Starting a business in British Columbia begins with deciding on your legal structure and then registering with various levels of government, industry associations and possibly other networks. There are multiple permits and applications to consider as you move forward.
Prior to applying for financing for any business venture the legal and regulatory paperwork must be in place. You must legally be in business, or ready to start your business activities with all required documentation in place.
Steps to Register Your Business:
1. Business Name Application — You must register your business name with the BC Registrar of Companies if you are going to operate under a business name as a sole proprietorship, a partnership or a limited company (corporation).
2. Choose Your Business Name — You do not need to register the business if you are “doing business as” your name with no words added (restrictions apply to manufacturing, mining and telecommunications businesses). Be sure to list three choices for your business name on your application. If your first choice is approved, the registry will not search the other two.
A business name must have three parts:
- a distinctive element (e.g. “Golden”)
- a descriptive element, (e.g. “Jewelery Designs”)
- a corporate designation (if incorporated, e.g. Ltd., Inc., Limited)
Once your business name has been approved, you’ll have 56 calendar days to complete the business registration procedure. If you don’t, you’ll have to start the business name approval process all over again (and pay again). The Name Approval Request costs $30, and the form must be mailed to the Corporate Registry Office with payment.
3. Register a BC Sole Proprietorship or (General or Limited) Partnership — To register a sole proprietorship or partnership you must fill out a Declaration for Proprietorship or Partnership Registration Form and submit your declaration and fee ($40 for proprietorships and general partnerships) by mail or online by using OneStop Business Registration.
To complete your registration you need:
- your name approval request number
- your approved business name
- the start date of your business
- a physical street address in BC
4. Register a BC Corporation (Limited Company) — Many entrepreneurs require the assistance of a lawyer, or notary public, and accountant to set up a BC Corporation. For a BC Incorporation registration you are required to have:
- your approved Business Name (and name approval number)
- an Incorporation Agreement
- the company’s Articles of Incorporation
- to file a BC Incorporation Application (can be downloaded from BC Corporate Registry).
The filing of the Incorporation Application online costs $388.68. This fee does not include additional costs associated with obtaining an Incorporation Agreement or Articles of Incorporation.
There are things to do once your certificate of incorporation has been received and they are:
- Purchase a corporate minute book
- Purchase a corporate seal
- Complete corporate by-laws, organizational minutes and issue shares
- Set up a corporate bank account
5. Municipal Permits and Zoning Requirements — This research would have formed some of your early opinion on whether your business was feasible. Now that you have a registered business name you can apply for a local business license and make the changes necessary to your property so that your business location meets the zoning requirements according to the particular bylaws of the municipality or regional district where you will be operating. For a list of those contacts, refer to the links in the Tools & Resources section of our website.
6. Obtain a Business Number (BN) — Once you have registered your business you must obtain a Business Number (BN) if any of these scenarios apply to you:
- remitting corporate income tax (if incorporated)
- importing / exporting (if applicable to your business)
- remitting employee payroll deductions (this does not apply if you are a sole proprietor with no staff)
- remitting GST collected on sales and claiming GST credits
To obtain your Business Number quickly, use the OneStop Business Registration site.
7. Apply for Worker’s Compensation in British Columbia (WorkSafeBC) — Generally, registration is mandatory if you:
- Employ and pay people on a regular, casual or contract basis
- Hire someone to work in and around your home
- Come from another province or country to work in BC
- Work as a commercial fisherman
- Work in the trucking industry
Optional registration for some firms and individuals that don’t meet the criteria for mandatory registration includes:
- Partners, proprietors and spouses of proprietors, who can apply for personal optional protection
- Individuals or firms that don’t need to be registered but opt for voluntary coverage
Find out more from the WorkSafeBC website. We strongly advise you to contact the local WorkSafe Employer Advisor at 604-870-5492 if you’re unsure as to whether you should have this coverage. The onus is on the business owner to have proper coverage.
8. Apply for other business related licenses, industry memberships and/or permits — Your business venture may require one or more permits or licenses to operate your business. These may be obtained from federal, provincial or municipal licensing bodies and/or industry associations.
There are some helpful business guides on the Canada Business Network website including:
- Starting a Beauty Salon
- Starting a Convenience Store
- Starting a Consulting Business
- Starting an Early Childhood Centre
- Starting a Restaurant
9. Insurance, risk management and legal contracts
- Are you aware of the major risks associated with your product? Service? Business?
- Can you minimize any of these major risks?
- Are you required by your business licensees to carry liability insurance of a certain type? Do you have the background and experience to qualify for this type of insurance?
- Can you (or a lawyer) create the legal contracts required for performing your business or selling your products?
- Can these risks bankrupt you?
10. Set up your bookkeeping and corporate records system
- Have you planned a system of records that will keep track of your income and expenses, what you owe people, and what other people owe you? Consider attending our regularly offered Recordkeeping Basics workshop if you’re uncertain.
- Have you worked out a way to keep track of your inventory so that you will always have enough on hand for your customers, but not more than you need?
- Have you figured out how to keep your payroll records and take care of tax reports and payments?
- Do you have an accountant or professional bookkeeper who will help you with your records and financial statements?
11. Set up your business communications system — Consider establishing a dedicated business phone line (especially if you have children and are operating a home-based business) and a unique email address that identifies your business. Register your domain name for your new website. You can check to see if the domain name is available by going to Canadian Web Hosting or www.Internic.ca. There is more information on 21st century communications in the next subsection.
12. Open a business bank account (arrange for financing, if required) — Set up a separate business bank account. Use it to deposit your cheques and pay all business related expenses. If you qualify for a line of credit or overdraft, attach it to this account. Apply for a credit card in your own name, and use only it for business transactions. This is an easy way to track and record business expenses.
13. Design your management and human resources management strategy. These are just some key ways to successfully lead an organization:
- Create the business culture — don’t leave it to your employees or to accident.
- Give the employees a goal to be motivated for and about — you cannot lead without one.
- Delegate authority as well as responsibility — empowered employees can make decisions without consulting the boss.
- Set a positive example in the way that you respond to and talk about customers and in the way that you treat employees.
14. Finalize your business plan (find out more in the next section) — If you are seeking financing or trying to attract business partners you will need a properly crafted business plan. The process of writing a business plan could take between 3 weeks and a year (or more) depending on the complexity of the research and type of business venture. A business plan outline and templated forms are included in our Writing a Business Plan section.