Starting a Business in Vancouver

Guide to starting or expanding your small business

The Best For Your Small Business

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    Vancouver, a bustling west coast seaport in British Columbia, is among Canada’s densest, most ethnically diverse cities. A popular filming location, it’s surrounded by mountains, and also has thriving art, theatre and music scenes.

    Vancouver’s GDP is CA$137 billion, with a GDP growth rate of 4.5%, meaning that Vancouver represents approximately 7.5% of Canada’s overall economy. Major economic sectors include trade, film & tv, technology, tourism, natural resources, and construction.

    Vancouver is a great place to build a company and hire strong technical and design talent for much lower salaries than in the Valley. Many Vancouver-based startups like Clio, HootSuite, Indochino, or Unbounce have benefited from that and build really strong product teams


    Apply For Business Funding



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    Locate and build

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    Step 1: Plan

    A business plan is a written description of your business’s future, a document that tells what you plan to do and how you plan to do it. If you jot down a paragraph on the back of an envelope describing your business strategy, you’ve written a plan, or at least the germ of one.

    Your business plan is vital for success and financing. It’s your roadmap: your goals, strategies, target market, financial forecast, and much more.

    Download a template – Small Business BC

    Be sure you want this

    You need certain motivations, attitudes, and skills to run a small business.

    Take a self-assessment quiz

    Evaluate your idea

    How do you know if your idea will be the next big thing? Here’s what to think about before you start a business plan.

    Download a guide – Small Business BC

    Decide on your structure

    A sole proprietorship, registering a partnership, incorporating your business, or amalgamating corporations each have pros and cons. Find out which is best for you.

    Read an information sheet – Small Business BC

    Do market research

    Identify your target market and location, know your industry and competitors, monitor trends, and forecast your costs and revenues.

    Follow a checklist – Small Business BC

    View business district market data – Bizmap

    Step 2 Finance:

    Every business will need working capital in order to pay for start up expenses and in order to operate until the business is profitable. Many people keep their jobs while they are starting their own business. That way, there’s a guaranteed income to help them while they’re starting out.

    You can also consider getting funded by friends and family, or look for sources of business funding. Contact Sharpshooter Funding to find out what type of Canadian business funding program you qualify for.

    Don’t underestimate the amount of money that it will take to set up the business and to hire good talent to help you with your new business.

    Get government financing

    Create your own list of financing programs – Innovation Canada

    Find business grants, funding, tax credits, wage subsidies, and other financing – Government of Canada

    Get funding for technology startups – Innovate BC

    Step 3 Register:

    Before you can start operating under a business the proper paperwork needs to be filed, unless you are operating under your exact legal name. The name you choose needs to be unique from all other businesses.

    You will need to register your business. You may also need to obtain a Business Number, GST/HST Account, or other tax related accounts with the Canada Revenue Agency. Click here for more information

    Open a business bank account. Ask your bank what documents to bring, such as your business registration certificate.

    Choose a domain name that’s linked to your brand and easy to remember.

    Find out how to choose, register, and protect your domain name
    Government of Canada

    Claim usernames and pages on social media for your business.

    If you’ll sell taxable goods or provide taxable services, you may need accounts to collect and remit taxes.

    Register for PST
    Government of BC

    Register for GST
    Government of Canada

    Get help:
    Paid accounting advice

    Step 4 Locate and build:

    Metro Vancouver’s commercial and industrial real estate sector is coming into 2019 with arguably the best market conditions in Canada. It is witnessing a rare confluence of among the lowest vacancy rates in North America, record high prices and sustained development.

    View business district market data – Bizmap

    Find business improvement areas

    Read location tips – BDC

    Step 5 Licences:

    Get the right permits so that your space and the improvements you make meet building, zoning, safety, and parking standards.

    Check when you need a permit

    You need a business licence to operate in Vancouver – whether it’s commercial, industrial, home-based, or out-of-town.

    Business licences


    • You can apply by in person, email, and mail.
    • Include all required documents with your application to avoid a delay in processing.
    • Your business licence may need engineering, fire, health, and police approvals before it’s issued.
    • Business licences expire every year on December 31.

    Apply for a business licence

    Renew and manage your business licence

    Step 6 Taxes:

    Add locations

    You may want to keep track of your tax, payroll, and import / export accounts separately if you add services or staff, or add a location.

    Opening more locations, branches, divisions – Canada Revenue Agency

    Doing scientific research

    You may qualify for federal or provincial tax credits to conduct experimental research and development.

    Federal tax incentive program Government of Canada

    Provincial tax credit Government of BC

    Tax credits or exemptions

    Check the list of available corporate income tax credits.

    Corporate income tax credits
    Government of BC