Close this search box.

A business plan is critical for any entrepreneur. Your business plan is the “roadmap” for your how you will start and manage your small business. As you write your business plan, you will analyze a variety of elements to include: your product or service, marketing, financing and operations. A business plan is not only important for when you start, but also as your business begins to grow and develop.


Local Workshops:

  • Norfolk’s Small Business Initiative (SBI) is designed to assist you with achieving success at every stage of business. From business planning, to online marketing, financing, government contracting and networking. We are here to help you start and grow a successful company through training, one-on-one consultations, networking and empowerment events. See our Calendar for upcoming events. If you are one who enjoys connecting with other business leaders, or your inspired by the stories of other entrepreneurs then the Small Business Initiative is just the resource you need to grow your company. Our recent seminar Series included a focus onAchieving Financial Success through managing cash flow, bookkeeping, tax planning and funding resources for your business. Our Spring Online Marketing series addressed social media marketing, content development and search engine optimization for Business.
  • Norfolk’s award-winning BIZ Café series designed to help you learn from business mentors and local experts. The BIZ Café is offered at various neighborhoods ensuring that all small business owners can participate and gain new business insight.  Business owners often ask about how to break into government contracting, which most often requires certifications.  The SBI promotes opportunities for businesses to network and become certified in state and federal contracting requirements.


  • offers an online interactive tool in the form of a downloadable CD to help you write your business plan. Users are required to register
  • US SBA: the Small Business Administration offers a “Build Your Business Plan, which requires registration.

Department of Development: Contact us for any questions you may have 757-664-4338 and visit our website for special business incentives.

An important part of deciding to start a business is to decide on your legal structure. Before you decide to start a business, you must decide on a legal structure. Will you be a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, limited liability company or Virginia benefit corporation? Each structure has varying legal and tax implications, so be sure to consult with a lawyer and accountant before deciding. The State Corporation Commission’s mission is to strive to apply law and regulation to balance the interests of citizens, businesses, and customers in regulating Virginia’s business and economic concerns and work continually to improve the regulatory and administrative processes. To register your business, visit: http://www.scc.

For information on selecting a structure visit:

Here are the basic structures as presented on the SBA website:

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the most basic type of business to establish. You alone own the company and are responsible for its assets and liabilities. Learn more about the sole proprietor structure.

Limited Liability Company

An LLC is designed to provide the limited liability features of a corporation and the tax efficiencies and operational flexibility of a partnership. Learn more about how LLCs are structured.


People form cooperatives to meet a collective need or to provide a service that benefits all member- owners. Learn more about how cooperatives are structured.


A corporation is more complex and generally suggested for larger, established companies with multiple employees. Learn more about how Corporations are structured.


There are several different types of partnerships, which depend on the nature of the arrangement and partner responsibility for the business. Learn more about how these are structured.

S Corporation

An S corporation is similar to a C corporation but you are taxed only on the personal level. Learn more about how S corporations are structured.


Virginia Benefit Corporation (info available Virginia Department of Business Assistance)

The Commonwealth of Virginia is one of the few states to permit a Benefit Corporation. A Virginia Benefit Corporation must create a positive, charitable, social and/ or environmental impact in general for specific public benefit.

The Internal Revenue Service has many online resources to guide you through the process. In addition to workshops held around the state, you may access virtual workshops and arrange for desktop calendar reminding you of actions to keep you up-to-date and compliant.

  • Employers must obtain a Federal employer Identification Number (EIN). Sole proprietors must obtain an EIN if they pay wages to one or more employees or if they file an excise tax return.

For more information, please visit:

Some business types require professional licenses or permits from the state. To find out whether or not there are permits or licenses required for your type of business, visit:

The three main Virginia State regulatory/ licensing agencies:

  • VA Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation
  • VA Department of Health Professions
  • VA Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Business License

All business and professional operations must purchase a business license before commencing operation in the City of Norfolk, including Home Businesses.

In order to obtain a Norfolk City Business License, you must have a definite location of business. In the City of Norfolk, zoning laws may prohibit your business from operating at certain locations, such as a residence. The address for your business must be approved by Zoning.

What will you need?

  • Identification (picture ID)
  • Lease or letter of permission from homeowner
  • Zoning approval ($15 fee – Contact 664-4752)
  • State Corporation Commissioner Certificate or Corporate Charter (if applicable)
  • Register Trade Name or Partnership ($10 fee – Contact Circuit Court 664-4580)
  • Meal Tax Bond (Food establishment – fees vary – Contact 664-7886)
  • Permits (If applicable – fees vary)
  • Estimate of gross receipts through December 31

Registration of Trade Name

Any person, partnership, limited liability partnership, limited liability company, or corporation using a name which does not identify the owner of the business must register a fictitious name with the State Corporation Commission. Registering this name does not prevent your business name from being used by any other business. It is done to assist the public by providing information as to the person with whom the public will be dealing. There is a fee to register this name. Please visit the Forms and Fees section on the SCC website for more information.

Apply for a Business License online. Your application will be kept on file for 30 days. If you do not complete the business license process within 30 days; the application will be discarded, and you must reapply. 

Cost of Business License

The cost of the business license is based upon your estimate of total gross receipts from the day the business opens to December 31 of the same year. If the estimate is less than $100,000, the license will cost $50.00 which is the minimum tax. If, however, the estimate is greater than $100,000, a tax rate will be applied to your estimate. There are different rates for different types of businesses.

What You Need

When applying in person, please allow at least one hour to complete the application process. When paying by check, bring a separate check for each process. To help streamline your application process, be sure to bring these important documents with you:

  • Visit the City Treasurer’s office to obtain a signed certificate of approval
  • Government-issued picture ID
  • Lease or letter of permission from the homeowner (if applicable)
  • Zoning approval ($15 fee – Contact 664-4752)
  • State Corporation Commission Certificate or Corporate Charter (if applicable)
  • Register Trade Name or Partnership with State Corporation Commission (if applicable)
  • Meal Tax Bond (Food establishment – fees vary – Contact 664-7886)
  • Permits (If applicable – fees vary)
  • Estimate of gross receipts through December 31
  • Printable Checklist (PDF)

Associated Fees

  • Contractors – $.16 per $100 gross receipts
  • Retail – $.20 per $100 gross receipts
  • Repair, Personal, and Business Services – $.36 per $100 gross receipts
  • Financial, Real Estate, and Professional Services – $.58 per $100 gross receipts
  • Wholesale Business $50 flat fee plus – $.15 per $100 gross purchases ($100,000 threshold does not apply)

Helpful Links and Downloads for Starting a Business

  • SBA Startup Guide This small business guide is intended to serve as a roadmap for starting a business. It is both comprehensive and easy to use. It also includes numerous electronic links for additional information. Use this powerful interactive tool, with many supporting resources to help you start a successful business.
  • Business Plan Template This template is designed to help you build a business plan. Review and complete each section of the template. At the end of the program you will be able to generate and save a formatted business plan which can later be further modified or presented as a final product. Completing this plan is a first step to building a successful business.
  • Business Plan Samples Get inspired with a gallery of 500+ business plans.
  • Norfolk Commissioner of the Revenue This site provides you with important tax information. Here you will find many links to information that is important to starting a business.
  • Zoning Information The Zoning Services Bureau is responsible for administering and enforcing the zoning ordinance of the City of Norfolk.