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Starting your own small business

The following are the 13 basic steps most new small businesses need to take before they can begin operating in British Columbia.

1. Make sure running a small business is right for you

It takes time, commitment, a good idea, the right personality, and business skills to start and run a small business successfully.

Listed below are websites that can help you to evaluate and test your idea for a new small business as well as valuable information about finding or generating new business opportunities.

2. Decide on a business structure

Most small businesses are operated as either a:

  • Sole proprietorship, where you are the only employee (i.e. you are self-employed);
  • General partnership, where you join with one or more partners;
  • Corporation (also known as a limited company).

Listed below are websites that discuss the pros and cons of each business type:

For information on other business structures, such as societies, visit
BC Corporate Societies and Cooperative Associations

Corporations Canada also provides extensive information on corporations, including the benefits of federal incorporation if you want to expand your business to other provinces.

If you are not sure which business structure will be best for your business, talk to a lawyer and an accountant to find out what each type requires, both legally and financially.

3. Develop a business plan

A business plan is a written document that details what your business will do, how it will operate, and establishes your business goals. Financial institutions may review your business plan and make lending decisions based on the information you provide. It also helps you make sure, even if you do not need outside money, that you really are ready to launch your new business.

Listed below are a few websites to assist with the development of your Business Plan:

4. Secure financing and business insurance

For your new small business to succeed, you need to have enough money to cover business start-up costs and daily operating expenses. If you do not have enough money for start-up through family, friends, loans or lines of credit, you may need to consider outside sources of financing. Click here to read more about Small Business financing.

The Federal and Provincial Government have funding resources available to assist small businesses. Please visit the following sites to explore your options:

Below is a list of Financial Institutions that may be able to help you with your financing needs:

Business Insurance
Obtaining insurance for your business protects you against liability in case of robbery, fire, flood, and any other type of damage.  Find an insurance agent that specializes in insuring small businesses and shop around to find a rate which suits your needs.

5. Choose a business name and have it registered

If you want to use a business name that is anything other than your personal name, you will need to have your business name approved by, and then registered online with BC Registry Services or OneStop Business Registry.

Business names must have both a distinctive and a descriptive element, like “ABC” (distinctive element) “Manufacturing” (descriptive element). You must add a corporate designation, such as “Ltd.” if you are planning to incorporate your business. It is a good idea to have a first, second and third choice for your business name, just in case the name you want is not available. You can do some preliminary research for potential conflicts by looking through telephone listings, business directories, or you can research the name at BC Registry Services -  Research Name Choices.

Once your business name is approved, it will be reserved for 56 calendar days. Within these 56 days, you must register your business with BC Registry Services.

Protecting your business name
The names of sole proprietorships and general partnerships are not protected by law, which means someone else could decide to use the same name. Only incorporated businesses have that protection.  If protecting your business name is important to you, you may want to incorporate your business. You will need to apply online using Corporate Online and choose File an Incorporation Application. For information about applying for federal incorporation, visit Corporations Canada.

6. Register your business

If your business is a sole proprietorship or general partnership, you can register it quickly and easily online using BC Registry. You will need a Visa, MasterCard or American Express to complete and pay for this transaction online.

Over-the-counter payments to register (using cash, debit card or cheque) are accepted at Service BC Centres. Call 1 800 663-7867 to find the location nearest you.

If you decide you want to incorporate, you must file an Incorporation Application with BC Registry Services and for detailed information on the application process; or to apply online visit Corporate Online, and choose File an Incorporation Application.

7. e-Business/ Internet Marketing

You may want to use the Internet to sell or market your goods or services. If you do, you will need to develop a web presence and secure a domain name (a name that will identify your Internet website). You can research whether the domain name you want is available, and buy the rights to that name.

There are many private web design companies to assist in your website development and maintenance. You can find listings by searching website design in the or online.

8. Register for the GST

For more information on opening a GST account, visit the Canada Revenue Agency website, or call toll free at 1-800-959-5525.

9. Register for the PST

 The provincial sales tax (PST) system, which is a retail service tax that is payable when a taxable good or service is acquired for personal or business use, unless a specific exemption applies. The PST generally applies to the purchase or lease of new and used goods in B.C., such as software, accommodation, legal services, telecommunication services and services to goods such as vehicle maintenance, furniture assembly, and computer repair.

For more information on the return to PST, and to register, visit the Government of Canada website, or call toll free at 1-877-388-4440.

10. Complete other registrations

There will be other registrations you need to complete other provincial, federal or local government requirements. For example:

  • Workers Compensation Plan - If you plan to hire employees or have established your new business as a corporation you will need to register with WorkSafeBC and pay WorkSafeBC insurance premiums. This will ensure you and your workers are covered in case of work-related injury or disease. If you are self-employed, you may also want to apply for WorkSafeBC’s Personal Optional Protection. To register or find out more, visit Worksafe BC
  • Payroll Information - If you are hiring employees and you are paying salary, wages, bonuses, vacation pay or tips to your employees or providing a benefit to your employees such as board and lodging you will need to register with the Canada Revenue Agency for a payroll deductions account. This account will enable you to make the required Income Tax, Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Employment Insurance (EI) payments. For more about payroll deduction accounts, visit BC Business Registry or Canada Revenue Agency Payroll information
  • Corporations - If your business is incorporated, or you are a non-resident corporation operating in Canada, you will need to register for a Corporate Income Tax account with the Canada Revenue Agency.
  • Import/Export Goods - If you are going to import or export goods, you will need to register with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). Visit the CBSA site to see the requirements for your specific situation. Business Registry.
  • Restaurant Liquor Licence - If you have a restaurant and the service of food, as opposed to liquor, is the primary focus of your business, you can apply for the Restaurant (Food-Primary) Liquor Licence through the BC Registries.  For more information about a Restaurant (Food-Primary) Liquor Licence, visit BC Liquor Control and Licensing.

If you need to change your business address through the OneStop Business Address Change Service, or plan to access other government e-services regularly, you will need a business BCeID. A BCeID is an online service that makes it possible for you to use one login ID and password to sign in securely to any BCeID participating provincial government website. You can apply for a business BCeID through the OneStop Business Registry, click on step 3. For a complete list of government e-services that use BCeID, visit the Online Service Directory
Your business may require a local government business licence to operate. Please check with your local government or First Nation to find out about licence and zoning requirements in your area. You can check the BC BizPaL search to find any local business permits or licences that may be required in your area of BC.

Not made up your mind about import/exports yet? For more information about importing and exporting, go check out the Import/Export Guide available through the Ministry of Small Business, Technology and Economic Development.

This guide introduces you to the places and people who can help you decide whether import/export is right for you, and how you can best set up your business to enter the exciting world of international trade.

11. Additional business registrations and requirements

There may be other registrations and requirements needed for your business. Listed below are links for you to investigate:

  • Business Records  - Whether you are hiring employees or working on your own, you are required by law to keep complete records of your new business’ income and expenses. Click here to view the Canada Revenue Agency’s web page for all business records you must keep. It is also recommended you contact a qualified accountant to help you set up and maintain proper business records and accounts. It is also a good idea to talk to a lawyer for advice about any legal issues that may affect your small business.​
  • Employment Standards Branch, Ministry of Labour  - The Employment Standards Act and Employment Standards Regulation apply to most workplaces in British Columbia and cover such important issues as required wage rates, vacations and overtime rules. If you are planning to hire employees, you should be familiar with this information. ​
  • SkilledTradesBC - SkilledTradesBC is a provincial government agency responsible for governing and developing the industry training system in British Columbia. If you are planning to hire apprentices to work in your new business, you may need to be registered with the SkilledTradesBC.
  • Canada Revenue Agency  - If your business is either a sole proprietorship or general partnership, you must report your share of gross and net profits (or losses) on your individual tax return (T1). If your business is an incorporated company, you must file a corporation tax return (T2) within six months after the end of the corporation’s fiscal period.​
  • Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) - Patents, copyrights and trademarks are all ways by which businesses protect their intellectual property, including business ideas and inventions, designs, symbols and products. Industry Canada’s Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) offers a series of guides that explain how to register your business’ patents, copyrights and trademarks.

12. Identify permit and licensing requirements

BizPaL is a user-friendly online tool to help you quickly and easily identify the permits and licences needed to conduct your business activities. By answering a series of simple questions, you can generate a printable list of the permits and licences you may require from various levels of government, along with general information on each permit and licence, and contacts and links for more information.

13. Integrate sustainable business practices

Ensuring your business operates in the most environmentally-sustainable manner is not only good for the environment, but also reduces costs, increases efficiency, and helps your company develop a strong reputation in the community. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions can also create future business opportunities such as providing cleaner energy sources, more efficient products, and other alternative technologies.

Many actions that companies can take to reduce emissions are common to most organizations and are cost-effective – especially if integrated at the start-up phase of business development. Examples include increasing energy efficiency by making smart equipment choices, diversifying energy consumption with renewable energy, and adopting minimal packaging standards. By integrating sustainable practices into your business plan from the beginning, you can ensure your business operates in the most efficient and environmentally-friendly manner possible.

14. Check out other useful resources



Government of Canada
Pacific Economic Diversification Canada
Societe de developpement economique
Pour obtenir le service en français appeler 1-877-732-3534


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