Starting a Business in California – A Comprehensive Guide

How to Start a Business in California

Are you embarking on a business venture in California? Look no further than this comprehensive guide to equip yourself with the necessary knowledge to turn your business idea into a registered California company. Whether launching your first startup or expanding your existing enterprise, let this guide be your trusted ally in navigating the Golden State’s dynamic business environment.Rodeo drive in Beverly Hills, California in Support of How to Start a Business in California article

Top two advantages of starting a business in California:

  1. A thriving economy and innovation hub boasting a highly skilled workforce and abundant investment opportunities.
  2. A diverse range of industries with significant growth potential, including technology, entertainment, and green energy.

Top two challenges of starting a business in California:

  1. High cost of living and operations, potentially limiting resources and making it challenging to attract talent.
  2. A complex regulatory environment and competitive market necessitate diligent planning and strategic execution.

Stay tuned as we delve into the specifics of doing business in California, providing valuable insights into regulations, taxes, and more.

Regulatory Factors and Taxes in California

California is known for its stringent regulatory environment, prioritizing safety, environmental protection, and consumer rights. However, the state has also introduced initiatives to simplify compliance for business owners, making it easier to navigate the various regulations. Businesses in California must factor in the state’s corporate income tax rate of 8.84% when planning their financial strategies and budgets.

California has a state sales tax rate of 7.25%, with local sales tax rates varying by jurisdiction, reaching up to 2.5%. The average combined state and local sales tax rate is 8.68%. The state ranks 48th overall on the 2023 State Business Tax Climate Index.

Additionally, businesses may be subject to property taxes, industry-specific taxes, and other fees. Therefore, a thorough understanding of California’s tax landscape is vital for businesses to budget effectively and maintain compliance with state and local regulations.

What are the Different Types of Business Structures I Can Use?

There are five primary types of businesses. Each business entity type is described below.

Sole Proprietorship

A business owned and operated by one individual with no legal distinction between the business and the owner. The owner is personally responsible for all debts and liabilities of the business. This is the most common type of business entity, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for you.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

A flexible business organization that combines the liability protection of a corporation with the tax benefits and simplicity of a partnership. Owners of an LLC are called members, and their assets are typically protected from the debts and liabilities of the business. A document called Articles of Organization for an LLC lets you formalize how your business will work and the rights of different members.


A type of corporation allows for pass-through taxation, meaning that profits and losses are passed through to the shareholders and reported on their tax returns. S-Corporations are limited to 100 shareholders and must meet certain eligibility requirements.


A separate legal entity from its owners (shareholders) means that the corporation can enter into contracts, own assets, and sue or be sued. C-Corporations are subject to double taxation, meaning that the corporation and the shareholders are taxed on profits.

Limited Liability Partnership (LLP)

A partnership that limits the personal liability of its partners. LLPs are typically used by professional service providers such as lawyers, accountants, and architects. Each partner is protected from the other partners’ wrongful acts, omissions, and negligence, but they may still be personally liable for their own actions.

Distribution of Businesses

Business Type Percent of Businesses in California
Sole Proprietorship 70-75%
Limited Liability Company (LLC) 15-20%
S-Corporation 5-10%
C-Corporation 5-8%
Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) Less than 1%

These percentages for California will vary yearly and depend on the industry and the business’s location. The data may also include information about registered companies in other states but operating in California.

What Is an EIN Number?

Definition of an EIN or Employer Identification Number

Employer Identification Number is a unique nine-digit identification number assigned to businesses in the United States by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). It helps track companies’ tax accounts and is referred to as the Federal Tax Identification Number (TIN) or Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN).

Do I Need One to Start a Business in California?

An EIN is required for starting a business in California, mainly if you’re operating as a corporation, partnership, or have employees. Additionally, an EIN is necessary for certain activities, such as applying for business licenses, opening a business bank account, or filing taxes.

How Do I Get One?

Obtaining an EIN is a simple process. You can apply online through the IRS website or submit Form SS-4 to the IRS via mail or fax. The online application process is the most efficient method, with the EIN typically issued immediately upon completion of the application.

For more information or assistance, you can contact the IRS directly at

Phone: 1-800-829-4933 (businesses)


Important Registrations

Registering My Business Name

You must contact the California Secretary of State’s office to register your business name in California. Reach them by phone at (916) 653-6814 or visit their website at

Registering a DBA (Doing Business As) If Relevant

Contact your local county clerk’s office if you need to register a DBA in California. A list of county clerk offices can be found on the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials’ website.

Registering for Payroll State Payroll Taxes, Unemployment Insurance

There is more than one type of state tax in California (and most states). To register for state payroll taxes and unemployment insurance in California, create an account with the California Employment Development Department (EDD). Website:
Phone: 1-888-745-3886

Registering for Worker’s Compensation Insurance

In California, you must contact an insurance provider offering workers’ compensation coverage to register for workers’ compensation insurance. If you use a payroll service, they should be able to provide workers comp as well.

Registering for Collecting Sales Tax

To collect sales tax in California, create an account with the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA).
Contact them at 1-800-400-7115.

Registering for Income Tax

Businesses operating in California should register for income tax through the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB).


Contact them at 1-800-852-5711.

Registering to Pay Property Tax

To pay property tax in California, contact your local county assessor’s office. A list of county assessor offices can be found on the California State Board of Equalization website.


Permits for Starting a Business in California

Do I Need a Permit to Operate a Business in California?

At the State Level: Certain businesses in California may require state-level permits or licenses, depending on the type of business and industry. To determine if your business requires a state-level permit or license, visit the California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz.)


In addition to state-level permits, you may need to acquire local permits or licenses depending on your business location and industry. The CalGold website provides a resource to help you identify the specific permit requirements for your business based on your location and industry. Website:

Research thoroughly to ensure you have all the necessary permits and licenses before operating your business in California.

Check With Your City: Contact your city’s business licensing office to identify any special permits necessary to operate your business. They will provide all the required information and guidance you need.

Check With Your Country: Your country may have specific rules and licensing requirements for you to run the business within its jurisdiction. Obtaining this information from your country’s appropriate office or website is crucial to complying with all regulations.

Check With Your County: Besides city and country requirements, your county may have specific regulations and permit requirements for businesses operating within its jurisdiction. Contact your county’s clerk office or visit their website to learn more about the permits and licenses needed for your business.

It’s crucial to keep in mind that requirements can vary greatly depending on your business type and location. Therefore, verifying with all relevant authorities before starting your business is essential.

How do I learn about any special permits I need for my business?

When launching a new business in California, it’s vital to identify the required special permits or licenses for your specific industry. The prerequisites for each enterprise may differ based on various factors such as location and size. Therefore, conducting thorough research on the necessary permits within your area is crucial to avoid legal complications and potential fines.

Several channels can help you obtain this information, including contacting the California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz), which provides resources and assistance for businesses with licensing and permit requirements. You can also browse their website to review specific regulations or schedule an appointment with one of their knowledgeable staff members for further guidance.

Another valuable resource is your local chamber of commerce or small business development center. These organizations often support entrepreneurs in navigating the complexities of regulatory compliance.

Financing Options for Entrepreneurs in California

Obtaining sufficient financing is crucial for launching and growing a thriving business in California. Entrepreneurs can choose from various funding options, including federal, state, and local resources.

Financing a New Business

Finding the best financing option for your business can be difficult, but it’s important for the success and expansion of your venture. Your options include loans, grants, and investments from angel investors. Thorough research and planning can assist you in selecting the most suitable funding sources for your business goals.

SBA Loans and Microloans

The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) offers numerous loan programs, including microloans designed to aid emerging entrepreneurs in creating and expanding their businesses. Microloans are small-scale loans, usually short-term and crafted to provide quick access to funds for small businesses.


In California, microloan intermediaries such as Opportunity Fund and Pacific Community Ventures offer microloans to qualified businesses. These intermediaries also provide additional support services like business coaching and training.

SBA Microlenders in California

Here is a list of SBA Microlenders in California for those seeking financing opportunities for small businesses:

California Coastal Rural Development Corporation
Carole Cook
221 Main Street Suite, Suite 301
Salinas, CA

California FarmLink
335 Spreckels Drive, Suite F
Aptos, CA

State and Local Grants and Incentives

pasadena city hall showing staircases, towers, front and rear elevations, courtyard and foyerThe California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) promotes business growth within the state through various grants and incentives. Notable programs include the California Small Business Loan Guarantee Program, which enhances lending opportunities for small businesses. Additionally, the California Competes Tax Credit program provides tax credits to companies that commit to creating new jobs in the state.

Angel Investor Groups

Angel investors are individuals or groups that supply capital to startups in return for ownership equity or convertible debt. Numerous angel investor networks in California actively support local businesses, such as Tech Coast Angels, Band of Angels, and the Pasadena Angels. Engaging with these networks can offer valuable networking opportunities and potential funding for your business.

Remember that obtaining funding is just one aspect of starting a thriving business. Investigating and evaluating all financing options is crucial to finding the ideal fit for your venture.

Benefits of a Well-Structured Business Plan

A comprehensive business plan presents numerous benefits for entrepreneurs. A well-crafted plan can help you clarify your goals and tackle your business’s challenges. Moreover, a solid business plan serves as a roadmap to convey your vision to stakeholders and partners and guide your team.

Meeting Lender and Investor Expectations

Lenders and investors typically expect an in-depth business plan before providing financial support to your venture. A well-developed plan illustrates your dedication and expertise, highlighting your grasp of the market, financial forecasts, and tactics for achieving success. By satisfying lender and investor requirements, a robust business plan can substantially enhance your odds of obtaining the necessary funds to start and expand your business in California.

Where Can I Find a Mentor to Help Me Succeed?

Starting a business in California can be challenging, but seeking guidance from professionals such as attorneys, SCORE mentors, or local business organizations is crucial. In addition, networking with other entrepreneurs and connecting with mentors can provide valuable insights and support as you establish your business in the Golden State. Fortunately, numerous organizations and resources in California cater to local entrepreneurs, offering mentorship and assistance. Some of these organizations include

  1. Silicon Valley SCORE: This non-profit organization assists businesses by providing networking opportunities, resources, and mentorship to start and grow a business in the California tech hub.
    Contact info:
    Phone No (408) 453-6237.
  2. California Women’s Business Centers (WBCs): For female entrepreneurs, WBCs offer business guidance, financial assistance, and networking resources to women launching or operating a business in California. Find a local WBC through the SBA.
    Contact info:
  3. Los Angeles Latino Chamber of Commerce (LALCC): Exclusive to Latino entrepreneurs, LALCC offers various support programs, including technical assistance, financial resources, and access to training and development.
    Contact info:
    Phone No (213) 347-0008.
  4. Veteran Launch: Military veterans looking to start a business can find support from this organization. Veteran Launch provides mentorship, community support, and guidance on local business administration. Contact info:
    Phone No (833) 923-5382
  5. Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) in California: Funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration, SBDCs offer support services such as consulting, mentorship programs, and access to resources for a low fee. These services are available to entrepreneurs throughout California.
    Contact info:

These resources offer new businesses and those seeking additional support an outstanding hub to access information, expand their network, and grow their business in California.

The Economy of California

Having a comprehensive knowledge of California’s economy is critical for entrepreneurs looking to start a business. This knowledge is vital in gaining insights into the financial terrain, consumer patterns, and growth prospects. Furthermore, a sturdy economy creates a supportive environment for new enterprises to thrive and grow.

Economic Overview

Average Household Income

California’s median household income stands at $84,907, which is considerably higher than the national median. This higher income level indicates a strong consumer base, offering businesses a lucrative local market to target.

Average Level of Education

About 22.1 percent of Californian residents aged over 25 years hold a degree, while over 84% of Californians have completed their high school education.. Only 9.8% of this population needs primary high school education. This high level of education often translates to a skilled and talented workforce, benefiting companies in search of top-notch employees.

Consumer Spending per Capita

Per capita personal consumption expenditures (PCE) in California amount to $53,082, showing a considerable increase from the PCE of 2000, which stood at $27,663. Higher consumer spending signifies a vibrant market for businesses to tap into, offering more significant potential for revenue and growth.

Top Industries in California

California has diverse industries, including technology, entertainment, tourism, agriculture, and green technology. The technology sector, particularly Silicon Valley, is renowned for its innovation and houses numerous tech giants and startups.

The entertainment industry, centered around Hollywood, produces a significant portion of the world’s film and television content. Tourism is another thriving industry, drawing visitors from around the globe to California’s stunning landscapes and iconic landmarks. Additionally, the state’s agriculture sector is a major producer of fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Lastly, the green technology industry is rapidly growing, focusing on renewable energy and sustainable practices.

For entrepreneurs or small investors looking to launch a new business in California, it is crucial first to familiarize themselves with the state’s leading industries. This knowledge will help them uncover potential opportunities and risks in their chosen field.

By starting a business in a thriving industry and armed with the correct information, entrepreneurs can increase their chances of success and capitalize on existing market opportunities. With a strong and diverse economy, a skilled workforce, and a wide array of sectors, California presents a compelling choice for entrepreneurs aiming to establish or expand their businesses.

Identify complementary businesses: Investigate how your business can complement or support one of California’s top industries. For example, if you offer graphic design services, you could specialize in creating promotional materials for tourism businesses or green technology companies.

Leverage workforce talent: Understanding the dominant industries in the state can help you access a skilled workforce with relevant experience and knowledge for your business.

Collaborate with industry leaders: Forming partnerships or collaborations with businesses in the top industries can grant you access to resources, knowledge, and networks that can propel your business’s growth.

Workforce and Talent

Gaining insights into California’s workforce and talent can provide valuable information on the state’s labor market, enabling you to make informed decisions about your business’s staffing and recruitment strategies.Rodeo drive in Beverly Hills, California

Unemployment Rate

California, a state known for its diverse economy, has an unemployment rate of 4.4%. This figure is an essential indicator of job opportunities and the state’s financial health.

Minimum Wage

The minimum wage in California is $15.50 per hour, which can influence labor costs and your business’s budget and salary structure.

Average Age and Demographics

In California, the median age is 37 years, and the population is almost evenly split between genders, with 50.3% female and 49.7% male. This information can be useful in customizing products or services to better suit the needs of different age groups and gender identities in the state.

Breakdown of People with Various Levels of Education

The highest level of education among people aged 25 years and older in California are as follows:

  1. 22.1% hold a higher degree.
  2. 84% have a high school education.
  3. 9.8% have no high school diploma.

This information can guide you in recruiting employees with the appropriate education and skill set for your business.

Top Areas of Skilled Workers for Residents of California

California is a powerhouse of innovation, creativity, and economic growth, with diverse industries offering countless opportunities for entrepreneurs and skilled workers. Home to Silicon Valley, the state boasts a thriving technology sector, attracting top talent in software development, data science, and engineering. In addition, its world-renowned entertainment industry, centered in Hollywood, is a major economic driver, employing filmmakers, actors, producers, and animators alike.

The Golden State is also a leader in healthcare, life sciences, and agriculture, with talented professionals in medicine, research, biotechnology, and food production contributing significantly to its economy. In addition, California’s picturesque coastline, iconic landmarks, and famous attractions draw millions of tourists yearly, fostering a vibrant tourism and hospitality industry, with skilled workers such as hotel managers, chefs, tour guides, and event planners in high demand.

Renowned for its wine production, particularly in the Napa Valley and Sonoma County regions, California is home to skilled winemakers, viticulturists, and sommeliers. The state is also a leader in advanced manufacturing, renewable energy, clean technology, and aerospace and defense, with talented professionals, including robotics engineers, materials scientists, manufacturing technicians, solar panel installers, wind turbine technicians, and aeronautical engineers.

In summary, California’s diverse economy offers many opportunities for businesses and skilled workers, making it an attractive destination for entrepreneurs and investors seeking to tap into its unique resources and talent pool.

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