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SF Small Business Week. Celebrate Small Business.

Office of Small Business: Do Your Homework!

#SFSBW2017 asked some of our resources to share insights, best practices, and examples of how they help small business owners flourish. Today we hear from the Office of Small Business.

Tell us about your organization’s mission in one sentence.

The Office of Small Business along with the San Francisco Business Portal function as the City’s central point of information to assist small businesses by providing direct services through customized one-on-one assistance, collaborations with other City agencies and referrals to various small business resources to help San Francisco businesses succeed and flourish.

San Francisco Office of Small Business booth at Flavors of San Francisco 2016

What are your organization’s recent accomplishments that demonstrate how you have helped the small business community?

Office of Small Business in collaboration with the Mayor’s Office, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, and the Department of Technology launched The San Francisco Business Portal, the city’s premier online business resource. Our Business Portal helps users easily navigate the steps to start, manage, and grow a business. This year, we’ve made major upgrades to the Business Portal. It allows users to download and save forms and toolkits in their own file folder after logging in.  Some of the new features also include applying for licenses and permits online. The Business Portal is accessible to the public world-wide and has enhanced the way we deliver services. It’s a great starting point for anyone, anywhere, at any hour, to access information online on starting, managing, and growing a business in San Francisco.

In addition, we’ve recently launched The Small Business Acceleration Program, a new initiative of the OEWD piloted by Mayor Ed Lee with the support of Supervisor Katy Tang. The program provides direct services to individuals seeking to open small brick and mortar food-based businesses in San Francisco and guides them through the current complex permitting process. The launch of the Small Business Acceleration Program follows a 2015 report prepared by the Office of the Controller, which considered the complexities of the restaurant permitting process and identified the need for a single point of contact to work with small businesses on permitting and licensing across City departments. A dedicated case manager is available to evaluate individual needs, engage and instruction throughout the process and coordinate a suite of City services.

What tools and resources have your organization created to help small businesses tap into new opportunities to reach new customers, increase their revenue, and grow their business?

The Office of Small Business has many resources and collaboration partners to help small businesses and entrepreneurs manage and grow their businesses. Some of our resources include referrals to workshops on how to build and strengthen your business, free legal and expert advice that can guide business through legal pitfalls, and neighborhood economic development organizations (NEDO’s) that can assist you to develop a small business plan, access financing, craft marketing strategies, assess business operations and growth strategies. In addition, we provide one-on-one assistance, including an overview of important considerations for starting a business, including a customized checklist of the registration, permit and license requirements. Also, our online Business Portal provides information, resources, links and tools to easily help you navigate through each stage of your business development.

San Francisco has been experiencing quite the transformation. What is your organization doing to attract and support new and younger small business owners? What resources do you offer to entrepreneurs and small businesses to get started?

We provide each client with professional, customized assistance, and business-friendly resources appropriate to their needs. As new small business owners emerge with unique and innovative business ideas, we help them research and navigate the rules and regulations of their business proposal to ensure compliance. Or when the business proposal falls outside current codes and regulations, we work with the business owner and city agencies to think creatively about how to make the idea work. By doing so, we can encourage the new wave of entrepreneurs and small business owners to move their ideas from dream to reality.

San Francisco is known for its diverse culture. How does your organization ensure that the small businesses that make this city unique are able to stay in San Francisco?

Mayor Ed Lee launched the Shop & Dine in the 49 initiative, encouraging residents to do all their shopping and dining within the 49 square miles of San Francisco. Shop & Dine in the 49 is an initiative developed by the Mayor’s Office with the Office of Economic and Workforce Development and the Office of Small Business in partnership with local business groups including: SF Travel, SF Made, Golden Gate Restaurant Association, SF Chamber of Commerce, the Council of District Merchants, and San Francisco Locally Owned Merchants Alliance.

Every dollar spent at local businesses in San Francisco directly support jobs and our economy. By shopping, eating, drinking, and playing in our neighborhoods, we ensure our unique corridors remain thriving, successful, and vibrant.

Small businesses account for over 90% of business in San Francisco and are the backbone of our economy. They create jobs and employ our residents. They are members of our communities, and make up much of our neighborhood commercial corridors. San Francisco would not be the unique and vibrant city it is without small business. For these reasons and more it is the mission of the Office of Small Business, directed by the Small Business Commission to work to provide an environment where small businesses can succeed and flourish.

What words of advice or wisdom would you like to share with small business owners? 

For start-up businesses, we advise you to do your homework. Visit us, either online first at The San Francisco Business Portal, or in person at the Office of Small Business. We provide one-on-one assistance, including an overview of important considerations for starting a business, including a customized checklist of the registration, permit and license requirements. We also connect entrepreneurs with our city funded business resource providers for help developing a business plan, access to finance, and other technical assistance.

Be flexible. Be adaptable. Don’t fight change, embrace it. Review your business plan often, and if you don’t have one create one. Get help. There are several free and low cost city funded business resources to help businesses with the many aspects of running a business. We also encourage entrepreneurs and business owner to stay engaged with our office. We understand that a business doesn’t develop overnight and it is a work in progress. Once you visit our office and meet with a case manager, you will be input into our system and we can continue to work with you through the many stages of business development.

We would love to include some real-life examples of how you’ve supported small businesses. 

“I just wanted to drop a note to thank you all for understanding and helping my small business. You helped me get through a critical time with these immediate and longer term permitting needs. It has made all the difference. Special thanks to DPH Mary Freschet for her continued support in understanding our business, Kyle Chan also, and for helping me initiate this permitting process quickly, Michelle Dela Cruz for her quick replies and help, and Robert DeMarr for making time to arrange a short notice inspection and his guidance. Thank you SFFD Inspector Pegueros for helping me complete my inspection expediently and Carol Wong for answering questions in weeks previous. And thank you, Edgar Oropeza, in Planning for answering key questions and Carol Cheng in the Mayor’s OSB for her messages and guidance along the way in this scenario and others…so helpful.

San Francisco truly supports small business. Simply put…thank you”.

Rick Richman, Co-Founder & CEO, Firepie

Connect with the Office of Small Business:

Facebook | LinkedIn | Business Portal