Five Steps to Starting Your Small Business

By AMA Staff

Coming up with a winning idea for a small business is only half the battle. The other half? Paperwork.

AMA registry agents such as Leah McSween can help you make sense of the forms you need to complete—from registering your new business to filing an annual return.

Here are some of her tips for starting your small business in Alberta:

STRUCTURING YOUR BUSINESS
This is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. Should you set up as a trade name, partnership or limited corporation?

Which type you choose depends on whether you want to run the business on your own or with others, and what financial risks you’re willing to shoulder. AMA’s specialized agents can walk you through the options.

SELECTING A NAME
Come up with a unique and descriptive business name that’s easy to remember. If it’s already incorporated in Alberta, or federally incorporated or trademarked, you won’t be able to use it.

AMA agents can do a free pre-search to make sure your business name is available. “If there is an established name identical to yours, you’re going to have to add something to it or change it a bit,” says McSween, who works at our Calgary Crowfoot centre. “But you don’t want to be rushed into making your decision. You’re better to take your time and pick something that makes it easy to promote your business.”

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If your name is available, AMA can submit a NUANS report, which reserves your name for 90 days while you complete the incorporation process.

REGISTERING YOUR BUSINESS
Once you’ve completed the first two steps, AMA can help you register your business in Alberta. Depending on your business structure, you’ll need to fill out one of these forms: Declaration of Trade Name, Declaration of Partnership, or Articles of Incorporation.

AMA agents can also help you register your Alberta-based business in B.C. and Saskatchewan. 

starting your small business documents

GETTING A GST NUMBER, LICENSES AND PERMITS
If your company is expected to make more than $30,000 in annual revenues, you’ll need to apply for a GST number. If your projected revenues are lower, you can still sign up for one.

MORE TO READ
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Also, make sure to find out if your business needs municipal licenses or permits. Business Link or BizPaL.ca can help you with the research.

FILING AN ANNUAL RETURN
Wait … isn’t this the same thing as a tax return? Not at all. If your business is a limited corporation, you’ll need to file an annual return.

“Just like you come in and renew your vehicle each year, you need to renew your business registration,” says McSween. “If you don’t file within two years and six months, the government will dissolve your business. It’s possible to get it back, but it’s frustrating.”

When should you file your annual return? It’s due within 60 days of your anniversary of incorporation. Come into one of our centres and sign up to receive an email reminder of your renewal date.

WE’RE HERE TO HELP
Visit AMA Registries online, drop by to see us, or give us a call at 1-866-989-6370.