You are currently viewing 16 Types of Ownership for Small Businesses: Choosing the Right Structure for Success
16 Types of Ownership for Small Businesses

16 Types of Ownership for Small Businesses: Choosing the Right Structure for Success

When starting a small business, one of the crucial decisions is determining the appropriate ownership structure.

The choice of ownership impacts legal and financial responsibilities, taxation, and overall management.

In this article, we will explore 16 types of ownership for small businesses, ranging from sole proprietorships to B Corporations, providing insights to help entrepreneurs make informed decisions.

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the simplest form of ownership, where an individual operates a business as the sole owner.

This structure offers complete control but entails personal liability for debts and obligations.


Partnerships involve two or more individuals who jointly own and manage a business.

Partners share profits, losses, and liabilities, making it essential to have a comprehensive partnership agreement that outlines each partner’s roles, responsibilities, and distribution of assets.

Limited Partnership

In a limited partnership, there are general partners (responsible for management and liable for debts) and limited partners (having limited liability and minimal involvement in management).

This structure allows for investment opportunities while providing limited liability protection.

Limited Liability Partnership (LLP)

An LLP combines the features of a partnership and a corporation. All partners have limited liability protection, shielding them from personal responsibility for the actions of other partners.

This structure is common among professional service firms.


A corporation is a legal entity separate from its owners. It offers limited liability protection, allowing shareholders to be shielded from personal liabilities. Corporations have a clear management structure and can issue shares of stock to raise capital.

S Corporation

An S Corporation is a specific type of corporation that elects to be taxed under Subchapter S of the Internal Revenue Code.

This structure allows for pass-through taxation, where profits and losses flow through to the individual shareholders’ personal tax returns.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

An LLC is a flexible business structure that combines the limited liability protection of a corporation with the simplicity and tax advantages of a partnership.

It offers a great degree of flexibility in terms of management and profit distribution.


A cooperative is owned and operated by a group of individuals or businesses who share common goals.

Members actively participate, share profits, and make decisions democratically.

Cooperatives can be found in various industries, such as agriculture, retail, and housing.


A franchise business involves an individual or group (franchisee) operating under the brand and business model of a larger company (franchisor).

Franchisees benefit from established brand recognition and support while adhering to specific operational guidelines.

Joint Venture

A joint venture occurs when two or more parties collaborate and pool resources to undertake a specific project or venture.

Each participant shares risks, costs, and rewards based on agreed terms and conditions, usually through a contractual agreement.

Community Interest Company (CIC)

In the UK, a Community Interest Company (CIC) is established to benefit the community rather than for private profit.

CICs operate as limited companies and must demonstrate a commitment to social or environmental objectives.

Nonprofit Organization

Nonprofit organizations are dedicated to serving a social or charitable purpose. They reinvest any surplus back into their mission instead of distributing profits to owners. Nonprofits must comply with specific legal and tax regulations.


A trust is a legal arrangement where a trustee manages assets on behalf of beneficiaries according to predetermined terms and conditions.

Trusts are often utilized for estate planning, managing charitable funds, or safeguarding assets for future generations.

Professional Corporation

Professional corporations are formed by professionals, such as doctors, lawyers, or accountants, allowing them to operate as corporations while retaining professional liability protection. This structure offers tax advantages and limits personal liability.

Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP)

An ESOP is a qualified retirement plan that enables employees to acquire an ownership interest in the company through stock ownership.

ESOPs provide an avenue for employees to share in the company’s success and build wealth for retirement.

B Corporation

B Corporations, or Benefit Corporations, are for-profit businesses that meet specific social and environmental standards.

They balance profit with social and environmental impact, serving a broader purpose beyond maximizing shareholder value.


Choosing the right ownership structure for a small business is crucial for its success and growth. Each type of ownership comes with its own set of advantages, disadvantages, and legal considerations.

By understanding these 16 types, entrepreneurs can make informed decisions tailored to their specific goals and circumstances.