Order Subtotal: (0 items)

Skip to Content

Should your business be a sole proprietorship or LLC? A look at two popular ways to legally organize your candle or soap business.

When it comes to options for structuring your candle or soap business, you’ve probably heard the terms sole proprietorship and LLC (which is short for limited liability company). This is because many small business owners in the handmade space choose to operate either as a sole proprietor or as an LLC.

This article is here to help by comparing the two and highlighting the practical considerations most useful to makers like you. 

What is a sole proprietorship?

A sole proprietorship is a business owned and operated by an individual. In the eyes of the law, the business and the owner are one and the same—there is no legal distinction between the two. 

Sole proprietorship advantages and disadvantages

Sole proprietorships offer one significant advantage: they are the simplest business structure and creating them involves no real legal formalities. When you start a business by yourself, it’s automatically a sole proprietorship!

But sole proprietorships also carry a specific disadvantage. Because the sole proprietor and the business are treated as one entity, the individual is personally responsible for all business debts, liabilities, and obligations. That means if the business is sued or is unable to pay back debts, creditors may pursue the sole proprietor’s assets like their home and savings. 

How to create a sole proprietorship

A sole proprietorship doesn’t require any legal paperwork to create this business structure. Separate bank accounts aren’t required for a sole proprietorship either, but it’s a recommended practice for the sake of financial recordkeeping.

However, depending on where you operate the business, you may still need to obtain a business permit or license. Check with your local and state government authorities to determine the particular requirements and regulations in your area.

What is an LLC?

An LLC is a business structure that limits the liability for its owners. An LLC can be formed by an individual—called a single-member LLC—or by several people. The owner, or owners, of an LLC are called members.

LLC advantages and disadvantages

The primary advantage of an LLC is that it shields a member’s personal assets from collections and lawsuits. And a lesser-known perk of establishing an LLC? The business name is protected in the state where the LLC is filed. 

Because LLCs offer greater levels of protection than sole proprietorships, they do require time, effort, and money to establish. The more involved process of setting up an LLC (covered in the next section) can be viewed as a disadvantage, especially when compared to the ease of establishing a sole proprietorship.

How to create an LLC

Setting up an LLC is a multi-step process that involves:

  • registering the business with your state’s Secretary of State office
  • filing all required LLC paperwork
  • getting a Federal Employer Identification number from the Internal Revenue Service
  • paying a one-time filing fee 

Once an LLC is established, renewal fees—collected annually or biannually depending on the state—also need to be paid to keep the LLC active.

LLC fees vary by state. As of April 2024, initial filing fees range from $35 in Montana to $500 in Nevada. Meanwhile, renewal fees can be as little as $0 in 9 states and up to $800 in California.

The tax implications of sole proprietorships and LLCs

The way you structure your business also impacts income taxes. 

Sole proprietors report their business income directly on their personal tax return and pay taxes at their individual rate. They may also be responsible for self-employment taxes like Social Security and Medicare.

LLCs offer tax flexibility. By default, they're taxed similarly to sole proprietorships, with profits and losses "passing through" the owner's tax return. However, LLCs can elect to be taxed as a corporation for potential tax savings.

For comprehensive tax guidance and to determine the most suitable tax structure for your specific circumstances, please consult with a qualified tax advisor in your state. Tax laws are complex and subject to change, and this information is not intended as a substitute for professional tax advice.

Do you need an LLC to start a business?

In short, no. For the vast majority of makers in the early stages of their candle or soap business, a sole proprietorship can be a perfectly sufficient structure. 

If you're just starting and selling candles occasionally, or your business feels more like a hobby at this stage, the complexity of an LLC might outweigh the benefits. Plus, the costs associated with forming and maintaining an LLC might not be justifiable relative to your current business revenue.

As your business grows, you can transition to an LLC when the liability protection offered and other benefits become more necessary or desirable.

Reasons to consider an LLC

While a sole proprietorship is suitable for starting your candle or soap business, an LLC offers several advantages worth considering:

  • Peace of mind. Given the inherent risks associated with candles (flammability) and bath and body products (skin reactions), an LLC—combined with proper insurance and thorough product testing—can provide the confidence that your finances are protected and that your products are safe to use. 
  • Enhanced liability protection.  If safeguarding your assets is a top priority, forming an LLC from the outset creates a clear separation between your personal and business finances, minimizing the risk that personal belongings could be used to settle business debts and lawsuits.
  • Professional image and credibility. Customers may perceive a business established as an LLC to be more credible. An LLC signifies that the owner has taken the extra steps to formally structure their business, which can inspire customer confidence and trust. This is particularly important when dealing with products that directly impact personal safety and well-being.

The takeaways

Here’s a quick recap of the advantages and disadvantages of sole proprietorships and LLCs:


  • Sole proprietorship: Automatically created when you start a business.
  • LLC: Separates and protects the business owner’s assets from the business.


  • Sole proprietorship: The sole proprietor’s assets are not shielded from business creditors and liabilities.
  • LLC: Requires an investment of time and money to set up and maintain.

Understanding the nuances between sole proprietorships and LLCs will empower you to make informed decisions for your business. This knowledge will also help you choose the structure that best suits your needs for asset protection and tax purposes—and pave the way as you continue on your entrepreneurial journey!

If you have a business, what structure did you choose—and why? And if you have any questions or comments about selecting a business structure, please share them in the comments below.

For more candle business content, check out our Business Guides. You’ll find in-depth articles on getting started with email marketing and how to wholesale your handmade products, plus ideas for social media posts, and more!

This article’s focus is on sole proprietorships and LLCs because of their prevalence in the small business space, but there are other ways to structure a business. Learn more about options like partnerships and corporations on the Small Business Administration site.