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Our primary offices are located at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA.


Duquesne University

Small Business Development Center

108 Rockwell Hall

600 Forbes Ave

Pittsburgh, PA 15282-0103


Phone: (412) 396-6233

Fax: (412) 396-5884


Monday through Friday 8:30AM to 4:30 PM


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F.A.Q.: Start-Up Questions

Are there government funded programs available to help me start my business?


      There are several programs available to assist a business owner in starting their business. The list has been broken down into Pennsylvania Resources and Federal Resources.


Pennsylvania Resources
Duquesne University SBDC
      We provide technical and management assistance to small businesses in southwestern Pennsylvania.


Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED)
      Mission is to foster opportunities for businesses and communities to succeed and thrive in a global economy.


PA Open for Business
      Download many of the important forms necessary to start and expand a business, and electronically register a business with the Pennsylvaina Departments of Labor and Industry, Revenue, and State.


Team Pennsylvania
      Non-profit network of public and private resources on both the State and country levels designed to promote business in PA.

      Federal Resources

US Small Business Administration (SBA)
      SBA is the only independent agency of the federal government with the sole purpose of assisting small businesses to start, grow, and prosper.



Where can I find information on my industry?


      The Pennsylvania SBDC has compiled Business Information Resources, containing useful information on particular industries as well as target markets. Sites listed connect to the most useful Web sites found for small businesses. This site is checked and updated frequently.



Can I operate a business from my home?


      Experts estimate that as many as 20 percent of new small business enterprises are operated out of the owner's home. Local governments regulate home-based businesses through their zoning ordinances. These laws prescribe whether home-based businesses are allowed at all, or how these businesses can operate in residential communities. Approval can take several forms depending on the authority's laws.


      In the majority of cases, approval for operating a home-based business is the duty of the local zoning officer or building inspector and can be obtained by filling out an occupancy permit. Other jurisdictions require approval through special zoning hearings before the zoning board/planning commission, and/or the council.



What types of permits and licenses are generally needed for starting a business?


      There are generally specific requirements in each state, county and locality, possibilities include:


      Local - A business license from city, town or county, depending on your location, will usually be necessary. In addition, you'll have to meet zoning laws, building codes, and similar regulations.


      State - In PA, if your business isn't a corporation and your last name isn't in the name of the business, you'll have to register under what's called a Fictitious Name Registration. In some lines of business (like liquor stores, barber shops, real estate offices) specific licenses are needed.



Do I need a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) or tax number?
If so, how can I obtain one?


      The EIN is like a social security number for your business. In some cases, sole proprietors with no employees and no sales tax can simply use their own social security number for tax purposes, but most businesses will need an EIN. You can apply by phone, fax, or mail. A downloadable form (SS-4) is available on the IRS website.



How do I file for the PA 100, Enterprise Registration?


      This is filed by mail or online with the PA Dept of Revenue for businesses required to collect taxes such as sales & use tax and employee taxes.


      Phone : 412-565-5270 or



Where do I get a business license?


      Your state and local government provides business licenses.

      For specific Industry or Professional Licenses you need to file with the PA Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs.

      Phone: 717-787-8503


      In the City of Pittsburgh / or local Municipality, Business Registration may include Occupancy Permits, Mercantile License and/or Zoning Compliance.



What do I need if opening a Food Business?


      Food businesses in Allegheny County need to contact the Allegheny County Health Department. Food businesses in other southwestern PA counties need to contact PA Department of Agriculture.

      Phone: 412-687-ACHD (2243)
Allegheny County Health Department



What is a fictitious name?
Why do I have to register a fictitious name?


      A fictitious name is any business name you will use that is different than your last name, or your corporation’s legal name. (There are some exceptions if all owners’ last names are included in the business name. For example, “Smith’s Appliance Service” could be acceptable if the company was owned entirely by Smith.) If you plan to do business under any name other than your own last name or your corporation’s name then registration of the fictitious name is required by law.



How do I find out whether the name of my potential business is already used?


      Call the Pennsylvania Corporation Bureau at 717-787-1057. They will verify/register fictitious trademarks or trade names for callers. You can also visit



What is a business entity?


      A business entity is an organization that possesses a separate existence for tax purposes. Some types of business entities include corporations and foreign corporations, business trusts, limited liability companies, and limited partnerships. Business entities are state regulated and require registration.



How do I file a business entity registration?


      Business entities, such as a corporation, limited partnership, limited liability company or limited liability partnership, organized or registered to do business in Pennsylvania are granted the exclusive use of a name by reserving the name or by completing the registration process. This registration means filing, for example, Articles of Incorporation for corporations or a Certificate of Organization for limited liability companies. Sole proprietorships and general partnerships do not have exclusive rights to names.


      Registration of a fictitious name does not provide the business entity with exclusive rights to the use of the name. There are no ownership rights to a fictitious name and the name is not protected against use by anyone else. The same fictitious name can be used repetitively by different business entities.


      The Pennsylvania Corporation Bureau registers these entities and maintains a searchable database of registered names (



What is a TIN?

      A Tax Identification Number (TIN) is an identification number used by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the administration of tax laws. It is your Social Security number. It is issued either by the Social Security Administration (SSA) or by the IRS. A person needs one because the TIN must be furnished on returns, statements, and other tax related documents.



Which form of business organization should I pick?


      The answer depends on the balance you seek between complexity of the form, liability limits, the need to raise capital, the need for the business to continue after a death, the number of owners, and so on. If your business is a fairly risk-free "mom and pop" operation then a sole proprietorship or general partnership may be appropriate. For most businesses who plan to grow or engage in activities with risk, limited liability is an important issue. For these companies, an LLC, an LLP, or a Corporation are probably good choices.