Resources

We encourage you to check out our ever-expanding list of small business resources:


FINANCING

Loan Programs

Kiva Zip

Kiva Zip is an experimental site, launched by Kiva, that enables people to make direct, interest-free loans to entrepreneurs in Kenya and the United States. Over time, as a loan is repaid, the lender can get his/her money back or relend it to another entrepreneur. The program is made possible through a network of ‘trustees’ who are responsible for sourcing Kiva Zip borrowers, reviewing their business and personal finances, vouching for their character, and publicly endorsing them. Trustees have no financial liability for the loans, but their reputation is tied to the repayment rate of the borrowers they endorse.

Mission Asset Fund

Mission Asset Fund is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco that works with non-profits across the country to facilitate credit-building loans to people without access to traditional banking systems. All loans are financed by Lending Circles members and are provided with 0% interest and $0 in fees.

OBDC Small Business Finance 

OBDC Small Business Finance serves San Francisco, Oakland and veteran entrepreneurs. Their loan products include micro and small business term loans with low fees and competitive interest rates. One-on-one business advising is also available during the loan application process and while paying the loan.

Opportunity Fund 

The Opportunity Fund is a non-profit social enterprise that provides micro-loans for small businesses, micro-savings accounts and community real estate financing. The Fund helps small business that are unable to access loans from traditional financial institutions because they are either too young or too small. Median micro-loan size is $5,000. Fifty percent of their loans go to woman-owned businesses and 89% of their loans support minority-owned businesses.

Prosper

Prosper is a peer-to-peer lending service, connecting people who want to invest money with people who want to borrow money. Borrowers choose a loan amount, loan purpose, and post a loan listing. Investors review loan listings and invest in listings that meet their criteria. Once the process is complete, borrowers make fixed monthly payments and investors receive a portion of those payments directly to their Prosper account. Loan requests range from $2,000 to $25,000 and individual lenders can invest as little as $25 in each loan listing they select. In addition to credit scores, ratings and histories, investors can consider borrowers’ personal loan descriptions, endorsements from friends, and community affiliations. Prosper handles the servicing of the loan on behalf of the matched borrowers and investors.

Working Solutions

Working Solutions is a non-profit organization that supports entrepreneurs to start or grow successful San Francisco Bay Area businesses. They provide micro loans for small businesses ranging in size from $5,000 to $50,000 and five years of post-loan business coaching and advising. Loans can be used for working capital, inventory purchases, equipment and machinery, leasehold improvements, and startup costs.  In partnership with Kiva, Working Solutions now offers a faster, streamlined process for start-up and existing small business owners who are looking for extra capital.  Learn more about the new Kiva Step Ahead Loan Program.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is when people who pool their money, often via the internet, to support other peoples’ efforts — such as a business start-up, a creative project or charitable goal.  The term also refers to the funding of a company by selling small amounts of equity to many investors.

CircleUp

Circle Up is an equity-based crowdfunding platform that focuses on angel investments in consumer products and retail companies and allows investors to make direct investments in private companies. To be listed, companies must typically have more than $1 million in revenue for the current fiscal year and a tangible product or retail outlet.

Credibles

Created by Slow Money, Credibles is a crowdfunding platform for small, sustainable food-related businesses that allows supporters to pre-pay for goods and services. These supporters can then pay with Credibles at your place of business and keep track of how they’ve been “eating” their prepaid credits through their Credibles acount.

EquityNet

EquityNet, which bills itself as “the original crowdfunding platform,” is a patented web-based system where entrepreneurs or business owners in any stage or type of business can organize, analyze and share customized business plans with investors and supporters. It can be used to seek equity capital, loans or grants and can also be used to access a network of business supporters.

Fundable

Fundable is an online funding platform geared toward small business start-ups who can choose to offer rewards to their backers or equity to accredited investors in exchange for funding.

Indiegogo

Indiegogo is an international crowdfunding site where anyone can raise money for a creative idea or for-profit venture. The platform allows you to customize and publish an online funding campaign and no tech skills are needed. You can collect money from anywhere in the world as long as you have a valid bank account. There is no application fee. You can keep all the money you raise, even if you don’t meet your goal, or you can decide to only keep your money if your campaign reaches its goal. There is a 4% fee if you meet your goal or a 9% fee if you don’t meet your goal.

Kickstarter

Kickstarter is a funding platform for projects related to art, comics, dance, design, fashion, film, food, games, music, photography, publishing, technology and theater. Every project creator sets their project’s funding goal and deadline and people can then pledge money to make it happen. If the project succeeds in reaching its funding goal, all backers’ credit cards are charged when the time expires, and Kickstarter applies a 5% fee to the funds collected. If the project falls short, no one is charged. Funding on Kickstarter is all-or-nothing.

RocketHub

An international crowdfunding platform for any business, art, science or social good project. You can keep all the money you raise, even if you don’t meet your goal. There is a 4% commission fee plus a 4% credit card handling fee for all projects that meet their goal, and an 8% commission fee plus 4% credit card handling fee for those that don’t.

GOVERNMENT CONNECTIONS

CA Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development

This site provides information on doing business in California, including permits, registering a business, small business loan programs and other small business resources.

City & County of San Francisco

This website includes links to all city departments for San Francisco-specific information and is a helpful place to learn about local bidding options.

SF Business Portal

The City of San Francisco recently launched a comprehensive web tool, bringing together the complex information surrounding business registration, permits, and licenses in a single user-friendly website for start-ups and small businesses.

San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development

OEWD provides city-wide leadership for workforce development, business attraction and retention, neighborhood commercial revitalization, international business and development planning.  The City also recently launched the Emerging Business Loan Fund, which makes $12 million in affordable loans available to support San Francisco businesses and entrepreneurs.

San Francisco Office of Small Business

The Small Business Commission and Office of Small Business function as the City’s central point of information and assistance to small business in San Francisco. The office provides direct services through customized one-on-one assistance, collaborations with other City agencies and referrals to various small business resources. The City’s Office of Small Business has streamlined the permitting and licensing process for San Francisco small businesses using a web tool called License 123, where you can download all application forms in one place. They also helped produce a guide to disabled accessibility compliance, which outlines how to protect your business from potential ADA lawsuits.

Small Business Administration (SBA)

The SBA provides an array of financing options for small businesses (from microlending to venture capital), free individual face-to-face and internet counseling and government contracting procurement opportunities. They also advocate on behalf of small business. Their website includes a wide array of resources and tools related to starting and managing a small business, loans and grants, and contracting, and includes online trainings, videos and chat sessions. You can find links to local SBA offices and programs via the site, too.

SCORE

SCORE is a non-profit resource partners of the Small Business Administration dedicated to educating entrepreneurs. SCORE volunteers are working and retired business executives who provide free counseling and low cost workshops to help businesses get started and grow.

Small Business Development Center

SFSBDC provides free, confidential one-on-one customized consulting services and training workshops in English, Spanish and Chinese to established and start-up businesses. SFSBDC consultants are business owners with diverse backgrounds and expertise in a variety of industries. Here is SFSBDC’s checklist for starting business in San Francisco.

LEGAL

California Lawyers for the Arts

CLA offers pro bono legal services and educational programs, including conflict resolution services, for artists and arts-related small businesses.

Lawyer Referral and Information Service

LRIS is a program through The Bar Association of San Francisco that refers you to experienced and carefully screened for-profit attorneys in many different specialties. The initial 30-minute consultation costs $35 and low fee panels are available.

Legal Services for Entrepreneurs

LSE is an economic justice initiative of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. If you qualify under their application process and are able to wait for assistance, LSE provides experienced business attorneys for ongoing consultation on a pro bono basis.

LegalZoom

LegalZoom is an online service to help people create their own legal documents. Services related to starting a business include: forming a business, naming a business, taxes, licenses and permits. Services related to running a business include: corporate changes and filings, real estate, trademarks, patents and copyrights, and business compliance.

Nolo Press

Nolo Press has been a leader in small business information and openness in management. This site is a great location for legal forms, books, software, and information on a range of small business issues.

The San Francisco Community Business Law Center

BLC will soon provide legal aid services free of charge for low-income microbusiness owners. The Center currently offers interactive business law workshops and will begin neighborhood business law pop-up clinics later this year.

United States Patent & Trademark Office 

This website is helpful when researching available business names and trademark options.

Volunteer Legal Services Program

The Bar Association of San Francisco’s VLSP has a free Legal Advice and Referral Clinic. Clients can meet with a volunteer attorney to receive brief legal advice on any legal topic, including some limited business law topics and conflict resolution issues.

MARKETING

Brand Identity & Marketing Collateral

Tools to create your brand identity as well as business cards and other marketing materials.

Domain Names

Find out if your domain name, brand name or username are still available on the worldwide web.

eCommerce Platforms

Tools for creating an online store and selling products.

Email Marketing

Tools for reaching and tracking customers through email newsletters and campaigns.

Survey Software

Tools for designing online surveys and questionnaires and analyzing the results.

Websites/Blogs/Social Media

Tools for building your own website, blog or social media presence.

NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS

CAMEO: California Micro Enterprise Organizations

CAMEO is the local trade organization for over 160 organizations that provide micro-financing, business training and technical assistance to California micro-enterprises. CAMEO focuses its efforts on expanding resources and building capacity for its member organizations so that they can best serve micro-enterprise in the state.

Compass Point Non-Profit Services

CompassPoint provides classes, workshops and consulting services for non-profit community leaders to build the capacity and impact of non-profit community-based organizations.

Inner City Advisors 

ICA creates good jobs for people with high barriers to employment by providing small business owners with expert consulting, education and investment to grow their businesses.

La Cocina 

La Cocina provides commercial kitchen space and technical assistance to low-income entrepreneurs who are launching, growing and formalizing their food businesses.

LGBT Community Center 

The LGBT Community Center provides a range of services to help LGBT small businesses and entrepreneurs, including free expert one-on-one counseling in business planning and marketing, a variety of workshops, and strategic support with loans, loan packaging and post-loan technical assistance.

Mission Economic Development Agency

MEDA is dedicated to improving the economic and social conditions of San Francisco’s immigrants and working class families with an emphasis on the Latino community and the Mission and Excelsior districts.

National Business Incubator Association

This site provides information on business incubation, member organizations, upcoming conferences, business incubator toolkits and an online bookstore.

Pacific Community Ventures

PCV creates jobs and economic opportunity in low-income communities through the direct support of small businesses as well as by advocating for systems change to increase investment in these vulnerable communities.

Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center

Renaissance is an entrepreneurial training center located in San Francisco, the Mid-Peninsula and Marin offering workshops, business classes, loan packaging services, and a small business incubator program.  They provide comprehensive services for small business owners and micro-entrepreneurs at all stages of business development from startup to launch and growth. The organization is dedicated to helping women and men who traditionally lack access to resources and information to achieve financial self-sufficiency through entrepreneurship.

San Francisco Community Board Program 

Community Boards is the oldest, longest-running public mediation service in the United States that helps San Francisco residents and businesses find peaceful solutions to conflicts through mediation, training, facilitation and helping organizations improve their communication and resolution skills. They offer conflict resolution services for a nominal fee and their mediation services are offered in English, Spanish, Mandarin and Cantonese.

Urban Solutions

Urban Solutions strengthens underserved communities by supporting for small businesses, job creation, diversity and sustainability. Their services include: one-on-one Small Business Consulting, Small Business Development Workshops, Business Attraction, Retention & Expansion, Brokerage, and a Sustainable Business Program.

Women’s Initiative For Self-Employment

Women’s Initiative provides a safe and supportive environment for high-potential, lower-income women to receive help with starting and growing their own businesses. They offer a 20-session business planning course, individual coaching and financial services in both English and Spanish.

LOCAL MEMBERSHIP ASSOCIATIONS

Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE)

BALLE is focused on increasing demand for locally owned, made and grown businesses, good and services, connecting local leaders, spreading solutions that work, and driving investment toward local economies. BALLE’s website is full of resources and tools, including webinars, manuals, events, videos and calculators.

Golden Gate Business Association

For over 35 years the Golden Gate Business Association has grown, promoted and increased the visibility of San Francisco Bay Area LGBT businesses and those businesses in the community that support them. The Association organizes over 30 educational programs and networking events per year.

HUB Bay Area

Membership at Hub Bay Area connects you to a place-based and online community of over 1,000 Bay Area and 4,000 global changemakers focused on building a better world. At the San Francisco and Berkeley HUB spaces, members can get work done, attend events on social innovation, access professional tools and services, throw meetups, and communicate their message across the global community.

Potrero Dogpatch Merchants Association

PDMA promotes and advocates for independent, locally owned businesses while actively supporting the Potrero and Dogpatch neighborhood communities. The Association is made up of over 170 businesses representing an eclectic mix of food and drink, salons, spas, healers, shopping, schools, business services, entertainment and more.

San Francisco Chamber of Commerce

The Chamber is an excellent local resource for the City of San Francisco. Their website offers current events listings, a membership directory, and many useful resources for small businesses.

San Francisco Locally Owned Merchant Alliance

SFLOMA identifies and promotes locally owned independent businesses. Their goal is to educate and inform residents and visitors to San Francisco of the positive economic value on the community when people shop at independent retailers.

SFMade

SFMade’s mission is to build and support a vibrant manufacturing sector in San Francisco, that sustains companies producing locally-made products, encourages entrepreneurship and innovation, and creates employment opportunities for a diverse local workforce. SFMade engages directly with entrepreneurs and growing small companies, all of whom are headquartered in and manufacture within San Francisco, offering industry-specific education, networking opportunities, and connections to resources.

Small Business Network

The mission of Small Business Network is to strengthen and unify the voice of the small business community in San Francisco. SBN has a growing membership of 20 business organizations and represents more than 19,000 small businesses in the city.

NEWS SOURCES

Business Week

The small business section of the Business Week website provides advice, commentary, profiles, financing and legal templates for small businesses.

Entrepreneur Magazine

This online magazine provides a variety of information for entrepreneurs. The site includes profiles and how-to tips related to starting and growing a business, money, marketing and technology—with a lot of information shared through video content.

Fast Company

A progressive business magazine and website focused on innovation in technology, “ethonomics” (ethical economics), leadership and design. The website has sections that explore the intersection on business and design (Co.Design), the latest world-changing ideas and innovations (Co.Exist), and creativity (Co.Create).

Huffington Post

The business section of the Huffington Post’s website features the latest business and financial news and opinions.

Inc. Magazine

A print and online magazine targeting entrepreneurs and business owners that also annually celebrates the 500 and 5,000 fastest growing private companies in the U.S. The website includes how-to guides for business management issues, small business tools and templates, and live Q&A video sessions featuring leading entrepreneurs who answer questions via live chat.

San Francisco Business Times

The SF Business Times website is a good source for Bay Area business news.

San Francisco Chronicle

The business section of the SF Chronicle’s website is a good source for national and local business news and Bay Area business profiles.

Wall Street Journal

WSJ’s website includes breaking news and in-depth reporting in the business and financial arena.

ONLINE ORGANIZATIONAL TOOLS

Doodle

A free online service that makes scheduling a meeting or conference call easy –- you create a poll of potential dates and times, share it with meeting participants, and quickly find the date and time that works best. It doesn’t require registration by either the initiator or the participants of the poll.

Dropbox

Dropbox is a free service that lets you access your photos, documents and videos from any computer and share them easily. It synchronizes your important work across all your devices and they are automatically backed up and available from anywhere—whether you are working on a Mac, PC, phone or tablet.

Mint

A free online service that pulls all your financial accounts into one place so you can set budgets and track your goals.

Square

Square makes it possible to accept debit and credit cards on your smartphone or tablet computer with the Square Register app. With the app, you can manually enter the card details or swipe a card through a Square Reader, a small plastic device that plugs into the audio jack of your smartphone or tablet and reads the magnetic stripe. Another product, Square Wallet, allows customers to set up a tab and pay for their order with their name (or a barcode) using a stored credit, debit or gift card.