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All the Ways AMA Registries Can Help You Launch Your Small Business

By Robin Schroffel

Albertans are natural entrepreneurs. In fact, 98 percent of businesses in the province are small businesses. But setting up a company can be daunting—and then there’s all the paperwork!

AMA Registries can make it easier by helping you through the necessary steps—from finding a name for your business to registering your business to filing an annual return. That way, you’ll have more time to focus on the day-to-day operation of your business and its success.

“We’re here to assure you, help you and to let you know, ‘You’ve got this,’” says Leah McSween, registry agent at AMA’s Calgary Crowfoot centre. AMA registered more than 3,400 businesses in 2019 alone.

How can AMA help with my business plan?
Think of a business plan as the essential roadmap for your company’s future. It’s an opportunity to define your company and vision, determine your market, analyze your competitors and set goals for the short and long term. AMA connects members with its non-profit partner, Business Link, whose experts provide one-on-one support, market research and other resources to help get your business started on the right footing. They can also connect you with other local professionals for further advice.

How should I structure my business?
McSween considers choosing a structure to be the biggest business decision you’ll make. Among a number of options, three are most common. A trade name (sole proprietorship) is an unincorporated business owned by one person—who’s responsible for any profits or losses. A partnership is the same idea, except it’s owned by two or more individuals. A limited corporation is its own entity, separate from its owners and shareholders; their personal assets are shielded from the company’s debts or obligations. An AMA Registries agent can go through each option with you in depth.

What should I name my business?
Your company’s name needs to make a positive, memorable impression on potential customers. It also has to comply with various legal rules set out by the province. Once you’ve decided on your preferred name, AMA’s 100-plus certified registry agents, located at 17 AMA centres across Alberta, make the process of finding and registering that name quick and easy. In addition to guiding you through the paperwork, agents can also help you determine if your preferred business name is available—or if it’s too similar to an existing name.

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How else can AMA help?
Limited corporations need to file an annual return—starting on the first anniversary of their incorporation date. This is different than a tax return; it keeps your business information, including shareholder details, current with Alberta Corporate Registries. Failing to file could result in your company being struck from the register. An AMA Registries agent can assist with filling out this essential paperwork. You can then file it through AMA in person, online, over the phone or by fax.

AMA’s Leah McSween on choosing your company’s name

Be original: Pick something unique, but which describes the nature of your business—so customers will quickly recognize what you do.

Know your market: Consider your audience, the customers and employees you want to attract, and the image you want to convey.

No copycats here: Don’t choose a name that’s too similar to another company. If they have poor business practices, it may reflect badly on your business.

Check the list: Make sure your preferred business name isn’t already in use by consulting with an AMA Registries agent.

Check it again: Limited corporations’ names must comply with the Business Corporations Act, a list of rules that govern naming in Alberta. An AMA Registries agent can help navigate the rules.

Whether your business is still just an idea or it’s already operating, AMA Registries agents are here to help.