Starting a Business in Santa Cruz County
In addition to providing networking and marketing opportunities to help existing businesses succeed, the Santa Cruz Area Chamber of Commerce provides the resources a new business needs to get started and thrive in the Santa Cruz area. Please take a look at the five main steps involved in starting or relocating a business in Santa Cruz County.
STEP ONE: Do your research and generate a business plan
Determine how the details of your business will affect the long term goals of your business. Depending on what kind of business you start you need to know your competition, your target sales group, and both the strong and weak facets of your new business. Organization is a key factor in providing your business with a sturdy foundation and launching pad.
A well organized business plan can also be an essential marketing tool when seeking financial backing for your business. Banks require a business plan before a loan is even considered, as do most Venture Capitalists.
Resources for creating a business plan and starting up and growing your business:
The Central Coast Small Business Development Center, 831-479-6136
Santa Cruz County SCORE, 831-475-6522
Workforce Investment Board 831-454-4130
City of Santa Cruz Business Planning Tools
Workforce Santa Cruz County
Employment Development Department
US Small Business Administration District Office, 415-744-6820
California Employer Advisory Council
U.S. Small Business Administration
STEP TWO: Acquire a fictitious business name and apply for a business license
Fictitious Business Name:
You must file for a “fictitious business name” if your company name does not contain the surnames of the owners of a business or the full corporate name (if the business is a corporation). The majority of business must file a Petition of fictitious Business Name. This petition is filed with the county clerk’s office. This should be completed within five weeks of establishing the business. The form can be filed through the mail or in person, but it advised that it be done in person. Forms are available in the Special Services Division of the County Clerk's Office located at 701 Ocean Street, Room 210, Santa Cruz, CA 95060 or on the Santa Cruz County Clerk website.
When a business is located in the unincorporated area of Santa Cruz County, no business license is required. However, if you are located in one of the four incorporated cities in Santa Cruz County, you must obtain a Business License from that city. When starting a business with the city limits of Santa Cruz a tax certificate is required and acts as proof of a business license. Obtain the tax certificate/business license the day before, or the day of starting your business.
City of Capitola, 420 Capitola Avenue, Capitola, CA, 831-475-7300
City of Santa Cruz, 809 Center Street, Room 107, Santa Cruz, 831-420-5070
City of Scotts Valley, 1 Civic Center Drive, Scotts Valley, CA, 831-438-2324
City of Watsonville, 250 Main Street, Watsonville, CA, 831-728-6031
In addition to the licenses and permits mentioned above, certain professions and businesses require state licenses. A few of the more common are: automobile repair shops, bars, liquor stores, electrical appliance repair shops, contractors, cosmetologists, insurance sales, collection agencies, real estate sales, lawyers, and medical professionals. The California Department of Consumer Affairs provides information to the public about the more than 150 professional license types which it issues, and also offers online licensing services
The California Business Portal features information about the state’s permit, licensing and business/professional registration requirements plus a wide variety of helpful resources for starting, financing, expanding, or relocating a business in California.
Information about corporate filings may be obtained from: Secretary of State, 1500 11th Street, Sacramento, CA 95814. The California Business Portal, maintained by the Secretary’s office, offers a wealth of additional information, including: corporate name availability and reservation, incorporation forms, and tax information, plus links to other agencies as well as state/federal business resources. The Secretary of State also has a San Francisco office at: 455 Golden Gate Avenue, Suite 14500, San Francisco, CA 94102-7007; (415) 557-8000.
STEP THREE: Obtain Zoning and Site Permits
The City of Santa Cruz Department of Economic Development makes every effort to provide the most up-to-date property listings available within the City limits. Broken down by neighborhood, the following page encompasses commercial, retail and industrial uses.
You should contact the Planning (or Building) Department of the city for businesses in incorporated areas, or the County Planning Department for businesses in unincorporated areas, to make certain that your business location is zoned for your particular type of business. The phone numbers are as follows:
Santa Cruz County: 831-454-2130
Santa Cruz City: 831-420-5100
Scotts Valley: 831-440-5630
STEP FOUR: Get any necessary special licenses and permits
Santa Cruz County has restrictions and requires permits for some businesses operating in the unincorporated areas. The most common businesses that require special permits from County Departments are day care centers, security companies, taxi cab companies, food establishments, hazardous materials/waste companies, kennels, and public pools/spas/camps. For information on which departments to contact, visit the Santa Cruz County Clerk website.
The State of California may also require a permit for your business. The best permit and business resource for new business owners is the California Government online to desktops website (CalGOLD). CalGOLD is a comprehensive database with in depth information about what permits and licenses are necessary for your particular business.
You must obtain a seller's permit if you are in business in California, intend to sell or lease tangible personal property that would ordinarily be subject to sales tax.
State Board of Equalization, 250 South Second Street, San Jose, CA 95113, (800)400-7115, (408) 277-1231
If you are going to be selling or preparing food, you will need to obtain a permit from the County Department of Environmental Health at 701 Ocean St., Room 312, Santa Cruz 95060, 831-454-2022. To speak with an Inspector, call between 8–9am.
The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) protects consumers by licensing and regulating California's construction industry.
State Board of Contractors, 9821 Business Park Drive, Sacramento, CA 95827-1703, (800) 321-2752
STEP FIVE – Join the Santa Cruz Area Chamber of Commerce
The Santa Cruz Chamber has been a resource for businesses throughout the entire Santa Cruz area for more than 125 years. Joining the Chamber gives you the contacts, resources, and support you need to get your new venture off the ground. The Chamber helps connect you with colleagues and customers throughout the county, grow your business, improve your business skills, and influence policy in the city, county, and state.
Take a few minutes to learn more about the benefits of Chamber membership. To join the chamber, please complete an Online Membership Application or fax or mail the Santa Cruz Chamber Membership Application today. For more information on Chamber membership, please contact via email or call the Chamber at 831-457-3713.
Business Service Providers
Many members of the Santa Cruz Area Chamber of Commerce provide services to help you relocate, start, or improve your business. Please take a look at the list of Chamber members who provide Business Services to find help on everything from hiring employees to buying office equipment to creating a website.