How to Start a Small Home-Based Business in Ontario

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Register your home-based business with the Ontario government online.
Register your home-based business with the Ontario government online. (Image: computer keyboard image by forca from Fotolia.com)

Every year, thousands of Ontario residents start a small business and many of them choose to operate their new enterprise from home. Home-based businesses are economical—and how can you beat a morning commute down your hallway? While you won't have to secure and pay for an off-site location for your business, many of the other steps are universal to all businesses starting in the province.

Research your business ideas to determine their viability. Consider such things as potential competition, growth opportunities, marketing needs and start-up costs. The bottom line: is your product or service something people will want to buy?

Determine if your business ideas and your home are suitable for a home-based operation. You must be able to designate an area of your house or apartment for business activities. Check with your municipality to find out if the zoning of your home will permit the business activities you're proposing.

Decide whether you will operate your business as a sole proprietor or a corporation. Most small businesses start as a sole proprietorship to reduce costs and red tape, but incorporating your business protects your personal assets in case your business fails. If you incorporate your business, you will need to seek the advice of a lawyer and accountant and follow separate steps with the federal government to incorporate (see Resources).

Brainstorm business names. A business name is not required if you will be operating your business under your first and last name, but it certainly helps with marketing and branding. Business names should not be confusing or misleading. Choose carefully—you will be using this name well into the future. It's a good idea to have a short list of a few names in case one or two of your favorites are already in use.

Develop a business plan. The plan should include details about your product or service, day-to-day operations of your business, why it will be successful and projections of income and expenses. The Canada-Ontario Business Service Centre offers links to business plan templates and samples (see Resources).

Register your business with the Ontario government. As part of this process, you will do a name search to confirm that the business name you chose is available. You can register your business quickly and conveniently online, including paying for the name search and registration (see Resources).

Register your business with the Canada Revenue Agency for the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) if you will be making more than $30,000 a year (see Resources).

Check with your insurance broker to determine whether you need additional insurance to cover your home-based business activities.

Register with the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) if you will be hiring employees or wish to have coverage for yourself as a business owner. For more information, see the Resources.

Consult your municipality to determine if your business requires a municipal license. Most businesses that can be operated from your home don't require a license, but it is wise to check.

Tips & Warnings

  • Visit your local Small Business Enterprise Center (SBEC) for access to resources, computers and specific business expertise. An SBEC consultant can help you develop your business plan and review it when it's complete.
  • Beware of home-based business opportunities advertised by others that sound too good to be true. Be on the lookout for warning signs such as inflated promises of compensation and requests for up-front investment in the scheme. Contact the federal Competition Bureau for more information at 1-800-348-5358.

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