How to Start a Business in BC: Tips, Resources, and Best Practices For Success

a city with persony buildings

    As one of Canada’s fastest-growing provinces, British Columbia has a thriving business landscape with plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurs. However, with great opportunities come great challenges. 

    If you plan to start a business in British Columbia, you want to get off on the right foot. In this article, we’ll provide you with tips, resources and best practices for starting a successful business in B.C.

    Understanding the Business Landscape in B.C.

    Before starting a business in B.C., you’ll thrive more if you understand the economic landscape and key industries. British Columbia’s diverse economy has industries ranging from natural resources to technology. Take note of these most significant sectors:

    Key Industries in British Columbia

    British Columbia’s location on the Pacific coast makes it an ideal location for fishing and aquaculture. These industries generate billions of dollars in revenue annually and provide thousands of jobs to British Columbians. They also contribute significantly to the province’s food supply.

    Tourism in British Columbia generated $13.5 billion in revenue in 2021 alone. The province’s natural beauty, diverse landscape and vibrant cities attract millions of visitors each year. This industry alone provides 84,500 jobs to British Columbians via more than 16,650 tourism businesses.

    Technology continues as an emerging industry in British Columbia, with a growing number of startups and established companies in the sector. Already, 92,000 people work in tech in the City of Vancouver alone. The province has a vibrant tech ecosystem, with a focus on artificial intelligence, cleantech and biotech. 

    Meanwhile, the construction industry contributes 9.7 percent to the province’s gross domestic product (GDP), as the top employer in the goods sector. Currently, the value of construction projects sits at $137 billion. This industry builds the province’s infrastructure, including roads, bridges and buildings.

    Starting a Business in B.C. : The Pros

    British Columbia has a stable and growing economy, making it an ideal place to start a business. The province’s diverse economy and strategic location make it an attractive destination for businesses looking to expand or relocate.

    According to the B.C. government, once inflation pressures ease up, its experts expect the GDP to rebound by:

    • 1.6% in 2024
    • 2.3% in 2025 and 2026
    • 2.1% in 2027

    For instance, the province’s tech ecosystem grows rapidly, with a supportive startup community and access to venture capital funding. This doesn’t just happen by accident. Unlike other provinces, the B.C. government encourages angel investment through tax credit. This gives small businesses better access to early-stage venture capital to fuel their growth.

    As a result, small business venture capital tax credits allow investors to claim their wealth-sharing up to $120,000. Alternatively, they can apply based on the amount of the tax credit certificate issued by the corporation or eligible programs. Previously, they could only claim $60,000.

    Starting a Business in B.C. : The Cons

    As with any business environment, entrepreneurs will still face stiff competition. Once you become aware of these challenges, you can mitigate risks and ensure a successful launch.

    The province’s low unemployment rate and high quality of life make it an attractive destination for skilled workers. Yet, attracting and retaining talent can challenge any business in British Columbia. As a result, you may struggle to find and retain top talent when other opportunities arise for them.

    While B.C. has many funding options available, including venture capital and government grants, expect fierce competition for funding. The more creative your approach to financing, the more likely you’ll secure the funding you need.  

    The province’s high cost of living and doing business can make it difficult for businesses to operate in the black. For instance, you must pay employees a minimum wage of $16.75. In particular, high taxes and regulatory requirements can make it challenging to operate profitably. Knowing this ahead of time can help you build this into your financial forecasts.

    Creating a Solid Business Plan

    Of course, creating a solid business plan sets your business up for success. This roadmap outlines your business’s goals, strategies and financial projections. It serves as a blueprint for your business’s success and helps you stay on track.

    Identifying Your Target Market

    Before starting a business, identify your target market. First, define your customers and their needs and pain points.  Next, conduct market research to understand their demographics, behaviours and preferences. This way, you tailor your products or services to meet their needs and develop effective marketing strategies to reach them.

    For example, imagine you want to start a fitness studio. Initially, you’ll identify your target audience, such as busy professionals who want to stay fit but have limited time. You can then develop fitness classes that cater to their needs, like early morning or lunchtime classes.

    Setting Realistic Goals and Objectives

    Primarily, set realistic goals and objectives for your business. Determine what you want to achieve in the short and long term then develop a plan to reach those goals. Make sure your goals meet these criteria: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.

    For instance, you’ve always dreamed of starting a restaurant. Naturally, in the short term, you may aim to attract 100 customers in the first month. Overall, your long-term goal shoots higher – to expand to multiple locations within five years. By setting these specific targets, you can track your progress and adjust your strategy as needed.

    Financial Planning and Projections

    Next, focus on developing a financial plan for your business. Decide how much money you’ll need to start and operate your business and create detailed financial projections. These summaries should include your revenue, expenses and cash flows.

    For example, to open a clothing store, you’ll need to consider the cost of inventory, rent, utilities and employee salaries. You’ll also want to project your sales revenue and cash flow to ensure you have enough funds to cover your expenses.

    Marketing and Sales Strategies

    Next, develop a comprehensive marketing and sales plan to promote your business and attract customers. Determine which channels best suit your target audience and draw up strategies to increase your visibility and brand awareness.

    For instance, to start an online store, you’ll obviously need a website and social media presence. To boost sales, consider advertising channels such as Google Ads or Facebook Ads so more customers see you and respond.

    In conclusion, creating a solid business plan drives the success of your business. By following these steps and strategies, you can increase your chances of success and achieve your business goals.

    Starting a business can feel exciting and rewarding, but it also requires complying with various legal and regulatory requirements. As you make your plans, try to stay on top of these legal and regulatory requirements:

    Registering Your Business in B.C.

    First, by registering your B.C. business, you can legally operate and protect your business name. For this step, you can use the Corporate Online Registration system provided by the B.C. government. It requires you to provide your business name and address, personal information, then pay a registration fee. Once you’ve completed this process, you’ll receive a business registration number so you can conduct business in B.C.

    If you plan to operate under a name other than your own, register a “doing business as” (DBA) name. This will allow you to operate with a different name than your legal name.

    Understanding Taxation and Licensing

    Next up, you’ll obtain a business tax number and any required licenses and permits for a business in B.C. To register for a tax number, you can use the Canada Revenue Agency’s Business Registration Online service. This service will help you register for the Goods and Services Tax (GST), the Provincial Sales Tax (PST) and others.

    Finally, you’ll need to obtain any required licenses and permits to operate your business legally. These will depend on the type of business you start and its locale. For example, to start a restaurant, you must obtain a food service permit from your local health department.

    Employment Laws and Regulations

    As an employer in B.C., you must follow the province’s employment laws and regulations. These laws cover a range of topics, including minimum wage, hours of work, and workplace safety requirements. Take time to familiarize yourself with these laws to ensure that you treat your employees fairly and legally.

    You’ll also need to obtain workers’ compensation insurance to protect your employees in case of an on-the-job injury. You can obtain this mandatory insurance through WorkSafeBC.

    Business Insurance In B.C.

    Getting business insurance in B.C. is a key step when setting up a new venture. This protective measure safeguards against various risks like theft, lawsuits, or property damage. The exact coverage required hinges on your business type, with options such as professional liability insurance, general liability insurance, and property insurance

    Financing Your Business in B.C.

    Starting a business makes for an exciting venture that requires significant amounts of capital to cover startup and operating expenses. Without proper financing, your business may struggle to get off the ground. Check out some of these financing options for your business:

    Traditional Financing Options

    For starters, you can secure funding through traditional financing options, such as bank loans, lines of credit or venture capital. However, these options often require a solid business plan and financial projections to demonstrate your business’s potential for success. Begin by doing your research and shopping around for the best interest rates and terms.

    Government Grants and Programs

    Further, you can explore available government grants and programs. For example, the Canada Small Business Financing Program loans up to $1 million to small businesses to purchase or improve assets. Meanwhile the Canada Job Grant offers funding for employee training. These programs can help fund your business, but they often come with strict eligibility requirements and application processes. In short, do your homework before you commit to them.

    Crowdfunding and Equity Crowdfunding

    Moreover, you can raise capital through crowdfunding platforms or alternative financing options, such as equity crowdfunding or revenue-based financing. Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo allow entrepreneurs to pitch their business ideas to a large audience and receive funding in exchange for rewards or equity. 

    For example, private markets investing platform FrontFundr provides startups and growth companies with access to capital that helps them grow. Consequently, Canadian entrepreneurs have raised more than $120 million in equity crowdfunding to turn their groundbreaking ideas into reality. Founded in British Columbia, the company has moved to Toronto, but any Canadian firm can tap into its platform.

    In another model, revenue-based financing pays back investors with a percentage of the business’s ongoing gross revenues. So, investors receive a regular share of the businesses income up to a predetermined amount. Typically, this number covers the principal investment and three to five times the original amount invested.

    These alternative financing options can be a great way to secure funding without the strict requirements of traditional financing options.

    Private Business Loans

    In addition, private small business loans can secure necessary capital when starting a new business in B.C. These lenders often provide a range of loan products tailored to the specific needs of new businesses. Unlike traditional banks, private lenders may offer more flexibility in terms of repayment structures and approval criteria. Therefore, these can benefit start-ups who lack a solid credit history or substantial collateral. 

    However, you’ll want to carefully evaluate the terms and conditions of such loans. Remember, they may come with higher interest rates or fees compared to traditional bank loans. Ultimately, private business lenders can offer accessible and flexible financing for budding entrepreneurs in B.C.

    Managing Cash Flow and Expenses

    Once you secure financing for your business, you must develop a cash flow plan and budget to manage your money. Keep track of your business expenses, such as rent, utilities and payroll, to determine where you can cut costs. For example, you may be able to negotiate a lower rent or switch to a more affordable utility provider. Managing your cash flow can help you avoid problems down the road and ensure the long-term success of your business.

    Opening a Business Bank Account in B.C.

    Having a separate bank account for your business helps you maintain accurate records while avoiding mixing personal and business transactions. In British Columbia, you can open a business bank account with a number of financial institutions. When choosing a bank, consider factors such as fees, branch accessibility, customer service and any additional beneficial services. Bring all the required documents, such as your business license and incorporation documents, when you go to open your account.

    Getting a Business Credit Card

    Securing a business credit card counts as another crucial step. This allows you to build your business’s credit history and offers an additional source of funds for unexpected expenses. Maintain mindful of the interest rates and pay off the balance within the interest-free period to avoid incurring unnecessary costs. Remember, good credit management with a business credit card can help you qualify for larger business loans in the future.

    Spending Money

    Signing Up For An Accounting Software

    Selecting the right accounting software for your business can greatly simplify your financial management and reporting processes. Several software options, such as QuickBooks, Wave Accounting and Xero, make life easy for businesses in the market today. When choosing, consider your business size, the complexity of your operations and your budget. Ensure that the software you choose can handle all your business’s accounting needs, from invoicing to payroll to tax preparation. 

    Additionally, pick an accounting software that connects to your business bank account and business credit card. This will save you time and hassle over and over again.

    Paying Your Freelancers and Suppliers

    By paying your freelancers and suppliers in a timely and efficient manner, you maintain healthy business relationships. Leveraging online payment platforms like PayPal Business and Wise can facilitate this process. PayPal Business provides a secure and reliable payment platform recognized globally. As a result, businesses make payments directly to a freelancer’s PayPal account. 

    On the other hand, Wise, formerly known as TransferWise, offers the advantage of low-cost international money transfers. This makes it an ideal choice if your freelancers are based outside of Canada. Both platforms enable smooth transactions, ensuring your freelancers are paid promptly and accurately, thereby fostering a positive working relationship.

    Paying Your Employees 

    Compensating your employees in a timely and accurate manner sustains a motivated and productive workforce. Payroll services like ADP and QuickBooks Online Payroll can make this aspect of business management considerably easier. ADP is renowned for its comprehensive payroll solution that handles everything from wage disbursement to tax compliance and statutory deductions. In short, it ensures a smooth payroll experience for your business and its employees. 

    Likewise, QuickBooks Online Payroll offers not only streamlined payroll processing but also integrates seamlessly with other QuickBooks accounting features. Consequently, you get a unified management of your business finances. Both services assist in ensuring your employees are paid punctually and accurately, reinforcing their commitment and loyalty to your business.

    Starting a business in British Columbia: The Bottom Line

    Starting a business in British Columbia can both excite and challenge you. Follow these tips, resources and best practices to ensure a successful launch and growth of your business. Remember to conduct thorough research, develop a solid business plan, meet legal and regulatory requirements and obtain the necessary funding. Best of luck on your entrepreneurial journey!

    Arthur Dubois is a personal finance writer at Hardbacon. Since relocating to Canada, he has successfully built his credit score from scratch and begun investing in the stock market. In addition to his work at Hardbacon, Arthur has contributed to Metro newspaper and several other publications