How to set up your new small business in Chicago

 Chicago City Hall photographed by me on the day I got my business license.

Chicago City Hall photographed by me on the day I got my business license.

I am by no means a business expert. But I’ve been through the struggle (and am currently still struggling! Although, maybe in a different way) of beginning a business. Starting any business is tough. It literally feels like a bajillion balls of information swarming around your brain and all you want to do is follow that yellow brick road to the answer. You want it to be a direct, straight-forward path where questions are followed up by only one and true answer. BUUUUUT, it’s not! Yay!! You might as well get used to it now and just enjoy the swirling up and down ride that is business.

In any case, there are some direct paths to take when starting your own business. Again, I’m no expert, but I’ve been asked a few times on how to do this so I thought I’d try and share with you the ‘way’ in as simplest a way as possible. Please keep in mind too this is specific to the city of Chicago. If you’re reading this in another city, I imagine a lot of the steps would be similar. I would recommend finding your city’s Small Business Center and reach out to them. If you don’t have one, try visiting your city hall.

Also head’s up, if you don’t know me, I’m from the creative world; an artist-type, a jewelry designer to be exact. So I’m basing this path on that fact and directing it towards other jewelry designers or individual artists of any sort who are wanting to take their creative expression, sell it to the public, and turn it into a small business.


Ok! Here’s your yellow brick road as suggested by me, Tina, owner of small business Tytin Jewelry: Studio & Shop…

1. Figure out your business name. Google it. Make sure no one else has it or has it trademarked. And then go and claim it on all social media outlets and buy the domain name.

2. Decide your legal entity. How are you going to structure your business: Sole Proprietor, LLC, or CORP. It mostly means how will my business be taxed? How will the IRS and the State take taxes from me? So a lot of your decision depends on how much your business is going to make and what is the most beneficial for your situation. A lot of individuals just starting out, structure as a Sole Proprietor. It’s the easiest one and the cheapest one. But please don’t base your decision on how much it costs to file. You really need to take a look at how it’s going to affect you financially and make the best decision based on how you want your business to be. You can change it later on but also keep in mind, it may cost more in the end/be a bigger hassle to do so. Talking to an accountant can also help aid your decision. I started out as a Sole Prop. Once I decided to open a physical location where I would be dealing with the public a lot more, I changed to an LLC.

  • If you decide to structure as Sole Prop and you are NOT using your given name as your business name, you must next file an Assumed Business Name Registration with the Cook County Clerk. Go here to find a detailed list of steps to do so.

  • Here’s an in depth guide to LLCs in IL. If you decide to structure as an LLC, you will need to deal with the IL Secretary of State. Small tip: If it’s possible for you to do so, I found out if you just go to their office and hand in the paperwork, it’s a lot better than mailing it to their Springfield office. The 2 offices do not communicate well with each other and they handle paperwork separately from each other. So if you mail yours to Springfield and talk to someone at the Loop office, they won’t know what’s going on with your Springfield paperwork. I did have a very nice man help me through the whole ordeal though. He advised to just hand it in at the Loop office and sometimes it can be processed just as fast as the $100 expedited service AND they can keep track of it better.

  • If you decide to structure as a Corporation, I suggest getting an accountant to help set this one up for you as it goes beyond my knowledge. But in time, as my business grows, I may come back and update this part.

3. Get a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN). This is like the social security number for your business. If you become a sole prop, you don’t have to get an EIN. You can use your personal social security number too. BUT I highly recommend getting an EIN. It’s always a good thing to keep your business life separate from your personal life as much as possible. On that note too, I’ve heard other professionals recommend if you’re serious about getting into business, don’t structure as a sole prop because there isn’t enough separation between you and the business. Again, you’re going to have to figure out what’s best for you and your business.

4. Get your Illinois Account ID Number (aka Illinois Business Tax (IBT) Number) through the IL Department of Revenue. Just an fyi, they phrase it as ‘registering your business with the IDOR’. So you’re applying for this number which in turn let’s the IDOR know that you’re an official business that will be collecting sales tax and/or not paying any sales tax on goods used to create your work. Don’t confuse this number with the EIN. EIN is your business’s social security number used to identify your business when filing your income taxes. This IL Acct ID Number is used to identify your business when you’re reporting sales tax.

5. To get a business license or not? This step is up for debate. A business license is kind of like the driver’s license of your business. It signifies that the city has recognized your business and has given you permission to perform the activities related to your business at an address they deem legitimate/zoned appropriately for the type of business you’re running. To be honest, I didn’t have one until I opened the studio because there really is no way to get around that one if you have an actual brick & mortar. But I asked a city official directly, “Does a jewelry designer who works out of their home or rents a studio and is selling their goods at craft fairs and to small boutiques need a business license?” He could not give me a direct answer and kept saying, “It all depends.” He said once a torch gets involved, it’s actually illegal to be running the business out of your home because it becomes categorized as manufacturing and you’re not allowed to ‘manufacture’ out of a residential area. But he knows a lot of people do it and if they (the city) don’t know, then...they just don’t know and what can they do about it? But technically you’re not supposed to be doing that so in that case you wouldn’t even be approved for a business license. If you’re working out of a studio, then yes you should get a business license. But then the city would have to approve of that studio’s zoning to make sure you’re allowed to be running your type of business there and based on some experience, the city has some weird qualifications so who knows if they would even approve of that. He presented this scenario as well, “What do you do if you’re out selling your jewelry or want to do business with say, Walmart, and they ask you for your license? What do you do?” He shrugged his shoulders and gave me a look that said, “See, you would need a license.” And I responded, “But no one ever asks us for one. Craft show organizers don’t. Small boutiques don’t. So….” He shrugged his shoulders again as if to imply, “Well if they don’t ask then ok. But when someone does, you’re gonna need it.” The overall conclusion I came to? It doesn’t become a problem until it does...but it’s highly recommended to get one if you can. If you do decide to pursue one, you would do so with the Small Business Center.

6. And finally! Go open a separate bank account!!!! If you’re serious about trying to make this a business, open that separate business bank account. Again, it’s best to keep business and personal life separate, especially the money. When it comes tax time too, you’ll thank yourself.


And that’s the jist of how to set up your legit small business (at least in Chicago). I’m sure I’m missing some small details or perhaps I’m mistaken about a few things. But this is what I’ve learned about the whole process based on my own personal experience. If I am missing anything or wrong about anything, please do share it with me. The worst part about this process is having to do it alone. I had to do it alone and don’t wish that on anybody. So if we can all share our experiences with each other, it not only builds community but helps build more small businesses. And wouldn’t that be awesome? Because who wants to sell their art to Walmart??

Oh and one more small note, sometimes people that work for the city can be very grumpy. And it’s easy to be grumpy back. But I’ve found it helps to deal with them if you think of it as a game: How much nice does it take to get what I want from them? May not always work but people generally respond pretty well to some extra nice-ness.

Till next time!

xoxo, Tina



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Diamonds are not my best friend

Time to be up front and honest. As a jewelry designer, I'm scared of diamonds. I know, weird right? You're thinking, 'That makes no sense, Tina'. Well it's true. It's like when you were in that awkward middle school phase and there were the 'cool kids' that you so desperately wanted to be like but didn't know how. You were captivated by their effortless cool, their ability to shine and attract everyone around them, their flashier and more stylish outfits...or maybe that was just my awkward middle school phase??

 Embracing my inner awkwardness on Halloween :)

Embracing my inner awkwardness on Halloween :)

In any case, diamonds are totally my cool kids. I've been loving them from afar but have been completely intimidated by them. Where do I buy them? How do I buy them? What kind do I buy? How much do they even cost?? Omg, if I don't know these things I'm going to look so stupid in front of my customer! HAAAALP! I also knew going into a diamond vendor's office on a whim or without a colleague's reference could be a big no-no, hence another reason I've been so intimidated.

So when the time came that my client wanted a diamond, I had to get help. I asked a few of my more seasoned jewelry friends for their advice and references. One friend eventually took me under his wing and we went to visit his diamond guy. And you know what? Yes, it was a little intimidating. But not as bad as I anticipated. It felt a little like buying report cards inside a drab doctor's office, and if you didn't understand the grading scale, you were completely lost. So with a little basic knowledge, a little 'fake it till you make it' attitude, and my friend's guiding hand, I was able to purchase my very first diamond! I felt so proud, like I had reached the cool kids' table. 

I am by no means a diamond expert now but I thought to myself, I can't be the only diamond novice jewelry designer out there...can I?? If I am, I've just embarrassed myself and you can ignore the rest of this post. But if I'm not, then where could they get help if they didn't have a friend to guide them?? I couldn't have done it without the help of friends! So I figured the next best thing would be a workshop. Hello, Diamonds 101 for Jewelers! 

So if you're anything like me, love diamonds but just need a little hand holding, then this workshop could be a great start. We're going to go over topics including the anatomy of diamonds, the 4c's, treatments, certificates, how to properly handle a diamond, and so much more. And as I mentioned, I'm no diamond expert so I've enlisted the help of my friend and instructor of the workshop, Alicia. She's a certified GIA Graduate Gemologist (G.G.) with experience in all forms of jewelry and gems. From GIA diamond/fancy diamond color grader to fine jewelry service associate at Hamilton Jewelers, this girl knows some things.

Image via GIA

Our first Diamonds 101 workshop starts pretty soon so don't miss out! And for an added bonus, we're offering 15% off to first time students with code: FIRSTTIMER on this workshop and actually on any other intermediate/advanced workshop*. We're excited to share with you our experiences and lessons learned. See ya soon!

*Booze & Bling workshop & Bench time not included. Code can only be used once for first time students. Offer ends Nov. 30th.

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Studio tour

Tytin Jewelry front display

As y'all know the studio portion of our space is open and ready to use! There's a few tweaks I'm still working on but all in all, it's here ready and waiting for YOU. I thought I'd take this opportunity to showcase a few of the tools living here in case you're curious and are interested in becoming a member.

Just a reminder, in honor of our Soft September opening, you get 50% off your first month of membership and $10 off a day pass if you buy in the month of September!

Tytin Jewelry hand tools

Foredom & Prodigy flex shafts, sturdy work benches, a communal jewelry bench table (made by yours truly & a loving friend). 

Tytin Jewelry Benches

Drill press, forming blocks, and silly signs.

Tytin Jewelry drill press

All the polishing compounds along with polishing lathes, and more silly signs.

Tytin Jewelry polishing wheels

Rolling mill of dreams donated by my awesome friend; badass anvil bought from the sweetest of horseshoe companies, Cliff Carroll's; and the cutest of stumps donated by another loving friend. We've got another larger stump on the way, straight outta Colorado from my in-laws' land.  

Tytin Jewelry rolling mill

Soldering station with an acetylene/air torch, a few Blazer micro torches, flux, solder, with a few more tweezers on the way. 

Tytin Jewelry soldering table

Hand tools, hand tools, hand tools. There are a million hand tools so this wall will probably evolve over time, but I think we've got a great start!

Tytin Jewelry tool peg board

If you end up joining or using the space for a day, please do let me know your thoughts! The studio will inevitably grow and change and my dreams are to make it a studio you can feel at home in. So yeah, tell me what's up, and I hope to see you in here soon! To sign up, head on over here & scroll down.





One month in - lessons learned

So it's been about a month since I've taken over the space and things are going.....ok. Definitely not as planned and a little slower than I hoped for. But I kind of mentally prepared myself so I guess that's where the 'ok' comes from. But yeah, all I can say is it's not horrible, it's not the greatest, it hasn't been that fun, but overall it's going ok.

Most of the build out is being done DIY. I've been watching a lot of YouTube videos and seeking out help from some handy friends. A few lessons I've learned so far...demoing is not that fun. It's not all just slinging a sledge hammer into a wall and feeling the satisfaction of it crumbling beneath you. It's tiring, dirty, gross, and did I mention? Really dirty. And sometimes smelly. It really is a whole project in itself, something I didn't realize until now. 

 'Tear down this wall!'

'Tear down this wall!'

Also, it seems obvious but demoing creates a lot of garbage. What I didn't realize though was how much that garbage literally and figuratively weighed me down. I'm currently without a dumpster so it made disposing of it really hard, not to mention it was all so heavy and I'm just one, tiny woman with lackluster arm strength. So it just sat in there for days, staring at me, reminding me of EVERYTHING I still had to do. To be honest, there were some days where I hated the space and didn't want to be there. 

 Ripping out carpet and dealing with gross drywall.

Ripping out carpet and dealing with gross drywall.

But now the piles of garbage are gone, the wall is knocked down, the carpet is completely ripped up, and all the moldy drywall is replaced. I can finally breathe a little more again and see that small light at the end of the tunnel.

 Panoramic view of shop. 

Panoramic view of shop. 

I had hoped for most of the build out to be done by the end of this month, but like I said, I've mentally prepared myself for the unexpected. That mentality seems so cliche but it's so true. I'm beginning to learn that all those entrepreneurial cliches you hear are most definitely all true. Expect the unexpected, you will wear many hats, you will spend more money than you budgeted for, things will take longer than planned, and things will snowball when you least expect it. Yup, all true. My advice to anyone else wanting to do this, 'be like water my friend'.  

You really do just have to ride the wave sometimes. You can plan and prioritize and list-make to your heart's content but inevitably something will screw up or play out a different way, and you just have to be ok with it. But you know what? I've been discovering too that no matter how much shit gets messed up, the universe will balance it out for you. It will offer you unexpected gifts to make up for the bull-crap it put you through the other day. And I'm just so grateful for them. Sometimes they come in forms of really nice people like Matt at the IL Secretary of State office helping me figure out where the hell my LLC paperwork went; or my friends offering to help me paint or drive me to the store (I don't own a car); or even the cashier at Home Depot forgetting to charge me for that $100 5-gallon tub of paint. (I feel kind of bad about that last one, but honestly I decided to see it as the universe giving me a small break. And let's be real, Home Depot has been and will be getting a lot more money from me.)


So besides boring lessons like how to legally structure your business or how to obtain a business license or buying business insurance, learning about how to mentally process everything has been the biggest one. It really is half the battle. So yeah, be like water, flow along with purpose and direction. If something comes in your way, observe the situation and figure out what you can do to resolve it and then continue to flow. Oh, and remember to be nice to people. Whatever mood you're in, don't take it out on others. Just be nice.

What's left to do? Well, as you can see above...install bathroom sink/vanity, install utility sink, clean concrete floor, install ventilation system for soldering table, paint EVERYWHERE...and a lot more. Time to see what else I can do with a month.



Happy spring indeed

It's officially spring. Nature is sprouting, Chicago is awakening, and holy moly, I'm officially growing up...into a store owner. (Insert crazy freaked out happy scared out of my mind emoji face). My friend said there should be a word that describes 'scary exciting'. I suggested #ohshityay. 

It's been a little over a year since I began working towards this dream and at least over 5 years since I've started dreaming about it. So you can imagine all the pent up emotions I've been building up in that time span. I imagined many times what I would do when I found my space and the only scenario that continuously formulated was me standing in the middle of the empty room bawling my eyes out, crying out of exhaustion and saying to myself 'FINALLY'. 

But surprisingly, I didn't cry. Instead, when I found the space (which was by total accident!) my insides leaped around, my heart was racing, and I ran home to tell my husband about it. I knew in my heart this was gonna be it. I hadn't felt that with any of the other bajillion spaces I looked at and within a week of finding the place, it became mine. And then I got the keys...and then a very large To-Do List started accumulating... and Yay! became Oh shiiiii..but then every now and then there'd still be some Yay! going on.

I imagine as a new business owner this is something I'm going to experience a lot: moments of complete joy coupled with moments of oh crap, sprinkled in with more tiny moments of yippee! It's like getting into a psychotic relationship with yourself. And oh boy, is it going to be the BEST psychotic relationship ever. I can't wait.

Most of you probably didn't even know I was looking for a retail space. If that's the case, please do read my last post. It explains where all this crazy is coming from. For those of you that did know and listened to me talk about it for the last year, THANK YOU. Thank you for the encouragement to keep going. And thank you to the WJA for honoring me with the Carelle Grant last year. It's safe to say, I couldn't be where I am right now without the help of all you great people! 

After finding the space, I began to really hone in on what Tytin Jewelry means and its mission. So far, this is what I want it to be for me and for you...

Tytin Jewelry will be a studio and shop located in Chicago, IL servicing the needs of its independent jewelers. We will provide specialized workshops, host industry meet ups, showcase local designers, and sell a curated selection of jewelry making tools. Above all, we promise to be an unconditional support system for Chicago’s community of jewelry designers, makers, and enthusiasts. From newbie hobbyist to seasoned goldsmith, we’ll be here to support you in any stage of your jewelry profession and provide you with as many resources as we can to help you grow.

It may not be all of those things right away, and I may not know everything about jewelry or running a business, but I'm beyond thrilled (and scared out of my mind) to figure it all out for you, to grow with you, and to share this journey with you. I'm ready to take on all the #ohshityay times that are headed my way. Let's do this. Let's make some jewelry!

Love, Tina :)