Starting a Business in San Francisco Checklist

Entrepreneurship is no easy feat—there’s research, business planning, financing, hiring, and many other steps involved. It can be hard to keep track of everything. Throw in city-specific regulations and requirements, and it may just feel like too many hurdles to jump.

While Davinci can’t help you with every aspect of starting a new business, we do have particular expertise in helping entrepreneurs get established in the location of their professional dreams. If San Francisco is that place, then you have come to the right people for answers.

We have provided a Starting a Business in San Francisco Checklist that you can review and work your way through. Upon completion, you will be in a position to throw open your doors and disrupt a local industry with your startup!

Research Your Niche

San Francisco has a knack for supporting niche businesses. There is even a restriction on chain stores and a large community that rallies around craft businesses to “maintain the character and aesthetic qualities of San Francisco.”

• Choose the right business idea.

• Scope out your competition to determine what they do—and do not—offer.

• Learn how to stand out from the crowd.

Line Up Financing and Insurance

With a GDP of $535 billion, the Bay Area ranks 19th (in the world!) when compared to national economies. With that kind of money at stake, local financial institutions are intent on keeping the cash flowing.

• Write an effective business plan.

• Apply for small business grants and loans.

• File your federal, California, and San Francisco business taxes.

Break through Red Tape

San Francisco needs your business to thrive at #10 in the country for dependence on the locally-owned business economy. The city is all too eager to provide the resources necessary to meet every regulatory requirement—and in turn, your professional goals—no matter who you are.

• Name your business following California’s Name Regulations.

Register your business in San Francisco.

• File your San Francisco business taxes.

• Get the proper business insurance coverage.

• Take advantage of the city’s resources:

          • San Francisco Business Portal

          • Small Business Assistance Center - San Francisco

          • La Cocina for low- and very low-income entrepreneurs

          • SF LGBT Center

          • Sky’s the Limit for entrepreneurs ages 18-29

Network, Network, Network

For many years, San Francisco’s small business density has been the highest in the United States, at over 93% of total businesses in the city. This can work to your advantage when you reach out to others who have already navigated the path to business ownership.

• Join local business associations:

          • National Association of Women Business Owners - SFBA Chapter 

          • San Francisco African American Chamber of Commerce

          • San Francisco Disability Business Alliance

Hire Your Workforce

If you’re not looking to be a one-person team, you will need a little help and guidance when hiring employees.

• Find the right job candidates (and get help paying their wages) with JobsNOW!.

• Follow San Francisco labor laws.

• Register new hires to California’s New Employee Registry within 20 days.

Market Your Brand

You won’t sell your products or services in San Francisco if you do not properly market them to your target audience. 

Trademark your unique product names. 

• Build your business website.

Promote your business to your San Francisco audience.

Set Up Your Office

Whether in Fillmore, Japantown, Mission District, Embarcadero, or at home, you will need a business space to call your own. 

• Check San Francisco’s zoning map for your desired address.

• Study Section 303.1 of the San Francisco Planning Code if you are opening a retail business. 

• If purchasing a building, get your building permits, inspection, and ADA compliance.

• Lease or rent an ideal office location taking into account budget, customer interest, and ease of access.

• If you are starting an online-only business, utilize a virtual office with virtual office services.

• Post city-required notice posters.

San Francisco, California, has almost twice the economic productivity as the national average, largely due to local business owners like you. 

If you have reviewed this checklist for starting a business in San Francisco but have questions regarding office space rental or virtual office features, contact Davinci today!


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