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Small Businesses | 07 June, 2021

How to Start a Business in Toronto

Toronto is a great place to live and a wonderful place to start a business. The striking skyline of Toronto is unmistakable: the CN Tower stands tall, and the city’s beauty is legendary.

Thirty-eight percent of Canada’s businesses have their headquarters in Toronto, and yours could be too! With the third-largest tech sector and as the fourth largest city in North America, Toronto is a great place to start a business. In addition, it has the second-largest financial sector and beverage industry in North America.

Over 6.4 million people call the Greater Toronto area home. With this large population, you have a big pool of talent and a broad market of people to buy your goods and services. Toronto Global reports that there are 800,000 businesses and a labour force of 4.7 million people. With almost 100,000 new immigrants annually and over half the population born outside of the country, there is an opportunity to create a company powered by diverse people with unique perspectives.

So you’ve chosen Toronto for your business? Great! Here’s how you start a business in the Greater Toronto area:


1. Conduct Market Research

Before you start your business, it’s essential to make sure there’s actually a demand for your products or services. Often people skip this step in their business planning. Still, it’s crucial to ensure that you don’t sink money and time into something with a higher likelihood of failure because nobody wants, needs, or can afford your offering.

Market research is about defining your target customer’s problem (or pain point), creating a solution, testing the product in the local market, and looking at the data to assess your business idea. It’s a systematic look at the problem, who experiences that problem, what other solutions are available, and why (or if) your solution is the better choice for your target customer.

During your market research, you may discover that your initial business idea stinks, and then uncover a better solution or idea. That’s why this step is so crucial to starting a business in Toronto.

2. Choose a Business Plan Writer

It’s essential to have a business plan for your new venture. A business plan is valuable as a management tool and can help secure funding. It enables you to set a plan in place for the future of your business. You could write it yourself, but you don’t have to.

A professional business plan writer can develop it for you. When you outsource your business plan writing, you get to draw on the experience of someone who has done this countless times before, and knows how to get the kind of results you’re looking for. You can retain a business consultant that knows what people expect from a business plan, and they will help you develop a business plan that exceeds your audience’s expectations.


3. Develop a Digital Marketing Strategy 

Your business plan should include a digital marketing strategy. This strategy will outline how you will let people know your solution exists. It’s more than knowing which marketing and social media platforms you’re going to use. It includes setting goals, defining key performance indicators, and making decisions about quantifying your success.

A digital marketing strategy is more than a plan for generating leads. It involves creating and publishing content for the different stages of your prospects buying cycle:

  • Discovery: This is when leads first hear about your business
  • Research: As they learn more about your business and solution, they are looking to see if you are trustworthy and have the answer to their problem.
  • Buy: This is when they buy and become a customer or client. The marketing content you create for this stage will help them make their purchase, nurture that lead into upsell offers, and incentivize future repeat business.


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4. Choose a Business Structure

Choosing a business structure is like a choosing-your-own-adventure story. You can set yourself up as a sole proprietor, a partnership or a corporation. The choice you make impacts how you record your income, what kind of tax return you file, and so much more. It’s essential to research each type of structure to see which is most advantageous and applicable to your business. Consult a business consultant, accountant, or lawyer to choose the right business structure for your company.


5. Register Your Business

To start a business in Toronto, register your business with Service Ontario. To register your business, it needs a legal business name. When you come up with business name ideas, you can run a quick internet search to ensure no other companies are already using that name. There is a tool within the Service Ontario portal to do a business name search, or you can start your search on Google. It’s also recommended to perform a trademark search to ensure the name you want to register isn’t already a registered trademark of another business.

There are some specific restrictions around what you can not include in your business’s legal name:

  • can’t use obscene language
  • can’t be inconsistent with your business structure (calling it a “corporation” when it’s a partnership)
  • can’t be named after a person without their permission (unless they’ve been deceased for more than 30 years)
  • can’t include a reference to a university or college, and it can’t imply it’s a government agency.

If your business name breaks one of those rules, your registration will likely not be approved.


6. Secure Financing

While it’s possible to bootstrap and crowdfund your business, securing third-party financing can be a great way to fund your business start-up requirements. Funding sources like the BDC and Futurpreneur can be valuable resources of financial and advisory support for your business.  In addition, you can access these programs with a comprehensive business plan as supporting documentation for your concept. In doing so you will get access to mentorship and business advice from programs designed to help you as you pursue your dreams of starting a business in Toronto.


7. Apply For a Business License

The last step is to apply for a business license. You can use the free online tool, BizPal, to search for the specific licensing requirements for your business type in Toronto. You must obtain the proper permits to start your business on a solid legal footing. Having a central location to access information on legal requirements saves you time, so you can focus on starting your company.


How to Start a Business in Toronto Right Now

Starting a business in Toronto is a tremendous opportunity, and it can be rewarding if you have the right business plan guiding your growth. Furthermore, following the proper process to establish your business will better position you for success. If you need help creating a business plan, reach out to Bsbcon today!

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