​Photo by Philip Humphries image

​Photo by Philip Humphries

Grow Your Business in Bellingham

Whether you're starting a new business or need guidance with your current business, we're here to help. Below is a quick guide for growing or starting your business in Bellingham. For one-on-one guidance and mentorship - free of charge - contact one of our local business organizations. You can also contact us directly at business@cob.org or 360-778-8105.


STEP 1: Create Your Business Plan

The first step to starting your business is creating a strong plan. Your business plan maps out funding, marketing, sales, organization, management and more. One resource for getting started is the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). The SBDC will connect you with a Certified Business Advisor who will help you create a business plan, develop financial forecasts, obtain financing and more - all at no cost. Contact them at SBDC@wwu.edu or 360-778-1762.

SCORE is another excellent resource - they'll connect you with a retired business professional who knows the ins and outs of running a small business. Contact them at 360-685-4259.


STEP 2: Find a Location and Check Zoning

From getting enough office space, to capitalizing on foot traffic, to having enough room to expand - there's a lot that goes into finding your perfect business location. Before purchasing a property or entering into a lease, make sure to check the zoning of the property to make sure your business is approved for the area. We have a variety of online resources that can help you pin-point your ideal location:  

  • CityIQ Map: This interactive map allows you to explore Bellingham property boundaries, utilities, aerial photos and more.
  • Whatcom Prospector: Search available real estate, communities, properties and more across Whatcom County.


STEP 3:  Explore Financing Options

You have a variety of local, state and federal options for funding your business. Get started by downloading the SBDC's guide to local financing options. For further guidance, contact the SBDC directly at SBDC@wwu.edu or 360-778-1762.

We also offer the most robust incentives package in the state; see if you qualify for special tax exemptions and fee reductions by exploring our incentives page.


STEP 4:  Apply for Permits

The simplest way to get permits is to apply online (when possible). We recommend contacting our Permit Center in advance to discuss your project and get your questions answered via permit@cob.org or 360-778-8300.

To get started, you can also check out these helpful permitting resources:


Step 5: Get a Certificate of Occupancy

A Certificate of Occupancy (C.O.), ensures you are safely and legally occupying a business space and your business meets all of the required regulations. This may be required even if you don't need a building permit. The C.O. must be clearly displayed at your business at all times. Learn more about getting your C.O. with this helpful guide.


Step 6: Register for a Business License 

All businesses must be registered with the City's Finance Department. You only need to register for your business once, and your license will be valid for the life of your business. You can register online, by mail or in-person. Learn more about registering your business on our Business Registration page.

All businesses operating within Bellingham City limits that gross more than $20,000 annually are subject to Business and Occupation (B&O) Taxes.

For business licensing, registration and tax questions, contact finance@cob.org or 360-778-8012.


Need Help? Contact Us!

If you have any questions or need additional guidance, don't hesitate to contact us at business@cob.org or 360-778-8105.