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. That is 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.

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 days to complete the business registration procedure. If you don't, you'll have to start the business name approval process all over again. The Name Approval Request costs $30, and can be completed online, or in person, at any Front Counter BC location, or at the Corporate Registry Office.

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/$165 for limited partnerships) either in person, 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) - Most 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).

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 to the right.

6. Obtain a Business Number (BN) - Once you have registered your business you must obtain a Business Number (BN or GST number) for the purposes of:

  • corporate income
  • import/export
  • employee payroll deductions
  • to claim GST credits (optional if your business is not expected to exceed $30,000)

To obtain your Business Number quickly you must go in person to the Canada Revenue Agency office in Vancouver or Surrey. Call Canada Revenue Agency toll free at 1-800-959-5525 or apply to for your BN on the CRA online website (2-3 week waiting period).

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.

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. Check out your trade association websites and publications for membership information.

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, 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?
  • 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 - Hook up 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. Not only will you build your credit record, it's an easy way to track and record business expenses. Credit will cover the gap between sending an invoice and receiving payments.

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 the example the way you respond to and talk about customers and in the way 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.


- Business Start-Ups -

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