10 Steps to Starting a Business in Alberta:
A Guide for Entrepeneurs

Getting Your New Business Off to A Successful Start

Looking to start a business in Alberta? A clear idea of the path to entrepreneurship will help you fulfill your legal obligations and create a solid foundation for your venture.

  1. Get Professional Help
  2. Develop a Business Plan
  3. Choose a business structure
  4. Name the business
  5. Register the business
  6. Obtain licenses and permits
  7. Register with the CRA
  8. Establish banking and financial systems
  9. Open your business, website
  10. Promote your business
Young couple hold sign: open for business

The Meeting

Recently, a young couple stopped by my office. Brandon and Alicia wanted to know all about starting a business in Alberta.

They'd recently moved from Ontario and were keen to learn about the "Alberta Advantage."

They were full of enthusiasm, expertise, and big plans. I enjoyed their innovative ideas, and could see they had a viable product.

"Should we hire staff right away? How soon can we open? Do we need a bookkeeper? Will we run out of cash?" These were just a few of the questions on their mind.

Still, they were confident that Lady Luck was on their side.

I told them, "So many people envy the 'luck' that enables entrepreneurial dreams to become big successes. They don't realize luck comes from a sound strategy, thorough planning, carefully implemented business systems, and an occasional helping hand."

Undeterred, Brandon and Alicia rolled up their sleeves, worked through several sessions with our experts, and launched their business on solid footing.

Helping entrepreneurs have the best chance at a successful startup is one of our favourite pastimes at Zenally. We coach, train, and support business owners through all the ups and downs. And, yes, we enjoy celebrating their successes.

A step-by-step guide to starting a new business in Alberta

It's remarkable how many steps you need to take before you can open the doors of your business or launch your website. These steps are important, though, and they'll help ensure the success of your enterprise.

Most importantly, having everything properly prepared before you launch will allow you time to focus on operating your business and providing exceptional customer service.

Step 1: Get Professional Help

At the planning stage, the advice of certain professionals will be invaluable in shaping your business in the way you intend:

  • An accountant for help with setting viable financial goals, setting up financial systems, and providing experience-based advice
  • A lawyer for help in structuring your business and defining business relationships
  • A banker to open a business bank account and possibly guide you through a loan application process

Step 2: Develop a Business Plan

A business plan lays out what the company does and where it wants to go. It is a reference document for strategic planning and mandatory for investment if you seek loans or investors.

Certain elements are common to all business plans. They include:

  • Market research
  • Financial projection
  • Physical location/Digital commerce
  • SWOT analysis
  • Marketing and sales plan
  • Operating plan

You and any partners are best positioned to create your business plan. You can outsource it to someone else, but you'll need to remain involved for the plan to have merit. At the very least, you'll need to provide the business description, financial projections, and any market research or competitor analysis you've completed.

Step 3: Choose a Business Structure

Alberta's options for business structures are sole proprietorship, partnership and corporation. Each has its pros and cons. Consider factors like control, liability, tax implications, costs, and business continuity to identify the best fit for your requirements.

Incorporation might be a necessary step. This is a good reference for small business owners to incorporate an Alberta corporation.

Better yet, involve Zenally before you decide on a business structure. We can offer sound advice based on decades of experience.

Step 4: Name the Business

Christening your business can be fun. Aim for a unique and memorable business name. It shouldn't remind anyone of a competitor's name. Ideally, it should be easy to pronounce and spell. Do go through Alberta's naming guidelines to avoid accidental errors. You cannot, for example, use the words 'limited,' 'incorporated,' or 'corporation' at the end of your business name.

A NUANS computerized search service makes your job of finding a unique business name easier by showing the registered business, corporation and trademark names similar to your proposed business name.

Your website's domain name should be short, easy to spell and pronounce, and dissimilar to other business names. You'll also need to choose a top-level domain - .ca will distinguish your business as 100% Canadian, while .com could be better to attract an international audience. You can register both .ca and .com domain names and redirect one to the other.

Step 5: Register the business

The Alberta government provides business name forms to register, update or cancel your business name. Register your business name with an authorized registry agent by providing the following information: your business name information, valid ID, and NUANS business name report (if used), along with the fee.

Step 6: Obtain licenses and permits

A permit offers proof of compliance with certain laws, while a license shows that you're allowed to operate in your business location. The types of licenses and permits required will depend on your industry and city. You must obtain a development permit if you plan to develop a new commercial building. Health or food safety permits will be needed if you're a food business.

Fortunately, it's easy for new businesses to understand the licenses and permits they require at municipal, provincial/territorial and federal levels through the BizPaL service. Additional licensing resources are available here. We also encourage you to have your lawyer confirm the exact licenses and permits you need.

Step 7: Register with the CRA

Starting off on the right foot with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is a necessity. We can be helpful in this regard, but some things for you to consider are:

  • business number
  • GST/HST registration
  • payroll account
  • moving assets into your business
  • e-services for businesses

The CRA has an excellent resource describing your fiscal obligations and the interactions you will have with the CRA.

Step 8: Establish banking and financial systems

A robust financial system will allow you to keep control of your business right from the start. The basic activities include:

Opening a bank account

  • Setting up an accounting system
  • Setting up a payroll system
  • Building a financial model
  • Creating checklists on financial best practices and venture capital due diligence

Do let Zenally help you ensure your financial systems are adequate. If you plan to keep bookkeeping in-house, we can help you choose accounting software that makes financial record-keeping simpler.

Remember, we can assist you to properly set up your bookkeeping and financial systems, so it's done right from the get-go. This could save you many headaches later on.

Step 9: Open your business, launch your website

In this crucial stage, you will be giving your business shape and form. You'll be busy scouting locations and/or engaging with web designers. Possibly you'll need to make numerous decisions on organizing the physical space of your business.

Brick-and-mortar business

The foremost decision will be choosing the location for your business. Factors to keep in mind are:

  • Accessibility to customers
  • Proximity to suppliers
  • Distance from competitors
  • The area's average business rates
  • The area's skill base
  • The area's potential for growth

Digital 'Location'

Your website supports your business identity. A fast, easily navigable, and visually pleasing site will help make a great first impression. Concise, informative web content will keep people on your site and help convince them you're their supplier of choice.

Search engine optimization, paid search, and social media marketing will be essential to growing traffic and conversions. Consider offloading these tasks to a digital marketing firm to save more hours of your time for core business activities.

Step 10: Promote your business

There are a number of low-cost ways to promote your new business:

  • Create your Google Business Profile
  • Implement SEO
  • Create listings on major directories
  • Contribute on LinkedIn
  • Post on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter
  • Use paid social media (ad costs are low)
  • Join online communities relevant to your industry
  • Network
  • Attend local events
  • Start an email marketing campaign
  • Encourage customers to leave your business reviews on Google, Yelp, Facebook, TripAdvisor, etc.
  • Share customer testimonials on your site, social media accounts and in your marketing materials

Tips for effectively promoting your business to potential customers

  • Explain your product/service clearly
  • Keep messaging and brand voice consistent
  • Provide information that benefits potential customers
  • Consider offering discounted introductory prices
  • Be truthful and authentic
  • Tell stories that connect with your audience


Business-friendly Alberta is perfect for first-time entrepreneurs. Knowing what's involved in starting a business here will help you plan correctly and use the time available for business planning most efficiently. Here's a reminder of the set-up steps:

  1. Engage an accountant, lawyer, and banker
  2. Create a business plan
  3. Choose a business structure
  4. Name the business
  5. Register the business and your domain name
  6. Obtain licenses and permits
  7. Register with the CRA
  8. Set up banking and financial systems
  9. Establish your physical business or business website
  10. Promote your business

Remember: Zenally supports you and your business every single day,
not just at tax time but every step of the way.

Give us a call - let us help you
Contact Us

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Business and Tax Advice
for Alberta's small businesses owners
from Albertan small business owners

Your Business Ally

Phil Cruickshank, CPA, CGA

Phil Cruickshank

Phil is a Partner at the business accounting firm of Zenally Chartered Professional Accountants LLP.

For more than 30 years, he has sat face-to-face with owners of businesses of all sizes. He has listened to them, helped them identify their issues, and provided guidance.

Business owners have left with answers to their questions, less stress moving forward, and confidence that they have a business ally to call on anytime they need.

Interested in finding out more about Phil, his team and what they can do for your business? Check them out at zenally.cpa.


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