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Guide to starting a small business

Key resources to help you plan, finance, register, locate, license, and operate your business in Vancouver.

Plan

Lay the groundwork for creating your business with these useful articles, checklists, and templates.

Be sure you want this

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

Take a self-assessment quiz  
BDC

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

Some types of business aren't allowed in Vancouver, generally to protect human and animal rights.

Read the Business Prohibition Bylaw PDF document (40 KB)

Decide on your structure

A sole proprietorship, partnership, and corporation each have pros and cons. Find out which is best for you.

Read an information sheet  
Small Business BC

Get help:
Legal advice  
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

Get help:
Paid research services  
InfoAction – Vancouver Public Library

Prepare a business plan

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

Get help:
Paid consultation services  
Small Business BC

Get support

Immigrant entrepreneurs

Skilled Immigrant InfoCentre  

Indigenous entrepreneurs

Province of BC Aboriginal Small Business Resources  

Entrepreneurs with disabilities

Community Futures Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Program  

Women entrepreneurs

Women’s Enterprise Centre  

Young entrepreneurs

Futurpreneur  

Finance

Explore funding options, including grants from the BC and Canadian governments.

Register

Register your business to prepare for various aspects of operations, such as web domain, taxes, employees, and trade.

Set-up business banking

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

Register a web domain

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

Tip:
Claim usernames and pages on social media for your business.

Register for PST and GST

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

Follow a checklist to register  
Small Business BC

Get help:
Paid accounting advice  
Small Business BC

Hire employees

If you'll have employees, you'll need to know about hiring, record-keeping, employment standards, payroll, and workplace insurance.

Find out your obligations  
Government of Canada

Apply for workplace insurance  
WorkSafeBC

Import and export goods

If you'll bring goods into Canada or send them internationally, you'll need to follow trade regulations, labelling rules, and tariffs and duties.

Read an import guide  
Small Business BC

Read an export guide  
Small Business BC

Get help:
Paid import/export advice  
Small Business BC

Protect your ideas

How will you protect your innovation, design, and brand to prevent others from copying them – and stand out from your competition?

Learn about intellectual property and how to protect it  
Government of Canada

Get help:
Attend a paid seminar  
Small Business BC

Locate and build

Select and set-up your location with confidence. Use market area data from Bizmap and expertise from our Commercial Renovation Centre.

Research and visit locations

Explore and compare data for key business districts. Check locations in person for potential customers and ease of access. If your potential location is within a business improvement area (BIA), ask the BIA how it helps attract customers.

View business district market data  
BizMap

Find business improvement areas

Read location tips  
BDC

Check suitability before you lease or buy

Do zoning regulations allow your business to operate at the location you want? Does the space meet building code requirements? Were any past renovations done properly? Ask us.

Get help:
Contact our Commercial Renovation Centre

Look-up the zoning
Or call our Zoning and Building Enquiry Line at 604-873-7611

Read lease negotiation tips  
BDC

 

Build or renovate

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

Check when you need a permit

Get help:
Contact our Commercial Renovation Centre

Licences

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

Business licences

Tips

  • 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

Trades contractors and construction professionals

Save time and money with a business licence that lets you work in Vancouver plus Burnaby, Delta, New Wesminster, Richmond, and Surrey.

Metro West Inter-Municipal Business Licence (IMBL)

Residential landlords

You need a rental property business licence to rent your home.

Long-term rental
(30 days or more)

Short-term rental
(less than 30 days)

Bed and breakfast

Home-based and online businesses

Do you only need an office to run your business, not a commercial space? You may be able to run your business from home.

Check home-based business requirements

Food service

All food service businesses need an annual permit, including restaurants, take-outs, caterers, and mobile food service providers.

Apply for a food service permit  
Vancouver Coastal Health

Liquor service

To sell or serve alcoholic drinks, you need a liquor licence. Meet our licence coordinator to discuss your application.

Get application and contact details

Commercial vehicles

To use a vehicle for business purposes, you need an annual commercial vehicle licence.

Get application and fee details

Food trucks

Sell food in public spaces with a vending permit.

Apply for a stationary permit

Apply for a mobile permit

Apply for a park and beach permit

Bike couriers and taxis

Transport people or goods in Vancouver with a vehicle for hire licence.

Read the requirements and apply

Outdoor recreation

Run fitness activities in public parks and beaches with a seasonal private recreation permit.

Apply for a private recreation permit

Operate

Well done on opening! Run your business more smoothly and sustainably with our useful programs and resources.

Report

Quickly report issues and request City services with our VanConnect app.

Download VanConnect

Or use the links below to try VanConnect in your browser.