Leaders Circle:
  • marin-ij-rotating-01
  • infiniti-rotating
  • nissan marin-01
  • marin-sanitary
  • PGandE-rotating
  • northbay-biz-rotating
  • toyota-marin-rotating
  • mercedes-rotating
  • linbro-rotating
  • embassy-suites-rotating
  • kaiser-rotating
  • bank-of-marin-rotating
  • cpi-develop-rotating
  • mv-transportation-rotating
  • california-film-inst-rotating
  • redwood-rotating
  • marin-general-hospital
  • whistlestop-rotating_copy
  • biomarin-rotating
  • college-of-marin-rotating
  • craig-rotating-logo
  • comcast-rotating
  • north-bay-business-journal-rotating
  • peacock-gap-rotating
  • san-rafael-pacifics-rotating
  • seagate-rotating
  • insite-rotating
  • san-francisco-chron-rotating
  • mce-rotating
  • western-health-rotating
  • sutter-rotating
  • eckhoff-rotating
  • san-rafael-airport-rotating
  • fairview-rotating_copy
  • wells-fargo-rotating_copy

Starting and Growing Your Business

SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives)
455 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 744-6827
Fax (415) 744-6750

With more than 50 counsellors the SBA program offers free one-hour consultations weekly to new and existing business owners by appointment.  The counsellors have real world experience providing free counseling in accounting, business planning & structure, commercial leases, eCommerce, finance, manufacturing, marketing, operations, retail, strategic planning, and more. Our low cost workshops guide you to successfully plan and operate your business.

SCORE counselors meet with clients at our office on Wednesdays.


We connect small business owners with Business Advisors who work hands-on with clients to address challenges, seize opportunities and grow their bottom line through expert no-cost counseling and top-notch low cost seminars. We work side by side with entrepreneurs to help them realize their business dreams.

Our Business Advisors can help you with:

  • Business planning;
  • Marketing strategies and planning;
  • Sales;
  • Access to capital, including bank finance, SBA loans, and asset financing;
  • Venture funding;
  • Government contracting;
  • Strategic technology acquisition and practical, hands-on application;
  • Financial Projections & Budgeting;
  • Operating Challenges;
  • And more…

To receive free business counseling services, simply visit the SBDC's Counseling Services webpage and fill out the "Request Services Now" form. You may also call (415) 755-1100 or email Miriam Hope-Karell at mhkarell@rencenter.org.


(415) 473-3330

Business ownership offers many rewards as well as challenges. The Marin Employment Connection (MEC) offers outstanding resources to help local employers meet these challenges and reach their business goals. Employer services available through MEC include: workshops, seminars and information on a wide variety of topics of concern to businesses; customized employee training programs; basic employment skills evaluations; staff available to answer employment-related questions; CalJOBS: no-fee Internet job listing service; facilities for on-site recruitment; a library of forms and publications; and consulting and other services for small businesses and start-ups.     

FAQ's about starting a business in San Rafael

Click on any of the following questions to find the information you need or Click Here to visit the City of San Rafael's Business Assistance Information Page.


Who is required to have a San Rafael business license?
Anyone who conducts business within San Rafael city limits or is based in San Rafael must obtain a business license on or before the date the business commences.

I am paid on a 1099 basis, not as a W2 employee. Do I need a business license?
Yes, if you are not paid as an employee, you are considered an independent contractor and are required to have a business license.

Does a non-profit organization need a business license?
Yes, a non-profit organization conducting business within San Rafael city limits is required to obtain a San Rafael business license. However, the business license tax is waived upon
presentation of proof that the business has a non-profit status.

Do I need a license if I run a business out of my home?
Yes, a home-based business requires a business license and must comply with local zoning.

What if I have more than one business location?
A separate business license is required for each location.

I conduct business in several cities. Can I get one license for all cities?

No, each city has its own business license requirements, fees, and taxes. Check with the appropriate city or county for its rules and regulations.

I just purchased an existing business. Can I use the previous owner's license?

No, a business license cannot be transferred. As a new owner, you need to apply for a business license in your name.

What if I close or sell the business?

Business licenses are not automatically canceled. We require written notification from the owner in the event of a closure or sale. Please provide the date the business closed or was sold and the name of the new owner, if applicable.

What if I want to move the business?

Always check with the City's Planning Division to verify that the new location is zoned properly for the intended use and whether a Use Permit or another type of approval is required. You must
submit a new business license application for the new location.

Will the City of San Rafael notify me when it is time to renew my license?

The City mails renewal notices to businesses as a courtesy; however, it is your responsibility to renew your business license in a timely manner even if the renewal notice is not received.
Penalties are assessed on delinquent accounts, regardless of whether you received a renewal notice.

I mailed my renewal by the due date. Why was I charged late penalties?

As indicated on the renewal notice, your renewal must be physically received by the City by the due date. We do not accept postmarks.

The City received my renewal only a few days after February 15. Why was I
charged late penalties?
Annual renewals are due January 1. There is a 45-day grace period, after which penalties are assessed. If your payment was received after February 15, you were actually more than 45 days

Why am I being charged a Fire Inspection Fee on my business license renewal?

Commercial locations are periodically visited by Fire Inspectors for compliance with life safety regulations. This fee covers the cost of these inspections. If you have additional questions about
this fee, please contact the Fire Prevention Bureau at (415) 485-3308.

Are there any restrictions on where I do business?

Every business must abide by the City's zoning requirements. Before signing any lease or rental agreement, please contact the City's Planning Division at (415) 485-3085 to make sure your
business activity is appropriate for the area's current zoning designation and that it will not require a public hearing or special parking considerations.

Do I need a seller's permit?

Most businesses engaged in the sale of tangible goods require a California Seller's Permit in addition to obtaining a business license.
To apply contact:
State Board of Equalization
50 D Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95404

What about selling food?

If selling or preparing food is a part of your business, you must apply for a health permit from the
County of Marin in addition to obtaining a business license.
Environmental Health Services
3501 Civic Center Drive #236
San Rafael, CA 94903

Do I need a Fictitious Business Name?

Check with the Marin County Clerk to see if you need a Fictitious Business Name in Marin.
Marin County Clerk
3501 Civic Center Drive #247
San Rafael, CA 94903

Does San Rafael regulate business signage?

Check with the City's Planning Division at 415- 485-3085 before using or installing any type of sign, flag, or banner, even balloons. Permanent and temporary signs require review and approval prior to issuance of permits and installations.

Can I leave handbills at homes to advertise my business?

No person shall deposit or distribute any commercial handbill or advertising matter on the grounds of any dwelling without having obtained the permission of the owner or occupant.

Is my business information confidential?

Only certain information is available to the public - for example, business and owner names, physical and mailing addresses, and business types. This information is printed on your business
license certificate. We do not disclose phone numbers, e-mail addresses, or financial information
to the public, except as required by law.

Is my business license tax deductible?

Your business license tax is generally deductible, but you should consult your tax advisor regarding your particular circumstances.