Starting a Business in Wisconsin

Information below can help you to start a food-related or other type of business in the State of Wisconsin.

Form and LLC (or other buffer of incorporation)

This step is to form a buffer to protect you and your stuff and to legitimize your business.

FEIN (Federal Employer Identification Number)

This is your tax id number and is an essential step in starting your business

WI Sellers Permit

Wisconsin now has a One Stop Business Development Site.  Visit it to get started and get your permit.

DUNs Number

This number allows you to apply for Federal Grants and Programs


By Wisconsin law, you must have at least a one-million dollar liability insurance policy for your business.  There are many options and you should talk to an advisor or someone knowledgeable in this area for help.

Business Plan

Having a well written business plan is important for many reasons, including getting loans, approaching investors, and explaining your vision to others.  There are several groups that can help with this.  

Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation:

Small Business Development Centers:

Service Corps of Retired Executives:

Bank Account

Having a stand-alone business bank account is important for separating your business and personal money and helps with accounting and taxes.

Credit Card Processing

Most business is now done via credit or debit card and having a means to accept those payments can be the difference between success and failure.  Some examples of these services are:




Social Media is the fastest growing way of advertising and communicating with your customer base.  Having a good presence can be the difference between success and failure.

Web page

A well-maintained website can be a source of more information and a more consistent base for customers to go to find out who you are and what you do.

ServSafe or equivalent

ServSafe and similar courses educate you about health code and why these rules exist.  It is also needed to get your WI Food Manager’s License.

License – DATCP or Public Health

This depends on what your specific business is.  We are working on a flow chart to help you with this.

Municipal Permits

Most municipalities have a separate permit for selling, vending or working in them.  You need to check each area to determine what your needs are.

Business Development Partners

Here is a list of some (though not all) of the business partners in the area that may help you find the resources and help you need:

Urban League of Greater Madison

Madison Black Chamber of Commerce

Wisconsin Latino Chamber of Commerce

Hmong Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce

Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce

Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC)

US Small Business Administration (SBA)

Progress Center for Black Women

City of Madison Office of Business Resources

Wisconsin Small Business Development Center (SBDC)

Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development

Legitimizing your business

There are steps that everyone should take to make your business a separate entity and legitimize it in the eyes of those you work with.  Examples are not using your personal cell phone and e-mail as the prime points of contact for your business.  Here are some suggestions


Get a business e-mail address set up.  You can start a webpage and have an e-mail associated with that, but the fastest and easiest is to just set up a new Gmail address with your business name.


Having someone call your phone and getting your personal voicemail can be confusing and can also mean that you have less control of times and days of business calls.  If you can’t afford to get a dedicated phone line for your business, or you are just starting and it doesn’t make sense, you can set up a Google Voice number that is only associated with your business and have it forward to your cell phone.


You don’t know what you don’t know, and that is doubly true when it comes to taxes.  Working with an accountant who knows how to work with small businesses can save you a lot of headaches, as well as money.

Bank Account

Using your personal bank account can also muddle your records and make your end of the year taxes very difficult.  Working with a business banker and setting up a separate account is simple and can make your accounting much easier.

“I can’t think of any better way to truly experience the culture of a city. The Public Market will be a place that brings people together from all backgrounds to share their love for food; giving the opportunity to diverse local businesses and artisans to have a space to grow and showcase their craft. It will be an important piece to the economic growth of our city and a vibrant destination experience.” - Sujhey Beisser, Park Bank & Five Senses Palate

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