Naming and registering your business

Pen & PadNaming your business and products can be a real challenge and there are both marketing and practical considerations.

There are literally thousands of articles providing advice on this subject just do a google search to see for yourself but heres a condensed step by step guide that includes information on registering your business in BC.

1. Choosing your business name

Be distinctive and descriptive

BC Registry Services requires that your business has both a distinctive and descriptive element to your name. For example: Bobs Bouncy Castles includes a distinctive Bobs and the descriptive Bouncy Castles.

If the business was named: Bobs it will be rejected for not having the descriptive element.

If the business was named: Bouncy Castles it will be rejected for not having a distinctive element.

Think about your audience

What name do you think will resonate with your audience? If youre looking at young trendy people, you will probably want a different name than one that appeals to seniors.

If youve already got customers you might like to ask them what kind of name appeals to them? Ask them to come up with some words that describe your business something might come from it.

Look at your rivals (but dont copy them)

What names or types of names do your competitors use? Is there a company you aspire to be like?

You will also need to ensure there isnt already a business trading under the same name. If there is a business with the same name in the municipalities you intend to work in, your BC registry application will be rejected.

Its also just not a good idea to have a similar business name. You want your business to be unique and avoid confusion in the marketplace. People negotiate the commercial world by brand and a good unique name is one of your most important marketing tools.

Practice saying names out loud and seeing it in print

Youll be saying and looking at those words a lot so they should make sense when you say them out loud (including on the phone) and read them in print.

2. Thinking about the web

So youve got an idea for a name but before you start rushing off to register it and print your business cards, you may like to think how you will represent yourself on the web. The name of your website is called a domain name.

Its hard these days to think of a business that cant get some benefit from having a website but its also equally hard to come up with a name which has a .com available.

Most likely to get a .com you will need to think of a compound (i.e.: two words together) or use an abbreviation. You may find more success if you use the .ca (Canada) extension but even then it can be tricky.

Further thoughts: the extension .net tends to lack a little credibility, as does including a hyphen in the name (this is usually the trick of spammers think

To check on domain name availability you can use most any domain name register site such as You may also like this tool for generating a business name and a domain name at the same-time.

3. Registering your business name in BC

Having a name idea is a good start but you still need to register that name in BC. If someone else has already taken that name or something similar, you will have to think again.

    1. First step is to determine if sole proprietorship, partnership, incorporation or perhaps a not for profit or a charity? Small Business BC have a useful guide.
    2. Next, search for your business name online at the BC Registry to ensure someone else has not already chosen that name or a name similar. This is a common cause of name rejections.
    3. Apply for your business name. You can do it all online and they will send your results within about five business days (or quicker if youre desperate to know and want to pay a premium). You have three choices and its a good idea to provide three options so you dont need to reapply. One way to do this is to add a few more descriptive terms to your original name choice (see Getting Ideas above about including descriptive and distinctive elements in your name). For example: Johns Consulting does not describe the nature of the business. Perhaps try John’s Restaurant Consulting,  John’s Restaurant and Coffee Consulting and John’s Food Service Consulting… you get the idea.
    4. Once your name application is approved you receive an NR number which you then use to register the name online. It takes approximately 20 minutes to receive the registration.

4. Getting a municipal business licence

However, the paperwork is not necessarily over yet. Some businesses particularly those that are mobile require a Municipal Licence. If youre working from home, there may be zoning regulations to consider.

See more information on the City of Victoria website. You apply for a licence at Victoria City Hall but be sure to take the required paperwork.

Just a tip: check “Inter-Municipal” if you will be doing business outside of your office such as a plumber or delivery service, etc. This gives you the permission to work in all 12 municipalities in Southern Vancouver Island.

5. Final steps

Although you now have your name registered and you are licensed, there are still some further government obligations that may be placed on your business.

Foremost is the taxman. To determine if you should be charging and remitting tax, there’s a handy questionnaire. If so, visit the Canada Revenue Agency website to further understood your obligations and register for a Business Number.

Also if your business is related to food, you will need to gain approval from the Health Authority in order to operate. See the Vancouver Island Health Authority website to learn more.

Further assistance

If you need further help with naming, registering and licencing your business, we offer a low-cost one-to-one consultancy service.

Contact us to book your one-to-one session.