Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve compiled answers to our most frequently asked questions to help you get the answers you need as quickly and painlessly as possible. If you have more in-depth questions, scheduling a free counseling appointment is the best way to get your questions answered. 

What do you do for small businesses?

We offer customized and confidential business counseling to small business owners and entrepreneurs at no cost. Our counselors can help you work through your business questions and connect you with additional local resources. 

How do I get started?

We offer counseling in all stages of business, all you need to get started is a list of concerns you would like help with. To schedule your appointment, you just need to fill out an online counseling application

How long does it take to get an appointment?

Typically our counselors will contact you within 2-3 business days of submitting your counseling application to schedule your appointment. You can expect them to schedule your appointment within 2 weeks of them contacting you. 

How much do your services cost?

All of our business counseling services are at no cost to the business owner. You will not have to pay anything to receive counseling from our experts.

Do you provide counseling over the phone?

Our counselors can work with you to find the best method of delivering counseling. At this time, we can counsel you either in person, through video conferencing, or over the phone. Generally, our counselors prefer to do initial meetings in person or through video conference. 

Where are you located?

We have 15 regional centers across the state. Refer to our locations tab for specific addresses. 

Where can I learn more about forming a business entity in Iowa?

A good place is the Secretary of State’s website at:

Consult the business services tab for more information. It is possible to form a new business entity without the assistance or advice of an attorney, accountant, or other business professional, but because there are many different tax and legal implications to each choice of entity, we strongly recommend you get professional assistance for these decisions. Also, because there are many other issues to consider before starting a business, think about calling your nearest SBDC center for free and confidential help.

Do I need a special license to operate a business?

Generally, when your business is regulated by an Iowa licensing board or authority, you will need to acquire a license to conduct business in Iowa. Most retail businesses will only need a sales tax permit. Professional services and food businesses, restaurants, grocery stores, and bars all need special permits and licenses to conduct business. Any business having employees will need an Employer Identification Number and an Iowa withholding registration. Each type of business and form of business entity has unique requirements. We would recommend a visit to your nearest Small Business Development Center to have your specific concerns answered.

You can also visit the IA Source Link Business License Center to learn more

What permits or applications do I need to start a business?

The state of Iowa does not have a “general” business license. Instead, Iowa regulates the activity of your business or profession. The forms you will need to file are very dependent on what type of entity you are and what industry you are operating in. For instance, restaurants need food licenses and alcohol serving permits and retail businesses need sales tax permits. If your business will have employees and pay wages you will need an Employer Identification Number and an Iowa Withholding Tax Registration. Certain types of businesses need other permits. To determine the permits needed by your business, contact your local Small Business Development Center. 

Do I need a sales tax permit? How do I get one?

A business needs an Iowa sales tax permit if it is selling products or services that have been specified as taxable by Iowa law. 

Businesses can apply for an Iowa sales tax permit by visiting

Do you offer loans or grants?

We do not offer financing for small businesses. Our counselors can help you search for open grants that you qualify for and help you craft your application. Our counselors can also connect you with lenders who do offer loans and assist you in putting together your loan proposals. 

Where can I learn more more about financing my business?

Small Business Development Centers: If you have an SBDC center in your area, we are an excellent place to start. Most of our services are free and all are confidential. We can help you find available loans and grants, as well as help you work on your funding applications. 

Chambers of Commerce: Some chambers have loan programs that are for main street or manufacturing businesses. Chambers should know about other financing sources in their area.

Councils of Government or Regional Planning Offices: These are organized to serve city and county governments in a regional area and sometimes manage funds for business loans.

Iowa Economic Development Authority: This organization has several financing programs that can result in a direct loan or grant for businesses that meet the criteria for their programs.

Our counselors do not offer legal advice, but we can connect you with local legal resources, including low-cost options. 

The Drake Entrepreneurial Clinic provides low-cost services to non-profits and entrepreneurs. 

Iowa Legal Aid has low-cost legal services for certain individuals and businesses in the state of Iowa. 

Do you have a question we didn't cover?

Schedule an appointment with one of our counselors. You can get personalized answers to your small business questions by meeting with one of our business counselors. 

Request Counseling Appointment

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