San Diego

Accessibility Tools

  • Check if your spelling is correct, or try removing filters.
  • Remove quotes around phrases to match each word individually: "blue drop" will match less than blue drop.
  • You can require or exclude terms using + and -: big +blue drop will require a match on blue while big blue -drop will exclude results that contain drop.

Ten Key Steps to Starting a Business

10 Key Steps hero (OpenCounter 2019 splash page)

Download a complete version of thePDF icon 10 Key Steps to Starting a Business
Spanish version: PDF icon 10 Pasos Clave Para Iniciar Su Negocio

There are several key steps to starting a business in the City of San Diego. The steps may vary depending on the type of business you intend to launch. Following the 10 Key Steps to Starting a Business will give you a general idea and help the process run smoothly.

Many steps can be researched and processed online through the websites listed, saving you the time of calling or visiting department or agency offices. The City’s Central Library and all branches provide Internet access during library hours.

  1. Research what it takes to start a business. (A City of San Diego Public Library is has resources, too.)
  2. Find out where you can locate your business, what permits you might need and how much they'll cost---all through OpenCounter Online Business Portal. The City’s Development Services Department Small Business and Restaurant Assistance Program can also assist. If you plan to operate out of your home, obtain information about requirements for home occupations by contacting Code Enforcement.
  3. Determine a Business Name and register at County of San Diego, Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk’s Office.
  4. Create a Business Plan with help from the Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) South San Diego, North San Diego and U.S. Small Business Administration.
  5. Determine the Business Activity Type from the list provided by the Office of City Treasurer's PDF icon Business Tax Certification application.
  6. Determine the Legal Structure of the business.
  7. Obtain any special licenses and permits. (Read more about this in the PDF icon complete version of 10 Key Steps.)
  8. Get tax information from the California Tax Information Center (link is external), and the Internal Revenue Service.
  9. Learn about Employer Responsibilities at the City level (Earned Sick Leave and Mininum Wage Ordinance) from the Office of the City Treasurer. Learn about Employer Responsibilities at the State and Federal levels from the Employment Development Department(link is external) and Internal Revenue Service(link is external)
  10. Apply for a Business Tax Certificate (Business License) from the Office of the City Treasurer, Business Tax Division.

For those business startups that do not have access to the Internet, the City's Central Library and all branch libraries provide access to the Internet during hours the library is open.

Download a complete version of the PDF icon 10 Key Steps to Starting a Business, which includes contact information and additional resources. 
Spanish version: PDF icon 10 Pasos Clave Para Iniciar Su Negocio

For questions or concerns, please contact the Economic Development Department at 619-236-6700 or email us at sdbusiness@sandiego.gov