How To Start A Business In San Diego: Your Local Resource

A Guide For How To Start A Business In San Diego

Starting a business is notoriously difficult. This guide will provide a comprehensive blueprint for how to start a business in San Diego.

A Guide for How to Start a Business in San Diego

Starting a business during Covid is not impossible, and several La Jolla businesses have opened in the past 18 months. Figuring out just how to start a business in San Diego County, however, is certainly not easy. Researching, licensing, and funding your business are all covered here, and you likely have thought to explore these aspects of how to start a business in San Diego; however, we will also explore how to build a strong digital presence, how to develop a business plan, and how to look at hiring.


There is a reason this is the first item in this guide. If you want to know how to start a small business in San Diego, CA, you will first need to thoroughly understand your market. It is worth noting that hotels in La Jolla are becoming increasingly optimistic about market conditions and the even better news is that there are some very powerful tools available that can help you dig deeper into what your specific market looks like; the bad news is that most of these tools exist behind a paywall.

Lucky for you, San Diego is home to many universities, and if you ask the librarians at most of these what tools they have, you should have little trouble logging in as a guest and getting free access to some very powerful demographic mapping tools. You will be able to see the average income in a given neighborhood, how many businesses that might compete with you are already in a given neighborhood, and even get detailed information about average educational attainment.

Business Plan

Like research, developing a business plan is critical to starting a business. In fact, making a business plan is the most important step in how to start a business in San Diego. Not only will a good plan help you attract investors, it will also help you more fully understand your vision and will provide a clear roadmap on how to operationalize it and build your business structure. Think of your business plan as a bit like that outline your teachers always told you to write before you begin your papers. If you had a hard time writing a paper, chances are you did not have a good outline, to begin with. Once you have a clear and detailed outline, the paper writes itself since you already know what you are going to argue and how you will structure your argument. The stakes are much higher with a business plan, but the concept is the same. Once your business plan is written in sufficient detail, the recipe for success is already in front of you and you will be able to make good decisions and act with a sense of direction and purpose.

Licenses For Your Business

Part of your research and your business plan will be to determine what licenses you will need. Since you want to learn how to start a business in San Diego, we will focus on licenses in San Diego and California. The first license you will certainly need is a business tax certificate. To determine what other licenses you will need, you will need to research the business norms in your specific industry. One invaluable tool for this is CalGold, a government resource that will help you determine what types of licenses and permits you will need in your chosen industry. Getting a business license in the state of California requires a slightly different process, but if you have the basics of how your company will be structured figured out, you should be able to get one without too much difficulty for $50-$100.

Start Thinking About Funding and Investors

Depending on your chosen business type, you may need to raise capital before you can open your doors. While borrowing always has risks associated with it, the reward of opening your own successful business certainly outweighs these risks. Knowing where to find money is the next hurdle you will face. The first thing to know is that you are very unlikely to get money from a venture capital firm or directly a bank. Both of these entities have fiduciary responsibilities to their investors not to lend money to risky new ventures. A better bet would be to get a loan backed through the SBA. SBA loans are done through a bank, but the bank’s money is backed by the Small Business Administration. If you have a good business plan, a firm grip of your financial accounting, and are willing to put up one-third of the total amount of money you need yourself, this is a very practical option.

Digital & Online Presence

These days you must have an online presence to start any type of business venture. In fact, even a basic digital presence is not going to get you very far. You can be sure that your competitors have thought long and hard about their digital presence, and this means that to compete with them you will need a better website and multiple active social media accounts at the very least. Take an accounting sole proprietorship, for example. To get clients you will need a website, to engage with them you will need a social media presence, and to keep their information safe you will need a tax client portal. In fact, client or customer safety is of paramount importance. A data leak not only exposes your business to future attacks, but also customers will take their business elsewhere at the slightest hint that their information has been compromised.

As the economy moves to be based more and more on digital infrastructure, the need for a strong digital presence will only grow. Like it or not, most customers will find you online and your online presence will more often than not be their first impression. The old adage that “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” holds true in the digital world even more so than in the real world. When potential customers are surfing the web, their attention spans can be measured in milliseconds, so unless your online presence is professional, clean, attractive, safe, and ubiquitous, there is a good chance that customers will gravitate to competitors whose presence online is. Furthermore, you should hire a good SEO company to optimize your new business website so that your potential customers can find you more easily in search engine results. While an online presence is key, don’t forget other ways to build your brand and reputation. For instance, you shouldn’t overlook printing services for paper marketing or promotional item production. Brochures, t-shirts, flyers, direct mailing – all of these can enhance your presence in the community.

Who Will You Hire?

Hiring the right help can undoubtedly be a make-or-break decision for small businesses. In many industries, your employees will be the face of the company! In others situations you might want to opt for third-party services, such as staffing for accountants. In the foodservice industry, for example, customers will interact with wait staff and only rarely interact directly with the owners. Furthermore, you may need a copacking service in San Diego if you’re in the food business. Even in industries like construction or landscaping your business depends on the quality of your employees. Be sure to know what you are looking for in an applicant before you begin the application process. If you do not write a well-informed and accurate job posting, finding the right applicant will be like finding a needle in a haystack. If you do not know where you are going, any road will get you there!

While all of these tips will help you figure out how to start a business in San Diego, there is no substitute for effort. That said, if you direct that effort towards thorough research, writing a good business plan, correctly identifying the licenses you will need, getting adequate funding, building a strong online presence, and hiring the right help, you will be well on your way to creating the business you envision.

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