How To Start A Business In BC – British Columbia

Launching a business can be an exhilarating venture that many entrepreneurs find highly rewarding.

At first, it may take a lot of work to figure out exactly what needs to be done. The information available may only provide part of the picture and is usually targeted toward US businesses, leaving British Columbians searching for sources.

Business owners frequently regret not knowing certain information before embarking on their venture. Planning would have been easier had these specific details been known in advance.

Aspiring business owners will find this comprehensive and actionable guide helpful as they embark on their entrepreneurial journey in British Columbia.

  1. Start with an idea
  2. Create a business plan
  3. Register your business
  4. Put your BAIL team in place
  5. Find a suitable location
  6. Secure financing
  7. Promote your business

 START WITH AN IDEAS

Every business starts with an idea. Some ideas bloom immediately, while others require time to germinate and take root before finally becoming reality. Your idea is the seed for your company; nurture it and give it room to flourish.

After three years, when your business has become too difficult, and your motivation for running it has wained, it can be beneficial to look back to its roots – the original idea or problem it set out to address – to bring yourself back on track and bring renewed purpose into your work life.

Understand Your Unique Selling Proposition

As your plan takes shape, you need to pinpoint what sets it apart from similar endeavors. That may already be part of the concept; don’t frame it this way!

As you conduct more research into your idea, you may realize it needs to be more original – other businesses may have come out ahead in timing – yet you still find something special about your idea to make it stand out.

Your unique selling proposition is what sets you apart from competitors. Your grocery store stands out because of what sets it apart: high-end goods, natural foods, or perhaps 80’s themed!

Identify Your Values

Successful businesses understand that customers are drawn to products and services and their shared values. This understanding can lead to “social signaling,” where companies leverage an ongoing movement or trend without seeming tone-deaf (like Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi ad, for example).

Start by outlining your core values and making them part of your business’s foundation. Your values will guide which business opportunities you pursue or decline and may force you to make difficult choices when there might be easier paths available to you.

Even though it might appear detrimental to business growth in the short term, outlining and acting upon your core values from day one will prove invaluable in the long run.

Choosing Your Business Name

Selecting a business name is undoubtedly one of the hardest steps you’ll have to take for your new enterprise. You may have begun contemplating possible names as soon as you had an idea for one; sometimes, ideas come before naming schemes, and sometimes, they go with them!

No doubt naming your business can be a lengthy and arduous process; here are some ideas on finding one you will like:

  1. Research, research, and more research: Know what’s out there, what is available, and which names your competitors use. Check the BC Registry link in this section and domain availability to ensure the name you want is still available.
  2. Use a name generator: this can get you going quickly and help you find something suitable.
  3. Think outside the box: be creative. Don’t simply consider your business in terms of its literal manifestation; consider all possible associations and symbolic interpretations.
  4. Document your process: Even if it seems silly or unnecessary, write it down to be sure you remember.
  5. As you narrow your list, perform informal user tests to see which names stand out and uncover any that contain unexpected benefits or drawbacks you had yet to consider earlier. There may even be something good or bad in one or more that wasn’t on your radar at the start.

Your business name will become part of you over time; make sure it reflects who you are while lasting long into the future.

CREATE A BUSINESS PLAN

After selecting your business name, it is time to start planning its development. A business plan serves many functions; one such use could be using it when seeking funding, yet more could include it within its plan as an actionable document.

Your business plan should serve as an important tool in helping you reflect deeply on your business, the direction it should go in, and any opportunities or obstacles it faces. Your plan provides the blueprint for its success.

As your initial idea provides you with an anchor to rely upon during stormy waters, so will your business plan help navigate you safely through all its ups and downs.

Business plans come in all forms and sizes; each business will dictate exactly which components it must include in its business plan. But generally speaking, there are six key components.

Executive Summary

An executive summary is a one-page document that sets the scene for your reader. It binds together your entire business plan by summarizing its successive sections and painting an accurate picture for readers to follow. Because this step usually comes last in writing your plan, here are some tips on crafting an impressive executive summary:

  1. Tell a tale. What has your business achieved thus far, and where are its goals heading? In your executive summary, your goal should be to be as concise and detailed in describing this tale as possible so your reader can know where you came from, where it’s headed, and how it plans on arriving there.
  2. Your opening and closing sentences must make an impressionable first impression and encourage readers to turn the page. While every sentence in an executive summary should be important, the opening and closing lines play a particularly vital role.
  3. Write compellingly. Effective writing requires clear writing that helps readers visualize what you are discussing. From mission-driven language to specific examples that punctuate what’s being discussed, ensure enough details are included to paint an accurate picture without overwhelming your reader.

Industry Outlook

Understanding your market is paramount to its success regardless of the stage of your business journey. In the industry outlook section of your business plan, outline trends and global players as well as direct competitors within that particular field of industry.

Understanding customer expectations and opportunities for differentiation allows you to become an authoritative figure within the industry.

Here are the key points you should include in your industry (or competitive) outlook section:

  1. Industry and Description: When writing to someone unfamiliar with your industry, explain it so they can understand it easily. Avoid industry jargon and unpack terms and acronyms so they are clear for novice readers.
  2. Industry Trends and Major Players’ Activities: Target Market (who and where is my target audience located?): What does the local market for your products or services look like, and Is there demand?
  3. Key Competitors: Who will your immediate competitors compete for customers’ attention? Conduct a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis to identify opportunities to set yourself apart.

Marketing

Writing your business plan should demonstrate that you’ve considered how you will reach your audience.

As we will cover in more depth later in this article, you must outline your marketing strategy and its components when creating your business plan. Here’s what to include:

  1. Goals and Objectives: As in our business overview section, goals represent your desired end state, while objectives provide how they will be accomplished. When considering your marketing goals, think in terms of metrics: the number of customers to bring on board or product to sell – then break your goals down into tasks you can accomplish (increase website traffic, email subscribers, social media followers, or improve engagement rates…).
  2. Marketing Personas: Marketing personas are fictional representations of your ideal customers that enable you to easily identify specific challenges your customers are experiencing that you provide solutions for and create a journey leading up to the purchase decision.
  3. Channels: what channels are you going to be using?
    1. Blogging
    2. Social media (Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest…)
    3. Email (regular e-newsletter, drip campaigns, etc.)
    4. PR
    5. Ads (social media ads, Google ads, radio/TV/newspaper ads…)
  4. Budget: Setting a monthly advertising spend budget will enable you to monitor how effectively your tactics perform, giving you more control over their use and spending.

Operations

What does your day-to-day business entail? Include everything from customer experience to what goes on behind the scenes to ensure a pleasant customer journey.

  1. Business Operations: How is your business managed, starting with opening hours and the processes governing day-to-day activities?
  2. Organization Overview: Attractively showcase your managers in terms of experience and job description.
  3. Personnel/Staffing: which positions will need to be filled?
  4. Suppliers and Agencies: Which suppliers and agencies will you require in order to support your organization?

Financial Statements

As part of your business plan, the final step will be creating financial projections for the next five years.

As you’re just getting your business underway, there will be little historical data to guide your projections. Therefore, working with a Business Banking Advisor can be helpful as they have tools, resources, and experience that can bring you closer to reaching your targets.

Otherwise, try your best to estimate them based on your knowledge of the industry and expectations for your own business.

  1. Sales Forecast: Outline how much product you expect to move.
  2. Budget Your Expenses: Compile all anticipated expenses.
  3. Cash flow: the total sum that enters and exits your business every month, which helps determine its liquidity or the total cash available to it.
  4. Gross Margin: When creating your sales forecast, subtract the costs associated with goods sold from your total. This will provide your projected gross margin.
  5. Operating income: To determine your operating income, subtract all operational expenses from your gross margin.
  6. Balance sheet: Create a comprehensive accounting of your company’s assets and liabilities on an asset and liability sheet.
  7. The break-even point is calculated using Fixed Costs/Contribution Margin (Contribution Margin = Product Price minus Variable Costs).

 How to Register a Business in BC

Once you’ve selected a name, it’s time to register your business. BizPaL provides this helpful list of registrations and permits you will require for registrations and permit applications.

But we will still go over most of the steps here. If you are a sole proprietor or partnership, OneStep Business Registration Service makes registering your business easy and fast.

Register Your Business Name

Once you’ve chosen a form of business ownership, register it in British Columbia through BC Registry Services.

Assuming you’re operating as a sole proprietor or partnership, setting up your business should be straightforward: make sure the name you want to use is available, complete the necessary forms, pay the appropriate fees, and you’re done!

Corporations require an entirely different process when registering their business name, requiring a name search, NUANS report, Articles of Incorporation, cover letter, and an incorporation application with payment of applicable fees.

Once registered in BC, your business will receive its unique Business Identification Number (BIN).

Get A Business License

Your business must obtain a business license from the city where it operates and resides, so be sure to visit their website for details such as application process and costs.

  • Duncan
  • Ladysmith
  • Lake Cowichan
  • Nanaimo
  • North Cowichan
  • Victoria

Business licenses must be renewed every year, and, if serving food and alcohol, an annual food license and health operating permit from the province.

Register For GST/HST And PST

GST/HST

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a 5% federal tax levied on most Canadian products and services. If your business has a gross annual income exceeding $30,000, registration for GST and Harmonized Sales Tax must occur.

Even if your annual revenue is at most $30k, registering and collecting GST/HST could bring some benefits, specifically in input tax credits.

Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) was implemented by provinces that did not choose to merge their provincial sales taxes with GST, such as British Columbia in 2010. HST became effective in 2013 when BC switched to GST plus PST (Provincial Sales Tax).

PST

PST applies to purchases including:

  1. software
  2. services to goods such as vehicle maintenance, furniture assembly, computer repair
  3. accommodation
  4. legal services
  5. Services provided include Internet services as well as certain digital and electronic media content such as music videos.

You’ll get your business number once you register for GST/PST.

PUT YOUR BAIL TEAM IN PLACE

As your business plan outlines, your success depends heavily on collaborating with partners, suppliers, agencies, and consultants – none more so than your BAIL team: banking, accounting, insurance, and legal.

Banking

Banking services play a pivotal role in the success of your business, not simply opening a chequing account (though this remains important). Your banking advisor should serve as an experienced partner who will assist in growing it further; they’ll implement recommendations from your accountant and connect you to merchant, payroll, and payment services necessary for financial transactions.

Your banking advisor will also connect you with the borrowing solutions you may require to expand your business and investment options to take it to the next level.

Accounting

Whether you use a bookkeeper, accounting firm, or CPA on staff to help manage and organize your cash flow or have one on staff as a part of their accounting team, their expertise will go far beyond organizing and monitoring cash flow. Thanks to their knowledge of tax law complexities, they’re there to build financial strategies, navigate legal structures, and prevent overpaying taxes.

Even as a sole proprietor, investing in an accountant is a worthwhile decision as it will help relieve stress related to managing finances and making sound decisions for your books.

Companies typically face more intricate tax implications that require professional help in understanding. Instead of getting bogged down in deciphering tax codes yourself, hiring a CPA freed up more time for running the business than deciphering them yourself.

Insurance

No matter the size or scope of your company, insurance provides peace of mind, so no matter what happens, you can be sure your standard of living will remain uncompromised.

Any business has inherent risks that it must manage, whether relying solely on computer technology to get work done or running an office space in an urban center with lots of foot traffic around.

Your insurance broker can help identify risks to your business and offer solutions that will mitigate them, giving you peace of mind knowing you can do your job knowing your future is safe.

Legal

Legal experts should be included as one of the four pillars of your BAIL team and should be recruited prior to starting your business. Don’t wait until legal issues arise to consult one; having legal experts on board will cover several essential details, including:

  1. Make sure your business is legally compliant by securing all required licenses and permits.
  2. Protecting business assets such as trademarks and registered marks requires diligent management.
  3. Legal documents must be created for business agreements like contracts, privacy policies, and service terms.
  4. Your attorney will provide information regarding any legal requirements that must be fulfilled, such as anti-spam legislation (CASL, GDPR, and accessibility…)

FIND A SUITABLE LOCATION

Location can make all the difference for any business, especially early stages. Even if it means choosing an imperfect spot, such as an abandoned warehouse or warehouse complex, your decision can influence other decisions you’ll make later on – many businesses have transformed such places into welcoming environments that enhance customer experiences.

Successful businesses understand that location matters and have learned to maximize it for maximum impact. 

Here are a few factors you’ll want to keep in mind when choosing an ideal site:

Inventory

Are You Needing Inventory on Site? If that is the case, how much and how much space will be necessary?

Customers

Will Your Customers Visit Your Storefront? What Size Space Will Be Needed, and Will There be Accessible Parking Space? Creating the illusion of space can make for an exceptional customer experience; even in small stores, it is vital that customers feel as if there is plenty of room.

Workforce

How many employees will you employ, and what kind of space do they require to perform effectively? Do they need desks, privacy to take customer calls, etc? Will separate offices be necessary? And finally, where will physical records and similar items be stored?

As part of your efforts to ensure employee safety (and comfort), especially at the start and finish of each workday.

Packing and Shipping

Are You Shipping Products to Customers? Depending on Your Needs, It May Be Necessary To Consider An Alternative Space

Home Office

DependingDepending upon your operations, workforce, shipping needs, and nature of business, as well as home conditions, you can run an entirely home-based operation. 

Here are a few tips on creating a home office:

  1. Establish a physical workspace. Setting aside an area specifically dedicated to work will help shift your mindset and ease the transition from being at home to being in an office environment. It could be as simple as setting aside a table at home where you work!
  2. Establish (and adhere to) office hours. Although some entrepreneurs struggle to remain focused all day at home, for many, the problem lies elsewhere: difficulty leaving work at the end of each day has an adverse impact on work-life balance. One advantage of working from home is choosing work hours that best suit you – make your choice and stick with it!
  3. Be mindful when planning meetings: will they involve clients, customers, or suppliers, and will they take place over the phone or video chat? Make sure your appearance at meetings is professional: having a laundry hamper in the background might not create the image you seek, while calling into meetings from noisy rooms does not facilitate productive discussion.
  4. Claim home expenses. Remember that claiming expenses is easier if you work from home when your workspace is dedicated exclusively to business. Furthermore, internet and cell phone bills and other expenses used while working are eligible to claim as part of your expenses. Consult your accountant on what can and cannot be claimed when working from home.

Consider these questions when determining where your location should be so you can identify your needs and maximize its potential to create a unique and unforgettable experience for customers, clients, and suppliers.

SECURE FINANCING

Now is the time to consider how you will fund your venture. When starting up a new business, profit may take time; therefore, you must focus on getting it off the ground without worrying whether the funds are there or not.

When looking at your financing options, there are generally four categories:

  1. Bootstrapping
  2. Investors
  3. Loans
  4. Grants

Bootstrapping

Financing an enterprise is the simplest form of funding, allowing you to assume all risks while remaining fully in control. This type of financing, commonly referred to as bootstrapping, poses many unique challenges when growing on a shoestring budget, but it can lead to incredible successes!

As a bootstrapped company, your resources may be scarce: people, resources, budget, and time can never be enough, yet you still possess passion, grit, and determination to see it through to profit generation. Therefore, bootstrapped companies should maintain low overhead expenses and focus on making profits quickly.

There are three main ways you can get initial seed funding while bootstrapping:

  1. Your savings
  2. Friends and family (sometimes referred to as patient capital)
  3. Crowdfunding

Growing a bootstrapped business can often be more of an endurance race: taking time and perseverance to reach profitability will become the focus of financing your venture.

Investors

Enlisting investors as funders is an alternative way to raise your business’s capital. While investors pose less personal risk, they typically require some form of exchange control over your company via shares and board membership.

Additionally, you’ll have access to significantly more capital at the start of your business venture.

Investors want to see quick returns, faster than they would get by bootstrapping their company, which means looking for startups with clear vision and plans to invest.

There are two main investor types:

  1. Venture capitalists. Venture capitalists are members of firms that make money by investing in startups, quickly growing them, and selling them off at higher-than-anticipated returns. Venture capitalists tend to gravitate toward industries like software, tech, and media for investment purposes.
  2. Angel Investors. Angel investors, like venture capitalists, seek a return by investing in startups. Like their venture capital counterparts, angel investors may also have an affinity for an industry they wish to see flourish (Dragon’s Den is an excellent representation of how angel investors make decisions).

Since venture capitalists and angel investors invest in your company’s success, they often provide resources and mentorship opportunities.

Grants

Imagine getting free money from the government. Sound too good to be true? Think again – billions in federal and provincial grants are made available annually for small businesses to apply for.

Most business owners need to be aware of these opportunities, and those who become aware find the application process daunting and fail to submit applications – leaving an impressive portion of grants unutilized and possibly leaving free money behind.

There are grants available if you belong to an underrepresented minority group, as well as grants for financing research and development or accessing international markets. Furthermore, grants exist for hiring purposes, training courses, or education purposes.

Want to send your staff to a conference? There may be grants available. Looking to hire and pay interns? There may even be grants available! Providing more training employees for employees may qualify you for funding opportunities – there could even be grants out there waiting to help!

Similar to government grants, startup incubators and accelerators can also provide funding and develop your business.

Small Business Loans

A loan may also provide another viable source of financing for your small business.

Your best option here is to work closely with a financial institution that will help you find a loan tailored specifically to you.

Here are some options available to you:

  1. Small business loan
  2. Line of credit
  3. Credit card

How can you start? Connect with a Business Banking Advisor near your area to discuss options and present your plan.

PROMOTE YOUR BUSINESS

Now is the time to build awareness for your business and convert that exposure into customers. There are a variety of marketing methods, and here are three of them you should focus on, with another emerging technique showing promising signs:

  1. Digital Marketing
  2. Event marketing
  3. Traditional Marketing
  4. Influencer marketing

Digital Marketing

Digital technology has revolutionized marketing. It presents both excitement and challenges; each day presents something new.

Digital marketing stands out as an innovative method, allowing you to test different tactics at no or minimal costs and track results throughout the campaign life cycle. Here are the channels you will be employing:

  1. Content marketing
  2. Digital ads (Google Ads, Facebook Ads, etc.)
  3. Social media
  4. Email marketing

Event Marketing

Event marketing is another effective method of expanding your business by placing you directly in front of your target market.

At events, you can showcase your expertise, introduce your product or service, and build relationships within your industry or with those interested.

You can create, sponsor, or just present at events. Here are the different types of events you can explore:

  1. Conferences
  2. Trade shows
  3. Seminars
  4. Networking events
  5. Product launches
  6. VIP events
  7. Job fairs
  8. Awards and galas

Traditional Marketing

Just because everything has moved online doesn’t mean traditional marketing channels have no value; they can still bring significant advantages when used properly.

Digital marketing excels at reaching niche segments; traditional marketing relies more on mass advertising to reach its target market, so making an impression statement with any mass advertisements you run is vital to its success.

Here are the traditional marketing channels:

  1. Newspaper
  2. Magazines
  3. Radio
  4. Television

You can take advantage of earned and paid media channels in two ways: earned media and paid media.

Paid media refers to advertising spots such as billboards near freeways or full-page magazine advertisements. When considering paid media as a form of promotion, research publications so your money reaches its intended market.

Earned media refers to articles or stories featuring your business or when someone interviews you for expertise-sharing purposes. Generating earned media opportunities that promote and highlight the positive aspects of your organization is typically handled by public relations teams–or, at this stage, you alone!

Influencer Marketing

Over the last several years, we’ve witnessed an explosion of influencers. Influencers range from celebrities such as Cristiano Ronaldo to unknown individuals with large followings on social media; micro-influencers fall under this umbrella term.

And then you have everything in between.

Influencer marketing allows businesses to reach audiences by employing influential spokespeople they trust and know well.

Influencers will share sponsored content, discounts, affiliate links, contests, and giveaways on your behalf or serve as brand ambassadors to represent and discuss your business. When getting started with influencer marketing, there are three primary questions you need to ask:

  1. What are your goals?
  2. Who are you trying to reach (what’s your audience)?
  3. Is the influencer a good fit with your brand?

Influencer marketing combines word of mouth, social proof, and celebrity endorsements – three powerful methods for expanding an audience.

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