British Columbia is home to over 500,000 small business. In fact, a remarkable 98 per cent of all businesses in our province are small businesses. They employ over one million people, accounting for 54 per cent of private sector employment within the province. If you’re considering starting your own business, there are a robust and easily accessible slate of resources and support for you to call upon. In our 10 step guide to starting a business, we’re going to consider each area of the start-up experience, highlighting the services and help you can lean on to achieve your goals.
1. Make Sure Running a Small Business is Right for You
Getting a business off the ground takes the right mix. You need a good idea, time, commitment, the right personality and a few basic business skills to make it happen. Small Business BC exists to help make your dream into reality. Start with our FREE 30-minute general business advisory service. We’ve also published a robust list of frequently asked questions that speak to the most common questions new entrepreneurs ask us.
2. Understand the Different Business Structures
Most small businesses in British Columbia are operated under one of the following structures:
- Sole Proprietorship (the owner/operator or self-employed)
- General Partnership (involving one or more partners)
- Corporation (also known as a limited liability company)
Unsure of which business structure is right for you? Refer to Small Business BC’s Business Structures Information Sheet, in which we discuss the pros and cons of each structure. The BC Registry Service also offers a comprehensive guide on the different structures and how to register them. Later in your business life, federal incorporation offers a proven path toward national expansion. Refer to Corporations Canada’s Guide to Federal Incorporation. Still unsure of which structure works best for your unique circumstances? Small Business BC offers one-on-one consultations with an accountant and a lawyer, who can explain how each structure would work for you.
3. Develop a Business Plan
A business plan is the most important foundational building block of a successful start-up. Not only will it help you secure start-up finance, it will also serve as an invaluable roadmap for launching and growing your business. Start by downloading Small Business BC’s Business Plan Template. When fully fleshed out, our template and cash flow forecasting tool provide the ammunition needed to make informed decisions about your venture before committing legally or financially. Need help creating your business plan? Small Business BC also offers business plan reviewing services.
4. Secure Financing
Getting your business off the ground can be a capital-intensive process. You’ll need to have enough funding in place to cover your start-up costs, alongside daily operating expenses for at least three months (if not more). Entrepreneurs often turn to family, friends or their own personal line of credit to negotiate this period. However, there are outside sources of funding available:
This program makes it easier for small businesses to get loans from financial institutions. It works by sharing the risk between the Government of Canada and the borrower. This lowers the barrier to entry for many loans.
Provides youth aged 18-39 with start-up financing and mentorship to sustain successful businesses.
WEC offers business loans of up to $150,000 to women in BC who own a business or are thinking of starting/buying a business.
Community Futures also offer financing geared at start-up businesses. The qualifying terms for this finance vary depending on where you’re based in the province. Check with your local Community Futures office to find further details.
BDC is the only Canadian bank that’s devoted exclusively to entrepreneurs. They offer a robust range of financing options for businesses of all sizes in all industries.
5. Choose the Right Name
Choosing the right name isn’t just one of the hardest decisions you’ll face, it’s also one of the most important. If you want to use a business name that differs from your own personal name, this will have to be approved by, and registered with, BC Registry Services.
Your business name must have a distinctive and descriptive element. It must also have a corporate designation such as “ltd.” if you are planning on incorporating. Small Business BC can help you secure the right name for your business. Our business advisors will discuss your potential naming options with you, informing you if potential names are likely to be accepted by the province. Need help choosing a name? Here are some pointers to get you started.
Once your business name is approved, it will be reserved for 56 calendar days. Within this time, you must register the business with BC Registry Services.
6. Register Your Business
If your business is a sole proprietorship or general partnership, the Province of BC has made it easy to register through the OneStop Business Registration Service. Looking to incorporate? You must file an Incorporation Application with BC Registry Services.
7. Secure Your Online Presence
Once you’ve secured your name, it’s time to secure your online presence. Start by referring to our guide on How to Get Your Business Online. Even if you don’t plan on using them immediately, it’s also vital to secure social media handles for your business. Read how you can Grow Your Business Using Social Media. With the social media landscape changing so often, check in on Small Business BC’s range of seminars to keep up to date on the latest social media trends.
8. Register for Provincial Sales Tax
Provincial Sales Tax (PST) is a retail sales tax that applies when a taxable good or service is purchased, acquired or brought into British Columbia. You may be required to register with the Ministry of Finance to charge and collect PST. To register, visit the Ministry website.
9. Register for Goods and Services Tax
If you sell goods and services in Canada and your annual world-wide GST taxable sales, including those of any associates, are more than $30,000, you may be required to register for goods and services tax (GST). To register online with the Canada Revenue Agency, visit the OneStop Business Registry.
10. Complete Other Registrations
Depending on your type of business, there may be other registrations you need to complete.
If you plan to hire employees, or have established your new business as a corporation, you’ll need to register with WorkSafeBC and pay WorkSafeBC insurance premiums. This ensures you and your employees are covered in-case of workplace injury or disease. If you are self-employed, you can also apply for WorkSafeBC’s Personal Optional Protection.
If you are hiring employees and paying salary, bonuses, vacation pay or tips, you will need to register with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for a payroll deductions account. This will allow you to make the required income tax, Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Employment Insurance (EI) payments.
If you’re going to import or export goods, you will need to register with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). You can register with the CBSA using the convenient OneStop Business Registry.
Restaurant Liquor License
If you have a restaurant and will be serving food, as opposed to liquor, as the primary focus of your business, you can apply for a restaurant liquor license through the OneStop Business Registry.