Starting a Business in Canada

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Flock Free Nation

No nonsense information on small business.

Sep 19, 2011 - 2 minute read - Comments - business news

Beware of Canadian Banking E-mail Scams

I received the following email today:

Bank of Montreal Interac EMT Alert!

You have been sent an INTERAC Email Money Transfer.

Amount: $890.00 (CAD)

Sender’s Message: A message was not provided

Action Required: To deposit your money, click here: https://gateway.certapay.com/RP.do?pID=CAuDw9ZQ

Interac Email Money Transfer, BMO Bank of Montreal

What is an INTERAC Email Money Transfer? If you have an email address and online banking password at a participating financial institution, you can send and receive money quickly and easily.

How do I know this a fake? First of all, I’m not expecting $890 from anyone via an Interac e-mail money transfer. It would be nice to get money for no reason but if something seems like it is too good to be true, it is. Criminals are counting on your greed to overwhelm your better judgement.

Secondly, although the link looks like it goes to a Certapay domain, it doesn’t (I’ve modified the url slightly so it doesn’t work). It goes to a site with the word “yoga” in the domain. This should be a dead giveaway, except the criminals have created a convincing mock-up of BMO’s site as shown below.

Fake BMO Web Page

It looks real enough to someone in a hurry, doesn’t it? However, a real Interac e-mail money transfer will take you to a page where you can choose which bank to deposit the money into, not the bank of the sender.

If you ever get an e-mail that is supposed to be coming from your bank but you feel it looks suspicious, don’t click on any of the links in the email. Call your bank by telephone to inquire about the information in the email. A bank employee can tell you if it is legitimate or not.

These criminals are getting more clever with their tactics and I’d hate to see an unsuspecting business owner get taken advantage of. Be vigilant.

Sep 15, 2011 - 2 minute read - Comments - websites

Picking The Right Domain Name

Much like picking a name for your business, picking the right domain name can make things much easier when it comes time to market your business. With the large number of good domain names that have been taken, this can be difficult to do but if you take a few key things into consideration, you can get closer to the ideal.

  • You should be able to tell someone your domain name over the telephone without having him or her ask you to spell it out. If you have to start spelling your domain name for people, it’s too complex.
  • Try to get a .com. If you are solely focused on Canada, a .ca can be very good as well. If you start to go to other domains, you will reduce the likelihood that your customers will be able to remember your domain name.
  • Don’t use hyphens. People don’t expect hyphens in domain names. If your customers try to enter your domain name and don’t put in the hyphens they will end up on someone else’s site.
  • A shorter name is better. It’s easier to remember and it makes email addresses based on your domain much shorter. Imagine trying to fit “your.name@thisisanincrediblylongdomain.com” on a business card.
  • You domain name should include your business name or a portion of it. I’ve seen people use domains that describe what they do instead of their business name and they can be hard to remember.
  • Don’t skip letters or vowels. Flickr may have been able to establish a huge brand while missing an “e” but it doesn’t mean that you are going to.

You might think that your domain name isn’t all that important because people will just use Google to find your business. Remember that when people search for your business, the search results will likely display the websites of your competitors as well. Would you rather have customers go to your site directly because it has a memorable domain, or do you want them to look through Google search results, and hope that they don’t get distracted by another listing?

Sep 14, 2011 - 2 minute read - Comments - websites

What Is A Domain Name?

Wikipedia defines a domain name as:

A domain name is an identification label that defines a realm of administrative autonomy, authority, or control in the Internet. Domain names are hostnames that identify Internet Protocol (IP) resources such as web sites. Domain names are formed by the rules and procedures of the Domain Name System (DNS).

I’ll try to make this a bit simpler. For our purposes, a domain name is the address of a website. Typing “www.flockfreenation.com” into the address bar of your browser window will bring you to this blog. The “flockfreenation.com” is a domain name. You’ll notice that the address up there is different right now but that’s because we forward the flockfreenation domains (.ca and .com) to this address on our company’s site.

In order for you to have a website for your business, you’ll have to register your domain name. Good domain names are hard to find because many of the obvious choices have been taken. They might either have sites built on them or someone might be sitting on them, waiting for the right price. Domain names can be like virtual real estate that someone is holding until he or she can sell it to a website developer at a profit.

For this reason, finding a good domain name should be an integral part of the process of naming your business. Finding a name that is available with the government’s business or corporate registry and as a good domain name can be a bit of a chore. If you can find a name that satisfies these conditions, the odds are good that you have a name that is distinct from your competitors as well.

There are many places on the internet where domains can be registered. My current favourite is Hover.com. There are probably cheaper places to get a domain name but Hover doesn’t try to sell you a bunch of other services along the way, which makes the process simpler. Use Hover’s domain name availability search tool at the top of its home page to see if your choice of domain name is available.

Sep 12, 2011 - 1 minute read - Comments - entrepreneurship

Ideas Are A Dime A Dozen

I often hear people say that they have a great idea for a business but they are missing something to make it a reality. They don’t know how much it would cost to start up. They don’t know how to develop for the internet. They don’t know where to get financing. They don’t know where to start.

These are real barriers to starting a business but they are not as big a barrier as your own inertia. No one is going to start a business for you. You have to take action to accomplish anything. Falling in love with your idea and dreaming of the day you’ll have a successful business, won’t accomplish anything.

Now, more than ever before, resources are available to help an entrepreneur on his or her journey to success. The Canadian and American governments each have extensive resources to help people start businesses. There are many blogs, like this one, dedicated to small business and entrepreneurship. The resources are there to help you when you get stuck along the way. However, what all these resources can’t do is get you started. Only you can take action.

That’s why ideas are a dime a dozen and taking action is everything.

Sep 8, 2011 - 2 minute read - Comments - government

Canadian Government Looks To Reduce Red Tape For Small Business

Did you know that we have a Red Tape Reduction Commission? I know I didn’t.

For those not familiar with the term “red tape”, it comes from the American Civil War. Veterans’ war records were physically bound with red tape. The red tape became a symbol in veterans’ difficulty in accessing their war benefits. “Cutting through the red tape” became a phrase used to describe the speeding up of a bureaucratic process.

Anyone who runs a small business or is in the process of starting one, knows that there is plenty of red tape holding back the progress of small businesses in Canada. From dealing with many different jurisdictions to filling out forms and complying with some arcane process, small business owners have to jump through a seemingly endless series of hoops.

The Federal Government is aware of this and it has developed a commission (I know there’s a joke in there somewhere) to look into the problem. The commission spoke with small business owners and other stakeholders during the winter of 2011. The commission has recently issued its report, titled What Was Heard.

Tax issues were some of small business owners’ main irritants:

  • cumbersome, expensive and complex filing processes (GST/HST)
  • the lack of flexibility in handling late remittances and fines
  • inconsistency of interpretation and lack of written answers
  • cost of audits
  • reporting burden, for example, the repeat filing of forms

Other issues included:

  • the time required, in general, to complete multiple mandatory business surveys
  • access to government contracts
  • the overall frequency of requests for information, often without pre-populated forms.

Small businesses felt that these issues had a negative effect on factors necessary for their success such as:

  • the ability to minimize overhead costs
  • get and keep the right people
  • obtain funding through tax credits or other programs
  • compete on a level playing field
  • pursue innovation, research and development
  • exploit new business opportunities and new markets.

Over the next six months, the commission has the mandate to clarify peoples’ comments, confirm the findings, and start the search for effective solutions to the most important issues.

I think it will be very difficult to overcome the current culture of the way things are done by a number of these government agencies, but the very fact that someone is trying makes me hopeful they will have some success.

Sep 7, 2011 - 2 minute read - Comments - business news

CYBF Spin Master Innovation Fund Winners Announced

From Rick Spence writing in FP Entrepreneur

  • Christopher Kang of Toronto-based Hygennia engineered a plastic nozzle that transforms a plastic water bottle into “a personal, portable bidet.” It’s targeted to Islamic consumers who follow strict sanitary guidelines, and to millions of Canadians suffering from irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Montreal-based Monumental Technologies has devised an application that lets musicians and bands create their own smartphone apps to sell their music and connect with fans.
  • Jellyfish Marketing of Laval is patenting a line of 3D puzzles called Puzzter, and already has licensing deals with the NHL and its players’ association.
  • Waterloo-based Goosechase Adventures is replacing “expensive, outdated team-building activities” with smartphone-driven scavenger hunts that reinvent the team-building process, reducing costs and offering real-time stats and feedback.
  • Kitchener, Ont.-based NoteWagon has developed an incentive-based platform to encourage university students in Canada and the United States to share their class notes. It launches this month on 25 campuses.
  • Montreal entrepreneur Louis Cleroux used a local investor-matching service called Fundica to raise $175,000 for Cravio Games, which sells “hard-core” war games for the mobile market.
  • Charles Sevigny and Guillaume Chauvette of GCS Medical Inc. in Sherbrooke, Que., are mechanical engineers who make and market surgical tools for orthopedic surgeons in Canada and the United States.
  • Three entrepreneurs in Vancouver formed Domo Enterprises to lead “the reincarnation of tea.” They sell their powdered mix in 23 grocery stores, and need the $50,000 to ramp up production so they can supply more retailers in Canada and Asia.

There are some interesting ideas on this list. It’s nice to see people pursuing businesses in a diverse set of industries. Hopefully the contest organizers will report the progress of these businesses as they go through their development. Not all will be successful, but there are lessons to be learned from the failures as well.