Starting a Business in Canada Step by Step

How to Set Up a Small Business in Canada

Starting a Business in Canada Step by Step
••• Image (c) Dave McLeod/ Susan Ward

Starting a business in Canada may seem overwhelming at first. There are just so many things to do! This guide is designed to help you make your dream of becoming an entrepreneur a reality.

Each step of this guide links to detailed information that will show you how to complete that step. The steps are roughly in order but you don't need to follow the order slavishly when you’re starting a business. It really doesn't matter if you complete step 3, for instance, before you complete step 2.

Steps to Starting a Business in Canada

1) Come up with a good business idea.

One thing that's the same about starting a small business in Canada as anywhere else is that you need a good business idea first. Follow the link above to find collections of small and home-based business ideas you can browse through, how to come up with winning business ideas of your own, and how to test the viability of your business idea once you've chosen one.

2) Write a business plan.

Do you need to write a business plan before you start a business? Yes! My Writing a Business Plan series that starts with this Business Plan Outline will lead you through the process of writing each section of the business plan.

Before you start on this project, be aware that there are different types of business plans. Working through The Business Plan Outline will result in the creation of a traditional business plan that you can take to the bank or show to other potential investors. But maybe all you need right now to is know whether or not the new business you're thinking of starting has much of a chance of being successful. The Quick-Start Business Plan will show you quickly whether or not your business idea is viable.

Or you may want to use one of these business plan templates:

3) Choose a winning name for your business.

When choosing a business name, there are two things to consider; the business name's marketing potential and its legal elements. The link above will take you to the information you need to choose the best possible business name for your new business when you're starting a small business in Canada.

4) Choose a form of business ownership.

There are only four basic forms of business ownership you can choose to legally structure your business when you're starting a business in Canada, the sole proprietorship, the partnership, the corporation and the cooperative. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of each of the forms of business ownership

5) Register your business name.

Business name registration is a legal requirement for almost all businesses in Canada. Follow the link above to find out whether or not you have to register your new business's name and learn all the details about business name registration for new businesses in Canada.

6) Find small business financing.

While many new small businesses are financed out of their owners' pockets, many others need an infusion of funds from other sources to get off the ground. This page presents the main small business financing options for financing a new business in Canada

If you are interested in finding a grant to start your business, The Truth About Small Business Grants in Canada is a must read.

7) Get a business license.

While not necessary for all businesses, many new businesses will need to get business licenses before they can operate legally within their municipalities. If your city or town doesn't have a website, you can find the information in the blue pages of your phone book.

You may also need other licenses and permits depending on what kind of business you're starting. Industry Canada's BizPaL is a really useful tool for finding out what permits and licenses you'll need to do business. Available in most provinces and territories, BizPaL will provide a personalized list of the business documents you need for all levels of government.

8) Register for the Goods and Services Tax/ Harmonized Sales Tax (GST/HST).

If your new small business's gross income exceeds $30,000, you will have to register for GST/HST. (Note that this Small Supplier exemption doesn't apply to all businesses: taxi and limousine services, for instance, always have to register for GST/HST.)

If you start operating your small business as a Small Supplier but find that it does make more than the $30,000 limit, When Do I Need to Register for the GST/HST? explains the Canada Revenue Agency's registration rules.

Even if you're not making much money to start, though, you may want to register for GST/HST immediately because of Input Tax Credits, which are basically your way of getting back the GST/HST your business has paid out on purchases for business use.

For more information on the GST/HST, visit Answers to Common GST/HST Questions and/or the GST/HST library.

9) Register for Provincial Sales Tax (PST).

Some provinces have not harmonized their sales taxes with the federal goods and services tax (GST) and in those provinces, you will also have to register to collect and remit the appropriate provincial tax.

If you are starting a business in Manitoba, Saskatchewan or British Columbia, you will need to register as a collector of provincial sales tax (PST). If you are starting a business in Quebec, you will need to register for Quebec Sales Tax (QST).


Also, How to Invoice With PST includes an invoice sample that you may find useful.

10) Prepare to have employees.

When you're starting a business, hiring employees may be the furthest thing from your mind, but it's amazing how quickly a business can grow.

Get ready to do payroll with my Guide to Canadian Payroll Deductions which includes direct links to Canada Revenue Agency resources such as the Payroll Deductions Online Calculator.

Once you have employees, your business will probably need to register with the Worker's Compensation Board in your province.  Guide To Workers' Compensation Insurance explains who has to register for Workers' Compensation insurance and how to register.

Find out more about hiring employees, employment standards, E.I. and other employee issues in my Human Resources Management Library.

11) Buy other kinds of business insurance.

Protect your new business by making sure that you have the kinds of business insurance you need. Do You Have The Business Insurance You Need? explains what property, liability, business interruption, key people, and disability insurance are. 

Learn about home-based business insurance and how to save money on the cost of business insurance in general in Home-Based Business Insurance.

12) Get your business records off to a good start.

If you keep good records from the first moment you open your business, things such as accounting and paying taxes become so much easier. The first thing you have to do is open a business account. Here are the best business bank accounts for small businesses in Canada. Then get your business records off to a good start with 7 Ways to Make Record Management Easy and 7 Ways to Control Chaos in Your Small Business.

Want to know more about accounting and/or bookkeeping? See these accounting and bookkeeping Resources:

Learn how to set up filing systems and handle receipts with these Data Management articles. Find out more about business expenses and tax deductions in this collection of articles on Small Business Tax Deductions.

13) Marketing your business

“What do you need to start a business? Three simple things: know your product better than anyone, know your customer, and have a burning desire to succeed.”  –Dave Thomas, Founder, Wendy’s

Best of luck in your new venture!