Starting a business requires advanced planning, paperwork

by The City Wire staff ( 3 views 

Editor’s note: Michelle Stockman is the executive director of the Fort Smith Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center. Stockman earned a bachelor’s degree from Loyola University-Chicago in communications and fine arts, and earned a master’s in entrepreneurship from Western Carolina University. Her thoughts on business success appear each Monday on The City Wire.

In starting a business, there are several basic steps an entrepreneur needs to take in order to comply with federal, state and local regulations. Since each business and industry is different, each business needs to take the time to investigate the necessary licenses, permits and requirements for their business. However, there are some general steps a business needs to take to get started.

First, each business needs to verify the type of business and its physical location comply with local zoning requirements. Visit your local Planning and Zoning office to talk with a staff member about your business and building plans BEFORE you begin to prepare your new location for business. You will save yourself precious time and money knowing what will be required of you and your business before you begin any construction or renovation projects.

Next, sole proprietor or general partnership businesses need to apply for a DBA (Doing Business As) certificate for their fictitious or assumed business name. Some counties may charge a small application fee, but this fee would only be a one-time expense. If the business changes names in the future, the new name will need to be registered with the county as well. Once a DBA certificate is applied for, the county clerk will conduct a business name search to ensure you are using a unique name. Business owners need to note that a DBA does not protect or reserve the business name from others.

Lastly, some businesses will need to apply for special permits and inspections. Occupational licenses are required of individuals working in a specified field. The Arkansas Employment Security Department will be able to assist in determining if you need a special license in order to conduct your work.

Additional business requirements for specific types of businesses vary widely depending on the industry. For example, restaurants and food service organizations will need to undergo regular inspections of the business location. Further information can be obtained at

Child care businesses should visit, and Adult/Senior care businesses need to visit or

Businesses involved with alcohol should contact the Arkansas Department of Finance, Alcoholic Beverages and Control Division at (501) 682-1105. Lastly, businesses involved with tobacco, amusement or vending machines need to apply for special permits through the Miscellaneous Tax Section at (501) 582-7184.

While there are numerous steps to take to get your business started, understanding the requirements for your business whether in Arkansas or Oklahoma are critical to being allowed to operate your business. Take the time to understand the requirements before you open your business.