Starting a Business in Missouri: 8 Essential Steps

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Swyft Filings is committed to providing accurate, reliable information to help you make informed decisions for your business. That's why our content is written and edited by professional editors, writers, and subject matter experts. Learn more about how Swyft Filings works, our editorial team and standards, what our customers think of us, and more on our trust page.

Charlie Mitchell
Written by Charlie Mitchell
Written byCharlie Mitchell
Updated December 20, 2023
Edited by Carlos Serrano
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Whether you’re ready to start a business in Missouri immediately or are still brainstorming some key details, we’ve got you covered. Whatever stage of the process, from ideation to incorporation, you’re not far from the freedom and adrenaline of running your own small business. Read on for everything you need to know to become a Missouri business owner. 

Start Operating in Missouri: Key Points

  1. Your business must choose a name and business structure and file the requisite formation documents to start operating in Missouri.

  2. After the incorporation process, it’s essential to register your business for the licenses and permits it needs and identify the taxes it needs to pay.

  3. A third-party service like Swyft Filings can eliminate much of the research and paperwork that makes starting a business in Missouri more complicated than it needs to be.

Set the Stage for Business Success

Easily start your business and remain compliant with our all-in-one tools, guiding you well past the initial setup with the right support and documents.

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Ready to Start a Missouri Business?

Setting up a business in Missouri is a delicate process that involves paperwork, research, inspiration, and patience. This article will walk you through each phase business owners must go through to start operating in Missouri, from brainstorming to incorporation with the Secretary of State to Missouri tax and permitting law. Once you get the facts, it’s not as complicated as it may seem.

1. Choose a Business Idea

Entrepreneurs can embark on a new business venture even if they don’t have a business idea set in stone. Preconceived plans can sometimes obscure more creative business models. So if starting a business in Missouri is your goal, but you’re not quite sure what that business will be, try out these brainstorming tips to find your spark:

  • We need startups that focus on the environment. Here are some green business ideas to get you started.

  • Think locally. The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center has regional and county economic profiles you can use to learn about your neck of the woods. Kansas City isn’t the only place in Missouri to build a great business.

  • Focus on the little things. Minor problems that everyday people experience daily give rise to world-changing business models. Use this list of personal tips and habits to tune into the world around you — including yourself — to find a new business idea.

  • Start small — especially if you’re just getting started. Any small business experience is valuable, and no matter how simple the model, a well-run business that is smartly designed and targeted can have outstanding results. Our list of business ideas for recent college grads is excellent for anyone who wants to get started immediately.

2. Draft a Missouri Business Plan

This might sound like stale advice. A new business is ever-changing—why write a business plan if you’re going to throw it out a week after you start operating in Missouri anyway?

But, several essential reasons exist to write a solid business plan for your startup before undertaking the business formation process. Here are some things to think about:

  • Pivoting is painful: Any lessons you can learn before getting started rather than through costly setbacks in your first few years will save you those losses and the complex effort of changing course.

  • No business plan, no financing: If you ever want a loan or investing partner, you’ll need a business plan in place, and they’re not fun to draft in a hurry.

  • Eyes on the prize: Taking the time to articulate the goals of your enterprise to you and your fellow business owners will keep you focused on what matters to your Missouri business.

How to Structure Your Business Plan[1]

Executive Summary

Be as concise as possible. Don’t get bogged down in storytelling; write in direct language the specifics of the business idea, who you are, and the elements of your plan in broad strokes.


Go into some more detail. Describe your product or service, your and your team’s strengths, and why your idea will work. What are your advantages over the competition? What can you do that they can’t? What business location have you chosen and why?

Market Research

Now, zoom out and talk about the market you’re tapping into. Who is your target demographic? How big is it? How will you reach their needs and desires? Who are your competitors, and what do they do?

Organizational Structure

Who’s in charge? What are their responsibilities? Include an organizational chart with titles and profiles.

Service or Products

Give details on what, exactly, your business will provide. Describe the research and expertise that went into its design. Emphasize its strengths.

Marketing and Sales

What are your strategies for securing new customers and keeping them loyal?

Financial Details

If your business needs capital to get started, include some specific projections that show realistic sales growth that allow you to pay off your loans on time and begin to deliver profits in a manageable time frame. Specify the amount and terms of the loan you’re looking for.


Supplemental materials not included in the full body of the business plan can go in the appendix.

Your local small business administration (SBA) office can give you one-on-one help writing your business plan and other helpful business resources.

3. Select a Business Name

Great business ideas can die on the vine if your business name doesn’t do its job. Here are some things to keep in mind while you choose your business name:

  • Your business name should be easy to pronounce and remember.

  • Usually the simple choice is best.

  • Get loose and do some brainstorming exercises. This article has suggestions.

  • Make sure your name is available in Missouri. Swyft Filings’ Free Business Name Search tool can check for you.

  • To use multiple names for your business or a different name than the one you’ve chosen, register a “doing business as” or DBA with the Missouri secretary of state. In Missouri this is called a “fictitious name” and carries just a $7 filing fee.[2]

  • If you found the perfect name, but it’s a little early to be starting a business in Missouri, file a name reservation with the Missouri secretary of state for $25.[3] 

Columbia, Missouri, USA historic columns at twilight

4. Choose a Business Structure

Here’s a technical subject with important implications for your startup. Your small business must go through the incorporation process under a business structure. Quickly, we’ll review the main business structures and their advantages and drawbacks. This guide to business structures has even more information to help you decide.

Sole Proprietorship

Suppose you opt for a fictitious name registration for your new business. In that case, your business entity will exist as a sole proprietorship, meaning that your personal assets and those of the company won’t be separate. 

This is perfectly legal, but carries significant risks: if your business goes bankrupt or gets sued, there’s no limit to what you could personally lose. On the other hand, sole proprietors have way less paperwork and infinite flexibility.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

The most popular choice for small business owners across the country. LLC owners, called members, can run the company exactly how they want while enjoying the liability protections of a larger corporation. 

In addition, they pay taxes for the new business on their personal tax returns, avoiding corporate taxes entirely.

C Corporation

This business entity can go public and sell shares, but it has to be run by a board of directors, which answers to shareholders. C corporations are also “double taxed.” They pay corporate income taxes, and then shareholders will pay income taxes on their dividends. You’ll also have to institute bylaws and hold regular board meetings.


This is an official business entity category in Missouri. Qualifying for Federal nonprofit status can be difficult, but if you’re going to depend on grants and charitable donations for your operations, it’s essential.

S Corp Status

While not strictly a business structure, S corporation status is vital to consider. For some profitable LLCs and C corporations, S corp status from the IRS could save you money at tax time if you qualify. You can learn more about S corp status here.

Once you’ve landed on the proper business structure for your startup, you’re ready for the actual business formation paperwork.

5. File Business Formation Documents

The Missouri Secretary of State handles business formation through its online business services tool, by mail, and in person. Depending on your chosen business structure, you’ll need the forms listed in the chart below.

You’ll also need a Missouri registered agent to agree to receive legal documents on your company’s behalf. Learn about choosing a registered agent here. Swyft Filings makes a reliable and secure registered agent that lets you access documents online as soon as they arrive.

Missouri Business Formation Documents by Business Structure[4] 

These documents will be rejected if they aren’t filled out perfectly. But you can remove the headaches and uncertainty from the equation and instead focus on your small business. Swyft Filings will do the paperwork for any legal structure you’ve chosen with lightning speed and pinpoint accuracy. You’ll save critical time you can then spend building your business.

Once you file articles of organization or incorporation for your Missouri corporation, LLC, or nonprofit, you’ll want to put bylaws or an operating agreement in place, which Swyft Filings can help with. You’ll also owe an annual report to the Missouri secretary of state, keeping the information you provided current.

6. Apply for Missouri Business Licenses and Permits

Once your small business finishes the incorporation process, it’s time to acquire all the necessary Missouri business licenses you need. You must get these in place before you start operating in Missouri.

First, every business needs a sales tax license from the Missouri Department of Revenue.[5] You can’t do business without selling something.

Depending on the type of business your startup is engaged in, you may need these other Missouri business licenses:

  • A license to sell regulated commodities, such as cigarettes, alcohol, or gasoline.

  • A professional license to practice a licensed profession such as law, medicine, physical therapy, plumbing, nursing, etc.

  • A building permit to make modifications to your office or storefront.

You’ll probably have to contact your city and county governments and multiple state agencies to acquire the proper Missouri business licenses. But before you click over to the search bar, consider Swyft Filings’ Business Licenses and Research service, which searches high and low for all the permissions you need to start operating in Missouri, then fill the forms out for you.

7. File and Report Business Taxes

Now that you have your own business, you’re responsible for federal and state taxes, depending on your business type. This means you’ll need to get used to working with the Missouri Department of Revenue and the Internal Revenue Service as a business owner. Here’s what to look for:

  • Missouri’s franchise tax is called the corporate income tax, and is 4% as of 2020.[6] LLCs and S corps will be taxed as pass-through entities and pay income tax on their shareholders’ or members’ personal tax returns.

  • You can review the Missouri department of revenue’s tax guides by industry to see what your type of business tends to owe.

  • If you hire employees, you’ll need to withhold income tax for your workers at the state and federal levels and pay relevant payroll taxes. You may also want to consider workers’ compensation insurance or another type of business or liability insurance because employees create liability.

Most of these will be annual taxes, but some, such as payroll taxes, must be withheld quarterly.

8. Open a Business Bank Account

Limited liability, a legal separation between your personal assets and liabilities and those of your small business, is a significant reason business owners choose to incorporate. Without a business bank account to physically separate those entities, your liability protections may not hold up in a court of law.

Other important reasons exist to open a business bank account — primarily to simplify bookkeeping.

To open a business bank account, your business needs a federal employer identification number — a FEIN or EIN — from the IRS. You’ll also need an employer identification number from the state of Missouri to hire employees. 

These numbers are similar to the social security number we use to pay taxes. Your EIN can also be called your Federal Tax ID.

You can get your EIN for free on the IRS website — or Swyft Filings can do it in minutes. You’ll need it for more than tax purposes — it’s critical for many business operations, like securing a credit card.

Columbia, Missouri, USA historic columns at twilight Missouri

Take Your First Steps Toward Small Business Ownership

As you can see, starting a business in Missouri means a fair bit of paperwork. But what if you had an easy, one-stop service to do the grunt work? 

Swyft Filings will take your business idea and make it a fully-formed startup ready to start operating in Missouri faster than you ever could by yourself, with the added benefit of zero stress or time wasted staring at confusing forms. Our rates fit comfortably into the startup costs of any enterprise.

Your Missouri business needs you at your best, not pulling your hair out with confusing paperwork. So get Swyft Filings on your side as early as possible in your business formation process.

Your Dream, Our Mission: Partnering for Success
  • Your Perfect Fit: Whether you're looking at a simple LLC or a dedicated nonprofit, we'll help you identify the best structure for your dream business.

  • Continued Support: Your entrepreneurial journey doesn’t stop at formation. Our key management services help ensure your business thrives. 

  • Tailored Affordability: Get value-packed options suited to your business needs, starting at just $0 + state fees.

Begin Your Business Journey

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Missouri a good place to start a business?

With economic diversity and major cities like Kansas City and St. Louis, along with premier universities, Missouri is a strong choice of business location for many entrepreneurs.

How much does it cost to start operating in Missouri?

Incorporation costs are low in Missouri, so getting started doesn’t cost much.

Can I start a business in Missouri without a business plan?

Writing a comprehensive business plan before you form your business and hit the ground running is better. Fixing big-picture mistakes while you’re on the go can be challenging.  

What does Missouri require to start a business?

Depending on your chosen business structure, new Missouri businesses need to fill out specific formation documents and file them to the Missouri Secretary of State, register with the Department of Revenue, and acquire the necessary licenses and permits.  

What is the process for starting a business in Missouri?

Missouri businesses must choose an approved business name, file incorporation documents, register with relevant state, federal, and municipal agencies, and file annual tax returns and reports to stay in good standing.

Why are most LLCs in Delaware?

Delaware has laws that make it easy and more affordable to do business as an LLC, and this can make it worth it for some nationally-focused companies to be headquartered there. But most Missouri small businesses wouldn’t benefit from running a Missouri-focused business headquartered in Delaware.


  1.  U.S. Small Business Administration. “Write your business plan.” Accessed July 12, 2023.

  2. State of Missouri Secretary of State. “Registration of Fictitious Name.” Accessed July 12, 2023.

  3. State of Missouri Secretary of State. “Application for Reservation of Name.” Accessed July 12, 2023.

  4. State of Missouri Secretary of State. “Fees & Forms.” Accessed July 12, 2023.

  5. Missouri Department of Revenue. “Business Tax Registration.” Accessed July 12, 2023.

  6. Missouri Department of Revenue. “Corporation Income Tax.” Accessed July 12, 2023.

Originally published on August 11, 2023, and last edited on December 20, 2023.
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