How to go about starting your own business in Canada

Small and medium-sized enterprises, otherwise known as SME's, are the engine and vital component of the Canadian economy and account for two-thirds of private sector jobs. The Canadian government is very supportive of small businesses and has created favourable economic decisions that help businesses stay afloat in the globalised markets. For immigrants, immigration represents the start of a new phase of life and many times these new lives mean the opening of a business.

Usually business comes with its own unique challenges and costs, from franchises to opening a retail shop, the costs of monthly rent, finding staff and other expense can be overwhelming and risky, but that’s where Canada is different from the rest of the world as entrepreneurs are encouraged to pursue their business dreams. Canada offers opportunities for entrepreneurs such as economic growth, a supportive tax environment, and access to funding unlike in other countries.

Have a winning business idea

The first step to owning a successful business is presenting a winning business idea or plan, as this will attract investors and aid you in obtaining financial assistance from banks or lending institutions. A business plan is a detailed document that explains everything about the business to make sure it stays on track, from business name, to location, competitors, employees and forecasted income.

Registering the business

The process of registering a business may vary from province to province depending on where you want to set up the business. For some businesses you may be asked to register for provincial taxes and permits.

For tax issues, you will need to acquire a Business Number (BN) that is provided by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and this will be your tax ID. It is a 9 digit number that acts as an identifier when dealing with issues with the provincial, federal, and local governments.

You will also be required to register with the Labours Compensations Board as you will be responsible for employee issues such as payroll obligations, and labour laws.


Man working figures on a calculator

As stated earlier, your business plan should give you an idea of costs such as shipping, rent, workers’ wages, and taxes. Depending on the nature of your visa, you may need to get financial assistance from government departments.

There are two forms of financiers of small businesses in Canada, private finance and government finance. For private sector financing, there are banks, credit unions and cooperatives, many of these may lend money depending on the type of business and profitability forecast.

For government financing, the Canadian government has been known to provide financial help to entrepreneurs to start small businesses. Some of this financing is however, targeted at certain demographic groups and industry sectors while some of it is available to a wider profile. These finances include grants, and contributions, which are generally not repaid, and loans and loans guarantees, which have to be repaid.

These are basically the three main steps to take when starting a new business in Canada, especially for new immigrants who intend on establishing one to take note of.