10 tips to launch a business in San Diego

Nov 08, 2018 - Brandon Stapper

San Diego is a thriving city with many resources and opportunities to start and grow a successful business. All you need to launch your future business in San Diego is a bit of research, a lot of energy, and these ten practical tips. With these simple steps, you’ll be well on your way to owning and operating a successful startup business in San Diego.


  1. Do Your Research

Business success doesn’t come from good luck or being in the right place at the right time. Instead, you should invest ample time in doing your research before diving in. This research should include target markets, competitor analysis, potential price points, unique marketing opportunities and more. Knowledge is power when it comes to your future success. Seeking to know as much as you can about every aspect about your business plan — even if it’s information you don’t wind up using – will empower you to make educated decisions concerning the growth and trajectory of your business, as well as making pivots or changes as necessary. If you’re unsure where to start, take a look at the Business Resources listed on the City of San Diego’s website!


  1. Carefully Consider Your Industry and Frame of Business

This step is often overlooked because it seems so obvious at first glance. Consider carefully what industry your business will be situated in, as well as your customer base. For example, will you sell business to business or business to consumer? This initial element and the framework you put around your business concept will influence decisions major and minor. Everything from business name, logos, location, and letterhead should be formulated with advance knowledge of who they will most appeal to.


  1. Network Constantly and Be Open to Advice

One of the top secrets to starting and running a successful business is to find a strong mentor. A mentor can be anyone, but a good rule of thumb is your mentor has achieved or surpassed the level of success you want for yourself and is in a similar industry. When you find a mentor who meets these initial qualifications, you’ll be able to learn much more from them and apply it in real time to your own challenges and opportunities. SCORE San Diego is a great place to find a local mentor. The site specializes in networking and free small business advice. You should also network within your industry and with potential collaborators as much as possible. You never know when you’ll need a specific contact for something. Head to the SD: Life. Changing. networking resource page to explore other networking opportunities in San Diego.


  1. Carefully Choose Your Location

Depending on your industry, your location can make or break your success. For example, a retail business may struggle in industrial areas where there isn’t a lot of foot traffic. You’ll also want to keep an eye on any competitors you’ve identified in step one, and figure out if you can take advantage of a similar, or better location.

If you’re just starting out and unsure whether you can afford an office, look into one of the many coworking spaces in town, like WeWork, DeskHub, and Moniker Commons. Several even offer answering services on your behalf!


  1. Familiarize Yourself with Regulations Early On

Although dealing with state and federal regulations can be a headache, familiarity with the law and how it affects your operations is a must. After all, failure to comply may get your business penalized with stiff fines or even closed outright. Ignorance of the rules isn’t a valid excuse, either.


Get in the habit of staying updated on the laws and regulations around your business. Depending on the nature of your new business, you may have to deal with several different agencies. The services of an attorney who is an expert in your industry may be required for operations with strict code enforcement if you don’t feel equipped to wade through the legalities yourself. There are plenty of attorneys practicing business law in San Diego. Index sites like Justia will give you a comprehensive list of business lawyers, with many providing free consultations.


  1. Get Your Licensing in Order

The first step to making your business official is obtaining your business license. If you aren’t operating your business under your full name, you’ll need to file a Fictitious Business Name Statement with the County Clerk. The first time fee is $42, and $5 for each additional fictitious business name filing. More information on fictitious business name filings can be found here, as well as additional paperwork that needs to be filed for business licensing.


  1. Get Your Tax Framework in Place Early

Another aspect of business ownership that you don’t want to mess with is taxes. The government will expect taxes at the end of the year, and there’s little room for error where professional businesses are concerned. If your operation is large or complex, you may want to recruit outside help or hire an experienced accountant to keep track of your books, double check records and file your tax forms with the IRS at the end of the year.

One of the first steps you should take when starting your business is to figure out how you will process and record taxes for your business.

From deciding on your accounting platform to making sure you yourself are well-versed in accounting and financial recording, a lot of decisions will center around your business finances. Being proactive about this leg of your business can help you prevent fraudulent activity and theft, and make sure you don’t get hit with heavy penalties or owing the IRS tons of money. State tax information in California can also be found here.


  1. Expanding with Employees

The sign of successful business growth is the need to bring on employees. Moving from a one-employee business to an employer can be a daunting but rewarding leap. Different regulations on the state and federal-level may come into play, especially where HR and benefits are concerned. You’ll also have to make some decisions on the employee culture you would like to put in place. While some businesses skimp on perks, work environment and employee development because of upfront cost, it’s important to note that creating a positive company culture for your employees will decrease turnover, increase loyalty, and make your business more competitive.

If you’re unsure about the kind of culture you’d like to create, look at your favorite business owners or corporations for inspiration.


Even if you haven’t expanded yet and don’t foresee hiring staff immediately, create your business plan with expansion and employees in mind. Having systems in place for hiring, firing, benefits, and more early on will make employee relations easier to manage when the time comes (and it will!). Keep in mind that once you hit 10 employees, it’s a good idea to bring on an HR rep.


  1. Weigh the Pros and Cons of Various Financing

Starting a business is a costly venture, and there are many different ways to go about raising funds. Some companies decide to bootstrap, which means paying all capital and startup costs with personal money and credit cards. Others compete in accelerators or challenges with cash prizes and business development processes. Still others apply for business loans, angel investors, or even venture capital funding. There are distinct pros and cons for each, and depending on the industry or nature of your business, some may be better than others. Research all your options very carefully before going all in on one type to avoid wasting unnecessary time or energy. For example, a tech business or startup may want to directly target angel investors or venture capital funds who are interested in investing in tech rather than standard bank loans. Consider soliciting the services of Tech Coast Angels – TCA is an ambitious investor group that funds upcoming startups all over Southern California.


  1. Get on the Map and Dig In

While planning is important in starting a business, there comes a point where you need to launch. Whether you open the doors to a physical location, go live on your website or begin selling a product, sometimes you need to just go for it. Keep an open mind and be prepared to pivot naturally when risk comes up or your original business plans don’t seem to work quite as well. No business is perfect when it first opens. Flexibility, agility and the ability to think ahead and make movements accordingly are what will guarantee your success!


Bottom Line

Becoming a business owner in San Diego is easier than you think, but building lasting success demands a thoughtful approach. These tips cover everything that you need to know about setting up shop in the region. They also offer a firm foundation so that your business not only survives its initial periods but also thrives.


Brandon Stapper is the Chief Executive Officer of Nonstop Signs & Graphics, a San Diego Sign Company.  At 20 years old, with no formal education and only a few hundred dollars, Stapper turned a $400 custom decal machine in a garage into a printing powerhouse. Nonstop Signs & Graphics has made the Forbes Fastest Growing Companies Award 4 years in a row and services 10,000 clients yearly.


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