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You have a great idea and are interested in starting your own business. What’s holding you back? You’re not sure how to get your business off the ground.
Well, you’re in luck. We’ve taken some of the guesswork out of starting a small business in Canada with this handy dandy guide. Take a look at these 8 steps to starting your own business.
1. Vet your business idea
You’ve already come up with a great idea for a business – well, at least you (and maybe your mom) think it’s a great idea. But, before you start your company, it’s imperative that your idea either fills a void in a particular industry or improves upon what’s already out there.
If you’re planning to start a service-related business, like an accounting firm or a graphic design agency, it’s equally important that you have experience in this field and have a plan in place to attract clients.
So, how do you determine whether your idea is viable? Besides understanding who your prospective customers are, it’s equally important (if not more) to test your idea. How do you this?
Perhaps send a survey to 10-20 people asking what they think about your business and whether they would buy your products or enlist your services. If you are considering manufacturing a product, you can even make a prototype and send it to a small group of prospective customers to get feedback.
But perhaps this is the most important takeaway: before you invest heavily in your new company, determine whether there is enough demand for your business idea, says Karen Cahn, CEO of iFundWomen, a global crowdfunding platform for women-led startups.
In addition to its crowdfunding platform, iFundWomen helps entrepreneurs achieve success through expert coaching services, access to pitch competitions with investors, a private community to collaborate, and more.
Unlike what you may have heard about supply and demand business principles, iFundWomen encourages its entrepreneurs to test out their ideas and generate demand before investing in supply. This is one of the best ways for early-stage entrepreneurs to gauge interest in a new business concept, says Cahn.
2. Come up with a plan
Once you feel confident you’ve got a winning business idea, it’s time to put pen to paper – or fingers to the keyboard – and create a business plan.
Whereas this isn’t always necessary, a roadmap can help you understand your startup costs, marketing budget, growth expenses, and future financing needs. With this in mind, if you should decide to apply for a business loan, lenders may want to see your business plan as part of your application process.
Be prepared to make changes to your business plan after you launch your company and begin to generate revenue.
3. Pick a business name (and make sure it’s not taken already)
This step goes hand-in-hand with steps #1 and #2. In fact, you may want to tackle these three steps together.
Your business name should be catchy and memorable. It also should be legally structured properly.
The four main types of businesses in Canada are:
- sole proprietorships
Depending on your legal structure and what province you’re located in, you may need to register your business name.
Because there may be different registration procedures depending on your province, it’s important to do your research ahead of time and figure out exactly what you need to do when selecting a name and business structure.
Along these lines, you’ll want to make sure you can get a domain name as well. Even if you are not planning to run a solely online business, you’ll likely need an Internet presence as this is often how your customers will find their way to you.
With that said, you may want to start searching on the Internet yourself to make sure you can secure a domain name that reflects your business name.
4. Get a business number
In Canada, you will need to apply for a business number (BN), which is a nine-digit account number that identifies your company to federal, provincial, and territorial governments.
This singular number allows you to open different types of business accounts for tasks like paying taxes, handling your payroll, and paying for imports and exports.
You can get a business number through the Canadian Revenue Agency.
5. Secure a business license
While a business license may not be required, it’s important to do your research and find out whether you need one to legally operate within your territory. You can usually find this out by heading to your city hall or municipality website.
While you’re at it, find out if you need any other types of permits for starting your own business. You can learn more about this with a quick check on Canada’s BizPal, a free online resource for permits and licenses across Canada.
6. Seek small business financing
Although you may be bootstrapping your new company, you may also recognize the need for more funding to help you hire employees, pay for your marketing costs, order inventory, and/or lease an office or equipment.
There are many funding options available for entrepreneurs, including various types of small business loans, borrowing from friends and relatives, and crowdfunding.
To help you figure out what type of loan or other type of financing is best for you, take a look at this guide from the experts at LendingArch.
7. Assemble a team
In many cases your initial business team may be me, myself and I.
All kidding aside, if you do need to hire anyone or bring on any independent contractors (think: a blog writer, social media expert, or bookkeeper), this is the time to do it.
This way you won’t be overwhelmed trying to do everything yourself as you ‘re starting a business and getting it off the ground and running.
8. Create a brand image and market your business
By this point, you may already have a brand logo, website, social media accounts, and other marketing collateral. If not, get all of this in order now.
Doing this will help you make a bold statement to prospective customers and clients as soon as you open your doors for business.
With all your branding ducks in a row, you should also make sure that you have a marketing plan in place to sustain your new company well beyond its launch.
If you have a web presence, for example, you may want to create a digital marketing and social media plan. If you are opening a brick-and-mortar store, on the other hand, perhaps you will create seasonal promotions and discounts to generate continued excitement and sales.
Starting a business is exciting and scary at the same time. Succeeding takes perseverance, dedication, hard work, and true grit.
By following our 8-step guide, however, you’ll have a leg up and can take things one step at a time without getting overwhelmed. Are you ready to turn your business idea into reality? We thought so!