From household names like PepsiCo and IBM, to financial institutions like JP Morgan and CitiGroup, it’s safe to say that New York’s economy is one of the most competitive places in the world for global corporations. And with groundbreaking startups like Rent the Runway, SeatGeek, Bark, and Etsy calling New York City its homebase, it’s also an innovation hotspot.

But it is also a fruitful place for small businesses. According to the SBA 2021 Small Business Profile, New York is home to more than 2.3 million small businesses, which employs roughly 4.1 workers. Technical services, retail, construction, food services, health care and real estate are just some of the top fields for small businesses.

If you are eager to join the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the Empire State, especially in the bustling global epicenter and tourist hub of New York City, here’s a framework to help you get started.


  1. Brainstorm your business idea. It all starts with determining what you’re knowledgeable and passionate about, as well as what your market needs. If you’re knowledgeable about men’s style and retail and realize there’s not a single men’s boutique in your entire town, then you might have found a great starting place. Developing a business idea does not happen in a vacuum. Don’t be afraid to ask other local business owners for advice and seek local small business organizations for resources.
  2. Understand the ins and outs of your industry. If you decide on a retail shop, then learning about sourcing products, manufacturing, shipping, and buying wholesale should be on the to-do list. If you decide to go the restaurant route, then learning about the licenses and permits for serving food and alcohol is a must.
  3. Write your business plan. Whether you plan on opening a large moving business, or a small cafe that seats only two, you need to develop a business plan. The document will serve as a roadmap for what you need to get started, how your business will generate revenue, and its future growth plans. Think of it as your North Star.
  4. Finance your business. Make sure you have the right amount of capital for what you envision. Writing through your business plan will help you determine this critical figure. Determine rent, property, plant, and equipment–and, of course, the people you will need to hire. Research NYC incentive programs, be it for energy cost savings or other tax credits. Every dime saved will go a long way.
  5. Register your business. The first step in registering your business is choosing a legal structure, be it an LLC, a sole proprietorship, or a corporation. This decision will directly impact your personal liability, tax returns, and ability to raise funds for your company, so picking the right one is key. Once you do, make sure to file the proper forms and pay all the necessary fees (if any) through your secretary of state.  From there you will apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN). Sole proprietors, which is a common structure for small-scale shops, may be able to use their Social Security Numbers instead. You’ll also have to register as a Sales Tax Vendor with the NYS Department of Taxation in order to sell products and services.
  6. Explore insurance options. Whether you run a restaurant with hot burning stoves, or a small florist, running a business can always come with risk. Gain a good understanding about insurance coverage and the claims process. You’ll also want to protect your business by looking into other required insurance such as workers’ compensation and disability insurance. Doing this now can protect you from any potential lawsuits or fines.
  7. Look for your location. Do you need a 5,000 square foot office? Do you have ample kitchen and pantry space? Does your business need an attached parking lot? Is there ample foot traffic to lead people to your storefront? Comprehensively think about your business needs before signing a commercial retail lease.
  8. Establish yourself online. Even brick-and-mortar businesses need an online presence to help target customers find them, be it on social media, search engines, or even Google Maps. Make sure you claim your business on major online search directories like Google My Business and Bing Places. Create a Facebook, Instagram, or any necessary social media accounts.
  9. Equally important: create a small business website. Your professional website will serve as a centralized info hub for your business. It should always contain the essentials, like what your business offers, company address, contact information, store hours. Go the extra mile by adding personality and what makes your business special, be it an in-depth About Us page or a dynamic blog. Link all your directory and social media accounts to your official website. 
  10. Plan for your grand opening. We don’t just mean preparing for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and in-store cocktail reception. Make sure to take the more critical steps of scheduling your pre-opening inspections with various NYC agencies, such as the NYC Department of Health and the NYC Fire Department. Researching all the city requirements isn’t as fun as planning your grand opening party–but it will set you up for small business success in the long-term.