Step by step

Step by step guide to starting a business in San Francisco

Find out where to begin, what you need, and how to plan for success.

The Office of Small Business created this guide and our staff are here to help. Consider reaching out to us before you begin, and again throughout your journey starting a business. We can direct you to advisors or workshops, connect you with staff from other city departments, and more. 

Fill out this form and a member of our team will contact you.


Create a business plan

Writing out business goals and action steps not only helps you clarify and organize priorities, it gives potential lenders a clear vision of your roadmap to profitability.

Resources for creating a business plan

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Finance your business

Once you have a clear understanding of what it takes to start and run your business, explore options to raise or borrow the money you need.

Understand how you can finance your business

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Find a location

Before you commit to a location or space, know what you're getting into. Every location has zoning laws defining where you can legally operate a business.

Guide to finding a location for your business

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Register your business

All San Francisco businesses - even small ones - must register with the City. Depending on your business, you may need to register with the State or Federal government as well.

Guide to registering a new business

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Choose a business name

You've chosen that perfect business name. So what's the next step to make it legal and protect your brand?

How to choose a business name

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Building and inspections

Planning to building something new or remodel an existing space? Before you break ground or begin remodeling, check with the building department to determine if you will need a building permit and to find out about their process.

Building and inspection for business

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ADA compliance

A business that is accessible to all not only helps your customers, it's the law. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and state regulations require that businesses be accessible to people with disabilities.

ADA compliance for business

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Permits and licenses

Find out if you will need to apply for any special permits or licenses for your business operations.

Permits and licenses for business

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Hire employees

Hiring your first employee is a big step and introduces new complexities. As an employer, you must consider labor regulations and payroll taxes at the local, state, and federal levels.

Resources for hiring employees for your business

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Open for business

Congratulations, your doors are open. Now you can focus on managing and growing your business. Stay connected with the Office of Small Business. Sign up for our monthly email newsletter to find out about webinars, grants, key deadlines, and other announcements for small business owners.

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Last updated January 24, 2024