10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting a Small Business in Alberta
December 12, 2022
5 min read
You’ve decided to launch yourself into the exciting world of small business ownership here in Alberta. Congratulations and welcome!
Being an entrepreneur is one of the most exciting and rewarding career paths a person can choose. It can also be hectic, challenging and extremely stressful. Making sure you have all your ducks in a row before you get started will give you the foundation you need to navigate the challenges ahead effectively.
We are in the business of helping small businesses. In fact, we’ve helped lots of budding entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground with a beautiful visual brand and website.
We’ve also helped businesses curate social media strategies that get their products or services in front of the right people. And as a small business ourselves, we also know the things you need to do before you start selling your products or services.
You probably have a million questions right now. Maybe you even feel too overwhelmed to get started. That is perfectly normal. We always like to remind new business owners that feeling a little lost is perfectly alright.
In fact, it might be your new normal for a while. Just remember: making mistakes is all a part of the process. But if you want to get started on the right foot — this blog is for you.
This post will get you asking the right questions. After reading this, you’ll be able to put together the first items on your to-do list so that when you do launch your small business, you’ll be set up for success.
#1 Do You Have a Business Plan?
Creating your business plan will be one of the most important things you do before launching your small business. It will include your business idea and how you plan on marketing it. It will define your business purpose and short and long-term goals. Your business plan will also include things like market research, financial calculations, and timelines.
Think of it as the foundation of a house — the stronger the foundation is, the better the business.
Your business plan will require some time and energy in the beginning. Thankfully, there are dozens of resources online to help you get started.
Business Link is a fantastic source of information for small business owners in Alberta. They also offer a free template with helpful tools, tips and support so you can get started right away on your own business plan.
#2 What Type of Business Structure Do You Want To Have?
Next to your business plan, deciding what type of business structure you want will be one of the most important first steps you take. The structure you choose should be reflective of your business goals and long-term plan.
While there are several structures to choose from here in Alberta, the two most common are sole proprietorship and incorporation.
A sole proprietorship is a business with one owner who makes the decisions and takes on all the responsibilities (and liabilities) of that business.
Incorporation creates a completely separate entity from the owner and detaches them from most of the liability. It can also include more people and partners in the decision-making.
That was a very brief overview of the differences between the two. We highly recommend having a thorough understanding of both structures and deciding which one is right for you before you move ahead. Our friends at Business Link have a fantastic blog about business structures that you can read here.
#3 How Are You Going To Finance Your Business?
In terms of small business financing, there are several options available to small business owners in Alberta. There is equity financing which means you accept money from investors in exchange for business ownership or a cut of your profits and losses.
Some new business owners choose to apply for a loan to cover the cost of start-up fees. There are also government grants available to Albertans if you are willing to do some work.
However you decided to approach your finances, you should have a budget to start with and an idea of how much money you plan on making and spending in your first year of business.
#4 Have You Registered Your Business Name?
You probably already have a great idea for your business name. Unfortunately, someone else might have had it, too.
The only way to know is to fill out a form and visit your nearest Alberta registry office to check. Everything you need to know about registering your new small business in Alberta can be found here.
#5 Have You Reserved Your Domain and Social Media Handles?
Because we’re in the business of digital marketing, we have to remind you to purchase your domain and reserve the social media handles you want to use.
We recommend searching for domain names for your new business before you register the name. This is because sometimes the business name you like might be available for registration but the domain name has already been taken.
This is all to say that domain name availability can determine what business name you ultimately decide to go with.
There are several websites you can purchase your domain through including Go Daddy and NameCheap. You can also purchase domains through different website providers — but chances are, you haven't started thinking about your website yet. We recommend exploring your options and choosing a domain provider that works best for you.
The next thing to do is reserve those social media account handles.
Whether you plan on being on TikTok, Instagram or Facebook, securing your ideal handles is an important first step in starting your business. Remember to keep your handles as similar across social media platforms as possible.
#6 Do You Have All The Permits or Licences You Will Need?
What permits and licences you will need will all depend on your business. If you plan on operating your business out of your home, you may need certain permits.
Will you need a GST number? Do you plan on getting business insurance? Are there specific requirements that need to be met based on your location? These are all important things to consider before you start.
#7 How Are You Going To Stay Organized?
How you plan on organizing your business is so important and yet… so many small business owners forget about this until they are drowning in tasks and need a life preserver. Before you decided to launch your small business, have a plan in place for how you will stay organized.
This includes everything from bookkeeping software to track your finances to project management tools to help you stay on top of daily tasks.
If you plan on running your own social media, we also recommend creating monthly content calendars based on your business goals. There are even free tools to help plan and schedule content for you.
#8 What Kind of Support Will You Need?
You will wear a lot of different hats in the first years of small business ownership. You will get a crash course in things like bookkeeping, banking and social media. You might end up being a salesperson and marketing manager and HR assistant all rolled into one.
While this is all perfectly normal in the beginning, we recommend having at least a few professionals in your corner that you can lean on when you need them.
Another thing to consider is your time. How much time are you devoting to learning something new when you could be putting that time into growing your business?
For some things, it might be worth it to outsource. Whether that is a banking professional, bookkeeper, accountant, administrative assistant or small business mentor, thoughtfully consider who you might need on your team before you hit the ground running.
#9 Do You Have a Visual Brand?
Having a consistent visual brand is an important step in bringing your business to life. In fact, there are dozens of reasons why visual branding is essential to having a successful business, and we talk about them all here.
Your visual brand and identity will include your logo, colours, fonts and the marketing materials you plan on using once you get started. This includes everything from your business cards to letterhead, to product designs, signage, print materials and beyond. Everything you create should be cohesive and perfectly in synch with your visual brand.
Thankfully, we are experts in creating stunning visual brands and logos for small businesses. (You can take a peek at some of our work here).
#10 Do You Have a Website?
Having a website is a crucial part of owning a business. It opens up countless opportunities for people to find your brand online. Having a website also gives your business credibility. It shows people you are a legitimate business and is a great place to introduce yourself and your products or services.
Having a website also helps you reach a greater number of potential customers and ultimately helps you grow your business.
However, building a beautiful website that performs well can be a costly investment. As a new business, funds are often tight and your budget might not allow for a website just yet.
We recommend waiting until you have enough money to do things right the first time. So if that means launching your business before you build a website, then that is perfectly alright.
Are You Ready To Launch Your Small Business?
Starting your own small business is an incredible thing and you should be excited about the journey ahead. The most important thing to know is that not everything has to be perfect to get started.
You don’t have to have a perfect visual brand and a fool-proof organizational system in place before you sell your first product. You might not be able to afford a website right away. You might forget a step along the way.
Part of owning a small business is learning as you go. If all entrepreneurs sat around and waited until they had everything figured out, some of the biggest brands in the world wouldn’t exist today.
The best advice we can give?
Have patience with yourself. Reach out for help when you need it. Use free resources when you can. Learn as much as possible. Find a community of fellow entrepreneurs. Take breaks.