Every business is different. But all businesses need to comply with general operating requirements. Here’s a Business checklist to get you started:
1. Create a Business Plan
A business plan will help you clarify your business goals and identify action steps for achieving those goals. A business plan is also important for investors, who will typically ask to see your roadmap to profitability.
- Take a class with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to ensure you’re on the right path.
- Contact the Sonoma County Economic Development Board to receive customized market analysis, prospect lists and demographic information.
- Contact Petaluma’s Economic Development Department to discuss your specific business idea.
2. Plan for Location & Workspace Needs
Before you start a search for commercial space or set up shop at home, make a list of everything you’ll be doing in the space. This will help you identify what type of space you’ll need, as well as think through special inspections or permits you’ll need to do business.
- Read our 5 Questions to Ask Before You Sign A Lease.
- Contact us for a real estate listings report.
- Scope your project and estimate permit costs using our online permit tool, Open Counter.
- Contact the appropriate City of Petaluma departments to learn about Planning, Building and Fire Prevention requirements.
3. Fulfill Business License and Permit Requirements
You’ll need to give your business a name, decide what legal structure it will follow, and then apply for applicable business permits and licenses. Completing these steps involves time and money. Help from legal professionals and business consultants might help keep you on track and within budget.
- Review information we’ve gathered about business license and professional permit requirements.
- Visit the state-run CalGold permit assistance website to confirm which permits and licenses you’ll need.
- Consult with an appropriate professional if necessary, and then start completing applications!
4. Plan for Equipment
Many companies need specialized equipment to run their business—everything from fermentation tanks to microscopes to large-scale cutting machines. Before you purchase equipment (especially pre-owned equipment), be sure to identify where you might need special permits or inspections. As a general rule, equipment that needs to be installed (bolted to ceiling, floor or wall), emits fumes or smoke, makes noise or discharges waste will require an inspection and/or permit. Petaluma is in a special earthquake zone that requires specially designed equipment.
- Create a list of the equipment you will need and how that equipment will be installed.
- If your process involves discharge into the water system, you should also contact Robert Wilson at the Public Works Department at 707-776-3654, for more information.
- Contact Petaluma’s Building Department and Fire Prevention Bureau to determine what permits are required to install and operate that equipment.
5. Get Funded
Financing a start-up can be tough, especially for first-time entrepreneurs. A solid business plan and realistic budget will strengthen your pitch for cash. Be sure to investigate grants and small business loans offered by state and federal government agencies. Banks and credit unions—particularly local ones—are also worth looking into. Take stock of your savings, and be prepared to ask family/friends for help.
- Update your budget based on your space and equipment needs assessment.
- Start asking for money—use the financing resources included on this website.
6. Network for Success
Petaluma business leaders like to collaborate, and they do so through many different channels, including philanthropic organizations. Decide which channels fit your personality and business model, and then network for success.