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Updated: March 27th, 2020
Owning a small business is never easy work, but California has a proud history of entrepreneurship. From the entertainment industry in Hollywood, to the tech industry in Silicon Valley, and the incredible wine and food industries in the Napa and Central Valleys — creative, ambitious people just seem drawn to the Golden State.
And while you might face more ups and downs than the Sierra Nevada, it’s hard to imagine working for someone else or launching a business that doesn’t have its roots in California.
So here’s to the 3.7 million small business owners in California — and the awesome, inspiring, gnarly, sketchy, grueling, rad, and altogether wonderful things that make owning a small business in California so rewarding. These are the 10 telltale signs you own a small business in California:
The “California casual” dress code has spread beyond the startup culture, and into everyone’s wardrobe — from entry-level engineers to partners at billion dollar venture capital firms. While Wall Street suffocates in its stuffy suits, you’re rocking a graphic T-shirt and flip-flops. Don’t be fooled into thinking California fashion is cheap, however. Mark Zuckerberg’s cashmere hoodies allegedly cost as much as $2,000.
College towns are built around vibrant cafes, bookstores, retailers, and entertainment venues that have learned how to harness the spending power of students. With over 100 four-year colleges and universities in the state and the largest community college system in the country, California has a dense concentration of young, conscientious consumers who love to shop local and support small businesses. The enormous student population also makes California one of the best states to recruit young, intelligent, and motivated employees.
With the explosion of the sharing economy, apps like Uber and Airbnb allow regular people to leave their desk jobs and “become become their own boss.” It might feel frustrating, sometimes, when these “overnight entrepreneurs” think they understand the struggles you face running a small business, but California business owners know they can also leverage the sharing economy to cut costs by using Postmates to ship their products to new customers, TaskRabbit to quickly hire an extra hand, and a crowdfunder like Kickstarter or a marketplace lender like Funding Circle to help them raise capital to grow their business.
It’s well known that California has one of the highest minimum wages in the country, but unless you own a business in California (or you’re an employment lawyer), you probably don’t understand just how much legislation is in place to protect employees in the state. If you own a business in California, you probably rely on a legal team or outside counsel to make sure your business complies with everything from nondiscriminatory hiring practices, to calculating overtime, and preventing harassment in the workplace.
With Los Angeles as the unofficial epicenter of the gourmet food truck renaissance and five California metropolises breaking into Business Insider’s top 25 list for food trucks per capita, California is unquestionably the food truck capital of the country. Because many of these restaurant-on-wheels are small businesses of their own, almost every California small business owner has stood in line waiting for a taco and admired the genius business model and overall efficiency — how could you minimize your overhead costs and generate endless viral marketing opportunities?
Californians spend an average of 27 minutes every morning to travel to work. And if you live in Riverside or Contra Costa County — where people spend the most time on their commute — you might be one of the 1.5 million Californians who spend more than 60 minutes getting from their home to their office. There’s not much you alone can do about the congestion beyond taking public transportation, carpooling, and hoping it doesn’t rain during rush hour — because everyone seems to forget how to drive the moment a few drops of water fall from the sky.
Long before the rest of country even knew what Downward Facing Dog meant, California business owners were doing Chaturangas on their lunch breaks. You probably already knew that regular exercise can decrease stress and increase productivity, but if you’re looking for a quick workout that you can do in your office — without having to run to yoga studio or the gym — look no further.
Since 2012, all businesses in California that generate more than 4 cubic yards of commercial solid waste per week are required to have a recycling program — and there are several tax incentives in place at the state and local level that encourage business owners to take even more steps to decrease their carbon footprint. But at this point, you and most of your employees are likely already inclined to sort your plastic and paper, and your customers expect nothing less from a responsible business.
According to Funding Circle’s recent small business survey, 49% of small business owners drink two or more cups of coffee per day.* And with California’s iconic sunny weather, you can bet most of the caffeine in California comes on the rocks. But unlike the east coast where Dunkin’ Donuts dominates the iced coffee scene, Starbuck’s rules the Golden State — battling Peet’s Coffee in NorCal and Coffee Bean in SoCal. But if you’re looking to support other small business owners, you might seek out regional leaders like Blue Bottle in Oakland or Intelligentsia in LA.
You run your own business in California and have fewer than 100 employees — must be a startup, right? Wrong! Though the state does generate about 140,000 startups per year, not all of the 3.7 million businesses in California are aspiring to be the next Snapchat. Most small businesses rely on affordable business financing, rather than angel investors to generate steady, manageable growth that provides services for the surrounding community and supports the local economy.
Is your business still operating like a startup? Learn how to grow past your plateaus and scale your business.
Paige Smith is a Content Marketing Writer and Senior Contributing Writer at Funding Circle. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and specializes in writing about the intersection of business, finance, and tech. Paige has written for a number of B2B industry leaders, including fintech companies, small business lenders, and business credit resource sites.