Starting a Business
Dream – Launch – Grow
With a strong entrepreneurial spirit, a supportive business ecosystem and a pipeline of talented, energetic college graduates, Harrisonburg is the ideal place to start your business. Harrisonburg offers a variety of resources to help your business start, grow and thrive. Two cohort programs can greatly assist your launch or growth – LAUNCH HARRISONBURG Powered by CO.STARTERS and the Startup Shenandoah Valley (SV2).
The tabs below will help guide you from idea to business or you can download a digital version of the Guide to Starting Your Business in Harrisonburg.
Do you have an idea for a new business? Use the Idea Analysis Checklist to determine if your business idea is feasible. Once you have determined your idea’s feasibility, utilize the Planning Your Start-Up Checklist to get organized. Finally, the business plan outline will assist you in drafting your business strategy.
The Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center offers a free Start Smart Workshop. The workshop covers the steps to a successful start, including registrations, regulations, and the components of sound business planning and financial projections.
Small Business Counseling
Tap into the free business consulting resources available in Harrisonburg.
- Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center (SBDC)The mission of the SBDC is to advise, train and inform small businesses to help them achieve success. The SBDC can help you start, manage and grow your business.
Choose a Structure
A business becomes a ‘legal entity’ meaning that it can own property, can hold bank accounts, and pays taxes almost exactly as if it were a living citizen of the Commonwealth of Virginia. There are several types, however, each with its own benefits and limitations. While it can be changed later, it is far easier to make this decision correctly before going further.
The ‘right choice’ for you is truly dependent on your needs. Get to know the types and make a good decision for yourself. This decision impacts taxes, the relationships between owners, and, legal liability. If the company is sued for personal injury, can the plaintiff sue you personally and take your house, car, and bank accounts? These are important considerations.
Sole Proprietorships are usually owned by a single person or a couple. You’re personally liable for all business debts, can freely transfer all or part of the business, and for taxes, you can report profit or loss as personal income.
Limited Liability Companies (LLC’s) are very popular. You have limited legal liability like a full corporation however, for taxes they’re more like Sole Proprietorships or Partnerships.
General Partnerships let you share profit, loss, and managerial duties among the partners, and each is personally liable for any debt entirely. Members file an informational tax return and income/loss is filed personally. (“Joint Ventures” are short-term partnerships.)
C-Corporations are distinct legal entities, taxed separately from their owners and are generally not favored to own assets that substantially appreciate in value. While they protect against personal liability, they do not have many of the tax and operating advantages of an LLC or limited partnership, except that lower tax rates may apply to annual net income below $75,000.
S-Corporations are not taxed as a separate legal entity and protect their owners against personal liability, but there are limitations on the number and type of eligible stockholders. They also have certain less favorable tax and operating advantages than LLC’s.
Benefit Corporations are a form of stock corporation that incorporate aspects of nonprofit organizations.
Register Your Business and Its Name
Virginia offers an online registration system on this website that can accomplish this task for most users. If your business structure is too complicated for the online system, or if you are starting a non-profit organization, the forms must be filled out and filed manually with the State Corporation Commission, a lawyer can help you with this. Virginia’s Business Information Hotline can assist: 866-248-8814.
- Check to make sure your company name isn’t taken, and register your name and trademarks with the federal government.
- For more information about the registration process, including information for more complex business structures complete with forms and look up tables, this commission is the authority.
- For most businesses, the online registration tool, found here, can handle this part for you.
- You should always consult a lawyer if you still have questions.
- You can register for SWaM certification if you are a small business (under 250 employees, $10M revenue), woman-owned, or minority owned.
Get Your Tax Numbers
The same way a person has a Social Security Number, a business has federal and state tax numbers.
- The online registration tool, found here, can assist you with obtaining your federal and state tax id’s.
- View forms required for each type of business structure.
- In Virginia some types of businesses require specific tax registration.
**The above information is compiled from Virginia’s Business One Stop.
Harrisonburg Economic Development can help you find the right space for your business, big or small, retail, office or industrial space.
Determine which permits you will need to operate your business. These may include building permits, sign permits, health inspection, fire inspection and others. Economic Development can assist you in working with other city agencies.
All business and professional operations must purchase a business license before commencing operation in the City of Harrisonburg, including home based businesses. For business license information and application, visit the city’s Business License page.
Register your business trade name with the Rockingham County Circuit Court.
Get out and meet people! No matter what type or size business you have, Harrisonburg offers great opportunities for networking and growing your business connections.
- Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of CommerceThe Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber exists to connect area businesses into a powerful network through leadership and advocacy. The Chamber offers a variety of programs designed to meet the ever-changing needs of its member businesses.
- Shenandoah Valley Technology CouncilThe Shenandoah Valley Tech Council brings together creators and users of technology for education, networking and business development.
- Shenandoah Valley PartnershipThe Shenandoah Valley Partnership brings together business, government, and education leaders to attract new business to the area, help existing businesses expand, and guide strategic workforce development to grow and sustain a healthy economic future for our region.
The entrepreneurial spirit of Harrisonburg is evident in the home grown businesses and supportive business partners in the city. Entrepreneurs can tap into expertise and assistance from a variety of groups, including:
- Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center
- Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance
- Shenandoah Community Capital Fund
- Shenandoah Valley Angel Investors
- JMU Center for Entrepreneurship
- Technology Innovation and Economic Development Office at JMU
- Shenandoah Valley Technology Council
- Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce
From tech luncheons to our Entrepreneurial Spark Speaker Series, there are many ways to connect, learn and be inspired along your entrepreneurial journey.