How to start a small business in Ontario: The 11-step checklist

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Starting a small business in Ontario? Find out the right way to start your right business.


How to start a small business in Ontario
Start a small business in Ontario

Many dream of starting their own small business, but only a few take the first step. This article will help you take the first steps to launch your venture in Ontario. After reading this, you will know the fail-proof, step-by-step process and feel more comfortable starting a small business in Ontario, Canada.


1. Decide what business you want to start


Before starting a small business, you need to define what type of business you want to start.

A common approach here is to look for your passion and hobbies. What is it that makes you forget everything else? Is it doing certain activities, or do you love helping others?


Maybe you love sightseeing, and in such a case, you can start your own sightseeing business. Or if you love helping people, e.g., guiding college students in getting better placements, then you can create a business in this field, too.


Another type of business that you can start is a business that does not require a lot of upfront cash or investment. You can research low-investment business opportunities, which will give you a good return. Here is an example of Canada's 5 most profitable small business opportunities for understanding such businesses.


The third type of business you can start is a high food traffic business. Businesses that have people visit frequently keep the cash flow higher. A franchise, grocery store, or pharmacy are good examples of such businesses.


The advantage of starting a business around your passion or hobbies is that you already have experience doing it and love doing it. Passion is the number one thing that will keep you motivated to run your business.


You can also read about the top 45 best small business Ideas in Canada to find a good business opportunity.


2. Conduct market research:


Once you know what small business you want to start, it's time to understand if you should start the business.


Start with competitor research, and list down all the businesses in your area that provide the same product or service you want to deliver. Then look into their business details and how they structured their offering and prices. Also, identify the unique features and benefits they communicate about their business or product.


Another quick research method is going through the reviews on google's business profile. This will give you an idea of their performance. Especially look at their negative reviews. Those will show you opportunities to provide better options to your customers.


The next step in market research is to identify your target audience. For this, you need to create customer segments and one or more customer personas within that segment.


A customer persona is an imaginary character of your target audience's demographic, behavior, pain points, likes, and interests. To create a customer persona, talk with potential customers. Find out what they like, what motivates them, and what their pain points are. You also want to probe into how much they are willing to spend and look into their demographics.


You can do this type of market research at various levels of scale. In a perfect scenario, you would start with in-depth customer interviews or focus groups to identify initial insights and hypotheses, then test those by creating and running surveys to collect data that can be deemed statistically relevant.


If you have enough industry experience and need to move agile and fast, you might develop a customer persona without a survey. Nevertheless, talking to competitors’ customers and potential customers should always be a priority.


With the knowledge of your competition, customers’ pain points, and motivations, you can now develop a unique selling proposition that none of your competitors have.


3. Come up with a business plan:


You have gathered all the required information and details of your competitors and target audience. You also have created a unique selling proposition. Now it's time to prepare your business plan.


The first step here is to come up with a good business name. Simplicity and ease of pronunciation is the key to a great business name. You can take the help of a business name generator to come up with a unique name for your small business.


Once you have the name ready, decide the roadmap of your small business. By keeping the customer's pain point in mind, decide what products and services you want to offer and when and how much you want and need to charge for these.


Map out the bigger picture of where you want your business to be in the immediate future, the next 3 to 5 years, and in the long-term, and then draw what you need and want to do in the next year. Also, put together the financials, i.e., revenue forecasting, cost of running the business, capital required, budgeting, etc. The plan will tell you where you need to spend and how much you need to spend.


4. Decide on the ownership of your business:


The next thing you need to do is decide if you want a sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation.


Sole proprietorship: This type of business is owned by a single person and is very easy and affordable to set up. But the demerit is that you are responsible for all the debts and losses. You might have to pay from your personal assets in case of legal setbacks.


Partnership: As the name suggests, two or more people own the business as a partnership. It's also easy and affordable to set up. Any loss has to be borne by both partners.


Corporation: This entity keeps the business separate from the owner, so you don't have to care about loss getting paid from personal assets. But it has a higher setup cost. Also, the tax rules are more complex.


5. Register your business:


Once you have decided on the legal entity, it's time to register your business. Find out the license and permits you need for your small business by visiting Bizpal. After that, start your business registration process.


You can visit the Ontario government website to further understand the business registration process.


Apart from registering a business and getting the required permits, most businesses in Canada need to have a GST/HST registration. For starting a small business in Ontario, it's essential that you learn about all the tax obligations and also understand all the regulations.


Aside from registering your business, you should also consider having business insurance that will protect your business from financial losses.


6. Define your brand identity:


It is action time. After going through all the research, legal steps, and acquiring the necessary documents and licensees, it is time to start building your brand identity.


A brand identity tells your customer who you are, what your personality is, and what is the unique purpose of your existence. Start by creating a mission and vision statement for your small business.


A mission and vision statement can change as you move forward. Remember, done is better than perfect, so don't focus on getting a perfect mission and vision statement. Instead, focus on having one which gives the business and your products or services a purpose for existing and a guide rail for your business values.


As a next step in creating your brand identity, define the logo, color scheme, and fonts.

Decide the color which will resonate with your brand; every color has a different meaning. Create the logo for your business and also print some business cards.


Colour Psychology

There’s much more to it when it comes to branding (i.e., attributes, benefits, values, personality, positioning, communication, etc.); however, you can develop and iterate on these as your business grows.


7. Build your online presence:


In the last step, you learned how to create a brand identity. Now it's time to use the identity for building your online presence. Start with building your website. You can either make it yourself or get it done by some professionals. While building your website, keep the brand identity in mind.


84% of traffic that a local business receives without any paid effort is from discovery searches due to a business listing on google my business. So after having your website ready, start setting up your Google my business account.


Now it's time to ramp up the social media presence. Create a page on Facebook and Instagram. Build an account on YouTube, Twitter, and TikTok. Create a business profile on LinkedIn if you are a B2B company.


Start regularly posting relevant content on your social media channels to grow your online audiences.


You can also start a blog on your website, where you can post on topics relevant to your business and industry. 3 ways to increase brand awareness, this article will guide you in creating and growing your online presence.


8. Have an MVP and test it out:


Create an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) of your business and test it out with your audience. Ask your target audience to test out the MVP in exchange for their feedback, and they will be happy to do it.


Take feedback from your target audience and improve your product. This way will have a superior version of your product or service, already tested by your audience.


The advantage of having an MVP is that it's easy and affordable to create. And your audience will help you to improve your product or service.


9. Get funding:


Create a business pitch and fundraising presentation. Showcase key figures from your business plan, your MVP, and add some testimonials to the presentation.


Here are some places where you can visit for funding:


Start with your friends and family:

  1. Reach out to your friends and family members.

  2. Tell them your mission and vision, and share what you already have achieved.

  3. Ask them if they will be willing to invest in your business in return for some interest in the capital.


Federal Government Grants:

The Canadian government has various grants, financing programs, and subsidies for small business owners. Visit their website and apply for relevant grants.


Small Business Access Grant:

Ontario Province government provide several funds to small business. They also offer business and legal advice.


Angel Investors:

Angel Investors are wealthy private investors who provide funds to small businesses and startups. Apart from financial assistance, they also provide mentorship, which is essential for a new business venture.


Crowdfunding:

Crowdfunding is an easy way to raise money for your business from many people. Sites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and CircleUp are some crowdfunding sites that will help you acquire funding for your small business.


10. Launch and scale your product:


After acquiring some funding, it's time to launch your product or service. Start posting about your product or service online. Share your mission and vision and discuss what pain point you are solving. How to launch and market your product, this article will help you develop a top-class product launch strategy.


Set up your email sequence and automate it. Have an email strategy for turning a person into your customer and making the person your advocate.


Try to automate as many things as possible— research tools that will help you with the automation part. Hiring a virtual assistant could be a smart decision for you as well.


A virtual assistant will take care of your social media, email, and content marketing and also could maintain the website for you.


After launching your product or service, try to build a profitable system first, a system that brings you, regular clients. Once the system is ready, start investing more funds to scale your business.


11. Avoid common mistakes:


As an intelligent business owner, it's essential to avoid inevitable mistakes. Especially those that don't show any negative effect in the short run of your business but leave a significant impact in the long run.


A business plan is always a good idea; this will show you the path you should take. It's also essential to follow the business plan you did create. Also, never overspend or underspend your budget early in your business.


As a business owner, you should always be willing to learn. Keep identifying new business technologies that help you grow your business. Be ready to learn from your customer's feedback to improve your business.


Always be flexible; in business, there is no guarantee that what works for others will also work for you. So keep on testing new strategies for your business.


Also, it's vital that you don't overburden yourself with work pressure. So hire additional resources (employees or outsourcing) whenever you find a need for extra hands. An experienced person can grow your business at a very rapid pace.


You can also read 20 mistakes to avoid when starting a new business for a better overview of common mistakes.


Surrounding yourself with subject-matter experts who could guide you through your journey is essential. So that even if you fail, they will always be there to guide you.


If this inspired you, we encourage you to contact us at Big Guy Business Consulting with any questions, learn something in more detail, or share your experience.


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