Do you have questions about how to start a new business in Toronto? The City’s small business advisors can help you get your new business off the ground.
Learn about the process of starting a new business in Toronto with this nine step guide. The federal government’s starting a business guide and the provincial government’s Small Business Access program can also help you through each step.
The main objective of market research is to understand the customer and determine whether enough demand exists for a successful business venture.
For a new business, market research can help provide answers to important questions, such as the following:
The market research process includes:
The following resources may provide helpful market research information:
A solid business plan is a “road map” for your business: it shows where you are going and how you will get there. Writing a business plan helps you understand your capabilities and business needs, so you can prepare, focus and set goals – particularly financial goals. If you are applying for financing, a strong business plan demonstrates to lenders that you have done your research and can demonstrate how your financial goals will be met.
The following resources are available to help you complete your business plan:
Toronto’s Small Business Enterprise Centre offers free business plan review and consultation services. Once your business plan is prepared, book a one-on-one consultation where staff will review your business plan to ensure you started in the right direction.
Should you require French language service, please contact the Small Business Enterprise Centre.
A marketing plan details the strategies that will be used to target and promote your business to potential customers. Toronto Small Business Enterprise Centre offers the following resources to help you complete your marketing plan:
Marketing plans typically consist of the following sections and information:
Your executive summary should contain the key points of your marketing plan and, although it is written last, should be positioned at the front of the plan. The executive summary should include highlights from each section, be interesting enough to motivate the reader and be concise.
Collect and organize data about the market that is currently buying the product(s) or service(s) you will sell. Some areas you may wish to explore are listed below:
Find niche or target markets for your product and describe them.
Describe your product. How does your product relate to the market? What does your market need? What do they currently use? What do they need above and beyond current use?
Describe your competition and develop your “unique selling proposition”. What makes you stand apart from your competition? What is your competition doing about branding?
Who you are selling to – key market? What you are selling – your company contribution? Your unique selling proposition – what makes your product/service so distinctive?
Outline the marketing and promotion strategies you plan to use:
From the information you have collected, establish strategies for determining the price of your product, where your product will be positioned in the market and how you will achieve brand awareness.
Budget your dollars. What strategies can you afford? What can you do in-house and what do you need to outsource?
Establish quantifiable marketing goals. This means goals that you can turn into numbers. For instance, your goals might be to gain at least 30 new clients or to sell ten products per week or to increase your income by 30% this year. Your goals might include sales, profits or customer satisfaction.
By researching your markets, your competition, and determining your unique positioning, you are in a much better position to promote and sell your product or service. By establishing goals for your marketing campaign, you can better understand whether or not your efforts are generating results through ongoing review and evaluation of results.
Continually review the status of your marketing campaign against your set objectives to ensure ongoing improvements to your marketing initiatives and help with future planning.
There are three main business structures: sole proprietorship, partnership (general or limited) and corporation (provincial or federal). Each structure has its own legal and tax implications, and certain advantages and disadvantages. To decide on the structure that best suits the needs of your business, consult the Government of Canada’s website.
Businesses that operate under a name other than the owner’s need to register with the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services’ Ontario Business Registry. Business name registrations or renewals can be completed in person or online at the ServiceOntario. You may also contact one of the government’s authorized service providers: ecore by Dye & Durham Corporation or ESC Corporate Services Ltd.
When incorporating your not-for-profit business in Ontario, Articles of Incorporation can be filed at the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services (Companies and Personal Property Security Branch).
For additional information, please see the FedDev Ontario Small Business Services Not-for-Profit Guide.
Business funds can be obtained from various private financial institutions (e.g. banks and other private lenders) or financing programs. For a list of available funding options, please visit Funding for Small Business.
The following questions can help you to identify the right type of financing for your venture:
With the answers to these questions in mind, please review the list below and determine where your business fits.
|Stage in Corporate Growth Cycle||Type of Funding Needed|
||Seed financing (from personal resources)|
||Startup financing (from friends and family)|
||Venture Capital financing|
||Mezzanine / Debt financing|
||Bridge financing, buyout IPO (public market)|
Municipalities often place zoning restrictions on the location of certain types of business activity. Prior to leasing or purchasing a property, it is advisable to determine that the contemplated business use is permitted on the property. For inquiries about zoning or uses on a specific property, please visit the nearest Toronto Building Customer Service counter for information.
Furthermore, new construction and alterations to buildings often require a building permit. Applications can be obtained through the City of Toronto.
You may need a business license to operate a business in Toronto. Use the online business permits and licences service, BizPaL, to search for permits and licences (municipal, provincial and federal) you may need to start or grow your business.
Within the city of Toronto, licenses are required for many types of businesses. Municipal licensing requirements may differ outside the city of Toronto and it is advisable to contact the municipality where you are doing business. In Toronto, operating licenses are issued by the Municipal Licensing and Standards Division of the City of Toronto.
The Business Practices Act requires registration and licensing in many areas such as drug, forestry, motor vehicle, real estate, travel, day-care, liquor sales, gas stations and transportation.
A few types of businesses do require federal licensing in order to start a business in Toronto. Use the permits and licenses search tool to find out which ones may apply to your business.
Canada Revenue Agency is the office responsible for taxation issues for individuals and businesses. Canada Revenue Agency issues a Business Number (BN) which is a reference numbering system covering four business accounts:
Canada Revenue Agency also has other useful information on their website that includes individual and business taxation, taxable benefits and allowances, business and professional income, HST registration, payroll and more.
If you have employees, you are required to comply with all employment regulations including the Employment Standards Act, the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Pay Equity Act (for over then employees).
Food preparation, water and sanitation facilities need to be compliant with the Ministry of Health regulations. To ensure your establishment is in compliance with the Ministry of Health regulations, please contact Toronto Public Health.
Canadian Intellectual Property Office offers intellectual property (IP) services and educates business owners on how to use IP more effectively. Intellectual Property includes Trademarks, Patents, Copyright and Industrial Designs.
The Province of Ontario has action plans and progress reports that will help us make Ontario a more accessible province for people with disabilities. We strongly recommend that you review the accessibility laws and regulations.
In Canada, most businesses must comply with the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) which regulates how you may collect, use and disclose the personal information you gather when conducting business. Originally, the Act applied to those private sector organizations regulated by federal laws such as banks, airlines, telecommunications companies, while conducting commercial activities. Now the Act applies also to the retail sector, the publishing industry, the service industry, manufacturers and provincially regulated organizations.
Canadian privacy legislation comprises two federal laws – The Privacy Act and PIPEDA. Provincial legislation includes Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA) and Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA).
Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) protects Canadians while ensuring that businesses can continue to compete in the global marketplace. If your business uses electronic means of promoting your business, products and services this may affect you.
The responsibility of business is to limit the use and disclosure and retention of collected information. Business must also obtain consent to collect the information and be responsible for the accuracy of the information.
It is always a best practice to contact your insurance broker to confirm that your business and you are adequately protected. For example: if you are a sole proprietorship and working out of your home, you may need additional property insurance.
The step-by-step guide will walk you through everything you need in order to start or grow your food business in the city of Toronto.