Department of Community and Economic Development

Contact Information

Gina Hofstetter
(440) 279-1794

Tina Breunig
Office Coordinator
(440) 279-1790

Elaine Malkamaki
Program Coordinator
(440) 279-1791

Community and Economic Development
12611 Ravenwood Drive
Suite 370
Chardon, Ohio 44024

Fax:  (440) 285-7761

Business Start Up

Starting you own business?

The following is intended as a guide only, it is not meant as a substitute for regulations and requirements in federal, state, and county codes. Exceptions will exist in the process described.  The County does not endorse any program or entity referred to herein.

We are glad that you are considering Geauga County as a home for your business.

The business start up journey is best taken one step at a time.  This page will guide you through the eight steps on the path to starting a business in Geauga County.

Step One:  Create your Business Plan

Step Two:  Define your Financing

Step Three:  Choose your Legal Structure

Step Four:  Register your Business Name, etc.

Step Five:  Obtain your EIN (Employers Tax Number)

Step Six:  Select a Suitable Location

Step Seven:  Obtain Appropriate Building Permits

Step Eight:  Hire your Workforce

Step One:  Business Plan

This document will define the success, direction, and profitability of your business.  Most business plans are created to leverage financing.  Banks, investors, government programs all require a written concise plan on how you will spend THEIR money (remember it is their money until you pay it back.) 

A business plan is meant to instill confidence in the lender that you know how to run your business and you know how to make money.

Your plan must prove that; 1) You know everything about the business you are starting, 2) You know how much money you need, 3) You know what you need the money for,  4) You know how to make your product, 5) You know who your customers are, 6) You know who your competition is, 7) You know how to price your product, 8) You know how to market your product, 9) You know how to collect, and 10) You can pay your bills.

Most business plans have five components:

  1. An Executive Summary - A brief overview of what your plan.  Typically written after the rest of plan has been completed.  This is the page will be your lender's first impression of you and your business.  It is your main public relations piece and should highlight the most impressive aspects of your plan.  The Summary should also briefly describe your business concept, projected sales and growth, and your target customers.
  2. The Company and its Management - This is a detailed description of the business, include the legal structure, history, vision and strategy.  Detail you and your management team's; skills, education and experience, and explain the advantages your business will have over the competition.
  3. Product/Service Description - In detail describe your product or service.  Define the customer demand and identify your market.  Further explain how you will produce the product/service, the time line of the product/service, and your pricing strategy.
  4. Marketing - Describe how you will reach your target customer.  Include advertising ideas and strategies as well as promotional campaigns.  Use area demographic information to verify your target customer.
  5. Financial Analysis - Include Profit/Loss Statements, Balance Sheet, Break Even Analysis and projected income statements.

    This is where you wish your brother in law was a CPA.  Try these questions...Do you balance your checkbook daily?  Does your monthly reconciliation balance to the bank statement?  Can you say "cash flow analysis" without giggling?  If not, you may want help from an accountant for this step.


    1. A Personal Financial Statement for all principals. This a statement of your net worth.  You can use any bank's form or use SBA's personal financial statement form.
    2. Three Years Historical Financials. If you currently own another business include three years past financials and three years of personal IRS tax returns.  Some banks may require 5 years of tax returns.
    3. Three Years Projected Financials. Try to base your figures in reality.  Most lenders will simply not believe that a business can show a profit in one year's time.  So what does this tell you?  Simply this, you need to show that you will have enough money to stay in business, without profit for at least a year.

Step Two:  Financing

Personal Savings, Family or Friends - Most people do fund their businesses with their personal savings.  If you borrow from family and/or friends create a formal agreement which includes the term of the loan, interest (if any) and when the loan must be paid back.

Personal Collateral: Basically your house or property, this would all be listed in your Personal Financial Statement.

Banks and Credit Unions: Commercial lenders can discuss your project with you.  Make an appointment with a small business commercial lender at a local bank and take with you the completed Business Plan.  Banks will use the "C's" of credit lending when analyzing your loan application; Credit, Character, Capital, Capacity to repay, Collateral, Cash Flow, Commitment, and Conditions of the industry.

Private Investors: Also known as "Angels" are investors looking for the next BIG thing.   Most investors are business owners themselves or professionals such as, doctors, lawyers, etc. looking for a better return than the stock market  - Ask your local bankers, accountants or lawyers for their input.  Don't confuse the "Angel" term as meaning they are a charity. They want to make MONEY.  You must prove that your business will make money for them.

Check out websites - new ones come along everyday.  The National Venture Capital Association and Mid-Atlantic Venture Funds are just a few: Jump Start, National Venture Capital Association, and Mid Atlantic Venture Capital. Check the Geauga County Library system for books published by Thomas Financial Securities Data for more information on Investor Firms.

Venture Capital Firms:  Venture Capital firms invest in businesses in exchange for equity or a percentage of ownership.  These firms are after mid-range projects between $500,000 to $2 million usually hi-tech or bio-tech industries.  They want to invest and get out quick with a lot of interest made from their investment.  They are extremely picky about the businesses they fund.  You must have a great product and business plan, with great management potential to get their attention, let alone their funding. 

Websites include Jump StartOhio Venture Capital Firms, Third Frontier Ohio Department of Development, National Venture Capital Association, and Mid Atlantic Venture Capital.

Government Agencies:  A wide range of Government programs are available to help finance a business but they all have very specific qualification criteria:  Jump StartOhio Business Programs, and OHIO INCENTIVES.

Use the information above to develop your project budget for your business plan.

The Project Budget:  Provide a Uses and Sources for funding your business.  Break down the expenses in detail in one column (the uses) and list sources of funding in the other (bank loan amount, government loan amount, investor amount, cash equity, etc.)  The columns should balance.   Attach a third party cost estimate for all the projected Uses.

FYI:  Cash Equity is the Owner's cash used for the project.  Most lenders will require that between 10%-30% of the project budget come from Owner's Equity.

Step Three:  Legal Structure

There are five basic business structures:

  • Sole Proprietorships
  • General Partnership
  • Limited Partnership
  • Corporations
  • Limited Liability Corporation

A lawyer and accountant can help a business make the best selection on the type of business structure.  The legal structure selected to start your business will likely be changed several times over the course of your business life. Legal Structure Explained

Step Four:  Register

There are a variety of registrations, licenses, and permits.  Check and double check that you have found all that could possibly apply to you and your business.

Legal Name: the registered name of the business
Trade Name:the everyday name of the business, if different from the legal name, it is a;
Fictitious Name: also referred to as a "dba" (doing business as)

Other links for permits, licenses, and registrations can be on the BUSINESS PERMIT LINKS page.

Step Five:  Obtain EIN

All corporations and partnerships must have an Employer Identification Number (EIN) issued by the IRS.  If you are a sole proprietorship and DO NOT HAVE employees you can bypass the process and simply use your Social Security Number and any federal and state tax forms.

Step Six:  Business Location

Finding a location for your business will depend on the type of business you've created.  If you operate your business from your home, farm, office, storefront or factory you must secure the appropriate permits and determine if the location is consistent with county, township, village or city zoning regulations.  The appropriate permits must be approved and obtained prior to opening your doors for business.

Determine which zoning classifications match your business use as each township, village, and city will have different zoning resolutions. Contact the appropriate Zoning Inspector for the community you are locating the business Zoning Inspectors by Community.

Once you've determined the appropriate zoning classification for your business, you can look for available properties.  Remember even though some communities have their own zoning regulations, all building permits come through the County.

You can search online for property by using the County Auditor's parcel search site Geauga REALink.  Enter in the address of the property and hit Search.  Select Map and Aerial/Ortho to bring up a photo of the property. The site also includes an "advanced search" tab to find a wide variety of parcels available.

Step Seven:  Building Permits

If you are constructing a building or adding on to an existing building, you will probably hire an engineer or architect.  Most professionals are aware of the permit process.  Some of the permits appropriate to your business can be found here Business Permit Links and the Geauga County Permit process can be found here Business Permit Process.

Step Eight:  Workforce

You will need to have your EIN in order to set up your tax accounts.  As an employer you must withhold federal and state income taxes, medicare, FICA (social security) and FUTA (Unemployment) employee paychecks.

You must make payments to Social Security not only for the businesses share on behalf of the employees BUT you must also collect and forward the employees deducted share for which they responsible.


Tax Withholding Sites:  Ohio Tax Info. and Social Security Website.

Assistance with job hiring and training can be found at this site:  Job and Family Services.

Small Business Links:

  • An industry in Middlefield Village.
    An industry in Middlefield Village.
  • A Bainbridge Township industrial business.
    A Bainbridge Township industrial business.