All about business names

Provincial Name Registration - Example

Eddie Burst, a bicycle courier in Mississauga, has decided to go into business for himself.

Deciding on Legal Structure

Someday Eddie would like to have a whole fleet and when he can afford to hire a few other people, he thinks he’ll incorporate. Right now, though, it’s just him and his bike, so it’s going to be a sole proprietorship for the time being.  See section on business types.

Business Name Registration

Eddie has been thinking about striking out on his own for quite a while, so he’s had lots of time to come up with a catchy name that he thinks will help him market his new business: FAST EDDIE. He does an internet search to find out what’s involved in starting a new business, and ends up at the Ontario government’s website for business. He discovers that one of the first things he’ll have to do is register the business name with the province. It’s the law, but it’s also what he will need in order to open a bank account in the name of the business, and to register the business for the HST, which he’ll have to charge his customers.

Fortunately, it isn’t hard to register a business name, especially now that you can do it all online. All Eddie has to do is make sure nobody else is already using the name he wants, and then it’s just a matter of filling out the forms.

First, A Name Search

The Ontario government website has a one-stop service where you can do a name search and register your business name (ServiceOntario – Services for Businesses). A basic name search is only $8, and you can get the results immediately online during business hours.

But this search only checks the database of business name registrations in Ontario, and not incorporated names or registered trademarks. So Eddie decides to order a NUANS name search instead. Though it’s not required unless you’re incorporating, it should give him more complete information, which he thinks is worth having. He orders a search online for about $30, and within a few hours, the results come in. He takes a good look at the report, but doesn’t see any similar names for corporations or for trademarks, so he decides to go ahead and register the name with the province.

Registering the Business Online

Eddie goes back to the Ontario government website, gets out his credit card, and turns his printer on so he can print out the documents he’s going to be getting electronically. He makes his way through the online forms, reading carefully. It’s pretty easy to follow the instructions, especially since he doesn’t have any employees or contractors, and he’s just working out of his home. Within a few minutes he’s at the payment page, where he can enter his credit card information, and he quickly gets a receipt for the payment. Another few minutes, and he has his Master Business Licence in hand. It’s good for five years, so he makes a note that he’ll have to renew the registration then.

With the Business Identification Number on his Master Business Licence, Eddie is now ready to apply for an HST number with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) – another fairly straightforward online application that he finds by following a link from the Ontario government website. He’s also ready to take it to the bank and open a new account for his new business.