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How to Start a Business in Alberta: a Complete Checklist

If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur looking to start a business in Alberta, you’ve come to the right place. 

Starting a business can feel overwhelming, since it requires a lot of time, effort, and commitment to get off the ground. With that in mind, it’s important to do your research before starting a business in Alberta so you know exactly what you’re in for and you can plan accordingly. 

That’s why we’ve put together this complete guide to everything you need to know about starting a small business in Alberta, from the legal requirements to the steps you should follow and some additional resources to help you along the way.

Legal requirements for starting a business in Alberta 

Before we dive into our entrepreneurial checklist for starting your own business in Alberta, let’s go over some of the legal requirements you should keep in mind.

Whether or not you need to register or incorporate your Alberta business depends on a variety of factors, including your business structure, location, and industry. We’ll talk a bit more about the main business structures you can choose from, but in general, you aren’t legally required to register or incorporate if you run a sole proprietorship under your own name. However, in every other situation, you will be required to register or incorporate if you want to open a business in Alberta. 

If you decide to incorporate, you’ll need to file more extensive paperwork than if you operate as a sole proprietorship or partnership. Another factor that determines what paperwork your business  is where you’ll conduct business. Certain provinces and territories require you to apply for extra-provincial incorporation if you want to do business within their borders.

Depending on your industry, you may require additional specific licences or permits before you begin operating. The quickest way to find out what you need is by checking BizPaL, the government’s free online business permit and licence service. Simply fill in your location and industry, and BizPaL will provide you with a list of the permits and licences you may need, as well as an explanation of when they’re required.

Now that you understand how your business structure, location, and industry can impact the legalities around starting a small business, let’s move onto our 11 key steps to setting up a business in Alberta.

1. Come up with a business idea

If you’ve decided to start your own business in Alberta, you may already have an amazing business idea you can’t wait to share with the world. However, while some entrepreneurs know they want to start a business, they’re not exactly sure what type of business it will be. If that’s the case, we’re here to help.

The best business ideas for you to start in Alberta will exist where your interests, experience, and passions intersect with a profitable product or service that’s in demand. Maybe you already have a creative hobby you can monetize––or you could capitalize on skills you honed in your day job to start a side hustle in the same field.

Your business should also match with your personality, so consider whether you’re planning on starting a home-based business in Alberta to work from home, or if you’d rather work on site. You’ll also want to decide if you’d rather be in a front-facing customer role or behind the scenes.

2. Conduct market research

Once you come up with an awesome business idea, it’s important to test if your idea has potential before you invest a ton of time, money, and effort into starting a company in Alberta. Is your idea unique, or will you struggle to differentiate yourself in an oversaturated market? Consider what makes your business idea original, whether it’s putting a twist on an existing product or service or targeting an underserved niche market.

Another thing to consider is the location you’ll serve. Even if you operate as an entirely online business, you could still benefit from getting specific about your target audience, including where they’re located. Look into the market for your business idea in your location, as well as the competitors you’ll be up against, to see how you can make your business stand out.

If you’re not sure how to start analyzing the market, search engine results can provide a lot of useful information. Simply type in a few keywords related to your business idea, and pay attention to the number of results that come up. If a search returns a high volume of results, that shows there is a significant interest in what you’ll be providing. 

If your initial search doesn’t turn up many results, don’t be discouraged. It’s possible that your business idea is not as in demand as you thought, in which case you may need to rethink your idea. However, it’s also possible that you weren’t using the keywords your customers would use, so try to get into their mindset when you choose what keywords to search.

Alternatively, you can try searching keywords related to the pain point your business addresses. This will enable you to find out the demand for a solution, as well as get a sense of the solutions currently available. Be aware that part of your job might include educating your customers on your offering by demonstrating how your business can address the problem they face.

3. Decide on your business name

Now that you have a business idea and you established that there’s demand for it in the market, it’s time to choose your business name. As we mentioned previously, unless you’re operating as a sole proprietorship under your legal name, you’ll need to register or incorporate your business, so you may as well choose a business name that stands out. 

While it’s possible for two businesses to operate under the same name, it makes sense to try to come up with an original name to avoid confusion. A NUANS name search or trademark search will help you find out whether your business name is already being used.

If you decide to incorporate, the Alberta government requires that any corporation business name be distinctive, descriptive, and legal. This means that your business name needs to be original, related to the type of business you conduct, and end with a legal element like “ltd” or “inc.” If you don’t want to choose a business name, you can use the business number assigned to you by the Alberta Corporate Registry as your business name.

4. Choose your business structure and register or incorporate

A number of factors go into determining the right business structure for you, like your business name, location, and the amount of personal liability you want to have. The three most common business structures are sole proprietorships and corporations. If you decide to operate as a sole proprietorship under your own legal name, you can skip this step, although there are still reasons to register your business even if it’s not technically required.

If you register your business name or form a corporation or non-profit organization, you need to obtain an Alberta business number. As a corporation, you also have to decide whether to incorporate federally or provincially.

While it is technically possible to register or incorporate your business in Alberta on your own, working with Ownr will ensure everything is being done by the book. Plus, you’ll free up your time to focus on what matters most, while we take care of the paperwork for you.

5. Purchase a domain name and create a website

At this stage, it’s a good idea to purchase your business domain name to ensure it’s still available. Custom websites can be expensive, so if hiring a professional web designer isn’t in your budget, consider using a website builder where you can bring your vision to life with no coding required. Alternatively, if you’re not ready to commit to a website just yet, you could start by creating free accounts on the social media platforms where your customers are most likely to spend their time.

6. Write a business plan

A well-written business plan is important for your company’s success. You may want to use a business plan template to make sure you include everything you need and don’t miss anything important. This process can provide you with insight into which areas of your business have been sufficiently thought through and which ones need more attention.

While you may have money saved up for your business startup costs, most businesses need external funding at some point in order to grow, and that’s where your business plan comes in. When you apply for business loans, grants, or other funding opportunities, your business plan and value proposition will demonstrate your qualifications and how you intend to achieve your goals with the money you receive.

7. Looking into business funding

With your business plan all ready to go, you can start applying to receive funding. Here are a few ways you can raise and secure capital for your company.

Federal government grants

The Government of Canada provides a number of business grants, finance programs, tax credits, wage subsidies, and other resources to help small business owners finance their business.

Provincial government grants

The Alberta government has programs including self-employment training, indigenous supports, service providers, and more.

Angel investors

An angel investor provides money to your business, usually in exchange for equity in your company.


Crowdfunding campaigns rely on a group of individuals to finance your business. Investors may simply donate to your campaign on a crowdfunding platform, but usually invest in exchange for receiving your product or service when your business launches.

8. Apply for additional licences and permits

In addition to registering or incorporating your business, you’ll need to research the specific business licences or permits legally required to commence operations. As we mentioned earlier, BizPaL will provide a checklist of documentation you may need based on your location and industry, as well as information on the situations in which those licenses are required. 

If you’re selling taxable supplies in Canada and your business makes over $30,000 annually, you’ll also need to register with the CRA and charge GST/HST on your sales. You may also require special event permits, errors and omissions insurance, and other legal documents.

9. Grow your business

At this point, your business should be all set up and ready to go, so it’s time to turn your attention to growing your business. Here are some ideas to help get the word out about your new business.

With these techniques, you should be able to scale your business in no time.

10. Automate and improve your business practices

While it may seem like your work is done now that everything is set up, you can benefit greatly by using performance metrics to check in and determine what’s working for your business and what isn’t. Use those insights to adjust your methods, automate your business, and introduce time management strategies to really help you and your business thrive.

11. Hire a team

Even if you’re running a solo operation, you may find at some point you need to hire employees, or at least outsource some of your work. You might be able to save money doing everything by yourself, but your time may be better spent working on the parts of your business you excel at, while relying on someone else to take over elements that aren’t your strong suit.

Consider outsourcing things like logo design or email marketing, or hire a virtual assistant who can take care of everything from customer service to data entry while you focus on what really matters.

Additional business resources for opening a business in Alberta

Here are a few more resources to get you started on your entrepreneurial journey.

Now that you know everything about how to start a business in Alberta, you’re ready to get out there and make your entrepreneurial dreams come true!

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