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How to Start a Business in British Columbia

How to Start a Business in British Columbia
January 24, 2023

So, you’re an entrepreneur looking to get your business up and running in beautiful British Columbia. We don’t blame you. It’s a great place to live and do business.

Starting a small business in British Columbia is an attractive option for many entrepreneurs. Located in the Pacific Northwest of North America, British Columbia offers small businesses a range of amenities that can help get them off the ground. For instance, it has low-cost energy options, access to world-class talent from leading universities, and a thriving small-biz community—just to name a few benefits. Although its lush forests and breathtaking mountain ranges provide excellent physical scenery, its small business dedication is ideal for providing aspiring small-business owners with the right tools to succeed. Add in BC's free trade agreements with China, Japan, Korea and Colombia as well as rich cultural diversity and you have all the ingredients for successful small business growth and expansion.

But what’s involved in getting your business started? In this article, we’ll give a high-level overview of what you’ll need to consider and what you’ll need to do in order to make your first sale in B.C.

Understanding and choosing a business structure

For most small businesses, the two business structures to consider are a sole proprietorship or corporation. There are technically more routes you could go down, but for the vast majority of cases, a sole proprietorship or corporation will be your best bets. It’ll be important for you to take the time to understand the differences between the two so you can choose the one that best suits your company needs.

Sole proprietorships are cheaper and easier to set up and require less complex accounting. But you’re also personally liable when it comes to business-related debts or if you’re sued. With corporations, on the other hand, they’re more expensive to set up and cost more in accounting but offer owners increased protection from liabilities.

Which one you choose will depend largely on what your business does and how much you want to be protected from it. For example, a portrait photographer might be totally fine running a business as a sole proprietorship, but a caterer will likely want to incorporate because their line of work opens them up to more legal liability.  

Choosing the right name and getting it approved

Choosing your business name is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a new business owner. It’s also one of the hardest. Take your time and make sure you settle on something you are happy with.

Once you’ve chosen your name, you’ll have to get it approved by BC Registry Services who will make sure it isn’t already under use by another company in the province. This process can take a few days to a few weeks. Once you have your name approved, it’ll be reserved for 56 days. You’ll have to re-approve your name if you haven’t registered your business before the 56 days are over.

Registering your BC business and getting provincial and federal tax numbers

If your name’s been approved, you’re free to register your business. For a sole proprietorship you can get everything sorted directly on the BC Registry Services site. For incorporating, you’ll need to file an incorporation application with BC Registry Services. They are both straightforward processes and shouldn’t take more than an hour or two to complete.

When you’ve received official notification that your business has been registered, you’re now free to get your provincial and federal tax numbers, which you’ll need in order to legally make sales in BC. You’ll also need the numbers so you can file your taxes. You can sign up for your tax number through BC’s online business tax portal.

Opening a BC business bank account

 If you’re a sole proprietor and you bill your clients under your own name, you won’t necessarily need a separate business bank account. Your business income can come through your personal chequing accounts.

However, if you operate under a registered business name or decided to incorporate, then you’ll need to open a business bank account before making your first sale. Choose a bank or credit union that has the best rates and services for your needs and open an account with them. You can now officially put out the “open” sign to your business.

Marketing your BC business

 We could write a whole section on small business marketing. But for brevity’s sake, we’ll just say this: it’s important. You can have the best product in the world, but if nobody knows about it or you can’t tell a compelling story about it, your chances of succeeding are slim.  

To start, Small Business BC has a great small business marketing and sales resource site. We also have  guides for paid media and SEO optimization that can be useful tools forgetting your marketing plan dialed in.

BC small business support and grants

Starting a small business can be overwhelming. When you’re in the middle of the business-opening cyclone, it’s easy to forget that there are a lot of great resources out there for new entrepreneurs.

The WorkBC website has some excellent tools for business owners operating in British Columbia, including panning resources, support services, and info on permits and licensing. Small Business BC also has a large catalog of helpful information that covers many useful topics from opening to running a business and everything in between.

When it comes to grants, most small businesses will have difficulty getting them. However, if you’ve started a business in an area that the BC or Canadian government wants to promote, grants are completely possible. You can look through the list of Canadian government small business grants to see if you are eligible for any of them. For BC-specific grants, you can refer to the Innovate BC website in order to see if your business could qualify for funding.

Considering financing options in BC

 Great. You’re all set up to run your business. You’re aware of the resources available to you and you’ve done the research on what grants that you can apply for. That’s the first big step out of the way. But here’s the thing about almost any new business: you’ll probably need more money. Especially in the beginning.

You can get loans from large banks, though these usually require a strong credit history and/or extensive business experience, both of which can be hard to show as a fledgling entrepreneur.

Fortunately, there are also other options. Alternative lenders look into more than just your credit score; they also take into account how long you've been in business and your current cash flow history. They can also make the funds you require available in as little as 24 hours and directly transfer them into your business bank account--assuming you can satisfy a few simple requirements. Repayment terms can be modified to fit your unique circumstances.

British Columbia is a great place to be an entrepreneur. The province offers a favourable business climate, with access to markets, talent, and capital. However, small business owners know that having access to working capital can make running the business that much easier. That's where Driven comes in. We offer BC small business loans that can help you to grow your business and achieve success. Our loans are designed to meet the needs of small businesses, and we offer flexible repayment terms to suit your cash flow.

While there are many options available for obtaining funding for your business, there are some important factors that you need to consider before making a decision on a business lender. 

So there you have it! A comprehensive guide on how to get your business up and running in beautiful British Columbia. And if you need help with funding, be sure to check out Driven — we’re happy to give you a hand. Best of luck in all your entrepreneurial endeavours! 

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