You’ve spent months working on your business plan — the essential guide to your company — and now you’re ready to register your business. Congratulations! It truly is a milestone. Those late nights spent labouring over your plan will feel worth it once you register a business name.
How to register a business name in Canada
Nothing says you’re serious about your dream business like registering the name. Here’s how to do it.
Select a business entity.
Pick a great name.
Use these tips to guide you on your way to registering your business.
1. Select a business entity
Every business has a structure and it’s beneficial to decide early on how you would like your business to operate. By reading through the descriptions below, you’ll be able to choose an entity that works for you.
This entity is self-explanatory. You’re the sole owner of the business; it isn’t owned by anyone else. You take all of the responsibility and make all of the decisions. You receive all of the profits and claim the losses.
Unlike sole proprietorship, where the business is owned by an individual, a partnership involves two or more people and is not incorporated. The best practice is to have a partnership agreement to ensure that the partners have the same vision and interests. A lawyer can assist with drafting the agreement.
Becoming incorporated turns your business into a legal entity, or corporation. Incorporation happens at the federal/provincial and/or territorial levels and ownership is transferable. Think of restaurant chains, office supply companies or movie theatres.
If your business is connected to economic sectors (agriculture, health care, fishing, wholesale etc.), you might want to consider forming a co-operative. It’s essentially a collection of shared resources. The business isn’t owned by an individual, but an association of people. As a co-operative, you can enter into contracts and acquire assets as a group.
2. Pick a great name
When to name the business after yourself:
- If you’re the sole proprietor and you’re the face of the brand.
- You have a clear ideology you want the business connected with.
When to come up with a different name:
- If your business is a co-operative, corporation or partnership.
- You want the company to have a life of its own when you pass the torch. We buy Apple products, not Steve Jobs.
Once you have a few business names you like, see if they’re taken by searching the internet and the national name database.
Editor’s note: Be sure to check if the matching domain name is available before you register a business name in Canada. You’ll need a domain name to have a website; having a web address that matches your business name avoids customer confusion.
Check to see if your domain name is available now
If the domain you want isn’t available, you could ask the owner of the domain if it is for sale. Just do a quick WhoIs domain lookup to get the owner’s details.
3. Register it
Now that you know your entity and your company’s name, you’re prime to register a business name with the Government of Canada. How you register your business truly depends on the entity you select. If you’re not sure which entity is best for you, you might want to seek legal advice.
Location plays a big part in registering your business, as every place is different. As you’ll notice, Prince Edward Island splits the registration process for sole proprietorships and partnerships/corporations, whereas other provinces/territories have an integrated approach to registering a business.
- British Columbia
- Newfoundland and Labrador
- New Brunswick
- Northwest Territories
- Nova Scotia
- Prince Edward Island
Once you’ve registered in your province/territory, you should check to see if you need a federal business number and tax account. This Government of Canada website is the go-to place for registering your business at the federal level.
Now get noticed
How you go about getting noticed goes back to your business plan, a document that should inform and direct your marketing strategy. A professional email address and website should be at the top of the list.
A business email address
Having a Gmail account is great, but an email with your company’s name in it is even better. It can help create the credibility your business needs.
An email address with your business name in it (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org) tells people you’re serious about your work.
GoDaddy offers the right amount of variety to suit your professional email needs. Plans range from the sole-proprietor-sized Email Essentials to the now-you’re-cooking Business Premium plan. The latter has 50 GB of email storage, 1 TB of secure online storage, Microsoft Invoicing, Microsoft Bookings for online scheduling and the latest version of Microsoft Office for installation on up to five PCs or Macs. It’s the Cadillac of email plans.
A mobile-friendly website
For most businesses, their website is their main marketing platform. You can build a responsive website in under an hour with GoDaddy. They offer plans for those who want to promote their services and those who plan to sell things online.
All plans include best-in-class web hosting, email marketing, social media and PayPal integration plus 24/7 support. Online Store comes with a shopping cart, payment processing (all major credit cards and Apple Pay), a variety of shipping options and an SSL certificate to protect customer transactions. All you need in one place.
Before you register a business name
Do yourself a favor and have your business plan established before registering with your province/territory. Writing the plan itself will help you identify your entity, your name and the kind of marketing and communications strategies most appropriate to your business. It’s essentially a sandbox of ideas.
The more informed you are about the scope of your business, the more prepared you’ll be when the time comes to register with your province/territory and with the federal government. The Government of Canada has a fantastic business startup checklist that breaks down all of the components entrepreneurs need to get started.