Starting a Business in Sunnyvale

Starting a new business is exciting and sometimes challenging. The following information is provided to assist you through the process of starting a business in Sunnyvale. You will find an extensive listing of valuable information and links throughout the Economic Development section of this site.

Available commercial properties
Business Demographics

Steps  in starting your business

1. Prepare a Business Plan
2. Verify Zoning Regulations
3. Determine your Business Structure
4. Register a Fictitious Name
5. Pay your Business Tax (License)
6. Obtain Permits & Licenses
7. Doing Business in Sunnyvale
8. Yahoo! Small Business 

1. Prepare a Business Plan
There is no way to eliminate all the risk associated with starting a business. However, you can improve your chances of success with proper planning and preparation. A good starting point is to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses by creating a Business Plan. This will help determine whether or not you are ready to start a business. There is no way to eliminate all the risk associated with starting a business. 

A Business Plan is the blueprint or road map for where your business will travel. Your Business Plan may also serve as a tool for raising capital and is usually a requirement if you plan to apply for a loan or want to attract financial investors. 

How to Develop a Business Plan
A step-by-step guide is available from the Small Business Administration web site. 

2. Verify Zoning Regulations 
Before finalizing your business location or signing any lease agreements, contact the City of Sunnyvale One Stop Center to determine the zoning designation of your proposed site. All businesses must locate in areas zoned to allow that particular business activity. Planning Division staff will help you determine if your business is an eligible use for a specific location and whether any special approvals are necessary. Be aware that new business ownership or change in building use may require modifications to bring the building up-to-current code. In addition, tenant improvements may require compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

For more information, contact the City of Sunnyvale Building Division at (408) 730-7444. 

If you plan to operate a business out of your home, you will need to fill out a Home Occupation Permit application. Zoning information and Home Occupation Permit applications are available in the One Stop Permit Center, by calling (408) 730-7444, or by visiting the Building Division 

3. Determine your Business Structure 
If you want to establish your business as a corporation you must contact the Corporation Division of the California Secretary of State's Office. This office can supply you with all the information and forms you need. In addition, the Name Availability Unit can assist you in determining corporate name availability. 

The Corporate Legal Unit will review and, if acceptable, file your articles, mergers and other legally required documents. 

For more information, contact the State of California Secretary of State's Office, 1230 J Street, Sacramento, CA 95814, (916) 653-6814. 

You may need to obtain Federal Income Tax Identification Numbers, also known as Federal Employer Identification Numbers (EIN's). To find out if your business will require EIN's, contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) at (800) 829-1040. 

4. Register a Fictitious Name 
If you invent a name for your business that is other than your own, the name is considered a fictitious business name. All businesses should first register fictitious business names with the Santa Clara County Clerk's Office before obtaining a Business License with the City of Sunnyvale Business Tax (License) Division (see Step 5). 

For more information, please call the Santa Clara County Clerk's Office at (408) 299-5665. 

All businesses are required to file both state and federal tax returns. The IRS provides publications that describe general requirements and gives assistance in developing a system for ongoing tax reporting. For more information contact the IRS at (800) 829-1040. 

5. Pay your Business Tax (License) 
The business license registration fee varies for the different types of business.  You can view the Business License Application available in PDF format in the Finance web page.  Businesses operating out of a residential location or home are also required to pay for a Sunnyvale business license. In addition, businesses located outside of Sunnyvale, but doing work in Sunnyvale (including vendors, consultants and contractors), are required to register and pay for a Sunnyvale business permit. 

Some businesses may be eligible for a Business Tax Exemption. Business Tax (License) registration applications are also available in the One Stop Permit Center or by calling the Planning Division at (408) 730-7444. 

6. Obtain Permits & Licenses 

Building Permit 
A Building Permit is needed for all new construction in the city of Sunnyvale. In most cases, a permit is also required for replacement of existing construction, additions, and remodeling. Building permits are how the City of Sunnyvale regulates construction to ensure it is safe for occupancy or use. This is done through the review of plans and periodic inspections to verify compliance with the California Building Code and local regulations. 

For more information on applying for a Building permit, contact the One Stop Permit Center at (408) 730-7444 in the Building Division.

Alarm Permits 
Every business operating an alarm system in Sunnyvale must obtain an Alarm Permit from the Department of Public Safety. 

Sign Permits 
If you plan on displaying a sign either outside a building or a sign intended to be visible from outside a building, you will need to obtain a Sign Permit. A Sign Permit is needed for both permanent and temporary signs such as building signs, window signs, and banners. 

For more information on Sign Permits call the One Stop Permit Center at (408) 730-7444. 

Utility Agency Permits 
Some businesses may need permits or clearance from local utility agencies prior to building and construction or depending on the nature of the business. Local utility agencies may include:

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E)
Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD)
Santa Clara County Water District (SCVWD)
California Regional Water Quality Control Board
California MUTCD
AT&T Business Center (Phone, Cable, Internet, etc.)
Comcast Business Center (Cable, Internet, etc.) 

For more information on local permits contact the City of Sunnyvale One Stop Permit Center at (408) 730-7444. 

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

For more information, please call (800) 400-7115. 

Restaurants and Food Vendors 
A health inspection is required for restaurants and food vendors. Contact the Santa Clara County Environmental Health Department to arrange for an inspection, or to request information and advice regarding health and environmental safety issues. 

For more information, please call (408) 918-3400.

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, cosmetologist, security services, and auto repairs are also required to obtain a State license. 

To find out if you must register your business, contact (800) 344-9940. 

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.

For more information, contact the United States Customs Service by email or by calling 1-877-227-5511

Other Permits & Licenses 
To determine what other regional, state, and federal permits and licenses your business may need, call the CalGOLD Business Permits Made Simple office at (916) 322-7394. 

7. Doing Business in Sunnyvale 
Some things to keep in mind when doing business in Sunnyvale and as your business grows: 

Garbage & Recycling Services 
All Sunnyvale businesses are required to have garbage collection services provided by the City's contractor. 

For information please call (408) 730-7400.

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) 
Gas and electric services in Sunnyvale are provided by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E). 

For more information contact PG&E at (800) 468-4743

Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD) 
The Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD) serves all the cities of Santa Clara County. 

For more information contact SCVWD at (408) 265-2600.

Sunnyvale Chamber of Commerce 
260 S. Sunnyvale Ave., Ste. 4 , Sunnyvale, CA  94086,  (408) 736-4971, fax (408) 736-1919.


City of Sunnyvale

Normal City Hours of Operation are
8 a.m. until 5 p.m.

(408) 730-7500

  • Sunnyvale City Hall
  • 456 W. Olive Ave.
  • Sunnyvale, CA 94086
  • TDD (408) 730-7501
  • Map and Directions 
  • City of Sunnyvale Logo

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