How to Start a Small Business in Chicago (2023 Guide)


Chicago is a thriving city with a strong entrepreneurial spirit, making it an ideal location to start a small business. With its large population and diverse economy, there are plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurs to find success. However, starting a business can be a complex process, and it’s important to have a clear plan in place to ensure your success.

Whether you’re looking to start a tech startup or a retail store, Chicago offers a range of opportunities for entrepreneurs. The city has a strong startup ecosystem, with several co-working spaces, incubators, and accelerators that provide support and resources to early-stage businesses. Furthermore, the city’s diverse economy offers opportunities in a variety of industries, including healthcare, finance, education, and more.

Starting a small business in Chicago can be a rewarding experience, but it requires careful planning and execution. By following the steps outlined in this guide and taking advantage of the resources available to you, you can set your business up for success in the Windy City.

Step 1: Conduct Market Research

Before starting any business, it is essential to conduct market research to assess the demand for your product or service in the Chicago market. Researching your competition, target audience, and industry trends will help you identify potential opportunities and challenges.

  • Research Your Competition
  • Identify Your Target Audience
  • Analyze Industry Trends

For more information about conduct market research: Click here

Step 3: Register Your Business

Once you have chosen a business structure, the next step is to register your business with the state of Illinois and the City of Chicago. Registering your business ensures that you can operate legally and protects your business name from being used by others.

  • Register with the State of Illinois
  • Obtain a Business License
  • Register for Taxes
  • Apply for Permits
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Step 4: Secure Funding

Starting a small business in Chicago requires capital. You may need to secure funding to cover startup costs such as rent, equipment, inventory, and marketing. There are several options available to small business owners, including loans, grants, and crowdfunding.

  • Loans
  • Grants
  • Crowdfunding

Step 5: Choose a Location

Choosing a location for your small business is critical to its success. Consider factors such as foot traffic, accessibility, parking, and proximity to your target audience. You may also want to consider the cost of rent and utilities.

  • Identify Your Target Audience
  • Consider Foot Traffic
  • Accessibility and Parking
  • Cost of Rent and Utilities

Step 6: Hire Employees

If your business requires employees, you will need to hire and manage a team. Hiring the right employees can be challenging, but it is critical to the success of your business. Consider factors such as skills, experience, and personality when hiring.

  • Determine Your Staffing Needs
  • Develop Job Descriptions
  • Recruit Candidates
  • Interview Candidates
  • Hire and Train Employees

Step 7: Market Your Business

Marketing your small business is critical to attracting customers and generating revenue. There are several marketing strategies you can use, including online marketing, social media, and traditional advertising.

  • Define Your Target Audience
  • Develop a Marketing Plan
  • Build a Website
  • Use Social Media
  • Advertise Your Business


Starting a small business in Chicago requires careful planning, research, and execution. Follow these seven steps to set up your business for success, including developing a business plan, registering your business, securing funding, choosing a location, hiring employees, and marketing your business. Remember to seek advice and support from local resources like the City of Chicago’s Small Business Center, SCORE, and the Illinois Small Business Development Center to help you navigate the process.

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