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Start Your Business

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Getting Started in Cupertino in Ten Easy Steps 

  1. Develop a Business Plan: A business plan is the first step to starting a successful business. This plan will help you evaluate your idea, estimate costs and determine the strengths and weaknesses of your proposal.  

  2. Determine Your Business Structure: It is important to determine the structure of your business for operating and business reporting purposes. Will you operate your business as a sole proprietor, partnership (2 or more owners), or corporation (1 or more stockholders/officers)? Determining this will clarify what formational documents are required by the State.  
  3. Location, Location, Location: Conduct research and find the best location for your business. Not all spaces are suitable for certain types of business uses. City zoning exists to protect you and your neighbors from incompatible uses.
  4. Register a Fictitious Name: If you create a name for your business that is different than your own legal name, you need to register the business name with Santa Clara County Office of the Clerk Recorder. This step needs to be completed 40 days before your first transaction and before obtaining a Business License from the City of Cupertino. Also, public notices announcing your new business name must be posted for four weeks in the local newspaper to complete the registration process.

  5. Tax Reporting: All businesses are required to file both state and federal tax returns. Contact the state Franchise Tax Board and the federal Internal Revenue Service to learn more about specific requirements. Will you sell a product? The California Board of Equalization can assist you in determining whether you need a Seller’s Permit. You may also be required to collect sales tax. To do so, the Board of Equalization will need to issue you a resale number in order to report that sales tax. Whether you are self-employed or an employer with one or more employees, you must also pay Social Security taxes.
  6. Apply for a City of Cupertino Business License: The basic business license fee is $150 per year (as of January 1, 2019) for most commercial businesses located in Cupertino. There is a renewal fee in subsequent years plus an amount based on the type of business. Please note that the annual and renewal fees are subject to change, and the exact amount should be confirmed by the Finance Division. Home-based businesses are also required to apply for a business license and require zoning approval. In addition, businesses that are located outside of Cupertino, but doing business in Cupertino (such as vendors, consultants and contractors) are required to apply and pay for a Cupertino business license.

  7. Other Cupertino Permits & Licenses: They include the following: Solicitor/Mobile Vendor Permit if you are interested in engaging in business activities from house to house, place to place, along the streets within the City or any other type of mobile vending services/activities; Sign Permit from the Community Development Department, if your business would like to display a sign that is visible from outside a building; and Taxi Driver Permits.
  8. Other Agency Permits & Licenses: Depending on the type of business, you may be required to obtain permits or licenses from the following county, state or federal agencies. Contact these individual agencies directly if applicable.

    Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) License: No person may directly or indirectly, on any pretense, sell, barter, charge for possession or otherwise dispose of alcoholic beverages as part of a commercial transaction without having obtained the proper license or permit. To learn more about these requirements and apply for a permit, contact Alcohol Beverage Control.

    California Department of Consumer Affairs License: Many professional businesses, such as accountants, engineers, doctors and dentists, require a State license from the California Department of Consumer Affairs. Businesses such as barbers, cosmetologists, security services and auto repairs are also required to obtain a State license. Contact the California Department of Consumer Affairs.

    Import/Export Permit: If your business will involve the import or export of products with other countries, you may need to obtain an Import/Export Permit from the United States Customs Service.

    Restaurants, Food Vendors, Salons and Tattoo Parlors: A health inspection is required for restaurants and food vendors, as well as for salons and tattoo parlors. Contact the Santa Clara County Environmental Health Department.

    Retail and Wholesale Business Permits: If your business will involve sales, you will need to obtain a Seller’s Permit from the State Board of Equalization.  

    Child Care Center or Family Child Care Home License: Licensing of all child care centers and family child care homes in California is required and can be obtained through the California Department of Social Services. In addition, large family day care homes with 9-14 children must also obtain a business license from the City of Cupertino.

  9. Gaining or Expanding Your Workforce: If you hire employees, be sure to register with the California Employment Development Department. They will provide you with the necessary forms and answer any questions regarding your responsibilities. As an employer, the State requires you to do the following:

    • Withhold State income tax,
    • Withhold State disability insurance,
    • Pay unemployment tax,
    • And, pay for any employment training costs.

    You must also register with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in order to receive an Employer Identification Number. The IRS offers many services to new business owners and will provide a package of helpful information explaining the types of forms used and due dates for these forms.

    As an employer, you are required to carry worker’s compensation insurance. You may obtain this insurance through your own insurance agent or the State Compensation Insurance Fund of California (SCIF).

  10. GreenBiz Cupertino: The City of Cupertino offers a free business support service, GreenBiz Cupertino, to help your business achieve certification through the California Green Business Network. By taking actions to conserve resources and reduce waste, a GreenBiz certified business gets back a positive ROI and a marketing edge over the competition. Certified green businesses in Cupertino include churches, auto mechanics, restaurants, contractors, and more. Contact GreenBiz Cupertino today to join this growing network of fellow business owners and operators.

More Information

Economic Development Division

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