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How to build your business in Canada

By Maria Montemayor

Posted on February 22, 2021

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As an immigrant, permanent resident, or Canadian citizen one of your goals might be to run your own company in Canada. Maybe you have an entrepreneurial spirit. Maybe you don’t enjoy working for an employer. Perhaps you have a brilliant business idea that you want to bring to life. If you feel like running a company is your calling, there are several steps you can take to achieve that goal.

Brainstorm and research ideas

In order to launch a successful company, you have to have a good business idea. Take note of your skills, conduct market research, examine trends, and think of ways to enhance existing products or offer something new to the market. Attend entrepreneurial and business events where you can meet like-minded individuals. Find a mentor, someone who can help you further develop your idea and keep you accountable to your goals.

Create a business plan

Once you have developed your idea, you should start writing a business plan. A well-developed plan is clear, precise, thorough, and easy to review. Investors, lenders, and bankers should be able to see how you will organize, manage, and grow your new company.

Resources for creating a business plan:

Choose and register your business name

Select a memorable name that summarizes and reflects your brand. If you decide to register as the sole proprietor of your company and are operating it under your legal name, you do not need to register your business name. In any other case (partnership or corporation), you’ll have to register your business name.

Look at financing options

In terms of financing, adults can apply for funding from government funding programs, while teenagers and young adults can apply for specific grants or loans. Another option is to apply for CBC’s “Dragons’ Den”, a Canadian TV show where Canadians pitch their business ideas to Dragons (investors), and the Dragons decide whether or not they want to invest in them (offer capital).

Obtain business licenses and permits

You may need to obtain municipal, federal, or provincial licenses or permits for your company. You can check out BizPal for a list of documents you will need for your business.

Register for a GST/HST account

Unless your business’ gross earnings stay under $30,000, you will need to register for a goods and services tax (GST) and harmonized sales tax (HST) account. If you don’t register, your company will incur tax penalties for not filing GST/HST returns.

Open a business bank account

A business chequing account can help you manage and keep track of your company expenses and deal with any tax or legal issues.

Promote your business

Lastly, once your business is up and running—you’ve done all the paperwork, received financial support, purchased business insurance, and hired employees (if necessary)—all you have left to do is promote it! Develop and put your marketing plan to action and promote your company across social media channels and other forms of advertisement.
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Apply for the Start-up Visa Program (for immigrants only)

If you would like to start a company in Canada but are not yet a permanent resident or Canadian citizen, you can immigrate to Canada through the Start-up Visa Program. The Start-up Visa Program is for innovative immigrant entrepreneurs with the skills and potential to build businesses in Canada. The business must be able to create jobs for Canadians and compete globally.

In order to apply for the program, the immigrant must:

  • Get a letter of support from a designated organization — convincingly pitch your idea to one or more venture capital funds, angel investor groups, or business incubators.
  • Have a qualifying business — you should have over 10 per cent voting rights as well as joint voting rights of over 50 per cent with the designated organization. Once you are a permanent resident, you need to manage your company, run essential business operations, and incorporate the business in Canada.
  • Meet the language requirements — take a language test from an approved agency and achieve the minimum Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) requirements for the listening, reading, speaking, and writing components in either English or French.
  • Bring enough money to settle — provide proof that you have the money to support yourself and your dependants. (The minimum amount required is nearly $13, 000 CAD for one family member. This amount is updated every year.)
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