Start a Business in Menlo Park
There is no one go to resource for how to start a business. The process requires contacting multiple government agencies, filing statements, paying taxes, and following various regulations. The following guide is a Menlo Park specific compilation of resources that should help you get started.
Six Steps to Start a Business
Form a Business Plan
The U.S. Small Business Administration has a tutorial on how to create a business plan for all aspects of your business such as market analysis, financing, sales, marketing, advertising, and choosing a location. Visit www.sba.gov for more information.
SCORE provides expert free consulting from experienced mentors in San Francisco and at the Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce. We can help you set up a one-hour free consultation with a SCORE counselor. They can help you with a business plan or answer any variety of questions you might have. SCORE also offers a number of online business plan resources.
Obtain a Business License from the City of Menlo Park
With few exceptions, all businesses located within the city limits of Menlo Park are required to have a valid business license from the City of Menlo Park. Businesses located outside the City of Menlo Park conducting business activity within the City limits are required to have a City of Menlo Park business license. Businesses that operate from a residential address in Menlo Park are also required to obtain a home occupation permit from the Planning Department before business operations begin. Be aware that all cities regulate business activity by location. Check with the Planning Department to ensure that your business is permissible in the location you are considering.
For more information on how to obtain a Menlo Park Business License and to download the application, please visit the Menlo Park Business License Office website or call 650-330-6642.
If your business is located in unincorporated San Mateo County, you can call the SMC Treasurer’s Office at (650) 363-4979 for more information about obtaining a county business license.
Choose a Business Structure
Select a business entity type. See www.sos.ca.gov/business for a brief overview of the principal types of legal business structures available in California. Consult with an attorney and an accountant before determining your type of business entity.
File for a Fictitious Business Name
Filing a Fictitious Business Name (FBN) Statement creates an accurate, easy-to-find record of who is responsible for the conduct of the business. You may obtain forms and assistance from the San Mateo County Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder’s Office, Clerk’s Division (555 County Center, 1st floor, Redwood City). Forms are also available online. The Clerk’s staff has information about requirements and can assist applicants with these steps.
Obtain Tax and Employer Identification Numbers
The IRS, the State Board of Equalization, the Franchise Tax Board and the Employment Development Department agencies collect state and federal payroll taxes, state sales taxes and corporate income taxes. Filing requirements are different for each agency. For more information, go to www.sos.ca.gov/business/tax-information.htm.
Check your resources to determine what requirements your business may need to operate
Included below is a partial list of recommended sources to help you get started.
CalGOLD – California Government Online
The CalGOLD website is designed to help business owners find the appropriate permitting information for the type of business that they plan to open. The website contains the names, addresses and telephone numbers of the state, local and regional agencies that issue the permits and licenses a business may need, as well as links to web sites.
California Business Portal
The California Business Portal is sponsored by the California Economic Development Partnership. A number of resources are provided, including public and private sources, state and federal agencies, and local private non-profit organizations.
Secretary of State’s Business Programs Division
The Business Filings section processes applications for incorporations, limited partnerships, non-profits, and other businesses. Apostilles can only be obtained from the Secretary of State’s Office by mail or in person. Once you choose a business structure (Step 4), you will file your papers with the Secretary of State’s Office. This website contains information on the fees associated with filing as well as downloadable application forms. The Secretary of State’s Office maintains more than two million records for business entities in California including a searchable database of those businesses.
Small Business Administration
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is an independent agency of the federal government that counsels, assists, and protects the interests of small business. It’s mission is to help Americans start, build and grow businesses. The SBA offers advice on getting loans, grants, licenses, tax identification numbers, business planning and more.
The information on this guide came from the San Mateo County Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder-Elections Office and the City of Menlo Park’s Business License Office. You can find the complete Mark Church’s San Mateo County Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder-Elections Office brochure as well as a list of additional resources here.