Starting BellDesign

It’s not always easy for interior design students to obtain materials and samples for class projects. Some manufacturers’ representatives are quite helpful, but others simply ignore student requests. It didn’t take me long to discover that if I could say I was in business, I would get better access to product information and materials.

So I hoofed over to city hall and applied for a business license in my own name. In the small suburban town where I live, this was easy – I paid my $35, an inspector came to my house to determine if my business could legally operate there and issued a Certificate of Occupancy, and I got the license in the mail soon after.

So now Charlotte Bell is licensed to do business as a sole proprietor. I have a few more legal hoops to jump through, however, before I am up and running. First, I need to register BellDesign as my trade name with the Clerk of the Arlington County Circuit Court. Second, because I have no employees and am a sole proprietor, I do not need to obtain a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) from the IRS, but I do need to register with the Virginia Department of Taxation for a state tax ID number and pay any taxes for which I might be liable.

Next, as a sole proprietor, I am not required to register with the Virginia State Corporation Commission, but if I ever want to become a corporation, I will have to comply with additional requirements. The Virginia State Corporation Commission has a useful Business Registration Guide that lays out all the steps.

Later, after I’ve actually worked in the field for some time and passed the NCIDQ exam, I might want to apply to the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation for the privilege of calling myself a “Certified Interior Designer.”

Until I get a bit closer to the end of my graduate degree program, I’m not ready for any actual clients. But meanwhile, BellDesign gives me just enough of a foot in the door to gain some familiarity with the products I’ll be working with when I do have clients, get to know some of the reps, and start to feel like I might someday actually be a part of this profession.

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