How to Start a Business in Tennessee

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starting a business in tennessee

Are you a budding entrepreneur looking to turn your innovative ideas into a thriving business venture? Look no further than Tennessee, a state that has rapidly emerged as a magnet for startups and small businesses. Boasting a vibrant economy, a supportive business climate, and a rich entrepreneurial ecosystem, Tennessee offers a plethora of opportunities for ambitious individuals seeking to carve their paths in the world of business.

In this article, we’ll explore the essential steps to launch a successful enterprise in Tennessee and delve into the factors that make the state an ideal destination for aspiring business owners.

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Why Tennessee is an Ideal Place to Start a Small Business

Tennessee’s allure as a prime destination for small businesses lies in its favorable business environment and an array of incentives. With no state income tax, entrepreneurs can retain more of their earnings, allowing for reinvestment and business growth. The state also offers various tax credits, grants, and economic incentives aimed at promoting business expansion and job creation, attracting companies from various industries.

Tennessee’s vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem is a nurturing ground for startups. The state is home to numerous incubators, accelerators, and co-working spaces that provide invaluable resources, mentorship, and networking opportunities. Organizations like Launch Tennessee actively foster innovation and collaboration among entrepreneurs, connecting them to investors and potential partners.

Additionally, the presence of world-class research institutions and universities encourages a steady influx of talented graduates, ensuring a skilled workforce to fuel the growth of businesses. From the bustling urban landscape of Nashville, known as “Music City,” to the scenic innovation hubs in Chattanooga, Tennessee offers an enticing blend of creativity, innovation, and business-friendly policies that make it a fertile ground for turning dreams into reality.

Tennessee is home to more than 580,000 small businesses, employing around 1.5 million people across various sectors, driving economic growth and contributing significantly to the state’s economy.

Steps to Start a Business in Tennessee

  1. Get a Business Idea That’s a Good Fit For You
  2. Research the Idea and Draft a Business Plan
  3. Get Funding – Venture Capital, Angel Investors, Friends & Family, or Bootstrap It Yourself
  4. Decide on a Legal Business Entity – LLC’s Are Simplest and Offer the Most Protection
  5. Search the Tennessee Secretary of State for an Available Business Name
  6. Register Your LLC
  7. Find an Tennessee Registered Agent
  8. Get Your Federal EIN and Tennessee Tax ID
  9. Open a Business Bank Account and Business Credit Card
  10. Get the Needed Tennessee Licenses and Permits
  11. Choose a Location
  12. Get Business Insurance
  13. Develop an Internet Presence

Get A Business Idea (That’s a Good Fit For You)

Starting a business is an exhilarating journey that begins with a single, crucial step: finding the perfect business idea that aligns with your passion, skills, and the thriving market in Tennessee. In this article, we’ll delve into the process of discovering a business idea that fits you like a glove, ensuring your entrepreneurial journey in the Volunteer State begins on the right foot.

small business ideas in tennessee

The foundation of a successful business idea lies within your own passions and expertise. Consider what you genuinely enjoy doing and what skills you possess. Reflect on your hobbies, interests, and any specialized knowledge you might have acquired over the years. By tapping into these areas, you increase the likelihood of building a business that sustains your enthusiasm and dedication, even during challenging times.

Tennessee offers a diverse range of industries and markets, from the vibrant music and entertainment scene in Nashville to the burgeoning tech and healthcare sectors. Combine your passions with the state’s thriving industries to create a business idea that can thrive in Tennessee’s dynamic market.

Innovation often arises from identifying unmet needs or gaps in the market. Conduct thorough market research to identify potential opportunities in Tennessee’s business landscape. Look for areas where demand exceeds supply or where existing solutions fall short of satisfying customer needs. Analyze the competition and seek ways to differentiate your business idea from existing players. Tennessee’s growing population, evolving consumer preferences, and expanding industries offer fertile ground for entrepreneurs to discover untapped niches and carve out their own space in the market.

Tennessee’s unique culture and local trends can inspire compelling business ideas that resonate with the community. Embrace the essence of the state, be it its love for music, outdoor activities, or its strong sense of community. Consider how your business idea can contribute positively to Tennessee’s cultural fabric and enhance the lives of its residents. Whether you plan to open a farm-to-table restaurant in Memphis or a sustainable fashion boutique in Chattanooga, embracing local trends and values can create a meaningful connection with your target audience and drive long-term success.

By combining your passions, expertise, market research, and an understanding of local trends, you’ll be well-equipped to find the perfect business idea that not only suits you but also thrives in the fertile entrepreneurial landscape of Tennessee. So, let the creative sparks fly, and embark on your path to entrepreneurship with confidence and enthusiasm in the heart of the Volunteer State.

Fueling Your Business Venture: Securing Funding in Tennessee

Securing funding for your new business venture in Tennessee requires a well-thought-out strategy and tapping into the various resources available within the state. One of the primary sources of funding for startups is local venture capital firms. Tennessee boasts a growing number of venture capital firms that are actively seeking promising business opportunities. Firms like Innova Memphis, TriStar Technology Ventures, and Solidus Company provide funding and expertise to innovative startups across various industries. Connecting with these firms through networking events, startup pitch competitions, or introductions from local entrepreneurial networks can increase your chances of securing the necessary capital to fuel your business growth.

tennessee business funding

In addition to venture capital firms, entrepreneurs in Tennessee can explore state-specific resources and programs designed to support new business ventures. Launch Tennessee, a public-private partnership, actively nurtures startups and small businesses by providing access to mentorship, capital, and a wide array of support services. The Tennessee Small Business Development Center (TSBDC) offers free counseling and guidance to entrepreneurs at every stage of their venture, assisting with business planning, market research, and accessing funding opportunities.

Furthermore, the state government provides incentives like the Tennessee Business Enterprise Resource Office (BERO) that supports minority-owned businesses with access to contracts and procurement opportunities. By leveraging these local resources, entrepreneurs can strengthen their business plans, attract potential investors, and enhance their overall chances of securing funding for their new ventures in Tennessee.

Choosing the Right Business Structure for Your New Venture in Tennessee

When embarking on a new venture in Tennessee, entrepreneurs must carefully consider the business structure that best aligns with their goals, legal requirements, and personal liability. Here are the main business structures available, including sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and LLC:

Sole Proprietorship

This is the simplest and most common form of business structure. In a sole proprietorship, the business is owned and operated by a single individual. While it’s easy to set up and maintain, the owner assumes full personal liability for the business’s debts and obligations. As a result, personal assets could be at risk in case of legal issues or financial troubles.


A partnership is formed when two or more individuals share ownership and management responsibilities in the business. There are two types of partnerships: general partnerships and limited partnerships. In a general partnership, all partners have equal liability, while in a limited partnership, there are both general partners with full liability and limited partners with restricted liability. Like sole proprietorships, partnerships lack legal separation between the business and the owners, exposing personal assets to potential risks.


A corporation is a separate legal entity from its owners. It offers limited liability protection, meaning the owners (shareholders) are generally not personally liable for the company’s debts and liabilities. Corporations can raise capital through the sale of stocks, and their structures are subject to more regulations and formalities, such as holding regular shareholder meetings and maintaining corporate records. This added complexity can result in higher administrative costs.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

An LLC combines the benefits of both a corporation and a partnership. It provides limited liability protection to its owners (members) while offering a more flexible organizational structure and simpler administrative requirements compared to corporations. An LLC shields personal assets from business liabilities, protecting the members’ finances in case of legal issues or financial setbacks. Additionally, an LLC can choose to be taxed as a partnership or a corporation, offering potential tax advantages.

While all business structures have their merits, forming an LLC often emerges as the preferred choice for new ventures in Tennessee due to its blend of limited liability protection, flexible management, and favorable tax treatment. Entrepreneurs seeking to protect their personal assets, maintain more straightforward administrative requirements, and retain control over the company should consider creating an LLC for their business venture in the Volunteer State. However, it is essential to consult with legal and financial advisors to determine the best structure based on specific business needs and long-term objectives.

Registering your Tennessee LLC

LLC’s are the easiest business structure to start and also to maintain. With fewer headaches than any other business structure, you can simply form an LLC with six easy steps.

  1. Choose a Name For Your LLC
  2. Choose a Registered Agent
  3. File Your LLC With Your State
  4. Complete the State Publication Requirement
  5. Create an LLC Operating Agreement
  6. Receive an EIN

Naming Your Tennessee LLC

Choosing a compelling and unique name for your Tennessee LLC is an important step in establishing your brand identity and attracting customers. When selecting a name, consider factors such as relevance to your business, memorability, and legal compliance.

Registering an LLC in Tennessee is a straightforward process that can be completed online through the Secretary of State’s website. To initiate the registration, entrepreneurs must first choose a unique name for their LLC that complies with the state’s naming guidelines. The name should include “Limited Liability Company,” “LLC,” or an abbreviation of these terms and should not be similar to existing business entities in Tennessee. Conducting a name availability search on the Secretary of State’s website helps ensure the chosen name is not already in use.

tennessee business name search
Click here to search Tennessee Secretary of State to see if your business name is available

When conducting your LLC name search through the TSS’s database, it’s essential to search for both exact matches and variations of your desired name to minimize the risk of confusion. Additionally, consider including a unique element or keyword related to your business to make your LLC name stand out. Once you have determined an available name, it is recommended to reserve it promptly by filing the necessary formation documents with the TSS.

Choosing a Registered Agent in Tennessee

Choosing a registered agent is a critical decision when forming an LLC in Tennessee. A registered agent is a designated individual or entity responsible for receiving important legal and official documents on behalf of the LLC, such as tax notices and legal notices. When selecting a registered agent, it is crucial to choose a reliable and trustworthy party that will promptly handle and forward such documents to you. You can opt to act as your own registered agent or enlist the services of a professional registered agent service, which can offer expertise, privacy, and convenience. Examples of reputable registered agent services in Tennessee include:

  1. Northwest Registered Agent: Known for their reliable and efficient service, Northwest Registered Agent provides registered agent services in Tennessee and across the United States. They offer a secure online portal, excellent customer support, and a commitment to privacy and compliance.
  2. LegalZoom: As a well-known legal service provider, LegalZoom offers registered agent services in Tennessee. They have a user-friendly platform, competitive pricing, and a range of additional business formation services to support entrepreneurs.
  3. Incfile: Incfile is another popular choice for registered agent services in Tennessee. They provide affordable options, fast document processing, and a user-friendly platform with helpful resources for LLC formation and compliance.

Filing an LLC in Tennessee

Filing an LLC in Tennessee involves a straightforward process that can be completed through the Tennessee Secretary of State (TSS). OR, you can use a professional service and get it done for you.

To begin, you need to choose a unique and available name for your LLC and appoint a registered agent. Then, you’ll need to file the Articles of Organization with the TSS, providing essential details about your LLC, such as its name, purpose, registered agent, and management structure. There is a filing fee associated with the Articles of Organization.

Once your LLC is approved and registered by the TSS, it is important to fulfill any additional requirements, such as obtaining necessary licenses and permits, creating an operating agreement, and meeting ongoing compliance obligations. The TSS website provides comprehensive resources and forms to guide you through the LLC formation process, ensuring that you establish your business entity in compliance with Tennessee laws and regulations.

Creating an LLC Operating Agreement in Tennessee

While Tennessee law does not require an LLC operating agreement, having one in place is highly recommended. This document outlines the rights, responsibilities, and relationships among LLC members, and establishes rules for decision-making, profit distribution, and member withdrawals or additions.

It helps prevent disputes and provides clarity in operating procedures, ensuring smooth operations and protecting the interests of all members. When drafting an operating agreement, consider consulting with legal professionals to tailor it to your specific needs, address any unique circumstances, and ensure compliance with Tennessee laws.

Getting an EIN in Tennessee

An EIN is a unique nine-digit number assigned to businesses for tax purposes. Tennessee-based businesses can apply for an EIN online through the IRS website or by mail or fax using Form SS-4. The EIN is required for various purposes, including hiring employees, opening business bank accounts, and filing taxes.

When applying, be prepared to provide information about your business, such as its legal structure, the reason for applying, and the responsible party’s details. Obtaining an EIN is free of charge, and the online application process typically provides an instant EIN upon completion.

Set up Business Banking, Credit Cards, and Accounting in Tennessee

Opening a Business Bank Account

Opening a dedicated business bank account is a fundamental step in managing your business finances effectively. By separating your personal and business funds, you ensure accurate bookkeeping and streamline financial transactions.

To open a business bank account, start by researching different banks and credit unions in Tennessee to find one that suits your business needs. Prepare the necessary documentation, such as your business formation documents, EIN, and identification proofs. Visit the bank branch or complete an online application, providing the required information.

Once your account is open, you can deposit business income, pay bills, and easily track your business expenses, improving financial organization and simplifying tax reporting.

Getting a Business Credit Card

Obtaining a business credit card offers several advantages for your Tennessee-based business. It allows for separate tracking of business expenses, helps build a credit history for your company, and provides a convenient means of making purchases.

Start by researching credit card options specifically designed for businesses, comparing features, rewards programs, and interest rates. Submit an application, providing the necessary business and personal information. The issuer may evaluate your creditworthiness and may require a personal guarantee, especially for new businesses. Once approved, use your business credit card responsibly, making timely payments and keeping track of expenses.

By utilizing a business credit card, you can better manage cash flow, earn rewards, and establish a credit profile that may be beneficial for future financing needs.

Setting up Business Accounting

Proper business accounting is essential for tracking income, expenses, and overall financial health. Establishing a system to manage your business’s financial records helps ensure compliance with tax regulations and provides valuable insights into your company’s performance.

Consider using accounting software or hiring an accountant to help set up your business accounting system. Track revenue and expenses, reconcile bank statements, and categorize transactions accurately. Keep all relevant documents and receipts organized for easy reference during tax season. Regularly review your financial statements, such as profit and loss statements and balance sheets, to gain a comprehensive understanding of your business’s financial standing.

By maintaining accurate and up-to-date accounting records, you can make informed business decisions, identify areas for improvement, and demonstrate financial stability to potential investors or lenders.

Get Business Insurance

Getting business insurance is a critical step in protecting your Tennessee-based business from potential risks and liabilities. Business insurance provides coverage for various scenarios, including property damage, liability claims, and business interruption.

To secure the right insurance coverage, begin by assessing your business’s specific needs and potential risks. Research insurance providers in Tennessee that specialize in business insurance and compare policies, coverage options, and premiums. Consult with an insurance agent or broker who can help tailor a policy to your business’s unique requirements.

By obtaining appropriate business insurance, you can safeguard your assets, mitigate financial risks, and have peace of mind as you navigate the entrepreneurial landscape in Tennessee.

Get Necessary Permits and Licenses

The specific licenses and permits required depend on the nature of your business and its location. To ensure compliance with state and local regulations, research the licenses and permits relevant to your industry and operations.

The Tennessee Department of Revenue and the Tennessee Secretary of State’s Office are valuable resources for identifying the required licenses and permits. Contact the appropriate government agencies or visit their websites to understand the application process and any associated fees.

By securing the necessary licenses and permits, you can operate your business legally, avoid potential penalties, and build a solid foundation for success in the vibrant business environment of Tennessee.

Hire Employees

When growing your new business in Tennessee, hiring employees can be a significant milestone. Before bringing on staff, it’s important to understand the legal obligations and requirements involved.

Familiarize yourself with federal and state labor laws, including minimum wage and employment eligibility verification. Craft comprehensive job descriptions, create an effective recruitment strategy, and establish fair employment practices. When hiring, consider conducting background checks, completing necessary paperwork such as Form I-9 and Form W-4, and enrolling in workers’ compensation insurance.

By adhering to proper hiring procedures and staying compliant with employment regulations, you can build a talented and legally compliant workforce for your Tennessee business.

Build Your Web Presence

Building a strong web presence is crucial for your new business in Tennessee to reach a wider audience and attract customers.

Start by creating a professional website that reflects your brand and showcases your products or services. Optimize your website for search engines using relevant keywords and quality content. Leverage social media platforms to engage with your target audience and build a community around your brand. Claim your business listings on online directories and review sites to enhance visibility. Consider investing in online advertising to drive targeted traffic to your website. Regularly update your web presence with fresh content and respond to customer inquiries promptly.

By establishing a robust online presence, you can establish credibility, expand your reach, and effectively market your business to the digital-savvy consumers of Tennessee and beyond.

Promote and Market Your Business

Promoting and marketing your new business in Tennessee is essential for creating awareness, attracting customers, and establishing a strong foothold in the market. By utilizing various marketing channels and strategies, you can effectively reach your target audience and drive business growth. Here are some key areas to focus on:

Press Releases

Crafting and distributing press releases can help generate media coverage and increase brand visibility for your Tennessee business. Develop newsworthy stories about your company, such as product launches, milestones, or community involvement, and send them to local newspapers, industry-specific publications, and online news platforms. A well-written press release can create buzz and generate valuable publicity, driving traffic to your website and enhancing your business’s reputation.


Facebook is a powerful social media platform for promoting your Tennessee business. Create a business page and engage with your audience by sharing informative and engaging content, including updates, offers, and behind-the-scenes glimpses. Utilize Facebook’s advertising tools to target specific demographics and locations in Tennessee, maximizing the reach of your marketing efforts. Encourage customer reviews and testimonials to build trust and credibility, and actively participate in relevant Facebook groups and communities to expand your network and reach new potential customers.


Utilizing video marketing through YouTube can be a highly effective way to showcase your products or services and engage with your audience. Create informative and engaging videos that highlight the unique aspects of your Tennessee business. These could include tutorials, product demonstrations, or behind-the-scenes footage. Optimize your videos for search engines by using relevant keywords in titles, descriptions, and tags. Engage with your audience through comments and encourage them to subscribe to your channel, building a loyal community around your brand.

Google My Business

Claiming and optimizing your Google My Business (GMB) listing is crucial for local visibility and attracting customers in Tennessee. Complete your profile with accurate and up-to-date information, including business hours, contact details, and website links. Encourage customers to leave reviews on your GMB listing, as positive reviews can enhance your online reputation and improve your local search rankings. Regularly post updates, events, and special offers on your GMB profile to keep it fresh and engaging. Utilize GMB’s Insights to gain valuable data on how customers are finding and interacting with your business.

In addition to these channels, consider other digital marketing strategies such as search engine optimization (SEO), email marketing, and paid online advertising. Tailor your marketing approach to your target audience, measure the effectiveness of your campaigns through analytics, and continually refine your strategies to maximize results. By implementing a comprehensive and strategic marketing plan, you can effectively promote your Tennessee business, attract customers, and achieve long-term success.