Thinking about starting a business in BC but don't know where to begin? Start with our FAQs:
- How do I register my business?
- Do I need to register a business?
- How do I decide what business structure is right for my business?
- How can I switch from a partnership to a proprietorship?
- What is the difference between federal and provincial incorporation?
- How can I protect my business name?
- How do I register my society or non-profit?
- How can I switch from a proprietorship to a corporation?
- What kind of business licensing do I need?
- How can I finance my business?
- How do you write a business plan?
- Where do I find the regulations for my business?
- How do I close/dissolve my business?
- How do I change my business name or address?
- Where can I look for good business ideas?
- Where can I find free resources for statistical information for Canada or BC?
- What do I need to do before I hire my first employee?
- Can I start a business in BC if I’m not a Canadian citizen, or permanent resident?
Registering a business in BC is relatively straightforward, but first you need to decide if your company structure will be a proprietorship, partnership or corporation.
Once you’ve settled on a company structure, the first step of registering your business is name reservation. You can apply for up to three names on one application, and you should thoroughly research your name choices before submitting your application. Research your name choices at www.bcregistrynames.gov.bc.ca/nro.
Once you have researched your name choices you can submit the name reservation application by proceeding to Step 3 on www.bcregistrynames.gov.bc.ca/nro. Alternatively, you can print the name request application form and submit it through the Small Business BC office or mail it directly to the Corporate Registry with payment.
- You can submit the form online for a fee of $31.58 payable by MasterCard or Visa.
- You can submit the form though the Small Business BC office for a fee of $50 +GST payable by cash, debit, MasterCard or Visa.
- You can mail the form directly to the Corporate Registry for a fee of $30 payable by cheque or money order.
The processing time varies depending on how you submit your application. If you submit it online or in-person, processing time is approx. 5–8 business days, and if you are mailing the application it usually takes an additional week.
Once your business name has been processed and approved, you can file the business registration application.
To register a proprietorship or partnership in BC:
- You can submit the registration online at www.bcbusinessregistry.ca for a fee of $40. Processing time will take approximately 15 minutes.
- You can submit your registration in-person at Small Business BC with the assistance of a business officer for a fee of $99 +GST. Processing time will is the same as when submitting on your own online, but you’ll also get a one-on-one consultation with a business officer.
- You can submit a paper copy of registration form by mail directly to the Corporate Registry for a fee of $40. Processing time will take approximately 2 weeks.
To register a provincial corporation in BC:
- You must submit the application online at www.corporateonline.gov.bc.ca for a fee of $351.58. Processing time is instant, but paper copies of your incorporation certificate and original application will be mailed to you.
- If you do not wish to submit the application online, you will then need to contact a lawyer to do it for you.
Once you have successfully registered your company you may now apply for any additional licenses and permits your business requires, such as a business license, a business number, or PST and GST. Visit www.bcbizpal.ca for a detailed listing.
- Starting Your Business Checklist
- Starting Your Corporation Checklist
- Information on Registration of Proprietorship
- Information on Registration of a Partnership
- Steps to Incorporating a Company in British Columbia
As an individual, you don't need to register a business name – you can always conduct business under your personal name.
Registration of a business as either a sole proprietorship or partnership does have certain benefits though. Business names are useful for marketing purposes, and also allow you to accept and make payments with your bank under a business name.
The simple answer to this question is “it depends.”
What business structure you choose will depend on many factors and there are no simple rules for selecting which will be right for your business. Some questions to consider include:
- How many people are involved with the business?
- Are there outside investors?
- Do you have any personal assets you wish to keep separate from the business?
- Do you want to limit your liability?
- How much profit is the business expected to generate?
- How much do you wish as a salary?
- Will you be re-investing profits in the business, or do you want to take all profits as personal salary?
- What is your budget for registration?
- Are you prepared to pay the additional accounting fees required by corporations?
You have to investigate the different options and decide what makes the most sense for your business. An accountant and a lawyer can help you make an informed decision.
Changing from partnership to proprietorship requires a new business registration. This includes resubmitting a business name request, as well as a new registration (see: How do I register my business?). You must also submit a dissolution form (see: How do I close/dissolve my business?).
Federal incorporation gives your business increased business name protection and wider rights to conduct on business. You may also opt for federal incorporation if you plan on conducting operations in multiple provinces.
The downsides to federal incorporation are extra paperwork, and additional costs to register the federal entity in every province where you conduct physical operations.
For more info please see Corporations Canada Frequently Asked Questions.
You have two options to protect a business name:
- Register the business as a corporation. You can either register your corporation at the provincial level (see: How do I register my business?) or at the federal level. If the corporation is a provincial corporation, the name will only be protected at the provincial level. If the corporation is a federal corporation, the name will be protected at the national level.
- Register the business name as a trademark. For more information on trademarking, visit www.cipo.ic.gc.ca.
Societies (also known as non-profit organizations) are registered under the Society Act of BC.
If you wish to register a Society, the first step is a name approval much as you would for a for-profit business (see: How do I register my business?). Societies should have the designation "Society" or "Association" or "Foundation" in their name.
The next step is to read through the information available on the BC Registry Services website at www.bcregistryservices.gov.bc.ca/bcreg/corppg/reg20.page and complete the remaining five steps required to incorporate the society.
You can’t switch from a proprietorship to a corporation because they are different legal structures. A proprietorship is simply an individual operating under a registered business name or under their legally given name, whereas a corporation is a separate legal entity from the individual who owns the business, and is in turn owned by its shareholder(s).
A sole proprietor can choose to incorporate (see: How do I register my business?) at any time and can subsequently dissolve their registered proprietorship (see: How do I close/dissolve my business?), or keep it on record while operating their business under as corporation.
Most municipalities in British Columbia require you to obtain a business licence, which gives you permission to operate your business on your premises (whether in your home or in a commercial space) within that municipality.
In some instances, you may be required to obtain a licence in municipalities where you do not maintain premises but do carry on business.
Contact your local city hall – as well as the city hall in each community where you’re doing business – to see which permits (including mobile business licences) might be required for your type of business.
Please note that additional federal, provincial, and/or municipal regulations may apply to your particular business. Consult the appropriate authority or visit www.bizpal.ca for more information.
One reason that small businesses fail is because they undercapitalize their business, so it’s important to know how much money you will actually need to start and to run your business until you reach your break-even point – the point when your sales revenue equals your total expenses.
Your financing options will vary depending on how much you need to borrow. You can begin investigating your options here:
- Canada Small Business Financing Program
- Industry Canada – Find Money for Your Business
- Vancity Business Loans
Specialized financing options:
- CYBF Start-up Financing (for entrepreneurs aged 18-39)
- Women’s Enterprise Centre Business Loans (for business with 51% female ownership)
- Community Futures Loans (for entrepreneurs in rural communities)
- BDC Equipment Line (for equipment purchases)
A business plan will have eight key sections, including:
- Executive Summary
- Identify Opportunities
- Market Research
- Marketing and Sales
- Your Team
- Financial Forecasts
- Implementation Plan
Business plan templates:
- Scotia Plan Writer
- CYBF Business Plan Writer
- Business Development Bank of Canada Templates
Your first stop should be www.bizpal.ca to find out what licenses and permits may be required to operate your business in your municipality.
If you’ve registered your business and you decide to close it, you’ll have to file a dissolution notice with the Corporate Registry. The form you fill out and the associated costs will depend on your business type:
For a proprietorship, you will need to complete the Dissolution or Change of Proprietorship Registration form. Sections A, B, C (including registration number), D and H must be filled out (in duplicate), and the form must be mailed directly to the Corporate Registry. There is no cost to dissolve a sole proprietorship.
For a partnership, you will need to complete the Dissolution or Change of Partnership Registration form. Sections A, B, C (including registration number), D and H must be filled out (in duplicate) and the form must be mailed directly to the Corporate Registry. There is no cost to dissolve a partnership.
For a corporation, you must file an Application for (Voluntary) Dissolution. This application must be submitted online, and the cost is $20. Once completed, you must also contact the Canada Revenue Agency to close your Corporate Tax Account (proof of dissolution must be provided). You will also have to file a final corporate tax return for the corporation.
- How to Exit Your Business: Your Legal Requirements
- How to Exit Your Business: The Financial Implications
If you need to change your business name or address, you’ll have to file a dissolution notice with the Corporate Registry. The form you fill out and the associated costs will depend on your business type:
To change the address of a proprietorship, you will need to complete the Dissolution or Change of Proprietorship Registration form. Sections A, B, C (including registration number), D and H must be filled out (in duplicate), and the form must be mailed directly to the Corporate Registry. There is no cost to change the address of a sole proprietorship.
To change the name of a proprietorship, a new name request (see: How do I register my business?) must first be approved before you submit the Dissolution or Change of Proprietorship Registration form. Sections A, B, C (including registration number), F and H must be filled out (in duplicate) and the form must be mailed directly to the Corporate Registry. There is a $40 fee to change the name of a proprietorship.
To change the address of a partnership, you will need to complete the Dissolution or Change of Partnership Registration form. Sections A, B, C (including registration number), G and H must be filled out (in duplicate) and the form must be mailed directly to the Corporate Registry. There is no cost to change the address of a partnership.
To change the name of partnership, a new name request (see: How do I register my business?) must first be approved before you submit the Dissolution or Change of Partnership Registration form. Sections A, B, C (including registration number), F and H must be filled out (in duplicate) and the form must be mailed directly to the Corporate Registry. There is a $40 fee required to change the name of a partnership.
To change the address of a corporation, you must file a Notice of Change of Address online (paper forms are not accepted). There is a $20 fee to change the address of a corporation.
To change the name of a corporation, a new name request (see: How do I register my business?) must first be approved before you submit a Notice of Alteration. There is a $100 fee to change the name of corporation.
If you have narrowed down the industry in which you’d like to start a business, reading related book, periodicals and blogs can help you generate ideas. If you haven’t narrowed down your industry yet, you can follow BC Business and Business in Vancouver to identify local business trends. You can check out trendhunter.com and trendwatching.com for emerging global trends, as well as springwise.com, the Business Opportunities Weblog and Entrepreneur magazine’s Annual 100 Brilliant Ideas list for business ideas.
The Small Business BC library and bookstore also have a number of resources available for you to investigate possible business ideas.
Once you have an idea for a business, you can do a preliminary assessment of its feasibility using Small Business BC’s Evaluate Your Business Idea handout.
Statistics are important if you are thinking of starting a business. Getting an outside view of the market you plan to enter is essential for improving your chances of business success. A good resource for this type of information is the Market Research Resource Guide. This guide has links to Statistics Canada, BC Stats, and Industry Canada for statistics on specific industries.
You can find information about employment regulatory issues through the Employment Standards Branch (toll free: 1-800-663-3316). They provide hiring and firing guidelines, information about minimum wage, vacation entitlement, break schedules, overtime, and much more.
It is mandatory that you register for WorkSafeBC coverage for your employees (toll-free: 1-888-922-2768). WorkSafeBC coverage protects employees who are injured on the job, and the premiums are employer paid.
You will also need to set up a payroll deduction account under your Business Number with Canada Revenue Agency (toll-free: 1-800-959-5525). A payroll deduction account is where you – the employer – deposit all the E.I., CPP and income tax deductions you collect from payroll.
The actual hiring process is very important – you don’t want to make costly hiring mistakes. If a new hire does turn out to be a poor fit, it’s in the best interest of both you and the new employee to terminate.
Here are the basic steps for hiring a new employee:
- Determine your needs – Do you need an admin assistant? A salesperson? A marketing manager? A social media guru?
- Write a detailed job description
- Post the job where you think you’ll attract the best possible candidates
- Shortlist the applicants
- Interview the applicants
- Select the successful candidate
- Onboard your new employee with training and orientation
You may want to have an employment recruiting or temp agency help you with this process.
Yes, but there are legal and tax requirements for non-Canadians starting a business in BC.
Non-residents are permitted to own a corporation in BC, but you must have a physical address for your business in BC – a post office box is not enough. You’ll also have to follow all of the usual legal requirements for starting a business.
Extraprovinical (aka “branch office” or “foreign office”) registration information can be found here: www.corporateonline.gov.bc.ca/WebHelp/whskin_tw.htm#overview_xp.htm
As an entrepreneur generating revenue in Canada, you will have to submit a tax return on any Canadian revenues generated. To do this you will need to set up an account with Canada Revenue Agency when registering your Corporation in BC.
Always check with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) in Vancouver to confirm what kind of permit you will need to enter the country. If you plan to work on your business in Canada, you will also have to contact CIC to obtain "working status." If you’re a student and want to start a business while studying, you will have to apply to CIC for a special modified study permit to work on your business.
Please note that a working permit doesn’t enable you to become a Canadian Citizen. If you want to be a Canadian Citizen, you will have to apply to CIC for citizenship status.