Start Your Business

Congratulations on your decision to start your own business in Denver!

We can appreciate that this is an exciting, and possibly overwhelming, chapter for you. 

Denver offers its checklist for business startups in seven languages: AmharicArabicEnglishNepaliSomaliSpanish, and Vietnamese.

We also look forward to meeting you at the Commons on Champa, a public campus for entrepreneurship located at 1245 Champa St. and created specifically to serve Denver's vibrant startup and small business community. Consult our current schedule of advisory hours and make your appointment.

LET'S TALK! We know that every business, and every business owner, is unique. If you'd rather start with personalized attention from one of our Business Development Representatives, send us an email

Below is our 10-step approach to navigating the many resources that are available. 

Step 1: From idea to reality

Here are the kinds of questions to think about when you hope to turn the dream of a business into opening your doors:

  • Do you have a specific business idea, or just a general sense that you would like to own your own business?
  • What do you know about the industry you’re entering?
  • Do you know what causes businesses in this industry to fail?
  • What kind of research have you done about the industry or about your product/service?
  • How do you know there is a demand for your product/service?
  • What other startup ventures or small businesses have you been involved with?
  • Who would be willing to coach or mentor you during these early steps?
  • What do you know about your own appetite for risk, uncertainty, or delayed success?
  • What sacrifices are you willing to make, if needed, to launch this business?

For help on finding out whether you have what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur:

Mi Casa Resource Center –
Mi Casa offers an array of free and affordable entrepreneurial training programs to help aspiring business owners, emerging businesses and more advanced entrepreneurs access the information and training they need to be successful.

Colorado Business Resource Guide –

This is a free, downloadable 75-page document that is an excellent resource for startup businesses.

Counselor of America’s Small Business (SCORE) –
SCORE is the Small Business Administration’s resource for aspiring and existing entrepreneurs. They offer coaching/mentoring services and technical assistance as well as live and online training sessions.

Step 2: Choose a business name

Your business name is the main identifier of your venture, it is how your customers and suppliers will know you. Choosing a business name can be a fun process where you can let your creativity run. However, there are many factors to consider, one of them is checking the availability of the name you are choosing. Search for business name availability and register your business name and structure with the Colorado Secretary of State

Step 3: Legal structure and licensing

In order to register your own trade name, you must decide what legal structure your business will have. In Colorado, your choices of business format include:

Sole proprietorship
General partnership
Limited partnership
Limited liability corporation
Registered limited liability partnership
Limited partnership association

Here is a general overview from the U.S. Small Business Administration. We strongly advise that you contact your accountant or attorney for advice or assistance in determining the best legal structure for you and your business.

Trade name registrations are done online only:

Colorado Secretary of State
Click on “Business Information” and “File a document creating a new record.”

There is a classification system for business activity types in Denver that determines whether a special permit or license is required.  Determine your general business activity type at:

Denver Excise and Licensing
201 West Colfax Ave., 2nd Floor
(720) 865-2740

You may qualify for legal assistance on starting your business from community organizations such as the Community Economic Development Clinic at the DU Sturm Law School.

Step 4: Your business plan

A written business plan is like a road map—it shows you where you are in relation to where you want to be.

Too many entrepreneurs skip this step and operate just on their gut instincts. Your energetic and visionary nature is certainly an asset in launching your own company, but be warned that failing to think through and write a plan--including your business concept, marketing, target customer, competition, pricing, operations, startup costs, a projected three-year financial statement, and other key elements--is the single reason that so many startup businesses fail.

Any bank, nonprofit, or public-sector financing you hope to obtain will definitely require a written business plan.

For help developing your business plan, start with this short video from the U.S. Small Business Administration. You may also benefit from:

Denver Small Business Development Center –
Located within the Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce, the Denver SBDC offers a range of coaching services as well as live and online training sessions and networking.

Mi Casa Resource Center –
Mi Casa offers an array of free and affordable entrepreneurial training programs to help aspiring business owners, emerging businesses and more advanced entrepreneurs access the information and training they need to be successful.

Colorado Business Resource Guide –
This is a free, downloadable document that is an excellent resource for startup businesses.

Counselor of America’s Small Business (SCORE) –
SCORE is the Small Business Administration’s resource for aspiring and existing entrepreneurs. They offer coaching/mentoring services and technical assistance as well as live and online training sessions.

Step 5: Locating your business

Many startup companies begin in the founder's home or garage. And your small business may never require a physical office or public-facing site. But if it does, be sure to consider that the place you choose is right for your type of business. Among the factors to consider are the building type, its location, zoning, and available parking.

You may want to work with a commercial real estate broker to find the right site and a licensed contractor familiar with business buildouts. When you begin the process of locating your business, be sure to carefully review the Regulatory requirements (Step 6).

While you are considering where in Denver to locate your business, consider the benefits of operating within the Denver Enterprise Zone. It is located in the industrial and commercial heart of the metro area. In addition to a great strategic location with regard to transportation, suppliers and potential clients, the Denver Enterprise Zone is a designated area that affords businesses an exciting array of state business tax credits/incentives. For more information, contact Rachel Lyons

Step 6: Regulatory requirements

It is your responsibility to secure the proper licenses, permits and inspections prior to opening your doors or beginning operations.

If the building you select was used previously for a different purpose, or if zoning approval is required according to your industry and licensing rules, you will need a zoning permit prior to receiving your building permit for a renovation. A pre-application meeting is recommended.

  • building permit is required if there is a change of occupancy as defined in the Denver Building Code. 
  • When occupancy changes, measures must also be taken to meet thAmericans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. 
  • If you decide to make interior changes, all elective work must be done to current Building Code.
  • When your exterior and interior work is completed, a building or zoning inspection may be required.
  • Finally, you must secure your Certification of Occupancy before you can open your business.

    For more information on all of these issues:

    City of Denver - Development Services
    201 W. Colfax - 2nd Floor


Step 7: Tax information

As you are making plans to start your business, you will need to register with the tax authorities at the city, state, and federal levels. Several types of taxes may be levied on your business, depending on its industry and location. Taxes may include income tax, employment tax, sales tax, and city business tax.

To register for city taxes, file returns and manage your tax accounts, contact:

Denver Treasury Division
201 W. Colfax Ave, 10th Floor

For state taxes and a sales tax ID number:

State of Colorado - Colorado Business Express

For federal tax issues and your Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN):

Internal Revenue Service

Step 8: Employer responsibilities

A new set of responsibilities arise when you hire employees.

You will need to:

  • register as an employer to obtain your Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN);
  • pay additional taxes;
  • withhold, match, and submit employee withholdings;
  • obtain workers compensation insurance; and
  • adhere to employee eligibility regulations.

The Colorado Business Resource Guide (downloadable at includes a helpful section on this topic.

We strongly advise that you contact your accountant or attorney for advice in determining the best practices for your business as you add employees.


All forms of businesses except sole proprietors with no employees must have a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN). To obtain this number, contact the Internal Revenue Service at (800) 829-1040 or go to

Visit the Colorado Business Express,, to register your business with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. This will establish an unemployment insurance account.

Employers are required to report newly hired employees to the Colorado State Directory of New Hires,

Did you know that OED offers a wide range of free services to help you recruit, hire, train and retain your employees? Through Denver Workforce Development, we can:

  • Help you post job openings
  • Organize your own hiring event, at your location or ours
  • Help you find unique skills and experience 
  • Help you match skills with jobs
  • Fund the wages of employees you add, if you qualify

More details here.  

Step 9: Obtain financing

Financing the initial costs of your new business is one of the most important steps you must take. There is a reason, however, why we list this as Step 9. Critical ingredients to obtaining financing including the proper legal structure for your business, a solid written business plan based on market research and detailed financial projections, and ensuring that you are meeting the myriad regulatory and legal requirements for your industry. 

When it comes to starting up or expanding a business, access to capital is often the single greatest obstacle you will face. There are few "short cuts" to doing your research and planning your business; remember that many startups fail not from a lack of energy or passion, but from a failure to do your homework up front.

As you pursue financing, remember that nothing is more important that a well-conceived, logical business plan.

Funds can be obtained from private financial institutions such as banks and other private lenders, owner's equity, investor capital, and economic development financing programs. A summary of funding options is available through our Capital Matrix.

If you are considering Denver Economic Development & Opportunity (DEDO) for business financing, please note that our funds are designated for small businesses that create new jobs and spark neighborhood revitalization of specific underused or deteriorated commercial and industrial areas. In addition, you must secure 50-75% of your funds from other sources in order to tap into the "gap" financing that DEDO may be able to offer you.

Step 10: Tips, tools, and training

There is a wealth of free and affordable resources for startup businesses and growing companies!

Denver Workforce Services - For Employers
Free help for Denver businesses on recruiting and hiring top talent.

Mi Casa Resource Center
Excellent, free and low-cost training for startups as well as networking and technical assistance.

SCORE Denver
Free and low-cost training and counseling for existing and aspiring entrepreneurs, both live and online.

Denver Small Business Development Center
Excellent networking opportunities through an array of live and online training, how-to's, and technical assistance.

Chambers of Commerce
Here's a list of the primary local Denver ones; many are eager to support startups through networking and training.

Commons on Champa
Denver's newest one-stop shop for existing and aspiring entrepreneurs, including training and many events.

Mile High Business Alliance
A great resource for peer-to-peer support and assistance by and for local business owners.

Denver Public Library BizBoost
Access and individualized help to use the library's sophisticated collection of print and electronic tools to research your industry, consumer spending habits, etc.

Denver Enterprise Zone
An array of tax credits and other incentives rewarding firms that locate in designated underdeveloped or neglected areas.

Denver Treasury Division
Registering your business locally plus other licensing requirements within your industry.

Denver Development Services
Permits for all construction, repair, or alteration to property within Denver, and certificates of occupation when complete.

Denver Excise and Licenses
Guidance through the classification system that dicates which business and activities require a permit in Denver.

Colorado Secretary of State
To look up existing trade names, and register your own.

Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA)
Information about industries that require state licensing and operate under other regulatory guidelines.

State of Colorado - Business Express
An excellent general reference for both new and growing firms in Colorado.

Colorado Department of Revenue
State tax information, state Sales Tax ID, and other resources for businesses such as wage withholding and unemployment insurance.

Colorado State Directory of New Hires
How to submit a W-4 for any new hires within 20 days of start date.

Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade
Guidance on international trade issues.

U.S. Small Business Administration
Free counseling and low-cost training for starting a business through the SCORE program.

U.S. Government - Official Business Link
An excellent online reference for launching, managing, growing, or exiting a business.

Internal Revenue Service
Information about business structure, obtaining a FEIN, and other tax questions.