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Starting a Business in British Columbia

A Set-By-Step Guide for Entrepreneurs

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British Columbia

British Columbia, Canada’s westernmost province, is defined by its Pacific coastline and mountain ranges.

The coastline of British Columbia is more than 17,000 miles long. The capital city of BC is Victoria, located on Vancouver Island. BC was named by Queen Victoria, in reference to the Columbia District of the region and the word British was chosen to differentiate it from the Columbia District in the U.S.

  • Small business makes up 98 per cent of all business in the province and employs over one million people.
  • Small business provides nearly 56 per cent of all private-sector jobs in British Columbia, the highest rate in the country.
  • There are approximately 385,100 small businesses operating in the province

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STEPS TO STARTING YOUR BRITISH COLUMBIA BUSINESS

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Step 1: Make Sure Running a Small Business is Right for You

The Small Business BC website provides direction on how to evaluate and test your idea for a new small business.

  • To get started, see their “how to” guide on evaluating your business concept.
  • The Business Plan Checklist makes sure you’ve completed your research and thought through your idea.

Focus on your skills, experience and passion. Go with what you already know or don’t mind learning fast. Evaluate business-lifestyle fit and test your idea.

Step 2: Understand Business Structures

You will need to decide what type of business structure you want. A sole proprietorship, registering a partnership, incorporating your business, or amalgamating corporations each have pros and cons. Find out which is best for you.

Read an information sheet
Small Business BC

There are other business structures, such as societies, franchises and cooperatives to consider:

British Columbia is home to a diverse range of not-for-profit organizations – also known as societies. Learn more

The Province wants to make sure that franchisees have access to the information they need to help make well informed decisions before purchasing a franchise. That’s why we have created a suite of materials to help inform your decision. Learn more

Step 3: Develop a Business Plan

You’ve no doubt heard the expression, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Many entrepreneurs write a business plan only when they need to secure start-up financing. However, your plan is far more than a document for banks and investors to read; it’s an invaluable roadmap for launching and growing your business. Your business plan is vital for success and financing. It’s your roadmap: your goals, strategies, target market, financial forecast, and much more.

Download a template
Small Business BC

Step 4: Secure Your Financing

Every business will need working capital in order to pay for start up expenses and in order to operate until the business is profitable. Many people keep their jobs while they are starting their own business. That way, there’s a guaranteed income to help them while they’re starting out.

You can also consider getting funded by friends and family, or look for sources of business loans. Contact Sharpshooter Funding to find out what type of loans you qualify for.

For information about government financing, go to:

Step 5: Choose a Business Name and Have it Approved

It’s 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 similar publications. You can also search for existing names on the BC Registry Services to see if the name you’ve selected has already been registered.

Choosing a business name is important, you want to make it easier for your customers to remember it, here are some tips:

  1. Avoid hard-to-spell names.
  2. Don’t pick a name that could be limiting as your business grows.
  3. Conduct a thorough Internet search.
  4. Search and register a domain name
  5. Use a name that conveys some meaning.
  6. Conduct a trademark search.

For database business name search in Canada and other resources go to :

https://www.canada.ca/en/services/business/start/choosing-a-business-name-2.html

You can download the Name Approval Request form. The form also includes guidelines for choosing a name.

The form is also available and can be processed at most OneStop locations. To find the OneStop location nearest you, call 1 877 822-6727.

Step 6: Register Your Business

Register your business to prepare for various aspects of operations, such as web domain, taxes, employees, and trade.

Before you can start operating under a business the proper paperwork needs to be filed, unless you are operating under your exact legal name. The name you choose needs to be unique from all other businesses.

If your business is a sole proprietorship or general partnership, you can register it quickly and easily with the Province of British Columbia online using the OneStop Business Registration Service.

If you decide you want to incorporate, you must file an Incorporation Application with BC Registry Services. See the registry’s website for detailed information on the application process.

You will need to register your business. You may also need to obtain a Business Number, GST/HST Account, or other tax related accounts with the Canada Revenue Agency. Click here for more information


Step 7: Secure Your Online Presence

In today’s world it is almost essential for a business to have an online presence, whether through company listings, social media or a company website.

Creating a website for your business is no longer the expensive and time-consuming activity it used to be; plenty of templates exist in which you can simply input your business information and publish. In addition to a website, you should also consider other avenues for promoting your business online:

Step 8: Register for Provincial Sales Tax (PST)

PST is a retail sales tax that applies when a taxable good or service is purchased, acquired or brought into British Columbia, unless a specific exemption applies. This means that if you sell or lease taxable goods or services, or provide accommodation, in British Columbia, you may be required to register with the Ministry of Finance to charge and collect PST. To find out more about PST and how to register, go to the Ministry website.

Register for Municipal and Regional District Tax (MRDT). If you provide accommodation in certain areas of the province, you may also be required to charge MRDT on the purchase price of accommodation. The MRDT is currently collected in over 50 municipalities throughout the province and is used to fund tour ism marketing for the local area. To find out more about the MRDT, see the PST on Accommodation Bulletin (PST 120) (PDF).

Step 9: Register for Goods and Services Tax (GST)

If you sell or provide 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, go to the OneStop Business Registry.

Step 10: Complete Other Registrations

You may also need to complete other provincial, federal or local government registrations. The registrations that follow can be completed through the OneStop Business Registry.

Other Laws

You can find copies of all B.C. laws at: www.bclaws.ca. You can purchase official print versions of B.C. Statutes and Regulations by calling 250 387-6409 or e-mailing BC.Laws@gov.bc.ca.

The new Tribunal Small Claims Regulation under the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act – the tribunal has jurisdiction to resolve a claim that is less than or equal to an amount prescribed by regulation as the maximum tribunal small claim amount.

Step 11: Investigate Additional Business Registrations and Requirements

You may need to consider additional registrations or requirements before you open your small business.

Step 12: Identify Permit and Licensing Requirements

BizPaL is a free, online tool to streamline your business permit and licensing experience. The step-by-step process generates a customized list of permits and licenses you may need from all levels of government in order to operate or open a business. By using BizPaL, entrepreneurs minimize the time spent searching for permits and licences from about seven hours to 20 minutes. BizPaL reduces red tape and makes your interactions with all levels of government simpler and straight forward.

Step 13: Get Support

In British Columbia entrepreneurs are fortunate that so much support exists to help them launch and grow a successful business.

Joining a local business group or networking group is a great way to access experienced entrepreneurs, as well as to find potential clients. Here are some organizations you might consider joining:

Step 14: Check Out Other Useful Resources

In addition to Small Business BC and the OneStop Business Registry, there are a number of other places where small business owners can look for new business opportunities, practical advice and helpful services.

Including:

Indigenous Entrepreneurs

Aboriginal Business Entrepreneurship and Skills Training (BEST) Program

Tel: 250 352-3878

E-mail: aboriginalbest@shaw.ca

All Nations Trust Company (ANTCO)

Toll Free: 1 800 663-2959

First Citizens Fund

Toll Free: 1 800 880-1022

E-mail: ABRInfo@gov.bc.ca

Young Entrepreneurs

Futurpreneur Canada

Tel: 604 673-9967

Toll Free: 1 800 464-2923

Women Entrepreneurs

Women’s Enterprise Centre

Tel: 1 800 643-7014

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