Small business permits and licenses in Canada

When you’re staring your small business, it’s important to have all the required permits and licenses you need. Without them, you could be facing some pretty major fines – so don’t cut corners!

So, what’s the difference between a permit and a license? A license shows you’re allowed to operate in your area, while a permit is a document that shows proof of compliance with certain laws.

The permits and licenses your company needs will vary by industry, city, and province. You might need to get both a municipal and provincial license. Most small businesses need a license of some sort to operate, even some home-based businesses. Fees are required with licenses, so be sure to budget for this.

Be sure to find out if you’ll need to get approvals, inspections, or background checks before you can get license. For example, commercial business locations are usually inspected by the fire department. If you’re running your business out of your home, you may need a home occupation permit, or must follow other provincial regulations.

What permit or license do I need?

There are lots of different of licenses and permits, depending on your location and your industry. A Calgary yoga studio, for example, could require an Alberta Sign Application, an Alberta Business Name Registration as well as a Canadian Business Registration, a Calgary Sign Permit, a Calgary Development Permit and a Commercial School License.

We suggest you get in touch with your local city or provincial department to talk about licensing. The costs and wait times for each of these permits vary, so be sure to look into these things early on – the last thing you want is to delay your opening because of a permit!

To find out what licenses and permits you’ll need, check out Industry Canada’s BizPal website. You may also have to contact local authorities like Development and Building Approvals, Health Services, Fire Department, Gaming and Liquor Commission, or Police Services.

Good luck!

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Is your business ready for artificial intelligence and machine learning?


When you think of artificial intelligence, or AI, does your mind go to the realm of science fiction? Maybe your brain begins to think of possibilities for your small business, such as customer services via chatbot. Or perhaps you start to think of ways machine learning can benefit your business – like suggesting products your customers might like based on previous purchases on your e-commerce site.

What is AI and machine learning?

AI refers to software technology that simulates human thought patterns and reactions. Some examples of tasks AI is designed to do include: speech recognition, information gathering, problem solving, and intelligent planning.

Machine learning is related to AI – it uses algorithms to find patterns, and predict behaviours. Apple’s Siri “smart assistant” software is a good example of both AI and machine learning; Siri tries to understand what you want, and gives you what you ask for, whether it’s the latest weather, the time in Berlin, or directions to a particular business.

Can AI and machine learning work for your small business?

The potential for automation in small business exists with AI and machine learning. The examples given at the beginning of this post are just a few. According to Wired,

The consumer-facing aspect of AI is just one component. Robotic process automation (RPA) uses software-based bots to perform repetitive, routine business functions. Using RPA, one insurer was able to handle 500 premium advice notes in 30 minutes. The process used to take two days. Such efficiencies can be multiplied across an organization.

No matter what your initial impressions about machine learning and AI, many small businesses are finding ways to use it to improve their businesses. You may be able to save time, streamline processes, increase sales, or boost customer satisfaction.

For more about how AI is transforming small business, check out Getting Smart About Artificial Intelligence, at Wired.

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Legal employment standards by province

corporations_in_canadaNote: This post first appeared on April 9, 2016. We’re re-posting it here with updated links, to help your small business keep on top of the latest from your provincial government.

There are many rules when it comes to your employees’ working conditions, ranging from work hours, overtime and meal breaks to Sunday closings, whistleblower protection, and mandatory retirement. Of course, minimum wage and minimum daily wage requirements, statutory holidays, equal pay policies and severance pay also apply.

All employers have to comply with these legal employment standards. These employment standards differ by province and by industry. Be aware of your required standards as an employer so you can any difficulties during CRA’s employer visits, and to avoid any legal issues.

Check out the Government of Canada’s Labour Program website to find federal minimum wage requirements for experienced adult workers and youth/specific occupations.

Canadian employment standards by province

To get up to speed on your provincial employment standards, visit one of the following websites:

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Small business blog posts we liked this week

We wanted to share some small business stories, ideas, and strategies that we found interesting this week. We hope you enjoy them, and let us know if you’ve read anything inspiring lately!

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Small business inspiration: Inklings Paperie

party-small-businessAt GoForth, we know that being creative and open to new ways of thinking can be a great source of small business inspiration. That’s why we love the story of Inklings Paperie, an American company based out of Michigan that creates customizable scratch-off greeting cards, telegrams, and lunchbox notes, as well as other paper goods.

Inklings owner Lindsay Henry has a background in corporate design. After friends began to ask her to design bridal and baby shower cards and games for them, she realized that there wasn’t much new and exciting going on in that space. According to her website, “I learned that 27% of bridesmaids consider shower-planning their least favorite part of being a bridesmaid, and that only 7% consider it one of their favorite parts.”

In an interview with WXYZ Detroit, Henry describes her a-ha moment, after creating scratch-off cards and games for a baby shower:

“People loved them, they were responding well to them, asking if we had different designs and I thought, wow, there’s really an opportunity for a beautifully made whimsical games and cards that people were looking for, that were different and unique.”

Henry opened her Etsy shop in 2010, and her home-based business has grown to include full-time staff. Inklings products are sold in stores across the US and around the world, and have even been featured in celebrity swag bags at the 2012 Emmy Awards!

Approximately 60% of new business ideas come from our own work experience, and the story of Inklings Paperie is a great example of an entrepreneur using her creativity and professional background as a jumping-off point for success in entrepreneurship.

You can watch a video interview with James and get a behind-the-scenes look at this unique small business on WXYZ’s website.

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