How To Start a Business in Ontario

 Are you considering starting a business in Ontario, Canada? With a wide variety of business opportunities and a strong economy, it’s an attractive option for entrepreneurs. Starting a business in Ontario requires careful planning and preparation, but the rewards can be worth it. In this blog post, we will provide an overview of the steps you need to take in order to start a business in Ontario.

We will look at how to register a business, obtain the necessary licenses and permits, and choose a business structure. We will also discuss available financial resources and government assistance.

Choose Your Business Structure

Before you can register your business, you need to decide what type of structure it will have. The most common options in Ontario are sole proprietorship, partnership, and corporation. Here is a brief overview of each:

This is the simplest and most common business structure. You are the only owner of the business and responsible for all its debts and obligations. You report your business income and expenses on your personal tax return.

This structure involves two or more people sharing ownership of the business. Partnerships can be formed with a formal agreement or informally. Each partner is responsible for their share of the business’s debts and obligations. Partnership income is reported on a separate tax return for the business.

A corporation is a separate legal entity from its owners. It can have one or more shareholders and offers limited liability protection. Corporations are more complex to set up and maintain but can offer tax benefits and greater flexibility for raising capital.

Consider the pros and cons of each structure, and your personal goals for the business, and seek professional advice before making a decision. Once you have chosen your structure, you can move on to registering your business name.

Register Your Business Name

Once you have decided on your business structure, the next step is to register your business name. You may choose to operate your business under your own name or a trade name. If you choose to use a trade name, it must be registered with the government.

First, conduct a search to ensure that your chosen name is available. You can do this on the ServiceOntario website or by contacting the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services. If the name is available, you can register it online or in person at a ServiceOntario center.

When registering your business name, you will need to provide your business structure information, such as your sole proprietorship or corporation number. You will also need to pay a fee, which varies depending on how you register and how many names you register.

It’s important to note that registering your business name does not provide trademark protection. If you want to protect your business name from being used by others, you will need to apply for a trademark.

Once your business name is registered, you can start using it in all your business activities, such as on your website, business cards, and marketing materials. Keep in mind that your registered business name must be displayed on all official documents, including invoices, contracts, and other business forms.

Get a Business Licence or Permit

Before you can officially start operating your business in Ontario, you may need to obtain a business licence or permit depending on the nature of your business. It’s important to research and understand the specific requirements for your industry and location.

To begin the process, check with your municipality or city to find out what licences and permits are needed. You can typically find this information on their website or by contacting their business licensing department.

Common types of business licences and permits include a general business licence, a zoning permit, a health and safety permit, and a building permit. The fees for these licences and permits vary depending on the type of licence or permit, as well as the size and scope of your business.

It’s important to note that certain types of businesses may require additional permits or licences. For example, if you plan on serving alcohol or operating a food business, you’ll need to obtain special licences from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario and the Ministry of Health, respectively.

Failing to obtain the necessary permits and licences can result in penalties, fines, and even legal action. So make sure you do your research and stay up-to-date on any changes to licensing requirements.

Once you’ve obtained your licences and permits, be sure to keep them up-to-date and renew them as necessary. This will help ensure your business stays compliant and avoids any legal issues.

Remember, starting a business can be a complex and overwhelming process. Don’t be afraid to seek help and advice from professionals and resources available to you. The Ontario government offers many resources and services to help entrepreneurs navigate the process of starting and running a successful business.

Open a Business Bank account

Once you have registered your business and obtained any necessary permits or licenses, it is time to open a business bank account. Having a separate account for your business can help you keep your personal finances separate and simplify bookkeeping and accounting. Here are the steps to take when opening a business bank account in Ontario:

  1. Research different banking options: Look for banks that offer business banking services in your area and compare the fees, features, and benefits of each.
  2. Choose the right type of account: Depending on the size and type of your business, you may need a checking account, savings account, line of credit, or other financial products. Consider your cash flow needs, transaction volume, and growth plans when selecting the best account for your business.
  3. Gather required documents: Before you can open a business bank account, you will need to provide some documentation to the bank, such as your business registration documents, identification, and proof of address. Check with the bank for their specific requirements.
  4. Meet with a representative: Schedule a meeting with a banking representative to discuss your needs and open your account. Bring your documentation and any initial deposit required.
  5. Set up online banking: Many banks offer online banking tools that can help you manage your account, monitor your transactions, and track your expenses. Make sure to sign up for online banking and download any relevant mobile apps.

By opening a business bank account, you can ensure that your finances are organized and secure, and you can access the tools and resources you need to grow your business.

Register for Taxes

As a business owner, it’s important to register for taxes to ensure you comply with Canadian tax laws. You’ll need to register for various taxes such as the Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax (GST/HST), payroll taxes, and income taxes.

To register for GST/HST, you’ll need to apply for a GST/HST number with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). If your business earns less than $30,000 annually, you may not be required to register for GST/HST, but it’s best to confirm with the CRA.

To register for payroll taxes, you’ll need to obtain a payroll account with the CRA. This will allow you to deduct and remit payroll taxes on behalf of your employees.

To register for income taxes, you’ll need to register for a business number with the CRA. This number will serve as your identifier when filing your taxes each year.

Keep in mind that failing to register for taxes can result in penalties and fines. It’s best to register as soon as possible to avoid any complications down the road.

It’s recommended to seek the advice of a tax professional to ensure you’re properly registering for all the necessary taxes for your business. They can also assist you in understanding your tax obligations and help you plan accordingly.

Understand Your Responsibilities As An Employer

If you plan to hire employees for your business, it’s important to understand your responsibilities as an employer. Here are some things you should know:

  1. Employment Standards: You must comply with Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, which outlines the minimum wage, hours of work, overtime pay, vacation entitlement, public holiday pay, and other employment standards.
  2. Health and Safety: You have a duty to ensure that your workplace is safe and healthy for your employees. This includes providing training, equipment, and protective gear, as well as implementing safety policies and procedures.
  3. Taxes: You must withhold and remit taxes from your employees’ pay, including income tax, Canada Pension Plan (CPP) contributions, and Employment Insurance (EI) premiums. You must also register for a payroll account with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
  4. Workplace Policies: You should establish workplace policies that address issues such as harassment, discrimination, and attendance. These policies should be communicated to your employees and enforced consistently.
  5. Benefits and Compensation: You may choose to offer benefits and compensation packages to attract and retain employees. This can include health and dental benefits, retirement savings plans, and performance bonuses.

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It’s important to consult with a lawyer or human resources professional to ensure that you are meeting all your obligations as an employer. By doing so, you can build a strong and loyal team that contributes to the success of your business.

Get Help and Advice

Starting a business in Ontario can be overwhelming, especially if you are new to entrepreneurship. But you don’t have to go through the process alone. There are many resources available to help you get started and succeed.


Here are some places you can turn to for help and advice:

  1. Small Business Centre: Most cities and towns in Ontario have a small business centre that offers free or low-cost services to entrepreneurs. These centres can provide guidance on business planning, market research, financing, and more.
  2. Ontario Business Advisory Services: The Ontario government offers a variety of advisory services for small businesses. You can access these services online or in-person and get advice on starting, growing, or managing your business.
  3. Chambers of Commerce: Chambers of commerce are business associations that can connect you with other entrepreneurs, networking events, and resources in your area.
  4. Industry Associations: Depending on your business, there may be an industry association that can provide support and advice specific to your industry.
  5. Mentorship Programs: Mentorship programs connect new entrepreneurs with experienced business owners who can provide guidance and support. Look for mentorship programs offered by local business associations or online communities.

Starting a business can be a challenging journey, but it can also be rewarding. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help and advice along the way. With the right resources and support, you can turn your business idea into a successful reality.


Q: How long does it take to register a business in Ontario?

A: The process can take up to a few weeks, depending on the complexity of your business structure and registration requirements.

Q: What kind of permits or licenses do I need to start a business in Ontario?

A: The permits and licenses required will depend on the type of business you plan to run. Common licenses include a Business Registration License, Health and Safety Permit, and Liquor License.

Q: Do I need to have a business plan to start a business in Ontario?

A: While it is not a legal requirement, having a business plan can help you outline your goals, strategies, and projections for your business, and can be useful for securing financing and investors.

Q: Do I need to hire employees to start a business in Ontario?

A: No, you can start a business on your own, but if you plan to hire employees, you will need to understand your legal responsibilities as an employer, including payroll taxes, employment standards, and workplace safety regulations.

Q: Where can I find resources and support for starting a business in Ontario?

A: The Ontario government offers various resources and support services, such as the Small Business Enterprise Centre, the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs, and the Starter Company Plus program, to help entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses.

Q: What are some common mistakes to avoid when starting a business in Ontario?

A: Common mistakes include underestimating start-up costs, not understanding legal and tax requirements, not conducting market research, and not having a clear business plan or marketing strategy.


Starting a business in Ontario can be a daunting task, but with careful planning and guidance, it can also be a rewarding one. By following the steps outlined in this post, you’ll have a solid foundation for getting your business up and running. 

Remember to take advantage of resources such as government websites, business associations, and networking events to gain knowledge and connect with other entrepreneurs. And don’t forget to stay focused on your goals, be flexible in your approach, and always be willing to learn and adapt as your business grows. Good luck on your entrepreneurial journey!

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