How to Start a Business in Ontario

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Opening your own business can be a daunting, but for those starting a business in Ontario, Canada, the process is made easier by the many resources available to entrepreneurs. For example, you can request the assistance of an experienced business consultant with the Small Business Enterprise Centre, which has chapters throughout Ontario. You can also glean valuable information from the start-up business guide provided online by the Ministry of Government Services.

Decide whether you want to start your own business, purchase an existing business that is for sale, or sign up with a franchise. If you're not sure how to get started or if you need help once you get started, contact your local Small Business Enterprise Centre to arrange a meeting with a consultant.

Outline your business plan, addressing such important topics as how you will finance the startup the projected growth of your business, how you will attract customers, and if the need unfortunately should arise, your planned exit strategy. If you need assistance with writing your business plan, get in touch with a Small Business Enterprise Centre in your community.

Conduct an Enhanced Business Name Search at Ontario.ca to see if your company name is available or is already being used in the province. Ontario charges a fee for each name that you search, and the search only includes the names of businesses that are not incorporated.

Decide which business form will best fit your needs. Ontario has four legal business forms: sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation and co-operative.

Apply for a Master Business License, if your name is available. It is proof that you have registered your business name in Ontario, and you will receive a new MBL every time you renew your business name.

Apply for a Business Number, also commonly known as the BN, if you are required to do so. You will be required to have a BN if your business will need a payroll account, a Goods and Services Tax (GST) or Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) account, a corporate income tax account, or an import and export account.

Obtain a business license if applicable. Those businesses that are required to apply for a business license include car rental agencies, driving schools, beauty salons, employment agencies and private lenders.

Advertise and market your new business once you've completed all of the legal requirements. Send press releases to publications like "Canadian Business Magazine," "CanadaOne" and "Northern Ontario Business" announcing your business launch.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you want to continue using your business name, you must renew it every five years. Business names can be registered or renewed online, by going to your local ServiceOntario Centre or by filling out and mailing the registration form. If applicable, you can apply for a Business Number online or by phone at 1-800-959-5525. To determine if your business is required to obtain a business license to operate legally in Ontario, call 1-888-576-4444.

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