Choose the Plan tab when you're just getting started. Choose the necessary items from below to add to My Checklist (on the right) using the Add To My List + button to create a custom checklist list for you to share, print, and follow. Staff at the Business Hub can review your list with you to ensure their are no missing steps and help you if you have any questions.
Have an Idea for a New Business?
Use this site and the links provided to help you identify questions and answers about starting a small business in London, Ontario, Canada.
The London Small Business Centre (SBC) should be your first stop. The SBC can provide you with educational programs, tools, and resources for early evaluation of your idea and to help you determine if entrepreneurship is right for you.
As well, the Federal Government has the information you need to help you ask, and answer those tough preliminary questions to help your entrepreneurial journey start on the right path.
Do Your Research - Some Helpful Tools
When creating your business plan, the following links will help you access the information necessary to make an informed business decisions:
- The Small Business Centre (SBC) provides and overview of the how's and why's of Market Research and other resources to help gather market-specific information.
- The City of London publishes Statistics and Community Research to provide you with demographic information, neighbourhood profiles, and other useful data;
- The City of London's Vacant Land Inventory (VLI) tracks potential development land in two different publications; "Residential" and "Industrial, Commercial, Institutional" lands;
- The London Economic Development Corporation's (LEDC) "Why London" and "Resources" webpages offer an abundance of economic information.
Create/Write Your Business Plan
Every business needs to have a written business plan. Whether it’s to provide direction or attract investors, a business plan is vital for the success for your organization.
The Small Business Centre (SBC) is the go to for business planning assistance and resources, including templates and one-on-one assistance.
TechAlliance has a Business Services Team dedicated to providing no-cost services, including business plan writing, to start-ups and entrepreneurs in the technology and innovation sector.
The federal government has provided some ideas and templates for business plan writing.
There is no end to the number of articles and posts about business plan writing, and there are even businesses you can hire to help you write it. The articles identify benefits and best practices of business plan writing, but there is no substitute for the one-on-one assistance some the local resource providers can give you.
Keep in mind - the act of writing out your business plan is the best way for you to learn all of the details that go in to the operation of a successful business. So don't rush or skip this key step in the process!
Determine Your Ownership/Legal Structure
When you decide to start your own business, you need to determine what type of business structure best suits your needs. There are four main types of business structures: sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation and co-operative. Different situations require different types of ownership, so again it is important to do your research. Ownership structures can also be changed, so weigh the strengths, weaknesses, and costs of the various legal/ownership structures before choosing.
The Small Business Centre can help you determine what structure is right for you.
Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada have also compiled a list to help you make an informed decision.
Register Your Business Name
Business names are registered online, or in person, through Service Ontario. Once you register your business name you will be given a Master Business Licence (MBL). Use the MBL as proof of your Provincial Name Registration.
The cost is $80 for a new registration or renewal.
When you register a sole proprietorship, general partnership, or a business name for an existing corporation, your Master Business Licence will be mailed to you within 20 business days. If you provide an email, ServiceOntario will email you a copy of your Master Business Licence, and mail a copy as well.
If you register as a corporation, your "Articles of Incorporation" are used as your Master Business Licence. A corporation may carry out business under any name it chooses, but the name must be registered.
Don't Forget: Search your (desired) business name on the internet to see if there are existing websites or social media accounts with the same name(s). If the domain for the website and/or social media handles (user name[s]) you want are available, try to secure them as quickly as possible!
Federal Grants, Loans, and Access to Capital
The Federal Government has a list of business grants and financing available for starting and growing your business.
Futurepreneur is a federal program aimed at entrepreneurs aged 18-39.
The Business Development Bank of Canada is owned by the federal government and it supports small and medium-sized businesses in all industries and at every stage of growth with money and advice.
Provincial Grants, Loans, and Funding
City of London Incentive Programs
The City of London has a number of financial incentive programs available to building owners, for specific upgrades, in specific areas of the City. See if you are eligible for City of London interest-free loans or grants.
The incentive programs are often delivered through local Business Improvement Areas (BIA). You should contact the BIAs directly if you are seeking information about incentives, where BIA staff can help you understand how the programs benefit your building.
Choosing the Ideal Location
A lot goes in to selecting the location for your business. Demographics, access to markets, a skilled workforce, transportation logistics, and many other factors will help you determine your business address.
Do not forget the Zoning By-law is an important factor in this decision-making process. The By-law regulates the use of all land in London and greatly influences where specific businesses are permitted to operate.
Before you purchase land, sign a lease, or even contact a Real Estate Agent, contact the Business Hub to explain what you're planning on doing. City staff will help you 'define' your business with regard to the Zoning By-law. This will help you be more confident in your search for a location, and save you a lot of headaches and money if it is done far enough in advance.
Do not rely solely on a friend, the landlord, other businesses, or a real estate agent for this information. Go right to the source: A City of London Business & Zoning Coordinator!
Home Based Businesses
If you're thinking to run a business from your home, there are some regulations you need to be aware of.
Section 4.10 of the Zoning By-law sets out the regulations regarding "home occupations".
Refer to this site to find out about what types of businesses are permitted in the home and the regulations that govern them.
If you cannot find your answer online, please contact the Business Hub.
Research the Type and Amount of Insurance Necessary
Different types of insurances are required for different industries and types of business. For example, employment insurance, worker's compensation, general liability insurance, etc.
The City of London may require proof of insurance for certain permits and licenses. Contact the Business Hub to discuss the type of insurance(s) necessary to get a municipal business licence.
The Small Business Centre (SBC) can help identify industry-specific insurance, if there are specific needs for the kind of work you are doing.
Apply for a Liquor Licence to Serve Alcohol
In Ontario, if you plan to serve alcohol at your place of business, you need to make an application for a liquor licence. Register for an account through the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) to begin the application process.
Information about the City's role in the licensing and inspection process can be found here.
Sale of Tobacco, Cannabis, or Vapour Products
Does your business idea involve the sale of tobacco, cannabis, or vapour products?
The Middlesex London Health Unit provides the necessary information governing the sale and use of these products.
If you are planning on selling any of these items, you will also need a municipal business licence, issued by the City of London.
For information regarding the sale of Cannabis products, contact the Business Hub.
Heritage Conservation Districts, Heritage Buildings, and Heritage Alteration Permits
There are several heritage conservation districts across the City of London and many more individually designated properties.
In order to erect a building or a sign, or to undertake alterations to designated buildings or buildings/lands within heritage districts, you'll need to coordinate your plans with a heritage planner and, in most cases, get a Heritage Alteration Permit (HAP).
A City of London heritage planner will provide some input about the district, designated building, or the HAP process before you sign your lease, buy a property, or order your sign.
Hiring and Managing Employees
Plan ahead to understand your obligations when it comes to employees, wages, a safe workplace, etc. The Canada Business Network website is a great place to learn more.
Business Improvement Areas (BIAs)
London has several Business Improvement Areas (BIA's). A BIA is a specific geographic area where a levy is collected from commercial and industrial properties within the boundary. The money is used for local marketing, beautification, and other improvements determined by the fee-paying members.
To find out more about the benefits of being within a specific BIA, contact the individual BIAs.
To find out more about BIAs in General, contact City Planning: firstname.lastname@example.org
To find out if a specific address is within an official BIA, contact the Business Hub.
Note: In some areas Business Associations have formed that are not within designated Business Improvement Areas. While the City tries to keep track of these, it is important to ask area business owners if there is a local Business Association, as sometimes the groups are informal.
Business Number Registration with the Canada Revenue Agency
Information regarding Federal Business Number Registration (for taxation purposes) is available online through the Canada Revenue Agency.
The Canada Revenue Agency's (CRA) Business Registration Online (BRO) is a one-stop, online, self-serve application that allows you to register for a Business Number (BN), as well as four program accounts: Corporation income tax, GST/HST, and payroll.
Note: This is not part of the Master Business Licence, Provincial Business Number, nor the Municipal Licensing process.
Food Safety Regulations
The Federal and Provincial Government have a number of rules in place to ensure public safety around food production and sales. The Middlesex London Health Unit (MLHU) enforces food safety regulations locally.
In order to get a business licence to sell food, you'll need to be inspected by the MLHU and have a valid food handler's certificate.
Choose Launch when your research is done and you're ready to execute the plan! Choose the necessary items from below to add to My Checklist (on the right) using the Add To My List + button to create a custom checklist for you to share, print, and follow. Staff at the Business Hub can review your list with you to ensure there are no missing steps and help you answer any questions.
Check the Zoning... Again
The Zoning By-law is an important factor in determining where a business can operate in the City of London. Before you purchase land or a building, or sign a lease, make sure you check (again, if necessary) to ensure that the business you wish to operate is permitted to operate at the address in question.
The easiest way to do this is to speak directly with a Zoning and Business Coordinator at the City of London Business Hub; either in person or by phone.
The reason it is important to check the zoning before committing to a property is to ensure your business model continues to comply with the zoning regulations. Small changes in certain aspects of your business - for example the square footage of your retail space, the extension of a food preparation area, or if you've decided to store and assemble your products on, or off, site - can impact zoning regulations and therefore potentially restrict your operation from certain locations.
Remember: Real estate agents or landlords may tell you that a property permits your business, but the only way to be sure is by confirming the zoning with the City of London.
City of London Business Licences
The City of London requires municipal licences for a number of different businesses. A municipal business licence is separate from a Master Business Licence; issued by the Province.
Business Licences typically involve inspections from four different sources: The Fire Department, The Middlesex London Health Unit, and the City of London's Property Standards and Waste Water divisions.
For more detailed information about getting a municipal licence, contact the Business Hub.
Building Permit Plan Review and Pre-Consultation
If you need to do renovations to your premises it is likely you'll require a Building Permit, issued by the City of London. Even changing from one use to another requires a Building Permit, according to the Ontario Building Code.
Building plans for commercial, industrial, and institutional construction typically need to be designed - and stamped - by a recognized professional: an Architect or Engineer.
A City of London Commercial Plans Examiner can help you understand your needs with regard to whether or not a permit is required, and give some indication of what will need to be shown on the plans, including professional stamps, etc. You can contact the Business Hub to arrange a meeting with the Commercial Plans Examiner to discuss your project requirements, once you have a location in mind.
Sign(s) for Your Business
If you wish to put up any signs which draw attention to products and/or services available at your business, you will require a sign permit.
Sign permit applications should be made early, as it can be a time consuming and detailed process to get a sign permit.
Review the available resources, or contact the Business Hub for more information.
Note: Some sign companies will apply for and obtain the sign permits on your behalf. Check with your sign company to see if that is a service that they offer, as it can save time if they are familiar with the process in London.
Creating an Outdoor Patio
Typically, outdoor eating and drinking areas (patios, terraces, decks, etc.) are associated with restaurants or other food premises. Section 4.18 of the Zoning By-law sets out the regulations that govern "Outdoor Patios in Association with a Restaurant".
Questions regarding patio location, and whether a patio is permitted, should be directed to the Business Hub at the City of London.
For liquor licensing, or use of City property see some of the other Patio items in the "Launch" section.
A Patio on the Sidewalk or in a Parking Space
When a patio is on public property, in the City of London, it is called a Boulevard Cafe or Sidewalk Patio. In order to permit a Patio on public property, an application has to be made to Realty Services.
Once the application has been made, and the location approved, an agreement will be entered into between the landlord and the City of London for use of City land.
You can download a copy of the Sidewalk Patio Standards and Application Process document to help you with design guidelines and other questions you may have.
Note: If you are constructing a new patio on Dundas Place (Dundas Street between Ridout and Wellington Streets) there are different design standards that apply. Cotact the Business Hub for more information about Dundas Place operations.
Licensing the Patio or Boulevard Cafe for Alcohol
Serving Alcohol on a Patio
In order to extend your existing licensed area to include a patio, you'll need to contact the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). The AGCO website is the place to start the process of licensing your patio.
In order to extend your existing licensed area to include a boulevard cafe (patio on City property), start by reviewing the Joint Liquor Licence Inspections web page. You'll need to contact the City of London and the AGCO to license/extend the licence to the new outdoor area(s).
Note: You can apply for the liquor license at the same time you apply for the business licence and include the outdoor/patio/boulevard cafe area on the application.
Playing Amplified Music on a Patio
Amplified Music/Sound on an Outdoor Patio
If you are interested in having amplified music on your outdoor patio or boulevard cafe, you'll need to receive a Temporary Sound Permit. To start this process, fill out the Amplified Music on Patio Application Form.
Once this has been submitted, City of London Licensing Enforcement staff will contact you to help establish operational thresholds and provide you with additional information regarding the amplification of sound on a patio.
Hire an Accountant or Financial Planning Professional
Hiring the right professional to help you manage your workload - allowing you to focus on your business - can often save you time and money.
When you have questions regarding taxes or other financial considerations (such as paying taxes or employees), consider hiring an accountant or bookkeeper to manage your financial obligations.
These professionals can not only ensure you're up-to-date with your tax materials, but can help to forecast revenue, make important investment decisions, and create visuals for presentations to banks and potential investors.
Food Premises Inspection Checklist: Example
When you're opening a food premises (restaurant, bake shop, take-out, or anything that serves food), the City of London will inspect the business to ensure it meets provincial regulations for public safety: Fire, Health, and Property Standards.
To get an idea of what inspectors look for when inspecting a food premises, check out the Consolidated Inspector's Checklist.
Sign Your Lease
Finally! You've done your research, written your business plan, checked the zoning, and now you're ready to sign the lease.
If you require a City of London Business Licence you will need to have your lease agreement with you, and submit a copy with your application material, in order to schedule your business licence inspections.
Note: If you are the building owner you will need to provide proof of ownership rather than a lease agreement.
Select Grow when your business is ready to move beyond startup status. Choose the necessary items from below to add to My Checklist (on the right) using the Add To My List + button to create a custom checklist for you to share, print, and follow. Staff at the Business Hub can review your list with you to ensure their are no missing steps and help you answer any questions.
Thinking of moving, purchasing land to facilitate an expansion, or building an addition on to your existing business?
Check the zoning of the new location, or of your existing location, to ensure the use you want is permitted, and that the zone regulations permit the expansion. Note that the expansion of an existing building, or the construction of a new building, will likely trigger the need for Site Plan Approval.
The type of business you operate and the form of ownership you choose determines what taxes you must pay, and how you must pay them.
The Canada Revenue Agency regulates all forms of taxation of businesses, aside from Property Taxes.
Property Taxes (and BIA fees, if applicable) are payable to the City of London.
Ensure your taxes are up to date, in order to keep the business going!
Find Programs and Services to Help you Grow
Innovation Canada, through the Federal Government, has developed a tool to help you find Programs and Services to help you grow your business.
Marketing is everything an organization does to build a relationship between the company and the customer. It is the process by which a product or service is introduced and promoted to potential customers and sustaining relationships over time.
Marketing Plan and Content Strategy
Developing a marketing plan and content strategy will help you figure out what message you want to send to potential customers, how to get the word out about your business, and often includes a call to action - like buying a product or service.
Selling to the City of London
Networking is all about getting to know people, making connections, and developing relationships. Showing up to events and becoming an active part of the local community helps to spread the word about who you are and what your business can offer.
Going to local meet-ups gives you an opportunity to interact with professionals and enthusiasts in your industry face-to-face.
Here are a few examples of organizations and events that can help you, and your business, get out there:
- London Chamber of Commerce events calendar
- Small Business Centre (check the events calendar)
- Innovation Works (check "news and events" in the menu)
- London Economic Development Corporation Events
- TechAlliance Events Calendar
Use your favourite search engine to discover all the opportunities that exist to grow your business through networking!
Hiring (More) Employees
Do you need to hire more people to get the job done? The first place to check is with Canada Business Ontario to review Employment Regulations. As well, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) can help you determine if you need to register your employees with their services.
If you're hiring your first employee(s), see "Hiring and Managing Employees" under the "Plan" tab of this site for other links to information about what's expected in the workplace, etc.