplies in their storefronts. And speaking of storefronts, there are more options now than ever before that go beyond brick and mortar.

You could open for business at pop-up shops, food trucks, and eCommerce sites. There are also plenty of entities you can incorporate your new business as and permits and business licenses you'll need to obtain to remain in compliance. After deciding on your unique proposition and the best location to open your business, then you can pick a legal structure to incorporate your business.

What's the Best Entity to Form?

If you want to run the business from home... form a sole proprietorship. This entity is easy to form and great for anyone who can offer services from home, like through a website, and doesn't need a physical storefront. However, as a sole proprietor, you are still liable for everything that happens with the business since it's not a separate entity.

Should you choose to expand your business, its line of credit, or reach out to potential investors; all eyes will be on your credit history and not the history of the business because it doesn't have one of its own. And remember that even if you're running your business from your garage, you will also need to apply for a basic business license and pay a fee.

If you're planning to open a retail store, food truck, or pop-up shop... form an llc. An LLC will keep your professional and personal assets separate and give you extra liability protection. If you only plan on opening one store especially, you can save on taxes with an LLC while still establishing credibility with consumers. You will also need to apply for a Sales and Tax permit per tax obligations in your city, county, or state.

If you want to branch out beyond one storefront... Form a Corporation. If you've got big plans for your business, then a Corporation will allow you to still keep your personal assets separate from those of the business while enabling your business to accept money from investors.

What are the benefits of incorporating a retail business?

Incorporating your retail business offers numerous benefits. First, it creates a legal separation between you and your business, safeguarding personal assets from business debts and liabilities. Second, it adds credibility to your business, as 'Inc.' or 'Corp.' in your business name may boost your reputation with customers and suppliers.

Third, corporations can raise capital more efficiently through the sale of stock. Fourth, a corporation gains an unlimited lifespan and continues to exist even if management changes, or shareholders pass away. Finally, incorporating could lead to potential tax benefits, such as corporate tax rates or deductions unavailable to individuals.

How do I incorporate my retail business?

Incorporating a retail business involves several steps. First, you need to choose a unique business name that is not currently in use. Then, file articles of incorporation with your state's Secretary of State office, outlining your business's purpose, structure, and ownership.

Once the state approves your articles, draft corporate bylaws that define the internal governance of your business. You must also establish a board of directors and hold an initial board meeting. Don’t forget about stocks and setting those up for your retail business. Remember to keep meticulous records of all corporate proceedings.

How do I obtain the necessary licenses and permits for a retail business?

To obtain the necessary licenses and permits for your retail business, start by identifying the federal, state, and local requirements that apply to your business.

Depending on the products you sell, this could include a general business license, sales tax license, or special state permits. Contact the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) or your local Chamber of Commerce for specific information. Once you've identified the necessary permits and licenses, complete the appropriate applications, pay the fees, and anticipate a waiting period for approval. You will need to ensure approval of all licenses and permits before operating.

What are the tax implications of incorporating a retail business?

Incorporating a retail business has significant tax implications. Corporations are typically subject to "double taxation," where corporate profits are taxed at the corporate level, and then dividends distributed to shareholders are taxed again at personal income rates.

However, electing Subchapter S status (S Corp) allows profits and some losses to be passed directly to owners' personal income without corporate tax. Still, S Corps must meet specific IRS criteria. Also, corporations can often deduct business expenses like salaries, benefits, and pensions, which might result in a lower overall tax liability for the business.

What are the liability protections offered by incorporating a retail business?

Incorporation provides a significant degree of liability protection for owners and shareholders. In the eyes of the law, corporations are separate legal entities from their owners. This means owners aren't personally responsible for business debts, obligations, or liabilities.

If the business defaults on a debt or is sued, shareholders' personal assets, like houses or cars, are typically safe. However, this protection isn't absolute; if courts find that the corporation has not been operated separately, the owners may be liable. Corporations need to protect their personal assets and incorporate their business. 

If you experience any difficulty in accessing our content, please contact us at 877.692.6772 or email us at

Live Chat Assistance