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How to Start a New Business in Washington DC

November 13, 2023
Start a New Business in Washington DC Credit Suite

Starting a Business in Washington DC

A new business in Washington DC is not out of reach. So have you been wondering: just how do I start a business in Washington DC? And more importantly, can I do so no matter what the economic conditions are? Can I start a new business in Washington DC during a recession?

New Business in Washington DC: Advantages and Disadvantages

Fast Company says Washington DC is a good place to start a new business, per a 2010 article. There is the advantage of having the federal government right there. The area also has a rather stable economy. And there is also a vibrant angel investing community.

Another advantage is how close it is to highly educated and available workers in Maryland and also Virginia.

A 2016 article by the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council put Washington DC at number three of 20 metropolitan areas to start a business. This was a reprint of much of an article by CNBC. However, Business Insider did not rank the nation’s capital in 2016.

Forbes and Fit Small Business did not rank the District of Columbia in 2018.

Keep in mind, of course, all of these websites have differing criteria.

Recent Data

According to the 2019 Inc. Surge Cities Index, Washington DC clocked in at a fairly impressive number 19. Rate of entrepreneurship and high growth company density were both very good. But wage growth and early stage funding deals lagged behind the average. Net business creation and job creation were also behind the middle of the pack.

Washington, DC did not show up in the 2020 Surge Cities Index.

Amazon is putting a new headquarters in nearby Crystal City, Virginia, so expect much of the area’s top talent to be siphoned off there.

Only you can decide if it is worth it to start a new business in Washington DC. And remember: the federal government and Amazon will be your competition when it comes to hiring.

Start a New Business in Washington DC – Washington DC Top Industries

Per Trip Savvy, the ten largest employers in the District of Columbia are in the health care, hospitality, and technical consulting area. More top industries in Washington DC are educational, groceries, accounting, and information technology. Yet more Washington DC top industries are engineering, and communications industries. Professional and technical services are large industries.

But the largest employer in Washington DC of course isn’t a company – it’s the federal government.

Start a New Business in Washington DC – Washington DC Business Ideas

Smart business owners can find new opportunities. Work with the bigger industries in the District. Offer goods or services like computer services such as programming and data. Another idea is trucking for any industry. More ideas for a new business in Washington DC are transportation, food service, development and also distribution of safety equipment. Yet another new business idea is analysis for accounting firms, law firms, and also lobbyists.

Here is how to start a new business in Washington DC.

Information on how you can Discover 7 Easy Vendors to Start Building Business Credit Immediately - without a Personal Credit Check or Guarantee via Credit Suite

Start a New Business in Washington DC – Washington DC New Business Requirements

Register a Business Name

Register a trade name at the official Washington DC government website.

Business Permits and Licenses

You can find all basic business license information on the Business Licensing Forms page.

Monetary penalties for not gaining a business license before starting business are more than the standard business license application fees and renewal fees. So it pays to get all licensing.

For businesses which will not have a specialized profession such as attorneys or physicians, they want the Basic Business License or General Business License. These terms are used interchangeably by the municipal government. There is an annual fee for the Basic Business License and it is also assessed twice a year.

There is an application fee with an activity fee which is also due at the time of submitting an application. And there is a 10% technology fee that also applies.

For a list of specialized professions and their licenses, visit the Washington DC Professions webpage on the official city government website.

General Business License Applications

Apply for and renew a General Business License directly with the Washington DC official city government website municipal body. Or, if a Washington DC business owner prefers, they may go to the office in person to the:

Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs
1100 4th Street SW
Washington, D.C. 20024

Lastly, a Washington DC business owner may also call (202) 442-4400 and request that an application be faxed or mailed to them.

License Application Requirements

A Washington DC business owner should gather the following information for their application.

Start with the language preferred and business type. The choices are sole proprietor, partnership, limited liability corporation, for-profit corporation, or a non-profit corporation.

Also provide the name of the business owner and their Federal Employee ID Number, if any. In addition, provide the Social Security Number of the business owner and also the property owner. More necessary data is the trade name and also the number of employees.

Add the business address and the officers, partners, and members’ names, addresses, and contact phone numbers. Also include the business location. Add the signatures of business owner(s), partner(s), member(s) and property owner(s) and also the dates.

If weights and measures will be utilized for a business, contact the Office of Weights and Measures at (202) 698-2130.

Start a New Business in Washington DC – Business Registration

Be sure to go to the DC.gov website and look for Business Licensing and Registration.

Tax Registration

Go here to find out how to get your tax ID number.


Start a New Business in Washington DC – Virtual Offices

Alliance Virtual Offices offers Washington DC virtual business office space. Compare prices for Washington DC virtual business offices at DaVinci and also at Regus.

Start a New Business in Washington DC – Build Business Credit

Small business credit is credit in a business’s name. It doesn’t link to an entrepreneur’s individual credit, not even when the owner is a sole proprietor and the sole employee of the company.

Accordingly, an entrepreneur’s business and consumer credit scores can be very different.

The Benefits

Since small business credit is distinct from consumer, it helps to protect an entrepreneur’s personal assets, in the event of a lawsuit or business bankruptcy.

Also, with two distinct credit scores, an entrepreneur can get two separate cards from the same vendor. This effectively doubles purchasing power.

Another advantage is that even startup ventures can do this. Heading to a bank for a business loan can be a recipe for frustration. But building company credit, when done properly, is a plan for success.

Personal credit scores depend on payments but also other components like credit usage percentages.

But for business credit, the scores actually merely hinge on whether a small business pays its debts on a timely basis.

Information on how you can Discover 7 Easy Vendors to Start Building Business Credit Immediately - without a Personal Credit Check or Guarantee via Credit Suite

The Process

Building business credit is a process, and it does not happen without effort. A small business needs to actively work to build small business credit.

Nevertheless, it can be done readily and quickly, and it is much speedier than developing individual credit scores.

Merchants are a big part of this process.

Accomplishing the steps out of sequence will result in repetitive rejections. Nobody can start at the top with business credit.

Start a New Business in Washington DC – Business Fundability™

A small business needs to be Fundable to credit issuers and merchants.

Therefore, a small business will need a professional-looking web site and email address. And it needs to have website hosting bought from a vendor such as GoDaddy.

In addition, business phone numbers ought to have a listing on ListYourself.net.

Likewise, the company telephone number should be toll-free (800 exchange or the equivalent).

A business will also need a bank account dedicated solely to it, and it needs to have every one of the licenses necessary for operation.

Information on how you can Discover 7 Easy Vendors to Start Building Business Credit Immediately - without a Personal Credit Check or Guarantee via Credit Suite

Dealing with the IRS

Visit the IRS web site and acquire an EIN for the business. They’re free of charge. Pick a business entity such as corporation, LLC, etc.

A company can begin as a sole proprietor. But they should switch to a kind of corporation or an LLC.

This is in order to decrease risk. And it will make the most of tax benefits.

A business entity will matter when it involves tax obligations and liability in the event of litigation. A sole proprietorship means the owner is it when it comes to liability and taxes. Nobody else is responsible.

Starting Off the Business Credit Reporting Process

Start at the D&B website and obtain a free D-U-N-S number. A D-U-N-S number is how D&B gets a company into their system, to produce a PAYDEX score. If there is no D-U-N-S number, then there is no record and no PAYDEX score.

Once in D&B’s system, search Equifax and Experian’s websites for the small business. You can do this at www.creditsuite.com/reports. If there is a record with them, check it for correctness and completeness. If there are no records with them, go to the next step in the process.

In this way, Experian and Equifax will have something to report on.

Vendor CreditStart a New Business in Washington DC Credit Suite

First you need to establish trade lines that report. This is also known as vendor credit. Then you’ll have an established credit profile, and you’ll get a business credit score.

And with an established business credit profile and score you can start to get more credit.

These sorts of accounts have the tendency to be for the things bought all the time. Like marketing materials, shipping boxes, outdoor work wear, ink and toner, and office furniture.

But to start with, what is trade credit? These trade lines are credit issuers who will give you initial credit when you have none now. Terms are commonly Net 30, versus revolving.

So, if you get an approval for $1,000 in vendor credit and use all of it, you will need to pay that money back in a set term, like within 30 days on a Net 30 account.

Vendor Credit – It Helps

Not every vendor can help like true starter credit can. These are merchants that will grant an approval with marginal effort. You also want them to be reporting to one or more of the big three CRAs: Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax, and Experian.

You want 3 of these to move onto the next step.

Monitor Your Business Credit

Know what is happening with your credit. Make sure it is being reported and take care of any mistakes ASAP. Get in the practice of checking credit reports. Dig into the specifics, and not just the scores.

We can help you monitor business credit at Experian, Equifax, and D&B for 90% less.

Update Your Record

Update the data if there are mistakes or the info is incomplete.

Fix Your Business Credit

So, what’s all this monitoring for? It’s to contest any inaccuracies in your records. Mistakes in your credit report(s) can be fixed. But the CRAs typically want you to dispute in a particular way.


Disputing credit report errors typically means you specifically spell out any charges you challenge.

A Word about Building Business Credit

Always use credit smartly! Never borrow more than what you can pay off. Keep track of balances and deadlines for repayments. Paying on schedule and fully will do more to increase business credit scores than virtually anything else.

Establishing company credit pays. Great business credit scores help a small business get loans. Your loan provider knows the business can pay its debts. They understand the business is bona fide.

The business’s EIN attaches to high scores and credit issuers won’t feel the need to require a personal guarantee.

Business credit is an asset which can help your business for years to come.

Learn more here and get started toward opening a new business in Washington DC.

Want to start a new business someplace else in America? Then check out our handy guide to starting a business in any state in the country.

Washington, DC’s Response to COVID-19

On March 17, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that the SBA has accepted the District of Columbia’s declaration for assistance in the form of economic injury disaster loans following the advent of COVID-19. Furthermore, DC businesses can start applying now.

While the SBA directly administers this loan program, the Department of Small and Local Business Development, led by Director Kristi Whitfield, will work with the SBA on behalf of the District of Columbia.

On April 17, the Washington Times noted there are some ways in which bad actors may try to game the system.

About the author 

Janet Gershen-Siegel

Janet Gershen-Siegel is the seasoned Finance Writer and a former content manager at Credit Suite. She has been admitted to practice law for over 30 years, with a focus on litigation and product liability, and is a published author, with writing credits at Entrepreneur, FedSmith.com and BusinessingMag.com.

She has a BA in Philosophy from Boston University, a JD from the Delaware Law School of Widener University, and a MS in Interactive Media (Social Media) from Quinnipiac University.

She regularly writes for Credit Suite, which helps businesses improve Fundability™, build credit, and get approved for loans and credit lines.

Her specialties: business credit, business credit cards, business funding, crowdfunding, and law

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