The 10-Step Guide to Starting a Business

British Columbia is home to over 500,000 small businesses, making up a remarkable 98 percent of all enterprises in our province. They employ over one million people, accounting for 54 percent of private sector employment in BC. If you’re considering embarking into entrepreneurship, this 10-step guide to starting a business covers each area of the start-up experience and highlights services that can help you reach success.

1. Make Sure Running a Small Business is Right for You

Our guide to starting a business begins with this vital question: is running a business right for you? 

Getting a business off the ground takes the right combination of ideas, time, commitment, personality, and basic skills. Small Business BC exists to help make your dream a reality. Start with our free, 30-minute Introductory Business Advisory service, or take a look at our list of frequently asked questions.

2. Understand the Different Business Structures

Most small businesses in British Columbia operate 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)

Need help determining which business structure is right for you? Take a look at SBBC’s How to Choose the Right Business Structure e-course, or our article, Find the Right Business Structure for Your Small Business, for a more in-depth look at your options. 

BC Registry Services also offers a comprehensive guide on the different structures and how to register them. If you’re considering federal incorporation later in your business journey, refer to Corporation Canada’s Guide to Federal Incorporation.

Still trying to decide which structure would work best for your unique circumstances? Small Business BC offers one-on-one consultations with accountants and lawyers, who can explain how each structure would work for you.

3. Develop a Business Plan

A business plan is a successful start-up’s most important foundational building block. Not only will it help you secure start-up financing, but it’ll 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 making legal or financial commitments. Workplace Accessibility is an important area to focus on when starting your own business. Check out Small Business BC’s Workplace Accessibility Resources to learn more.

Need help drafting 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 need enough funding to cover your start-up costs and daily operating expenses for at least three months, if not more. Entrepreneurs often turn to family, friends, or their own personal lines of credit to negotiate this period. 

Here are some other outside sources of funding you may qualify for:

Canada Small Business Financing Program

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. In doing so, it lowers the barrier to entry for many loans.

Futurpreneur Canada

This program provides youth ages 18-39 with start-up financing and mentorship to sustain successful businesses.


WE-BC offers business loans of up to $150,000 to women in BC who own a business or are thinking of starting or buying one.

Community Futures

Community Futures also offers financing geared at start-up businesses. The qualifying terms for this financing vary depending on where you’re based in the province. Check with your local Community Futures office for more information.


BDC is the only Canadian bank 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 for your business can be daunting. If you want to use a business name that differs from your own, it must 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 plan to incorporate. 

SBBC can help you secure the right name for your business. Our advisors will discuss your potential name options with you and inform you if the province will accept them. Here are some pointers to help get you started.

Once your name is approved, it will be reserved for 56 calendar days, during which you must register your business.

6. Register Your Business

If your business is a sole proprietorship or general partnership, the Province of BC has made registering through the BC Registry easy. But if you’re looking to incorporate, you must file an Incorporation Application.

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 Growing Your Business Online. Even if you plan to use them later on, securing social media handles for your business is vital. 

With the social media landscape changing so often, check out our range of webinars to keep up to date on the latest social media trends. And, look into how you can Grow Your Business Using Social Media.

The Canada Digital Adoption Program is another excellent resource, offering a $2,400 grant to help grow your business’ e-commerce operations.

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.

9. Register for Goods and Services Tax

If you sell goods and services in Canada and your annual worldwide 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 (CRA), visit the BC Registry.

10. Complete Other Registrations

You may have to complete other registrations, depending on your type of business.


If you plan to hire employees or establish your new business as a corporation, you’ll need to register with WorkSafeBC and pay their premiums. This ensures that you and your employees are covered in case of workplace injury or disease. If you’re self-employed, you can also apply for their Personal Optional Protection.

Canada Revenue Agency

If you are hiring employees and paying salary, bonuses, vacation pay, or tips, you’ll need to register with the CRA for a payroll deduction account. This allows you to make the required income tax, Canada Pension Plan (CPP), and Employment Insurance (EI) payments.

Importing and Exporting

If you’re going to import or export goods, you’ll need to register with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). 

Restaurant Liquor License

If you have a restaurant and will be serving alcohol, you must apply for a liquor license.

Small Business BC is Here to Help

SBBC is a non-profit resource centre for BC-based small businesses. Whatever your idea of success is, we’re here to provide holistic support and resources at every step of the journey. Check out our range of business webinars, on-demand E-Learning Education, our Talk to an Expert Advisories, or browse our business articles.