Italy has long been a premier tourist destination, but in recent years it has become ever more enticing as a destination for small businesses. The power of the ‘Made in Italy’ brand carries immense respect in a number of fields, particularly in food and drink, fashion and crafts. The economy has also begun to broaden and has posted strong showings in the last three years under its new government, ending a previous triple-dip recession.
Starting a small business in Italy is a popular past-time, with more than 3 million SMEs employing 50 people or fewer. There are a number of incentives and support structures available, and the fourth largest market in Europe to take advantage of. However, the substantial amount of bureaucracy and paperwork, all of which has to be dealt with in Italian, can put some business owners off.
Starting a business in Italy
While many businesses in Italy now conduct their operations in English, the process of starting a small business in Italy is still complex. Everything including the online single point of contact is conducted in Italian, and several steps must still be undertaken by yourself or a representative in Italy.
Most small businesses will choose to incorporate as a limited liability company, known in Italy as an SrL. This requires a minimum share capital of 100,000 EUR, to be deposited in an Italian bank account. Italian banks are not known for giving out loans easily, so you will want to have this available up front. While you are not obliged to draft a business plan as part of the formation process, you will still want to put one together. Starting a business anywhere is a complex process, but the extra pressures of expanding to a new country mean you will want to be as organised and rigorous as possible.
Next you’ll need to draft and submit your Articles and Memorandum of Association, along with your company bylaws. These will have to be executed by a public notary, to which you will also pay the requisite registration fees. These will include a set incorporation fee of 356 EUR, as well as notary fees in the region of 1% of your business’s initial capital. You are also required to keep certain books for accounting and meeting minutes, although most businesses now choose to log this information online. Authenticating these books requires another modest flat payment.
A number of forms must then be attached to a notice of registration, which is filed with the Registro Imprese (Register of Enterprises). This process ensures that your business is registered with key services, providing you with a VAT and tax number after 2-5 days. An official email address must also be registered, and made publicly available alongside your business information.
Once all documentation has been sent and confirmation received, you are more or less ready to go. All that remains is to notify the Centro per l’impiego (Labour Office) a minimum of one day before hiring workers. You should now begin the process of setting up the premises, marketing, and all the other requirements needed to make a small business a success.
Small business opportunities in Italy
Italy is home to a wide variety of business types, covering the full gamut of industry, agriculture and luxury goods. The country is among the most prolific producers of cars and wine in the world, holds an extremely strong and varied manufacturing base, and maintains the world’s third largest gold reserve.
These factors, along with the sunshine, mean Italy has the eighth best living standards in the world. The biggest opportunities in 2017 are still those that capitalise on Italy’s core strengths of prestige and tourism, but which offer a new, modern twist on an existing formula. Popular choices at present include perfumeries, hotels & B&Bs, catering, property investment, and businesses relating to specific trades and skills, such as a dentist’s surgery.
Many entrepreneurs looking to start a business in Italy cater exclusively to the country’s large expatriate population, or to potential expats. This includes translation and relocation services, importing ‘home comforts’, and advisory services, ranging from teaching languages to offering support and advice for new arrivals.