Hair/Nail Salon Starter Kit

The Hair/Nail Salon Starter Kit provides everything you need to help you choose a location, obtain a barbering and cosmetology license, and open your doors - including a printable version of the Hair/Nail Salon Guide.

What’s inside

Guides (1)

Guide - Hair/Nail Salon Guide

The Hair/Nail Salon Guide is an overview of what it takes to open a hair and/or nail salon in San Francisco. Every business is different, but we provide the basic steps – along with tips, tricks and common mistakes to avoid. Explore below or download the Guide for quick reference.

Related Documents (4)

Business Plan Template – US Small Business Administration (SBA)

The US Small Business Administration (SBA) created this Business Plan Template to help you research and write your business plan.

Business Entity Comparison Table – SF Office of Small Business

This table provides an at-a-glance reference to how the most common business entity types — sole proprietorship, general partnership, C corporation, S corporation, and LLC — compare in a number of key characteristics.

A Guide to Disabled Accessibility Compliance (English) – SF Office of Small Business

The Guide to Accessibility Compliance brochure explains disabled access laws in detail and offers advice on how to protect your business from potential lawsuits. Since every business must comply with the Americans with Disability Act, this guide helps small businesses understand and meet those requirements. This brochure also serves as the Access Information Notice required by Administrative Code Chapter 38, where landlords must provide this information to tenants at the time of lease execution or amendment for spaces 7,500 sq. ft. or less.

Hazardous Waste Disposal & Recycling For Small Businesses – SF Department of the Environment

Small Businesses can generate waste that is hazardous to the environment. This may include solvents, paints, fluorescent lamps, aerosol cans, batteries, motor oil, antifreeze, printing ink, and other toxic products. They must be disposed of properly to protect our health and worker safety. Besides, it’s the law.

Permits (15)

Business Registration Certificate

The basic city business registration required for all businesses who wish to operate in San Francisco.

Sign Permit

Required for most business signs. Includes fabricated and hanging signs, as well as signs that have been painted directly on a building.

Building Permit

Permit required for any additions, alterations, or repairs to a building, and electrical wiring and plumbing installations.

Weighing & Measuring Device Permit

The Weights and Measures program registers weighing or measuring devices to ensure consumer protection and rights. Applies to any business that will be using regulated weighing and measuring devices, including Point of Sale & Taxi Meters.

Weights & Measures Automated Point of Sale Registration

Registration required for businesses that have at least one Point of Sale (POS) station.

Fictitious Business Name

Allows you to use a business name other than your given name, the names of your partners, or the officially registered name of your LLC or corporation.

SFPUC Water and Wastewater Capacity Charge

Fee for increasing the amount of water being provided to or used by your business location. Levied when you request a new connection to the water distribution system, or require additional capacity as a result of any addition, improvement, modification or change in use of an existing connection.

Employer Identification Number (EIN)

An EIN is also known as a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) or Federal Tax Identification Number. It is issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). A business needs an EIN to pay employees and to file business tax returns. An EIN does not expire and is unique to your business – once an EIN has been given to an entity, it will never be issued again.

Seller’s Permit

Permit required in order to sell or lease tangible personal property in the State of California.

Barbering and Cosmetology Establishment License

All establishments that provide barbering, cosmetology (including manicurist and estheticians) or electrology services are subject to inspections by the Board, and therefore must complete this application.

Barber License

Certifies you to shave or trim beards, cut hair, and give facial and scalp massages with oils, creams, lotions, or other preparations, either by hand or using mechanical appliances.

Cosmetologist License

Certifies you to cut, dress, and die hair; cut, trim, and manicure nails; and remove hair by any method except the use of light waves.

Electrologist License

Certifies you to permanently remove unwanted facial and/or body hair by use of a tiny needle or probe that conducts electric current.

Esthetician License

Certifies you to give facials, apply makeup and eyelashes, remove hair (by tweezing or waxing), and provide skin care.

Manicurist License

Certifies you to cut, trim, polish, color, tint, and cleanse the nails. Includes massaging, cleansing, or beautifying the hands or feet.

Hair/Nail Salon Guide

The Hair/Nail Salon Guide is an overview of what it takes to open a hair and/or nail salon in San Francisco. Every business is different, but we provide the basic steps – along with tips, tricks and common mistakes to avoid. Explore below or download the Guide for quick reference.

Choose a Location

Find a location

Find a location zoned for your business. Every location is zoned differently - some could require a “Change of Use” or “Conditional Use” application, which can include a public hearing and neighborhood notification.

Visit the Planning Information Center

Visit the SF Planning Department's Planning Information Counter at 1660 Mission St. to understand zoning and building codes. These requirements will determine where you open your salon.

Taking over a space that already was a salon saves time and construction costs, as long as the salon had recently passed inspections and was in compliance with current requirements.

If you purchase an existing salon, ask the previous owner to fill out an Establishment Closure form. You will then submit your own establishment application. The establishment license is only valid for the location and owner(s) it was issued to.

Review ADA guidelines

Review Americans with Disability Act (ADA) guidelines to make sure your business is accessible.

Sign your lease.

Sign your lease. Leases can be tricky, so review the lease carefully with a lawyer before signing.

Your landlord is required to provide information about the accessibility of the building, in case it needs renovations.

Set Up Your Business

Create a plan

Create a plan for the type of salon you will open.

Choose a business structure

Choose a business structure. LLCs, Corporations, and Limited Partnerships must register their structure with CA Secretary of State before registering locally.

Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN), also known as a Federal Tax ID Number from the IRS. This is used to identify your business and allows you to hire employees. If you are a sole proprietor, you may be able to use your Social Security Number instead.

Register your business

Register your business with the City through the Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector (TTX).

If you register your business before choosing a final location, you will have to update your registration with the new address. This can cost money and time.

Choose and file a business name

File a Fictitious Business Name (FBN) Statement at the SF Office of the County Clerk if you will be using a name other than your given name, the names of your partners, or the officially registered name of your LLC or corporation.

Apply for a Seller’s Permit

Apply for a Seller’s Permit from the CA State Board of Equalization. Every location must have this permit to sell taxable goods.

Prepare Your Space

New construction

Submit plans and documents to the SF Department of Building Inspection. Change and resubmit plans as needed.

Water and Wastewater Capacity Charge

If your business will use more water than the previous business or resident, you may have to pay a capacity charge to the SF Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

Get an estimate of the water capacity charge from the PUC before you sign a lease. This fee can be high, especially if your location was not a salon before.

Gas and Electric Services

If your business needs new or additional gas or electric services, contact PG&E Building and Renovation Services to start the application process.

Transit Impact Development Fee

If your business will increase the number of people coming to your area, you may have to pay a Transit Impact Development Fee to the SF Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA).

Small businesses may be eligible for Transit Impact Development Fee waivers or reductions.


If you want to install or change a canopy or sign on the outside of the building, ensure you comply with the SF Planning Department sign guidelines.

Salon Services

Become a licensed Barber, Cosmetologist, Esthetician, Electrologist or Manicurist.

Submit a completed initial examination application with the appropriate fee and any additional documentation to the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology. Pass your exam and receive your license.

Salon workers must complete a required number of training hours before taking the State Board examination to become a licensed Cosmetologist, Barber, Esthetician, Electrologist, or Manicurist.  Be sure you understand the hourly requirements, list of qualifying training schools, application process, and examination procedures.

The above license does not allow you to offer massages, tattoos, piercings or permanent cosmetics. San Francisco regulates these activities separately. If you want to offer these services, apply through the DPH massage program or the Tattoo/Piercings/Permanent Cosmetics program.

Obtain an Establishment License

Apply for an Establishment License from the CA Board of Barbering and Cosmetology. This certifies the salon itself.

You will need your State entity information (business structure) and EIN to obtain an establishment license.

Get informed

Read the State of California’s Board of Barbering and Cosmetology Frequently Asked Questions. They may have already answered some of your questions.

Dispose of hazardous materials properly

You can dispose of up to 220 pounds or 27 gallons of hazardous waste using the City’s drop-off program at SF Recycling and Disposal Inc. Call (415) 330–1425 for an appointment.

What If...

Cash register

If you will have a Point of Sale (POS) station (also called a cash register), you must register it with the SF Department of Public Health Weights and Measures Program.


If you plan to hire employees, be sure to follow all wage and employment guidelines.

Booth rental

If you want to rent out chairs (also known as booth rental), be sure that your renters have the proper licenses and permits. This means that a stylist is renting a station in your salon. The stylist pays you rent to use your facility, but typically keeps what they earn directly from his or her clients.

Additional Services

If you plan to offer any additional services like a mobile spa or in-home salon, apply for specialized licenses from the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology.

The SF Department of the Environment offers a Health Nail Salon program which recognizes nail salons in San Francisco that are implementing safer practices and products to protect the health of salon staff, the health of customers and the environment. To learn more, call 415.355.3700.

After Opening

Post required posters and permits

Post all required posters and permits including No Smoking signs, minimum wage information, health inspection results, etc.

Equipment maintenance and permit renewals

Mark your calendar. Schedule equipment maintenance and set reminders to renew your permits and licenses as needed.

Conduct periodic self inspections using the Self Inspection Worksheets in English, Spanish, or Vietnamese) to verify your salon is in compliance with California Laws and Regulations.

The Board does not schedule inspections. To better ensure salon compliance, inspections are performed randomly by inspectors in your area.

Pay your taxes.

Prepare and pay your local, state, and federal taxes. Learn more from the SF Treasurer, SF Assessor, CA Franchise Tax Board, and the IRS.