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Economic Development

Ten Key Steps to Starting a Business

Download a complete version of the PDF 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. We are here to help you! Reach out to us at or 619-236-6700 with your business questions.

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. In the 10 Key Steps to Start a Business, you'll find a number of resources that can help you get started. The City of San Diego Public Library has resources, too.
  2. Select a site and understand zoning requirements by reaching out to us at 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 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 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 Minimum Wage Ordinance) from the Compliance Department. 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