Starting a Business
Have you noticed? Los Angeles is on a tear. The city is forecast to add tens of thousands of jobs across a broad range of industries through 2021. The Rams are charging back on the field. L.A. is on a short list of host cities for the 2024 Olympics. There’s a surge in tech and L.A.’s rapidly reviving Downtown is the hottest spot for creatives in the nation. There’s never been a better time to build and expand a business in Los Angeles. EWDD and its partners at nine BusinessSource Centers are ready to help.

Whether you are starting your first online business, chasing the next big thing, or finally acting on your dream, Los Angeles can help you to get your business off the ground. The City understands that small businesses are the backbone of the Los Angeles economy and is committed to helping your business thrive. The 8 Key Steps outlined below are your key to a successful beginning.

8 Key Steps to Start a Business in LA

Starting a Business is a major commitment. To get you started, we provide some useful tools and resources.

Learn More About Starting a Business

The Small Business Administration (SBA) can answer some of the basic questions you may have about starting up your business. The Los Angeles Public Library also has many different resources that can help generate some business ideas.

If you need some hands-on assistance, the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Business Center offers free services to existing Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) firms, actively leveraging the resources of public agencies and private sector partners to connect clients to procurement opportunities and access to capital.

SBA Los Angeles District Office
330 North Brand, Suite 1200
Glendale CA 91203
Tel: 818-552-3215
MBDA Business Center - Los Angeles
University of Southern California
3716 South Hope Street, Suite 341
Los Angeles CA 90089
Tel: 213-821-2541
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Los Angeles Public Library
Lower Level 1, Tom Bradley Wing
630 West 5th Street
Los Angeles CA 90071
Tel: 213-228-7100

Create a Business Plan

One of the most important steps in starting a business is creating a business plan. A business plan provides a clear overview of what a business is, where it is heading, and how the business owner plans to get it there. Not only will it help you guide your company and promote growth, but also most banks require it to get a loan.

Two important parts of a business plan are the legal structure and the business name.

Legal Structure
You have several different options for your legal structure. The structure you choose will influence your business tax status, your tax filings, the liability you are individually exposed to, and the way you divide up your earnings. Based on the goals and vision of your business, you should weigh the pros and cons of the most common business structures available to you:
  • Sole Proprietorship
    A sole proprietorship is set up to allow an individual to own and operate a business by him/herself.

  • General Partnership
    A general partnership must have two or more persons engaged in a business for profit.

  • Limited Partnership
    Limited partnerships are formed by two or more people, with at least one person acting as the general partner who has management authority and personal liability, and at least one person in the role of limited partner who is a passive investor with no management authority.

  • Limited Liability Company
    A limited liability company is a hybrid business entity. It has a separate legal existence and generally offers liability protection to its owners.

  • Limited Liability Partnership
    In a limited liability partnership, the partners enjoy some protection against personal liability. Each partner must be a person licensed under California laws to engage in the practice of public accountancy, law or architecture.

  • Corporation
    A corporation is a separate legal entity owned by shareholders who enjoy protection from personal liability.

The California Taxes Information Center provides information on the types of business entities and the associated business taxes, accessible at:

Business Name
  • Most often, a business owner forms the business under a different name (e.g., "Joe's Diner"). This is known as "Doing Business As" (DBA). If you are forming your business in the City of Los Angeles, you can file your DBA online with the Office of the County Clerk.

  • If you are forming a corporation, first you need to check to see if the name you want has already been taken. The California Secretary of State can help you perform an online search.
The U.S. Small Business Administration website also has a comprehensive set of tools to assist with the many aspects of setting a new business, including determining and completing a business plan.

Business License, Tax, and Permit Information

Most new businesses require tax registration documents. You will need to obtain the necessary forms from the City and County of Los Angeles, the State of California, and from the Internal Revenue Service. Some exceptions apply, so please read the instructions to make sure that you actually need these forms.

City of Los Angeles
Most businesses in Los Angeles must file an application for a Business Tax Registration Certificate (Business License) including new businesses, small businesses and creative artists who may qualify for an exemption of the City's business taxes. Additionally, some businesses may need police, fire and/or tobacco retailer's permits.

Please contact the Office of Finance to research and apply for any applicable permits or forms.

County of Los Angeles
Los Angeles County does not require a general business license for businesses located in the City of Los Angeles. However, other permits and licenses may apply to your business (e.g., a Public Health Operating Permit for a food establishment).

Visit the site for more information on Los Angeles County permits.

State of California
Several state agencies have business tax requirements:
Internal Revenue Service
The IRS requires that all businesses with the exception of qualified non-profit organizations file federal income taxes. Their Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center provides links to major business subjects, such as Business Expenses and applying for an Employer ID Numbers.

There is also a section on Tax Information for Charities and Other Non-Profits.

Other City Forms

Depending on the type of business activity you are engaged in, your business will most likely require some permits. The CalGOLD website set up by the State of California provides a comprehensive database of all the permits required for your business (including city, county, and state), searchable by business type.

Below are websites for City departments you will most likely encounter when you are starting your business. Depending on your business, you may have to contact additional City departments and agencies. Visit the City of Los Angeles' Business webpages for more details.

The City of Los Angeles can help you find property within city limits or buy or lease publicly-owned property.

Move Your Business to Los Angeles

The City of Los Angeles operates an online property and community finder, LocateLA, that searches for locations using filters such as incentives and demographic information to assure your business will be a perfect fit.

Search for Property in the City of Los Angeles

The Department of City Planning provides a web-based Geographic Information System called ZIMAS that allows users to retrieve comprehensive property information from across the City of Los Angeles. ZIMAS provides zoning information to ensure that any particular are has zoning regulations that accommodate your business type.

The Bureau of Engineering provides a web-based mapping application, Navigate LA, that delivers maps and reports based on data supplied by various City departments, Los Angeles County, and Thomas Bros Maps.

Buy or Lease City-Owned Property

If you are interested in buying surplus city property, leasing city-owned property, or responding to a RFP for city property management, please contact the Asset Management Division of the General Services Department (GSD).

If you are interested in the licensing or leasing of property on electrical transmission line rights of way for agricultural uses, vehicle parking, truck storage, telecommunications, or RV parking, contact the Real Estate Business Unit of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Business Financing & Development Incentives

Whether you are looking for startup capital or considering a loan to finance expansion of your business, a variety of opportunities are available through various lenders and programs.

See Financing and Development Incentive Programs for more information.

WorkSource Centers

The City of Los Angeles offers a wide range of quality employment-related services for both employers and job seekers, at 18 WorkSource Centers located throughout Los Angeles. The free business services include:
  • Free job listings, referral information, phone banks, computer access and workshops
  • No-cost advertising of open positions
  • Customized training for staff, interview rooms, and information for businesses affected by plant closures or layoffs
  • Customized recruitment to help quickly fill multiple positions
  • Candidate screening and/or testing to assure only qualified workers apply for positions
  • Facilities for conducting both one-on-one and group interviews
  • On-the-job and pre-employment training to provide workers with the skills necessary for employment
Learn more about WorkSource Centers and find one near you

Other EWDD Services

State/Federal Employer Compliance and Hiring Resources

Federal and state labor regulations may apply to your business. Please contact the following entities to make sure your business is in compliance.

Technical Assistance

Below we list some of the free services available to you as a start-up business owner. You may want to seek out additional legal, financial, and accounting advisers.

Los Angeles BusinessSource Centers
offers free training and technical assistance to business owners seeking to improve their operations and to people who want to learn how to open and operate their own business

Bond Assistance Program
provides technical and administrative assistance to local, small and minority businesses on how to successfully bid and compete for City of Los Angeles business opportunities

California Governor's Office of Economic Development
online resource for small-businesses provided by the State of California

IRS Small Business One-Stop Resource Center
start-up guide from the federal government that includes online workshops

Minority Business Development Agency Business Center Los Angeles
offers free services to existing Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs) that want to sell to the government and private agencies

SCORE Greater Los Angeles
volunteer organization of retired executives and business owners who donate their time and expertise as business counselors; local chapters provide free counseling and low-cost workshops in their communities

US SBA Learning Center
free online courses that cover many start-up business areas (e.g., financial planning, accounting, contracting, and marketing)