"I have an idea, where do I go from here?"

The Greenhouse is here to help local entrepreneurs navigate their startup pathway! It is important to note that there is no "one size fits all model" to starting a new business but these steps will help entrepreneurs organize their thoughts and iron out important details to the business startup process.

Are you ready?
Let’s address the first and most important question. Starting a business involves planning, making financial decisions, doing market research, and acquiring knowledge in areas you never thought you would learn about before and requires a major commitment. It is important to understand the major challenges and addressing those needs before getting started. 

  1. Complete the following recommended webinars:

Research your concept
“Five years from now, will this concept not only get me out of bed in the morning, but would it also excite me enough to continue creating content/products/tools for it?” If you answered yes, your idea is ready for the next step: Research.

In order for a small business to be successful, it must solve a problem, fulfill a need or offer something the market wants. There are a number of ways you can identify this need. As you explore the market, some of the questions you should answer include:

    • Is there a need for your anticipated products/services?
    • Who needs it?
    • Are there other companies offering similar products/services now?
    • What is the competition like?
    • How will your business fit into the market?
  1. Complete the following recommended webinars:
  2. Additional Market Research Resources:

These core offerings will help map out your approach to business startup.

Prefer to attend these webinars live and ask questions during the presentation? Check out our calendar of upcoming live events!

For a truly immersive and in-depth cohort experience, consider registering to attend Entrepreneurial Academy.  Learn more:

Every business needs a business plan. Business planning will help you take an objective and critical look at your business. It is a tool for managing your business and will help you track performance. Your plan will be your road map to a successful business and act as a basis for a financing proposal.

One-page business plan
If you do not anticipate immediately seeking financial support, a simple one-page business plan can give you clarity about what you hope to achieve and how you plan to do it. This could act as your conceptual business plan and continued to be improved over time.  

  1. Complete the following recommended webinar:
  2. Complete one-page Lean Canvas business plan

Traditional business plan
If you intend to seek financial support from an investor or financial institution, a traditional business plan will be needed. This type of business plan is generally long and thorough and has a common set of sections that investors and banks look for when they are validating your idea.

  1. Complete the following recommended webinar:

Now that you have an idea, you have set goals, and you’ve created a plan, it’s time to get feedback on your concept. The point of the feedback stage is to get a second opinion on how you can improve your idea. 

The Greenhouse collaborates with several organizations, such as SCORE and SBDC to provide free business consulting. 

Request an Appointment

Maintain contact with a consultant/mentor throughout the startup process to help meet your goals and help overcome setbacks. Establish contact with professional advisors (i.e. insurance agent, attorney, accountant, webmaster, etc.) during this time.

Starting a business will require an initial investment as well as the ability to cover ongoing expenses before the startup will beginning turning a profit. Your business plan will help inform you of the amount of financing you will need to start and run your business. 

Calculate Startup Cost 

Put together a spreadsheet that estimates the one-time startup costs for your business (licenses and permits, equipment, legal fees, insurance, branding, market research, inventory, trademarking, grand opening events, property leases, etc.), as well as what you anticipate you will need to keep your business running for at least 12 months (rent, utilities, marketing and advertising, production, supplies, travel expenses, employee salaries, your own salary, etc.). Those numbers combined is the initial investment you will need. 

Once the startup cost investment is determined, there are a number of ways you can fund your small business, consider the following options:

  • Personal savings
  • Borrowing from friends and family
  • Ownership contribution (Partnerships)
  • Check with your bank for an SBA loan, visit
  • Small Business Grants
  1. Complete the following recommended webinars:
  2. Additional Resource:

Where should the business be located? Will you buy or lease your space? Setting up your place of business is important for its operation, whether you will have a homebased business, a shared or private office space, or a brick & mortar location.  Utilize your business plan and market research to determine the best general location for your determined client demographics. The Following should be considered while selecting a location:


Can you afford the location? Business expenses can vary significantly by location including: standard salary, property values, rental rates, business insurance rates, utilities, and local licensing and fees.


Local zoning ordinances and permitting

If you buy, rent, build, or plan to work out of a physical property for your business, it is important the location conforms to local zoning and building code requirements.

Zoning ordinances can restrict or entirely ban specific kinds of businesses from operating in defined areas. Zoning ordinances still apply even to home-based businesses. Zoning laws are typically controlled at the local level, so check with your department of city planning, or similar office, to find out about the zoning laws in your area.

If your business is moving into a space that will require a “Change in Use” permit, it is important to be informed of what Florida Building Code requirements will be needed. A change of use occurs when there is any change in the occupancy of a building that could trigger a change in the code requirements that apply to the site. For example, moving a proposed a cafe into an existing retail space or a restaurant space increasing occupancy space. It is important for these changes to be reviewed by the local governing body to ensure that the site can accommodate the change of use that is proposed.


      • Do not sign a lease or purchase a property until you verify the proposed location can be occupied by your specific use.
      • Determine if the proposed “Change of Use” requires upgrades to the property and/or structure before occupying. For example: Grease trap installation, bathroom additions, increased parking requirements, etc.
      • Visit your local zoning and permit office to review above mentioned items for the proposed location.


Location Incentives

There are a number of Federal, State and local programs that may offer tax breaks in certain areas. You might also find state-specific small business loans or other financial incentives. Incentive programs and benefits are often related to job creation, energy efficiency, urban redevelopment, and technology.  For example, locations in South St. Petersburg Community Revitalization Area (CRA) have access to various place-based grant opportunities.


  1. Complete the following recommended workshops:
Choose a business structure

When beginning a business, you must decide what form of business entity to establish. Your form of business determines which income tax return form you have to file. The most common forms of business are the sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and S corporation. A Limited Liability Company (LLC) is a business structure allowed by state statute. Legal and tax considerations enter into selecting a business structure.

You may choose an initial business structure, and then reevaluate and change your structure as your business grows and needs change. Depending on the complexity of your business, it may be worth investing in a consultation from an attorney or CPA to ensure you are making the right structure choice for your business.

  1. Complete the following recommended workshop:
  2. Additional Resources
Choose your business name

A business name plays a role in almost every aspect of the business.  Select a name that helps to establish the business’s brand identity and complements the goods/services being offered. 

Businesses in every state are subject to trademark infringement lawsuits, which can prove costly. It is important to check your prospective business, product, and service names against the official trademark database, maintained by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Form your business with the State (REQUIRED)
Once you have determined your business structure and name, it is time to officially form your business with the State of Florida’s Division of Corporations at
Register your Fictitious Name or DBA (if applicable)

A fictitious name (also known as a “doing business as” or “dba”) is:
Different from your personal name, if doing business as a sole proprietor OR
Different from your entity’s legal name, if you have incorporated or otherwise formed a separate legal business entity.

What is a Fictitious Name and When Should It Be Registered? 

Register a Fictitious Name

Next step: Register your tax information

The amount and type of taxes paid depends on the nature of your business, its legal organization and number of employees.

Acquire Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN)
An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is a business’s federal tax ID. It is required in order to pay federal taxes, hire employees, open a business bank account, and apply for business licenses and permits.
There is no cost to apply for an EIN, and this step should be completed immediately following filing your business with the state.
A business requires a federal tax ID number if it meets any of the following:
  • Pays employees
  • Operates as a corporation or partnership
  • Files tax returns for employment, excise, or alcohol, tobacco, and firearms
  • Withholds taxes on income, other than wages, paid to a non-resident alien
  • Uses a Keogh Plan (a tax-deferred pension plan)
  • Works with certain types of organizations

Apply for an EIN Online

State Taxes

If you are starting a business in Florida, you need to be aware of the taxes you may be required to collect and/or pay.  

Determine State tax registration requirements


Obtain Local Business Tax Receipt 

If your business physical location is within a municipality/city limit you need to contact the appropriate office for information requirements for obtaining an Occupational License/ Business Tax Certificate Receipt to conduct business. An Occupational license/Business Tax Certificate Receipt is not required if the business physical location is in unincorporated area of Pinellas County. 

City of St. Petersburg
Before doing business in St. Petersburg, you will need a Business Tax Certificate Receipt (Formerly “Occupational License Tax”). This is an annual business tax for all businesses, professionals, independent contractors and individuals who accept compensation for merchandise or services who are located in the city limits of St. Petersburg.

Apply for City of St. Petersburg Business Tax Receipt

  1. Complete recommended webinar:
Professional Licenses and Facility Permits
Depending on your profession and industry type, multiple agency licenses and permits may be required.  Be sure to check with the following  Federal, State and Local agencies to meet your industry’s requirements.

Federal Licenses and Permits
You’ll need to get a federal license or permit if your business activities are regulated by a federal agency. Check to see if any of your business activities are listed, and then check with the right federal agency to see how to apply. Requirements and fees depend on your business activity and the agency issuing the license or permit. It’s best to check with the issuing agency for details on the business license cost.

Does your business requires a Federal license or permit

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) is the agency charged with licensing and regulating businesses and professionals in the State of Florida, such as cosmetologists, veterinarians, real estate agents and pari-mutuel wagering facilities.

Does you your business require a DBPR license?

The Florida Department of Health is responsible for the regulation of health practitioners for the preservation of the health, safety, and welfare of the public. The Licensing and Regulation section provides information relating to professional, facility, and permit licensing along with information on enforcement.

Does your profession or facility require a license or permit with the Florida Department of Health? 

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services supports and promotes Florida agriculture, protects the environment, safeguards consumers, and ensures the safety and wholesomeness of food.

Contact FDACS to check if your industry requires a license

City of St. Pete Food Service Permits

Restaurants and all other food handling facilities must obtain obtain permits from the City of St. Petersburg , including Water Resources Department for wastewater discharges containing any concentration of fats, oils and grease.  

Learn more and apply 


Protect your assets

Finding insurance to protect you, your business and your assets is an important decision.  To determine insurance needs, business owners should review property and risks and contact a local insurance company for recommendations and rates.  Also, use the Florida Department of Financial Services (DFS) Small Business Owners’ Insurance Guide for information about types of insurance and what is required or optional.

Florida Department of Financial Services 

Protect Your Idea

Consider protecting the ownership and creative use of your idea creative use by filing patents, copyrights, or trademarks.  Visit the following links to learn more.

  1. Suggested Greenhouse Workshop