Form a Corporation in California yourself with our simple step-by-step guide. It’s free and easy!
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First, make sure that the name you’d like to file isn’t already taken or too similar to another brand name that’s already recognized by the state, or that contains restricted wording. Or that has words which denote something other than what the business is for. Conduct a Business Entity Search through the state and for trademark issues, use the Tess System through the U.S. Patent Office.
Keep in mind your brand name should contain the words ‘Corporation,’ ‘Company,’ ‘Incorporated,’ or ‘Limited.” Abbreviations for these words are acceptable. If needed, you can file a Name Reservation Request form and reserve an available name for 60 days.
Filing Fee: $20
The next step is appointing a Registered Agent to receive and help to handle/process all official documents like state filings, tax forms, legal notices, etc. To be considered the agent must be a CA resident or registered business entity with a physical street address, not a P.O. Box. Furthermore, there should only be one for your California corporation, and you cannot elect yourself.
Now that you have a registered agent, download the Articles of Incorporation and file it with the CA Secretary of State’s office. Instructions are provided, so make sure to read it carefully. It’s declarative document for the public record that discloses some basics of your brand including:
Filing Fee: $100
Think of this as the hard copy record book where all critical corporate documents are kept like the Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, meeting minutes, stock certificate ledger, stock certificates, stock certificate stubs, stock transfer documents, etc. It’s the ultimate company binder. They’re very common and while not necessary we highly recommend you have one from, well, day one of building your new business entity.
We’re huge fans of Corporate Kits which include gorgeous records books/binders you can brand for as little as $99.
Appoint a minimum of 3 directors who among other things will oversee the corporation in California until the first shareholder meeting where new directors will be voted in. Prepare an “Incorporator Statement” with complete names and addresses of each director and keep it in your records book. Once elected, an initial meeting will:
As a new California corporation, there are two primary reasons to open unique business bank accounts, the first of which has everything to do with the many perks banks and lending institutions are offering corporate clients. There’s are a fair amount so be sure do some investigation.
The second has to do with making your finances easier by syncing the single account with your accounting software, and adding a huge layer of protection by being separated from any other business/personal accounts.
To ensure that you don’t face penalties, fines, and fees when operating a business, you need to completely fulfill your regulatory requirements. To get started:
To be taken seriously by the average Californian, not to mention VC-types, lending institutions, funds and organizations, or incubator groups – your corporation must have presentation-ready business plans that focus on core fundamentals.
The good news is that thanks to, well in large part Californian-made software, the process of putting together these plans are far easier and more intuitive for those that don’t have MBAs or a long history of founding companies. To learn more check out our free resources below.
Last, but definitely not least, along with a solid plan your company will need a website to compete, leverage the astounding digital marketing potential (if so desired, or a part your business mode), and give the world a way to investigate your brand. It’s critical!
No in-house designer? No problem, there’s outsourcing on sites like UpWork, as well as one-stop-shop solutions like Wix and Weebly. For a very reasonable price you get have your site up and running in the background, or bringing in leads.
Note that this article on how to form a corporation in California isn’t a legal document or legal advice. It’s for informational purposes and the information above is subject to change. For specific legal questions regarding how to form a corporation in California or business in general, please consult with a lawyer or other accredited professional.