California State Small Business Services and Resources / Starting a Business / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

If you are looking to start or expand a business in California or just need help solving a problem specific to this state or region, ...

If you are looking to start or expand a business in California or just need help solving a problem specific to this state or region, there's a wide range of resources — both government and private — available to help. While many nationally focused resources offer helpful solutions, some issues are better addressed at the state or local level. Answers to licensing, zoning, sales tax, incorporation, economic development issues and a mountain of other matters often reside at the state level. Ironically, however, finding the right resources closer to home can often be even more difficult, as local solutions often live in many different places. Cover your bases by seeking solutions in these locations:

  1. State government agencies, such as the commerce department, economic development office, secretary of state's office or other business-related state agencies.
  2. Small business assistance programs offered through local universities and community colleges that are backed by state and federal resources. These include Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) and SCORE offices.
  3. Private, non-profit and special-interest industry and business organizations that provide a range of services, networking opportunities and even funding options for small businesses.
  4. State and local offices of federal agency programs, such as the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) office in your area.
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Access official state programs for starting and growing a business in California

The state government's gateway is the California Business Portal.
California Business Portal offers a five-step plan for starting a business in California. You can also search California businesses, find forms and tax information, request technical assistance, review California codes, and more.

Locate answers on wages, hours, overtime, exempt status and other labor issues

The California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) handles wage claims, work complaints and other labor code issues important to small business.
The DLSE's detailed Q&A on wage, overtime and related issues can answer many of your questions on this topic. The Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) has answers on Workers' Comp, safety & health, labor law, apprenticeships, mediation services and more.

Find forms and info online for environmental, regulatory and other permit requirements

A program called CalGOLD delivers direct Internet links and contact information to the state, local, regional, and federal permitting authorities you need.
Check the CalGold online catalog to find what you need.

Talk sales taxes with the right California state authorities

Need sales tax info? The California State Board of Equalization is where you get it.
At the CBOE site you can register for a permit or license, check tax rates and sign up for small business seminars that explain how it all works.

Get free help at the California Small Business Development Centers (SBDC)

Need help to start or grow a business in California? California Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) provide free statewide counseling, training and assistance programs. California's huge, far-flung and vibrant small business economy commands six distinct SBDC centers, with 30 SBDCs that include 14 focused specifically on international trade development.
Locate lists of services and your nearest location: Los Angeles (including Ventura and Santa Barbara counties), Sacramento, Northern California/San Francisco, Santa Ana, Fresno and San Diego (includes international trade). You can also check a master list of California SBDCs with local contact information.

SCORE more free help for your biz

SCORE, "Counselors to America's small business" is a terrific national organization that provides free mentoring for small business owners throughout California.
These are SCORE California offices: Bakersfield - Golden Empire SCORE; Glendale - Los Angeles SCORE; Merced - Yosemite SCORE; Monterey - Monterey Bay SCORE; Oakland - East Bay SCORE; Oxnard - Ventura SCORE; Palmdale - Antelope Valley SCORE; Rancho Cordova - Sacramento SCORE; San Diego - San Diego SCORE; San Francisco - San Francisco SCORE; San Jose - Silicon Valley SCORE; San Luis Obispo - San Luis Obispo SCORE; Santa Ana - Orange Cty SCORE; Santa Barbara - Santa Barbara SCORE; Santa Rosa - North Coast SCORE; Stockton - Stockton SCORE.

Connect to a California small business resource portal

Discover hundreds of local programs offering free and low-cost help for starting and growing your business.
The Business Utility Zone Gateway for California can connect you with a wide range of people, tools and resources.

Snag state-level help from the SBA

District, state and regional offices of the U.S. Small Business Administration can put a more focused face on federal programs and resources, and plug you into local training and assistance solutions.
Just plug in a Zip Code, select a specific city from the pull-down menu or check your state on the U.S. map in the middle of the SBA home page.

Locate potential angel investors online

The California Investment Network helps connect entrepreneurs with angel investors.
You can submit your confidential investment proposal for free.
  • Many types of businesses require state, city or county licenses and permits. State offices listed above will spell out any specific requirements for your industry.
  • Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) are an often-overlooked but terrific place to obtain free or low-cost advice and information, including training seminars and technology resources that are nearby.
  • Locally-based SBDC consultants can advise you individually on how to write a business plan, market your products and services, find financial resources and other valuable information.
  • The regional SBA office can plug you into loan and assistance programs, seminars and other initiatives to aid small businesses.
  • Linking up with a local SCORE counselor is a great way to learn from an experienced individual about state-specific solutions.

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