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10 steps to starting your own business

To help you through the process of starting your own business, we've put together a quick 10-step guide.

1. Evaluate your needs and determine your location.

Contact the City of Santa Ana's Economic Development Division:

The Economic Development Division has information on business incentives, starting a new business, job training and placement assistance, and export development assistance. We are located at 20 Civic Center Plaza Drive, 6th Floor, Santa Ana, CA 92701.

We also assist businesses wishing to locate or expand by identifying possible locations and offering incentives. Call to find out if your prospective site is located in the Enterprise Zone, an area that offers tax benefits.

Orange County Inland Empire Small Business Development Center

The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) offers free workshops and consulting services to help your business start, grow, and succeed. Services include marketing, business planning, funding, and management. We encourage all of our Santa Ana businesses and entrepreneurs to engage with the SBDC for all business support needs.

2. Zoning

Contact the City of Santa Ana's Planning and Building Agency:

The City has established zoning ordinances for both home-based businesses and commercial addresses.

3. Fictitious Business Name (dba)

Contact the Orange County Clerk Recorder:

If you intend to name your firm anything other than your own name, you must file a fictitious business name, also called a dba (Doing Business As).

4. Get a business license.

Reach out to the City of Santa Ana's Business Tax Office:

Any person operating a business in the City must obtain a business license and pay an annual business license tax.

5. Get important state permits.

The Economic Development Division and Business Tax Office can help you determine what other permits or licenses you may need. Contact the appropriate offices listed below.

Wholesale and retail businesses

  • You'll need to apply for a Seller's Permit through the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration.
  • Phone: (949) 440-3473
  • Website: www.cdtfa.ca.gov.

For restaurants and food vendors

For restaurants serving alcohol and liquor stores

  • A Liquor License is required. Contact the California Department of Alcoholic Beverages Control.
  • Phone: (714) 558-4101
  • Website: www.abc.ca.gov

For some types of retail and manufacturing

If your business might emit greenhouse gas emissions, you may need to seek regulatory approval through the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD).

Business structure

If you are filing as a corporation, S Corporation, Partnership, or limited liability company, you must register with the Secretary of State.

6. Call the City department you're looking for.

Permits zoning

For questions about zoning, environmental review, land use and conditional use permits. call (714) 647-5804.

Planning and building

For questions about plan check, mechanical and electrical permits, call (714) 647-5804.

Business license

For questions about obtaining your business license, call (714) 647-5447.

Public Works

For questions on public right-of-way, sanitation and recycling, call (714) 647-5690.

Fire prevention services

For questions about hazardous materials, underground storage tanks and fire investigation, call (714) 573-6000.

Permit assistance team

For questions about which permit to obtain, call (714) 647-5445.

7. Get a federal Employer Identification Number.

To obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN), contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

A partnership, corporation, or a sole proprietorship with employees requires a federal EIN. A sole proprietorship without employees can use the owner's social security number.

8. Get a state employer payroll tax account number.

Contact the Employment Development Department.

The same rules generally apply for a state employer payroll tax account number as for a Federal Tax I.D. number. Please refer to the item above.

9. Open a checking account for your business only.

Separate business and personal accounting is essential when you file your tax return.

10. Start, grow, and succeed successful businesses: have a business plan.

Reach out to the Orange County Inland Empire Small Business Development Center. The Small Business Development Center offers free workshops and consulting services to help your business start, grow, and succeed. Services include marketing, business planning, funding, and management. We encourage all of our Santa Ana businesses and entrepreneurs to engage with the SBDC for all business support needs.

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