August 3, 2020


Setting up a business in Napa Valley

First you must decide the structure of your business.

  • Sole Proprietorships
  • Partnerships
  • Corporations
  • Limited Liability Companies (LLC)

See the IRS for the descriptions of the business types and Entrepreneur Magazine for an article on the advantages and disadvantages of each.

There are many great reasons to choose each of these business entities, and to make the appropriate decision you may consider consulting with a tax accountant first. While the different structures have different regulation requirements, how you handle personal and business taxes will be an important distinction when choosing a business structure.

Once you have decided on your structure and have dealt with the appropriate state forms to setup the business, you’ll have to setup your business with Napa County or the City of Napa that you are doing business in, or both.

The county will handle your Fictitious Business Name Statement (also known as a DBA or “doing business as”). You may or may not need to even do this. If you’re doing your business as yourself or as the name of your LLC you can skip this step.

“A fictitious name or “Doing Business As” (DBA) name is a business name that is different from your personal name, the names of your partners or the officially registered name of your LLC or corporation. DBA names can also be called trade names or assumed names.”

In order to complete your fictitious business name application, you will have to publish your information in one of the local newspapers. “…the statement must be published once a week for four (4) consecutive weeks in a local adjudicated newspaper.” The county will give you list of newspapers that you can use.

You will have to have a business license with the city you are doing business in. Use the following information to get the proper forms for your business license.

You will also find all the special permits through the city offices. These permits are for things like “food vendor”, “vehicle for hire”, “peddler”, etc.

If you plan on working out of your home, you will also have to get a “Home Occupation” permit. You will have to call or go to the city offices to get the appropriate forms for these permits.

I’ve always been told to always keep your business expenses separate from your personal expenses. For this you will need to setup a business checking account.

Typically, if you’re setting up the business in something other than your name, you can’t setup a business checking account without the appropriate proof of business paperwork. You’ll either need your forms for the LLC or corporation, or you’ll need the fictitious business name information.

So plan on paying for all the setup expenses out of your own pocket, and then once you have the business setup, then get your business banking setup and from then on keep all your business banking separate from your personal banking.