How to Start a Business in Montana

Rated by U.S. News as the 8th-best state for venture capital, Montana is a great place to launch your business. Start your business today with our simple step-by-step guide and get on the fast track to financial and personal independence. If you get stuck along the way, connect with a business resources in your local area for help.

To Start a Business in Montana, follow these steps:

Step 1: Choose the Right Business Idea


The first step toward business ownership is deciding what kind of business to start. Look for an idea that suits your interests, your personal goals, and your natural abilities. This will help you stay motivated when the going gets tough and will greatly improve your odds of success. Need inspiration? Here were the most popular ideas among our Montana visitors in 2017:

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Find the Right Business Idea for You

Our free Business Ideas Tool will help you identify great businesses that match your interests and lifestyle.

Business Ideas
Tool

Step 2: Plan Your Business


Successful businesses are built through careful planning. Before committing a significant amount of money and other resources toward your business, critically analyze your idea and create a game plan. At a minimum, you should have good answers to the following questions.

Product Development
What problem does your business solve? What will set your product or service apart from the competition?

Sales & Marketing
Who are your potential customers? How will you get their attention and convert them into buyers?

People and Partnerships
What roles will you need to hire and what professional relationships will you need to form in order to succeed?

Financial Planning
How many clients or sales will you need in order to break even? How much money will it take to get there, and where will you get the funding?

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Start Planning

Step 3: Form your Business


Registering your company as an Montana business entity, such as an LLC or a Corporation, has two major advantages:

  • Increased credibility
  • Protection from personal liability in the event your business is sued

For most small businesses, registering an LLC is a great option. In comparison to other business entities, LLCs are easier to set up and manage and they have favorable tax treatment. You can set up an LLC in Montana for as little as $70.

If you choose not to register your company as a business entity, you will be held personally responsible for the debts and liabilities of your business. In addition, unregistered business owners may need to file a Trade Name, also known as a "DBA." Find out if your business is required to file a DBA.

Secure your Domain

We recommend that you check to see if the business name you are planning is available as a web domain. Even if you aren't ready to make a business website today, you may want to buy the URL in order to prevent others from acquiring it.

Find a Domain Now

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After registering a domain name, consider setting up a professional email account (@yourcompany.com). Google's G Suite offers a business email service that comes with other useful tools, including word processing, spreadsheets, and more. Try it for free

Step 4: Register for Taxes


With limited exceptions, most businesses require an Employer Identification Number (EIN), also known as a Tax ID Number. An EIN is used to identify a business in its federal tax filings. Without an EIN, you can't hire employees or open a business bank account.

Obtain an EIN

You should also be aware of important montana taxes that may apply to you business:

  • If you hire employees, you will have to register for Unemployment Insurance Tax and Employee Withholding Tax on behalf of your employees.
  • No need to wory about sales tax. Montana is one of five states that does not impose a sales tax!
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Register for Montana State Taxes

Unemployment Insurance Tax | Withholding Tax

Step 5: Create Business Banking and Credit Accounts


Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.

When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.

You can protect your business with these two steps:

1. Opening a business bank account:

  • Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
  • Makes accounting and tax filing easier.
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Recommended: Get $200 when you open a business checking account with Chase. Learn more.

2. Getting a business credit card:

  • Helps you separate personal and business expenses.
  • Builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise capital later on.

Step 6: Set Up Accounting


An accounting system helps you track the performance of your business and simplifies annual tax filings. Quality accounting software lets you download your bank and credit card transactions, making accounting fast and easy. Learn more about the importance of accounting and how to get started with accounting today.

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Recommended: QuickBooks has all the accounting features your small business will need.

Try QuickBooks for free

Step 7: Obtain Permits and Licenses


To operate your new business legally, you will need to comply with federal, state, and local government regulations. In many cases, this involves obtaining one or more business permits and/or licenses. For example, a restaurant will likely need health permits, building permits, signage permits, etc.

Step 8: Get Insured


Business insurance helps you manage risks and focus on growing your business. The most common types of business insurance you should consider are:

We recommend that all small businesses, including home based businesses, purchase a general liability policy. Businesses selling professional advice or services, such as consulting and accounting firms, should also consider a professional liability policy. In Montana, businesses with one or more employees, including LLC members and corporate officers, are required by law to have workers compensation insurance.

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Our recommended insurance provider can set you up with an insurance policy that is right for your business

Get a Quote

Step 9: Define Your Brand


The strongest and most memorable businesses are built on a solid brand.

When developing your brand, think about what your business stands for. What are the core values that drive your business? Customers and clients are looking for companies that have a compelling brand, as much as they are shopping for high quality products and services.

Your business name is the cornerstone of good branding and a successful business. To learn more about creating the best name for your business, read our How to Name a Business guide.

Step 10: Establish a Web Presence


A professional website is critical to the long-term success of your business, regardless of what industry you are in. A website allows potential customers to find your business online and discover the products or services you offer, and it also enhances your business’ credibility.

In addition to a website, you should also consider other avenues for promoting your business online:

  • Setting up social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, etc)
  • Creating accounts on review sites (Yelp, Google Reviews, etc)
  • Registering for a local Google profile
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More than ever, people are looking for reviews before doing business. Yelp is an important aspect of social validation for your business, claim your page today and get $300 in Yelp advertising credit.

Sign up for our Business Center

Sign up for a free Business Center account for access to tools, legal documents, and discounts that will help you start and grow your business

Signup Now

Get Help From Local Resources

To help you start your business, we have identified the best resources across the state of Montana that can support you in your entrepreneurial endeavors.

Select your Region

Billings Local Resources

Billings SBDC

Here are the Principle Service Areas:

  • Mentoring
  • Business Planning
  • Financial

Offers Free Service

Description

The greatest strength of the SBDC is their free, confidential, 1-on-1 business mentoring for anyone who seeks it. Sometimes in order to be considered for mentoring from one of their professional business advisors, you may have to attend a class/workshop or at least present your business plan. SBDC's are located all throughout the state and you should use the SBDC closest to your location if possible, but you can often transfer to a different location if they do not fit your needs.

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See more business resources in Billings

Billings Resources

Bozeman Local Resources

Prospera Business Network

Here are the Principle Service Areas:

  • Mentoring
  • Fundraising
  • Research
  • Networking

Offers Free Service

Description

Prospera Business Network provides entrepreneurs and small business owners counseling and financial assistance to help them with business relocation, expansion, and retention. They hold monthly networking events and workshops on professional development, usually with a fee. Members receive discounts on those events and can be featured in their annual report or directory depends on the level of membership. The Montana Women's Business Center is also under their roof, where they offer comprehensive online business courses and counseling to women business owners at an affordable rate. 

CONTACT INFORMATION:

2015 Charlotte Street, Suite 1
Bozeman, MT 59718
406-587-3113
preichert@ProsperaBusinessNetwork.org

HOURS OF OPERATION:

MON - FRI: 8:30 am - 5 pm

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See more business resources in Bozeman

Bozeman Resources

Helena Local Resources

BEAR (Business Expansion and Retention)

Here are the Principle Service Areas:

  • Mentoring
  • Fundraising

Offers Free Service

Description

BEAR is a Business Expansion and Retention program in Bozeman. The BEAR team provide mentors, training funds, and occasionally business networking opportunities for its members. They provide up to 2 hours of free initial business counseling for its members, and the rest is determined solely by resource providers and business owners. BEAR members also have access to Montana's Department of Labor Training Grant for employee training that is up to $2,000 per full-time employee per year. (See here).  Anyone who wishes to join should contact SBDC or Montana Job Service first. 

CONTACT INFORMATION:

301 S Park Ave.
Helena, MT 59620
406-563-5259
gloria@medamembers.org 

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See more business resources in Helena

Helena Resources

Kalispell Local Resources

Kalispell SBDC

Here are the Principle Service Areas:

  • Mentoring
  • Business Planning
  • Financial

Offers Free Service

Description

The greatest strength of the SBDC is their free, confidential, 1-on-1 business mentoring for anyone who seeks it. Sometimes in order to be considered for mentoring from one of their professional business advisors, you may have to attend a class/workshop or at least present your business plan. SBDC's are located all throughout the state and you should use the SBDC closest to your location if possible, but you can often transfer to a different location if they do not fit your needs.

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See more business resources in Kalispell

Kalispell Resources

Missoula Local Resources

Missoula Economic Partnership

Here are the Principle Service Areas:

  • Mentoring
  • Networking

Offers Free Service

Description

Missoula Economic Partnership offers a variety of business-related events and services. Of those targeted to small, emerging companies, they have free expert counseling, brown bag lunch, informal peer networking events, and seminars on business and professional development. 

CONTACT INFORMATION:

2501 Catlin St., Suite 205
Missoula, MT 59801
406-541-6461
info@missoulapartnership.com

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See more business resources in Missoula

Missoula Resources