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Step-by-Step Guide

Questions about starting a business in Gresham or relocating here? Contact our Small Business Center at 503-618-2872 or

Let's begin your journey

A step-by-step guide to starting your business

Step 1: Ask Questions

Assess your skills and experience. Ask yourself:

  • Can I explain how my idea is feasible?
  • What type of basic business skills do I have?
  • How have I prepared for the time, financial and emotional commitment to start and run a business?
  • What support structure or mentor can I rely on to provide guidance and advice?
  • What is my comfort level with taking risks and being flexible, creative and persuasive?
  • How long am I willing/able to forego a paycheck while the business is getting up and running?


Small Business Administration (SBA)


Step 2: Research and Planning

Start by determining if your business must solve a problem, fulfill a need, or offer something the market wants by:

  • Identifying market need/competition
  • Researching the industry
  • Researching your target market
  • Building a marketing strategy

Next, define:

How your business will serve the target market and meet its needs.

  • What differentiates your business
  • The best structure for your business
  • How you will manage the business
  • How you will fund the business
  • A business name and a short “elevator pitch” that defines the goal of your business and its unique proposition in a quick, relatable way



MHCC Small Business Development Center (SBDC)

Mercy Corps NW

State of Oregon Business Xpress

Step 3: Register Business and Tax Filings

Check the State of Oregon Business Registry database for business name availability and registration. 
Then, consider what federal, state and local taxes or filings your business may be subject to including:


Oregon Secretary of State – registry/BIN

Oregon Department of Revenue – taxes

IRS (Portland office) – EIN/taxes

City of Portland Revenue Bureau

Step 4: Plan Your Finances

Evaluate your seed money, one-time costs and variable or fixed costs including:

  • Personal finances: Assets and liabilities – cash on hand, savings, investment.
  • Start-up capital: Initial inventory, equipment, real estate lease/purchase, permits, licenses, marketing, etc.
  • Operations: Fixed/variable operating expenses, projected sales forecast, cash receipts and disbursements.
  • Understand: Income, statement balance sheet, cash flow statement.

Financial tools and templates

Small Business Administration (SBA)

MHCC Small Business Development Center (SBDC)


Step 5: Set Up Recordkeeping and Insurance

You may wish to attend technical training and/or hire a professional to help keep your books. Then, choose an accounting system to:

  • create and manage your budget
  • set your rates
  • conduct business
  • file your taxes

Determine and apply for insurance applicable to your business/industry including health, worker’s comp, unemployment and disability insurance.


MHCC Small Business Development Center (SBDC)

Step 6: Obtain Financing

There are many ways to finance a business including: owner equity, crowdfunding, loans, grants, etc.

Be sure to determine your level of need and associated risk from your financial assessment given each type of financing. 

The SBA doesn’t provide direct loans, so work with a service provider to help determine what options are available for your business.


Craft 3

Oregon IDA

Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon (MESO)

Step 7: Determine Licenses and Permits

Research city, county and state licenses, permits, timelines and other agency requirements.

A business license is required to conduct business in the city of Gresham. Other building permits may be required depending on business type and location.


City of Gresham Small Business Center

Multnomah County restaurants

Oregon Department of Agriculture

Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission

Step 8: Find Your Location

If available, it can be beneficial to work with a commercial real estate broker to find available options. 

  • It may be helpful to have a lawyer, mentor, or advisor look over contracts to help you consider your obligations.
  • Be sure to determine the types of permits you will need before signing a lease.
  • The City’s Small Business Center can help you with finding a location and determining what permits are necessary pre-lease.


Lewis & Clark Small Business Legal Clinic

MHCC Small Business Development Center

Step 9: Sign Your Lease and Obtain Permits

Once you are aware of agency permit and review requirements, sign your lease.

  • Contact any appropriate agencies to submit permits before moving forward with construction/remodeling.
  • Consider that you may need to hire contractors and design professionals - be sure to confirm professional licenses.
  • The City’s Small Business Center can help you navigate Gresham’s application and permit-review process


City of Gresham Small Business Center

Multnomah County Restaurants

Oregon Department of Agriculture

Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission

Oregon Business Express License Directory

Step 10: Pre-Opening and Beyond

If you are hiring employees, be sure to:

For help with finding and hiring employees, contact the resources listed below.


  • Post your certificate of occupancy and licenses.
  • Keep your business skills sharp.
  • Stay engaged with your customer marketing strategy.
  • Refer to and update your business plan as needed.


Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI)

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

Oregon Employer Services Portal

WorkSource Oregon

MHCC Small Business Development Center

Gresham Chamber of Commerce