Business Basics
  • 1. Prepare a Business Plan:

    A well detailed plan is regarded as a valuable tool for starting a business and will provide milestones to gauge your success and for monitoring your business growth. It may also assist you in qualifying for various loan programs to raise capital funds. While plans vary, the Small Business Administration (SBA) advises that every plan contain a description of the business, marketing, finances and management. On-line websites offer sample business plans such as:, / or In addition, the local Small Business Development Center can assist individuals with the steps towards starting their business, which includes Business Plans. For more information on the various services visit their website:
  • 2. Determine Your Business Structure:

    If you want to establish your business as a corporation you must contact the Corporation Division of the California Secretary of State’s Office. This office can supply you with information and forms you’ll need and the Name Availability Unit assists you in determining corporate name availability. 1213 J Street, Sacramento, CA 95814. (916) 653-6814.
  • 3. Find a location for your Business:

    Select a space or building that meets size, location, and investment capital outlined in your business plan. A commercial real estate broker and/or real estate attorney can assist you with site selection, lease negotiations, and formulating the lease agreement. You may click here to search on-line for available commercial property in Santa Cruz County.
  • 4. Verify Zoning Regulations:

    Before finalizing your business location or signing a lease, contact the County of Santa Cruz Planning Department at (831) 454-2130 to determine if your business is an eligible use for a specific location and whether any special approvals are required. All businesses must locate in areas zoned to allow that particular business activity. New business ownership or a change in building use may require modifications to bring the building up-to-current code and tenant improvements may require Federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance.
  • 5. Need Start-up Capital?

    If you are seeking funding, a well-crafted loan proposal stating who you are, how much money you’ll need, and how you plan to repay the loan will be beneficial. The Small Business Development Center (SBA) has helpful information and can be reached at (831) 479-6136,
  • 6. Register a Fictitious Business Name:

    A fictitious business name is defined as a name that does not include surnames of all owners or a business or, in the case of a corporation, does not include the corporate name. File a fictitious business name with the Santa Cruz County Clerk’s Office at (831) 454-2060 or
  • 7. Obtain a Business License:

    When a business is located in the unincorporated area of Santa Cruz County and a Fictitious Business Name Statement has been filed, no business license is required. However, if you go into any of the cities in Santa Cruz County to conduct business, you must contact that city to obtain a pro-rated Business License.
  • 8. Obtain Other Permits and Licenses:

    • Building Permits: In most cases, a Building Permit is required for demolition and replacement of existing construction, additions, expansions, alterations, or remodeling, and is required for all new construction to ensure compliance with local regulations and California Building Code. Permits are issued after satisfactory plan review and inspections to verify safety and allow occupancy to open for business. Contact the County of Santa Cruz Building Department at (831) 454-2260 for more information.
    • Sign Permits: A permit is required for any sign on the outside of the building including permanent and temporary signs or banners. Contact the County of Santa Cruz Planning Department at (831) 454-2130 for more information.