Starting a Business in Buffalo
Before You Begin
Buffalo State SBDC – The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) helps entrepreneurs realize the dream of business ownership. The SBDC advisors provide a variety of free and low-cost business consulting and training services.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) – The SBA offers recurring seminars and programs to support entrepreneurs at every stage of their business. Their ongoing programs include:
Federal and state procurement training, one-on-one and classes and other events
Veteran Entrepreneurship training for transition service members and B2B ReBoot for veterans and their families
Strategic planning curriculum for established businesses
SCORE – SCORE matches people with mentors who provide professional guidance and information to help existing small businesses grow, and new businesses get off the ground. The nonprofit is dedicated to teaching you how to start, grow and sustain your small business.
Library - The Buffalo Public Library has resources to help you. The library provides a free 30 minute orientation with a librarian to help you learn about what is available. Research an industry, start or expand a business, or explore a new career. The Onondaga County Library features an extensive collection of business and career books, plus, and free Wi-Fi. Get started with our online resources below.
Legal Requirements - You need to meet certain local legal requirements to start your business. These may include a business license, a DBA filing, and inspections. The State of New York also has requirements.
State of New York Legal Requirements - Besides local requirements, business owners also need to consider the requirements of the State of New York. You are encouraged to explore the New York State website, to learn about licensing, taxes, and other regulations for businesses at the state level.
Business Finance - While the City of Buffalo does not do direct business lending, we do partner with a number of organizations that provide access to capital for entrepreneurs who are at varying stages of business life cycle.
Resources for Hiring Employees
- New York State Department of Labor
- The Buffalo Employment & Training Center
Business Networking Resources
How to Get Started Opening a Business
Step 1: Establish a Business Plan
A business plan is a description of your business and its purpose. Business plans should include:
A Marketing Plan (Establish how you will market and manage your business, Identify you target market, Assess your competition, Determine how you will advertise your business)
Financial Data (Tax returns, Financial projections)
Additional Documents (Licenses, Legal Documents)
Step 2: Seek Technical Assistance
There are multiple free and low cost business assistance programs and technical assistance providers to take advantage of, many including:
Step 3: Site Selection
Factors to consider while determining the appropriate location for your business:
- Customer base and how they will reach you
- Location of competition
- Zoning Ordinances
Site Selection Resources:
Step 4: Small Business Financing
Determine how best to finance your business and asses your financing options:
- Erie County Industrial Development Agency (ECIDA)
- Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) (Excelsior Growth Fund, PathStone Enterprise Center, Westminster Economic Development Initiative)
- Buffalo Urban League
- Erie County Industrial Development Agency
- Article: "How to get a Business Loan"
Step 5: Licensing Permits
A valid business license is required for certain types of businesses to operate in the City of Buffalo. Click this link to see if your business needs a license and what type to obtain.
Step 6: Zoning Check
Different business types are only allowed in certain parts of the city. It is illegal to run a business in a building that is not zoned for that type of activity. Contact the Zoning department to confirm that your business type is allowed in your desired location and zone. It is helpful to select 2-3 locations that would be a good fit for your business before contacting the Zoning department.
You may be able to receive a Special Permit if the property isn't zoned for your type of business. To find out if a Special Permit is required for your business location, please consult the Zoning Ordinance for your district.
- Business Improvement Districts (BID’s) (Targeted Communities, Commercial Corridors)
- Register Your Business (Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN), Name Availability Database, DBA)
- Plan Check
- Building and Right of Way Permits
- Sign Permits
Grow Your Business
Mentoring / Counseling
A number of organizations around the City of Buffalo will help mentor you throwing the varying stages of the business life cycle. Much of these resources are offered free of charge and can offer recommendations on: growing revenues, expanding operations, human resources, business strategy, etc.
1. Entrepreneurial Assistance Program (EAP) – 716-880-3288
6. SCORE – Counselors to America’s Small Business – http://buffaloniagara.score.org
· Human Capital (Employees)
Buffalo Employment and Training Center – The mission of the BETC is to bring employment, training and workforce services to both residents and employers.
· Certification & Procurement
2. Buffalo State Small Business Development Center (SBDC)
3. Beverly Gray Business Exchange Center
Hiring Incentives and Job Training
Empire State Development Corporation Excelsior Jobs Program is designed to provide job creation and investment incentives to firms in targeted industries such as biotechnology, pharmaceutical, high-tech, green technology, financial industries, agriculture and manufacturing. Applications and additional information available on the Empire State Development website www.empire.state.ny.us.
New York State Department of Labor
Cut Your Labor Costs – Employers that do business in New York can trim their labor costs through several New York State workforce and economic development programs. Employment-based tax credits save businesses money by cutting federal and state liability. Businesses may obtain tax credit savings from $750 to $9,000 simply by hiring one targeted worker.
Federal Targeted Tax Credits – The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) offers employers up to $2,400 in federal tax savings for hiring people with barriers to employment.
While the City of Buffalo does not do direct business lending, we do partner with a number of organizations that provide access to capital for entrepreneurs who are at varying stages of business life cycle.
a. 43 North – www.43north.org
b. Bright Buffalo Niagara – www.brightbuffaloniagara.com
c. Buffalo Urban League – www.buffalourbanleague.com
d. Empire State Development – www.esd.ny.gov
e. Erie County Industrial Development Agency – www.ecidany.com
f. Launch NY – www.launchny.org
g. Small Business Administration (SBA) – www.sba.gov
h. Westminster Economic Development Initiative (WEDI) – www.wedibuffalo.org
i. WNY Venture Association – www.wnyventure.com
j. Z80 Labs – www.z80labs.com
k. PathStone Enterprise Center – www.pathstoneentreprise.com
l. Excelsior Growth Fund – www.excelsiorgrowthfund.org