Starting a Small Business

Click on the titles below to search through our comprehensive lists of organizations that exist to help small businesses thrive. It includes resources right here in the Bay Area and across the country. This is your ticket to getting your idea off the ground and making it soar!

Business Planning and Development

  • Advice and Steps to Starting up and Small Business
  • Small Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion (SBA) offers programs and services to help you start, grow and succeed, including a step-by-step small business planner. Their Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) provide management assistance to current and prospective small business owners and a wide variety of information and guidance in central and easily accessible branch locations.
  • SCORE offers free, helpful business advice online and in-person at offices nationwide from volunteer mentors who are working or retired business owners, executives and corporate leaders.
  • Get­ting Started in the Spe­cialty Food Busi­ness is a guide written by Extension Food Scientists, covering everything from food product development to pricing.
  • Bay Area

  • SF Office of Small Busi­ness and its Small Busi­ness Assis­tance Cen­ter (SBAC) func­tion as the cen­tral point of infor­ma­tion and refer­ral for entre­pre­neurs and small busi­nesses located in the City and County of San Francisco.
  • SF Cart Project seeks to com­ple­ment the research of peo­ple inter­ested in start­ing or expand­ing a street food busi­ness of their own. Pro­vid­ing a rel­e­vant cen­tral resource for doc­u­ments, infor­ma­tion and com­mu­nity aware­ness regard­ing the often con­fus­ing (and occa­sion­ally con­tra­dic­tory) process of start­ing and run­ning a legal mobile food busi­ness in the Bay Area. It even provides a guide to Start­ing a Legal Mobile Vend­ing Business.
  • San Fran­cisco Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment Alliance consists of 10 mem­ber orga­ni­za­tions who directly serve small busi­nesses and micro-enterprises in the City, providing services such as loan packaging and micro loans, entrepreneurship training, and business plan development.
  • Urban Solu­tions offers a comprehensive range of economic development services, including small business consulting and workshops, free of charge, to their clients.
  • Renais­sance Entre­pre­neur­ship Cen­ter is ded­i­cated to help­ing women and men who tra­di­tion­ally lack access to resources and infor­ma­tion to achieve finan­cial self-sufficiency through entre­pre­neur­ship. Renais­sance pro­vides train­ing, sup­port ser­vices, resources, and net­works for busi­ness own­ers at every stage of busi­ness devel­op­ment, from idea fea­si­bil­ity through start-up, growth, and expansion.
  • Anewamer­icaoffers a holistic three-year program, the Virtual Business Incubator, that assists new Americans in the San Francisco Bay Area to establish or expand microbusinesses, build personal assets for the sustainability of their families, and develop the community assets necessary to support the political, social, and cultural empowerment of their communities.
  • Women’s Ini­tia­tive pro­vides high-potential, lower-income women the train­ing, resources and on-going sup­port to start and grow their business. The business management training, technical assistance, and financial services they provide — in English and Spanish — improve the quality of life for the women they serve, their families, and communities.
  • C.E.O Women cre­ates eco­nomic oppor­tu­ni­ties for low-income immi­grant and refugee women through teach­ing Eng­lish, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and entre­pre­neur­ship skills, so they can estab­lish suc­cess­ful liveli­hoods. C.E.O. Women then pro­vides women with inten­sive men­tor­ing, coach­ing and access to cap­i­tal needed to start a small business.
  • Asian/Pacific Islander Business and Information Services is a business assistance program that focuses on the specific language, cultural and technical needs of Asian and Pacific Islander ethnic-owned small businesses. Services include business plan development, loans and financing, marketing assistance, and more at no cost for San Francisco based small businesses.
  • Mis­sion Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment Asso­ci­a­tion provides business development programs that offer one-on-one business technical assistance and group workshop curriculum in both Spanish and English. It offers micro-entrepreneurs one-on-one consultations, workshops, and access to micro-loans tailored to their specific needs.
  • Pacific Community Ventures creates jobs and economic opportunity in low income communities through the direct support of small businesses as well as by advocating for systemic change to increase investment in these vulnerable communities. We fulfill our mission through three core programs.

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Licensing and Regulations

  • FDA Guidance Documentsprovide information on how to follow federal regulations for the food industry, including food labeling and food ingredients and packaging.
  • Legal Services for Entrepreneurs provides free business legal services to low-income individuals, including women and people of color, who want to start or develop for-profit businesses and certain for-profit businesses committed to community economic development.
  • IRS Small Business Tax Center offers resources and general information for small business owners and self-employed individuals, around business taxes, employee guidelines and tax workshops available in your area.
  • State of California

  • The Cal­i­for­nia Busi­ness Por­tal provides information on how to obtain Busi­ness Per­mits, Licens­ing and Reg­is­tra­tion in California.
  • Cal­i­for­nia Gold Per­mit­ting is a cat­a­log of infor­ma­tion to assist you in finding the appropriate permitting information for your business, providing links and contact information that direct you to agencies that administer and issue business permits, licenses and registration requirements from all levels of government. Much of the information is specific to the type of business and its location in California.
  • Cal­i­for­nia Busi­ness Name Avail­abil­ity provides information to check a business name does not already exist and may be used.
  • Processor’s Per­mit Application is required forall proces­sors, man­u­fac­tur­ers, pack­ers, and hold­ers of processed food, and busi­nesses ship­ping food prod­ucts intra or inter-state.Con­tact: Depart­ment of Health Services Food and Drug Branch
    1500 Cap­i­tal Mall Sacra­mento, CA 95814
    (916) 322‑2632
  • Cal­i­for­nia Seller’s Per­mit Appli­ca­tion is required forall busi­ness sell­ing or leas­ing tan­gi­ble prop­erty (includ­ing any­thing you did not pre­pare such as sodas, etc).Con­tact: Cal­i­for­nia Board of Equal­iza­tion
    121 Spear Street, Suite 460 San Fran­cisco, CA 94105
    (415) 356‑6115
  • Health Per­mit is required for food prepa­ra­tion and ser­vice, food prod­uct and mar­ket­ing, laun­dries etc. This office pro­vides infor­ma­tion and refer­ral to Dis­trict Health Cen­ters for appli­ca­tion­.Con­tact: City/County of San Fran­cisco Bureau of Envi­ron­men­tal Health
    1390 Mar­ket Street, Room 210 San Fran­cisco, CA 94102
    (415) 252‑3800
  • California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control administers the provisions of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act, including licensing, enforcement and regulatory mandates. Their website provides links to license and industry information for businesses selling alcoholic beverages.

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  • EARN gives low-income workers the power to create economic prosperity for generations to come. EARN helps low-wage families through innovative financial products including matched savings accounts, checking accounts for the unbanked, and money management coaching.
  • Oppor­tu­nity Fund help clients join the finan­cial main­stream by lend­ing a help­ing hand, through their award-winning approach that includes finan­cial education, microfinance loans, matched sav­ings accounts, and afford­able hous­ing financ­ing.
  • TMC Work­ing Solu­tions provides underserved microentrepreneurs with the access to capital and resources they need to successfully start or grow viable businesses. They pro­vide microloans, tech­ni­cal assis­tance and one-on-one sup­port, no-cost refer­rals to local busi­ness resources, and edu­ca­tional pre­sen­ta­tions on access to capital.
  • Mis­sion Asset Fund works to expand access to finan­cial ser­vices, sav­ings and invest­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties for low-income and immi­grant res­i­dents of San Francisco’s Mis­sion Dis­trict.
  • Bay Area Small Business Finance offers com­mer­cial loans to start-up and exist­ing busi­nesses in the San Fran­cisco Bay Area, with empha­sis on Alameda, Con­tra Costa, San Fran­cisco, and Solano coun­ties. All prod­ucts are fully-amortized term loans at fixed com­pet­i­tive inter­est rates offered to firms unable to obtain con­ven­tional financing.
  • Small Business Administration provides approved small businesses with long-term, fixed-rate financing used to acquire fixed assets for expansion or modernization.  504 loans are made available through Certified Development Companies (CDCs), SBA’s community based partners for providing 504 Loans.
  • Kiva provides crowded funded 0% interest loans to small businesses. The application is simple and speedy and their community of philanthropic minded givers from all over the world means loans often fill quickly. Loans can be as small as a few hundred dollars and go up to $10,000.

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Other Kitchen Incubators

  • National Busi­ness Incu­ba­tor Asso­ci­a­tion is the world’s lead­ing orga­ni­za­tion advanc­ing busi­ness incu­ba­tion and entre­pre­neur­ship. Each year, it pro­vides thou­sands of pro­fes­sion­als with infor­ma­tion, edu­ca­tion, advo­cacy and net­work­ing resources to bring excel­lence to the process of assist­ing early-stage companies.
  • Culinary Incubator is a website dedicated to small food businesses who are trying to find a commercial kitchen to cook their product. It includes a map of culinary incubators throughout the United States.
  • Hot Bread Kitchen is a non-profit social enterprise that creates better lives for low-income women and their families.  We do this by paying women while they learn the skills necessary to launch food businesses and achieve management track positions in food manufacturing.
  • Northern Colorado Food Incubator (NCFI) is dedicated to a Living Economy: locally sustainable and globally fair. Working collaboratively, we support independent community- and land-based businesses and advocate for a whole, resilient community and bio-region. We provide support, guidance and assistance to food-related businesses and entrepreneurs in Northern Colorado.
  • (FBIC) is a Food Business Incubator Center that nurture, support, and sustain food and agricultural industries in the Delaware region by providing business and technical training, resources for product and process evaluation and incubation, and a trusted source for information and guidance.

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Food Science, Manufacturing and Regulation Guide


Click here to read more about Rachel Zemser and her book, The Food Business Tool-Kit For Entrepreneurs, a food business tool kit that covers typical start up questions, including but not limited to:

      • How Can I Find a Co-Packer?
      • Who can do my nutritional label?
      • Do I need to get the FDA/USDA involved
      • What about the Cottage Industry/Home Made Food Act?
      • Do I need to do a shelf life study
      • What IS a shelf life study?
      • What are the FDA/USDA regulations for my product?
      • What is a HACCP plan? Do I need one?
      • Can I patent my product?
      • Can I tell people my product will save the world?
      • I want to be USDA certified organic
      • Can my product be shelf stable like a twinkie but without all the bad stuff ?

Use the  discount code LaCocinaSpecial for 25% discount off the book, a consultation, or both!


For additional resources on food packaging and food labeling requirements, visit Food Packaging Labels for information on required information, tips, and printing your food labels.

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