Colorado has mountains, plains, dunes, and a whole lot of small businesses. In 2019, 99.5% of all Colorado businesses were considered small, and those small businesses employed more than a million people in the state.
If you’re looking to join the ranks of Colorado entrepreneurs who serve their community, we can help. The Secretary of State has a handy checklist of what you need to do to start a business. This resource has information on planning and forming your business, so be sure to check it out.
Right now, though, we’re focused on how to get a business license in Colorado. Ensuring that you’ve checked all the necessary boxes before making your first sale can be tedious, so we’ve created this guide. We’ve browsed the state sites, downloaded too many PDFs to count, and compared fees.
The result? A simplified step-by-step guide to help you start today. Let’s go!
It’s no surprise that you will need money to start a business in Colorado. The question is, how much? Small business upfront costs will vary depending on your business model, location, and industry. While we can’t tell you what it will cost to start your business, we can help you identify your startup costs before launching.
Understanding your startup costs can help you make an accurate calculation for your situation. Common upfront costs include office space, equipment, marketing, insurance, and a business license.
Understanding Colorado business licenses is easiest when you compare them to drivers' licenses. Both of these are helpful because they let the state certify your identity and ensure that you’re qualified to perform a task.
Unlike drivers’ licenses, however, everyone doesn’t apply for the same license. There’s a chance you won’t even need a license. The factors impacting your licensure requirements are:
Your occupation. If you’re performing a skilled job, working in a regulated industry, or doing a task that could harm customers if done incorrectly, a license is often necessary. Each state is different, so checking the rules is always better than assuming you’re in the clear.
Your location. In addition to statewide license requirements, your city might want certain businesses to take extra steps before opening their doors.
Getting a business license can be confusing for small business owners. Each state has a different process and set of requirements, so tracking down the information you need can be an overwhelming task.
There’s no need to sweat it because we’ve done the work and research for you. Let’s dive into what it takes to get a business license in Colorado.
We mentioned that what you do in your business impacts license rules, but who is in charge of that decision? In Colorado, the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) typically oversees most business licenses. Occupations that DORA regulates include:
To see if your business needs a business license in Colorado through the Department of Regulatory Agencies, view the full list of businesses here. Once you find your occupation, click on “Apply or Renew” to find license requirements.
If DORA doesn't list your occupation, check to see if it’s in an industry regulated by a "sister agency." These industries include attorneys, gas stations, nursing homes, and more.
State departments and local governments can potentially have different business license rules. This means you could need to get a business license in Colorado, one from your city, both, or neither. To be sure, it’s best to check your city and county websites.
Here’s where to look for some of Colorado's largest cities:
Typically, to get a business license in Colorado, you’ll need to submit general information about you and your business, as well as supporting materials based on your occupation. To make the application process faster, it’s a good idea to have the following information handy:
As you review your business license requirements, you might realize you need to pass exams, show proof of experience, or submit other documents. Examples of license requirements or supporting documents may include:
Submitting a Zone Use Permit, Right of Possession Documents (like a lease or deed), floor plan, and an Affidavit of Lawful Presence for a home-based child care facility in Denver
Providing an affidavit of experience and completing education requirements as an electrician in the state
After you’ve done the grunt work of meeting all license criteria and gathering information, it’s time to send in your application. Depending on your license type and location, you may be able to complete your application online, via mail, or in person.
Many licenses for occupations regulated by DORA are available to submit on the Colorado Division of Professions and Occupations Online Services website here. If you want to get your Colorado business license as quickly as possible, make sure you submit the required information upfront.
Also, you’ll likely need to send an application fee with your application. As you’re reviewing requirements and submitting your application, note how often you need to renew your license so that it doesn’t lapse inadvertently.
The tricky thing about learning how to get a business license in Colorado is that there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Unfortunately, the same is true for business license fees. Just as there’s no standard application process, costs vary between occupations and locations.
In general, you typically can expect to pay between $25 and a few hundred dollars. For example, a tattoo artist in Denver needs to pay $25, while an at-home child care business for 26 or more children will pay $200. Be sure to check the required fees periodically as they may change
In step 3 of “how to get a business license in Colorado,” we mentioned a Certificate of Insurance as a potential requirement. Some business owners may need to carry general liability insurance before starting their business, and you could come across these terms in your application.
Business insurance may be able to cover accidents, third-party property damage, and more. Since this is such useful protection for both business owners and consumers, your state or town might require you to have it. For example, excavation contractors in Denver need to prove they have $1,000,000 in general liability coverage.
Even if you technically don’t need business insurance to get started, we still recommend considering it. Accidents can happen to anyone, and having protection will give you peace of mind. Not to mention that being licensed and insured can build trust with potential customers.
If you’re ready to start your business but need to set up business insurance quickly, we can help. Simply Business’s free quote comparison tool helps you find custom quote options s in just a few minutes.
We’re willing to bet that nobody jumps out of bed in the morning fueled by excitement to fill out government forms and pay licensing fees. Pat yourself on the back for learning how to get a business license in Colorado. Good things come to those who work for it, and getting your license is no different.
Taking the time now to set up your business correctly helps your company appear credible and trustworthy. As a new business that has to build up its reputation, any extra customer confidence you can gain is worth it.
By committing to a little extra time and effort in setting up your business, you create a foundation for success. Now take a deep breath and plan your next step!
I'm a freelance writer who has always had an interest in entrepreneurship, starting way back with lemonade stands. These days I write to help business owners with their everyday challenges and choices. When I'm not typing away, you'll find me eating pizza, volunteering at the animal shelter, or taking too many pictures of my cats.
Stephanie writes on a number of topics such as state insurance regulations, business licenses, and small business administration.
This content is for general, informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting, or financial advice. Please obtain expert advice from industry specific professionals who may better understand your business’s needs. Read our full disclaimer
*Harborway Insurance policies are underwritten by Spinnaker Insurance Company and reinsured by Munich Re, an A+ (Superior) rated insurance carrier by AM Best. Harborway Insurance is a brand name of Harborway Insurance Agency, LLC, a licensed insurance producer in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. California license #6004217.