Business Questions Answered
Want to start a small business, but not sure how to get started? Try our Small Business FAQ!
Where can I get help with my Small Business questions?
The Cecil County Public Library’s Small Business Information Center provides free information and assistance with the process of starting a small business. The Cecil County Public Library is unique in providing this no cost, focused service for potential and existing small business owners. In addition to access to up-to-date business info, the SBIC also works with a team of local business organizations to get you the help you need. Make an appointment with the SBIC to brainstorm business concepts, discuss your plans, look for specific business information, work on marketing, financial strategies, and more. The SBIC is here to help you start and stay in business! Stop by the Elkton Central Library at 301 Newark Avenue in Elkton, call us at 410-996-5600 ext. 128, or email us at email@example.com
You can also click here to download our helpful guide to starting or growing your small business, Keys to Starting a Business in Cecil County.
What are the different legal business structures and how do I choose one?
Before you register as a business, you must determine your legal ownership structure and file with the state. Differences, benefits and costs of each can be viewed by clicking here. The legal structures are:
- Sole Proprietorships or Partnerships—no legal filing required for entity to exist, other than a business permit.
- Limited Partnership, Limited Liability Company, Limited Liability Partnerships, or Corporation—must file with the Maryland State Dept. of Assessment and Taxation.
- Information on the advantages and disadvantages of each can be found in books at the library, and in an online state publication: Guide to Legal Aspects of Doing Business in Maryland.
How do I register my business name?
Your business needs to register with the State of Maryland. An online database lets you search to see if your name is available or actively being used. The business name database is under the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation. Once you’ve determined an available business name and chosen a legal structure, you can register online at the above web address or call: 410-767-1340.
How do I get an EIN from the IRS?
An EIN (Employer Identification Number), known as a Federal Tax ID Number, is obtained from the IRS. Click here for an article from the IRS with information on how to determine if you will need an EIN. If your business requires one, you can download the form here.
You must know what your legal business structure will be before you apply for an EIN. You can apply online, by phone, or through the mail:
MAIL: EIN, P.O. Box 9003, Holtsville, NY 11742.
I think I might need a business license. How do I find out?
Business licenses, certifications and permits can be confusing because requirements vary from business to business. The best plan is to contact the following agencies and explain what kind of business you are planning. They will help you to determine what you need to do to be “legal”.
- County Clerk of the Circuit Court—410-996-5380
- The Dept. of Permits and Inspections—410-996-5235
- The Cecil County Health Department—410-996-5550
Information on business licenses in Cecil County: http://www.mdcourts.gov/clerks/cecil/business.html
Apply online for a Maryland business license: https://jportal.mdcourts.gov/license/index_disclaimer.jsp
Many businesses also need to register with the state of Maryland. You can do so by phone at 888-218-5925 or online here.
How do I go about paying Maryland business taxes?
Information about business taxes in Maryland can be found by clicking here.
You must register with the state for paying your business taxes. If you use the Maryland Combined Registration Online Application at the website below, it will include your business accounts for income tax withholding, sales and use tax, and unemployment insurance.
Click here for additional tax and business application forms.
The local tax office in Cecil County is at: 103 Chesapeake Blvd., Elkton, MD 21921; 410-996-0580.
Are there regulatory agencies I need to contact before setting up my business, like the Health Department or the Safety Department?
- Zoning and Building:
Make sure your business site is zoned for the kind of business activity you intend for the property.
Cecil County Dept. of Planning and Zoning - 200 Chesapeake Blvd., Suite 2300, Elkton, MD 21921; 410-996-5220
Determine if there are any regulations (air pollution, water discharge, waste, etc.) protecting the environment that you need to correct on your property, or that you need to properly prepare for in your business production.
Maryland Dept. of the Environment - 1800 Washington Blvd., Baltimore, MD 21230; 410-537-3000
Businesses involving preparing food for sale or providing health services for people require special health regulations and inspections.
Cecil County Health Dept. - 401 Bow Street, Elkton MD 21921; 410- 996-5550
Maryland Occupational Safety & Health -10946 Golden West Dr., Suite 160, Hunt Valley, MD 21031; 410-527-4499
Federal OSHA - 200 Constitution Ave., Washington, DC 20210; 800-321-6742
What is a business plan, why do I need one, and how do I write one?
A business plan is the foundation to making your business work. Lenders, potential investors, and other business professionals will want to see your business plan, especially if you are trying to get a loan. Even if you aren’t seeking financing, a business plan is your blueprint for success. It’s hard work to write a business plan, but well worth the effort as statistics show that a business plan can make a significant difference between a business thriving or dying. A typical business plan is about 20 pages long and details the following topics: Executive Summary; Business Description; Management; Market Analysis and Strategy; Customers and Competitors; Operations; and Financial Analysis. The library has many books, workshops, outlines, and individual consultations available to help you to prepare your business plan. An online guide can be accessed by clicking here.
Sample Business Plans—using your library card, you can access sample business plans through our online resources: Click here to access the Business Plan Database.
What about insuring my business? Is that something I need to do?
Business insurance is an area worth investigation, especially since most home owners’ insurance policies do not cover business losses. Consider getting coverage for property damage, liability and business interruptions. Most insurance agencies offer business insurance, and there are many kinds of specialty insurance for various business types. Click here to read more.
Contact the state insurance agency about any problems:
- Maryland Insurance Administration - 525 St. Paul Place, Baltimore, MD, 21202; 800-492-6116
I need money to get my business started! What are my options?
- Free Funds:
Everyone wants to know where they can get “free” money. Despite ads indicating there are “giveaways” from the government, the possibility of getting “free” money is slim to none. Beware of offers to the contrary. If any funds are available, you can find them in the legitimate grant resources below:
Most small business people finance their business with their own savings, credit cards, home equity loans, or money borrowed from friends and family.
Local banks can work with you to secure a commercial loan, however, they will want to see evidence of the 7 C’s of Credit: Credit Score, Collateral, Cash Flow, Conditions, Competence, Character and Capital. Before approaching the bank, you will want to have a solid business plan.
The Small Business Administration provides loan guarantees to banks to encourage funding of small businesses. The SBA does not give out loans; rather, they lend support to your loan request from a bank. The SBA’s website has many excellent, free online courses that can help you get your business started.
For more info on the SBA and SBA loans, contact:
- SBTDC (Cecil County) - 443-412-2237
- SBA (Maryland) - 410-962-4392
- SBA (US) - 1-800-827-5722
- SCORE Delaware - 302-573-6092
- Maryland Dept. of Commerce
This state department has some finance programs and offers free business assistance.
- Cecil County Office of Economic Development:
Features a revolving loan fund that some businesses may qualify for to purchase land, buildings and equipment. Contact info: 410-996-6292
- Angels and Venture Capitalists:
These are wealthy, private investors willing to fund new business ventures. Some function individually, but most work through a formal network of investors. Most are also looking to invest in businesses with the potential for significant profits, usually high-tech or innovation companies. Two local angel groups are:
I want to hire an employee. How do I make it legal?
If you will be hiring employees, read and print the free booklet: Employer's Quick Reference Guide. This guide gives a complete overview of the steps you need to take in order to hire employees legally. The booklet is available by clicking here.
The following is a quick outline of some of the steps necessary when hiring employees. Please read the guide above for more complete information.
Employers (even those self-employed) must file state and federal withholding taxes for themselves and for their employees. If you are self-employed, your taxes need to be paid with a Schedule SE and the 1040 income tax form. If you have employees, you will need additional forms. Contact the following:
Maryland law requires employers to register new hires, re-hires and temporary employees within 20 days. Call 888-634-4737 or register via their website.
- Unemployment Insurance:
Contact the following to determine if you are liable for Maryland unemployment insurance and worker's compensation taxes.
MD Unemployment Insurance Employers' Line 800-492-5524 ext. 1211
How do I patent or copyright my materials?
- To protect your intellectual property (names, symbols, formulas, songs, etc.), you must register them with federal agencies.
- Patents and Trademarks: A patent protects the inventor by conferring the right “...to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling” the registered invention within the US. A trademark is any word, name, symbol, device, or combination thereof used to identify and distinguish the goods of one manufacturer from another. Info and an online application can be found at the United States Patent and Trade Office: 800-786-9199
- Copyright: A copyright protects original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression, such as writing, music, photos and more. Contact the following: 202-707-3000
What organizations are available for free business assistance in Cecil County?
The following organizations are available for free, knowledgeable, confidential consultations to help you get started in business in Cecil County. These organizations work as partners in the Cecil Business Resource Partners, a group formed to support small business development in Cecil County.
- Cecil County Public Library, The Small Business Information Center - Elkton Central Library; 410-996-5600 ext. 128; firstname.lastname@example.org
- Small Business Development Center - 443-412-2237
- Office of Economic Development - 410-996-6292
- Susquehanna Workforce Network - 410-996-0550
- Cecil College Business Training Resource Center - 410-392-3366 ext. 605
- Business & Education Partnership Advisory Council - 410-996-5474
- Cecil County Chamber of Commerce - 410-392-3833
Additional local resources:
- SCORE- 302-572-6552
- Elkton Alliance - 410-398-5076
- Additionally, each town in the county has a chamber of commerce or other business organization that focuses on their community’s economic success. These organizations can be excellent resources in starting or developing your business.
Are there websites that have good small business info?
- The Cecil County Public Library's online resources offer easy access to quality information about business, including sample business plans, demographics, articles, marketing information and more. Also, the following links have excellent small business information, including articles, online tutorials, templates, sample business plans and more.