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| Small Talk: Advice From Small-Business

You Can Do Business on the Web, but Not File to Be One


Q: I need to file a fictitious-business-name statement. Can I do that and get a business license on the Internet? If there are any costs involved, are there Web sites that would accept credit cards and process the whole license thing?

--Madhu Puwula, Burbank


A: We don't do business over the Internet. You must either come in person to file your fictitious-business-name statement or send it in the mail. We can't accept this information over the Internet because these documents have to be examined and sometimes they are accepted and other times they are not.

A fictitious-name filing costs $10 for the first name and $2 for each additional name, up to $16. We take cash and checks but no credit cards. To file your statement, you may come in person to the Los Angeles County Recorder's Office at 12400 E. Imperial Highway, Norwalk, CA 90650, or write and we will send a form you can file by mail. For more information, call (562) 462-2177.

--Joyce Spikes, section head,

fictitious business filings and

registration, Los Angeles County

Recorder's Office, Norwalk


We license only specific businesses that are located in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County, and we do not do business over the Internet. Some cities license strictly for regulation and others license for regulation purposes and to impose a business tax. Los Angeles County charges a fee to recover its regulatory costs but does not impose a tax. We license only certain types of business activities for public safety or welfare concerns, and of the total business community in the county, we probably license only 10% of them.

To find out whether you need a business license and how to obtain one, call your local city hall and ask for the department that handles business licenses. For more information on county business licenses, call (213) 974-2011.

Because you must make sure that your business will be located in an area with proper zoning, it is probably best to apply for your business license in person.

--Dwight Anderson,

assistant division manager,

tax and license division,

Department of Treasurer and Tax Collector, Los Angeles County


Q: I occupy a small retail space where I make and sell children's clothing. I'm interested in expanding and am looking for some good literature on retailing. Specifically, I'm interested in any information available on how to estimate optimum inventory levels and realistic marketing costs in comparison to sales projections. Do you have any references?

--Terri Ferro, Santa Paula


A: There's a very good general textbook we use in our classrooms called "Retailing," published by Prentice Hall and written by Dale M. Lewison, sixth edition. The book has a section on merchandising logistics systems, which covers inventory levels and how to estimate them, as well as the buying, ordering and handling processes.

It also has a section on customer communications that covers advertising plans and approaches. It gives several different options that you could use to determine what percentage of sales would be best to use for marketing.

The book is available on order from our student bookstore for $84.45. You can place the order by calling the college at (213) 624-1200 Ext. 4110 or visit our Web site at There's also a wonderful trade publication called Earnshaws that's geared specifically for businesses that make and sell products for children. It deals primarily with fashion and it would be a good ongoing resource for you. You can write to them at 475 Fire Island Drive, Babylon, NY 11702, or call (516) 661-4637 to order a $24 annual subscription.

--Sharon Ryan,

executive director for

industry relations,

Fashion Institute of Design

and Merchandising, Los Angeles


If you have a question about how to start or operate a small business, mail it to Karen E. Klein at the Los Angeles Times, 1333 S. Mayflower Ave., Suite 100, Monrovia, CA 91016 or e-mail it to Include your name, address and telephone number. The column is designed to answer questions of general interest. It should not be construed as legal advice.

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