My grandfathers were both small-business owners and they earned their success the hard way. One ran a barbershop in South Los Angeles and the other was a tailor in Boyle Heights. They often struggled through tough times – and when the Great Depression set in, they gave everything they had to keep their businesses afloat.

Over the years, millions of Angelenos like my grandparents have built businesses here, forging our city’s vibrant, diverse economy through hard work and sacrifice. And today, running a business still isn’t easy – it takes tremendous courage, steadfast resolve, and an unshakable faith in your own vision.

The last thing small-business owners need is confusing red tape that can slow them down. That’s why, since becoming mayor, I have been committed to changing the culture at City Hall, and finally giving small-business owners the support they deserve. It’s also why I am so proud to launch the L.A. Business Portal – a powerful online tool that gives Angelenos the help and guidance they need to start or grow a small business.

Last year, my office competed with cities across America and won a $250,000 grant from the Small Business Administration to build an innovative, consolidated online platform for resources that cut through red tape and help entrepreneurs get their businesses started. I directed my Office of Economic Development and our Innovation Team, funded by a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, to build, test, and launch a tool that would meet those needs. The L.A. Business Portal, at business.lacity.org, is the culmination of that process.

We designed the portal to directly respond to the needs of all small-business owners, whether they own a bakery or an auto shop. We spent months talking with them face to face, asking them how we could help them meet their challenges most effectively. The result is a comprehensive, open-source platform with three core features: a startup assistance tool, a resource library, and a business-preparedness guide.

Opening doors

One of the most difficult parts of starting a business is getting the doors open in the first place. There can be a variety of permits, licenses, and tax registrations the owner must obtain separately from city, county, state, and federal government agencies before opening day. Without the proper guidance, this process can present a significant barrier to success.

Mario De La Torre, who owns a business in the Fashion District, couldn’t wait to open his doors. But he struggled to navigate the startup process on his own. He said he often felt lost and confused trying to figure out what government approvals he needed and how to get them.

“I feel we could have avoided so many bumps in the road had I had a one-stop shop,” he said, “a place where I could literally set everything up, where they can grab you by the hand and say, Hey, this is what you need to do.”

So that’s what we created. When users visit the L.A. Business Portal and use the Startup Guide for the first time, they answer a series of basic questions about the kind of business they’re starting and where they’re starting it, and they are given a roadmap that walks them through the entire startup process, step by step. But the L.A. Business Portal isn’t just a startup assistance tool. It also offers custom-tailored resources, such as location assistance, access to capital, legal help, and business-preparedness advice that can mean the difference between struggling and thriving – between laying off workers and creating a few more good-paying jobs.

And, because it’s an open-source platform, the portal won’t just benefit Angelenos – it will give communities across the country a blueprint for their own efforts to help small-business owners.

Put simply, the L.A. Business Portal is the one-stop shop that people like De La Torre have been waiting for. It’s a real investment in the kind of support and guidance they have always deserved for their contributions to our economy and our communities.

People often say small-business owners are the backbone of our economy. I think they’re closer to its beating heart. Their stories have always reflected the best of our values – courage, hard work, and a commitment to serving our neighbors.

And with new investments like such as L.A. Business Portal, we are making City Hall a place that honors and reflects those values, too.

Eric Garcetti is the mayor of Los Angeles.

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