How to Start a Business in Manitoba Nov 15, 2023

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve got a business idea that you’re ready to launch.

Amazing! We’re excited to support you in your new venture and to watch you succeed.

Starting a business in Manitoba is actually a pretty straight-forward process, although we understand that it might seem a bit complicated right now. Between learning everything about business structures, licenses, permits, taxes, and all the forms you need to complete, getting a business set up can seem very overwhelming.

That’s why we’ve created this guide: to help you take all the guesswork out of starting your Manitoba-based business. You can also watch our latest webinar on starting a business in Manitoba here.

If there is anything you’re still not sure about after digesting this shared information, please book a free consultation with one of our small business advisors today.

Now, let’s get that idea of yours turned into an actual business!

Conduct a business and market assessment

The first step to getting your business set up is to ensure that there is enough market demand for your product or service, and that you are going into business for the right reasons.

You need to have your version of success clearly defined, or else you’ll be pushed and pulled in many different directions along your business journey, only to burn out because you weren’t doing what was conducive to your definition of success.

To start, we recommend conducting a DFV analysis.

We can picture you now, scratching your head wondering, “What on Earth is a DFV analysis?”

Let us explain! DFV stands for Desirability, Feasibility, Viability.

This is a great exercise which leverages design thinking (a human-centered approach to innovation) to determine if your idea is really worth pursuing. It considers the risks and what’s possible from a human, technological, and economical point of view.

IDEO U defines these categories as:

Desirability – What makes sense to and for people? Do they want what you’re offering?
This is the human element which assesses the risks associated with market size, demand now and in the future, customer retention strategies, and your ability to reach and acquire new customers.

Feasibility – What is technically possible in the foreseeable future? Can you actually do what you’re setting out to do?
The technical lens that has you consider the risks with managing, scaling, and ensuring you have key resources and partners on board to conduct successful operations.

Viability – What is likely to become part of a sustainable business model? Should you do it?
Lastly, the economical aspect has you consider risks around cost structure, revenue streams, etc. The business must make sense financially!

Illustration of the DFV Analysis which stands for Desirability, Feasibility, Viability.

By asking yourself these questions, you can get a holistic view of your business idea and know if it’s worth pursuing. This only scratches the surface in your initial process, but luckily for you there are lots of resources available to dive deeper into the inner workings of your business operations!

Here are some great tools to help you out in the initial stages of planning and preparing your business launch.

Business Model Canvas
Value Proposition Canvas
Competitor Analysis
BDC Entrepreneur’s Toolkit
The Importance of a Business Plan – Part 1
The Importance of a Business Plan – Part 2
Webinar – The Importance of a Business Plan

Create an account with the Companies Office

Alright, so you’ve got a business idea that you’re committed to pursuing, and you know there is a market demand for your product/service. Great! Now it’s time to start the process of registering your business with the province of Manitoba.

Your first step is to make an account with the Companies Office. Please visit their website to make an account. Please note that the supported browsers for this are Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Firefox.

Pick the right business name (if applicable)

Coming up with a business name might not seem like a stressful task, but we get questions about it all the time. It can take a while, and when you’ve finally come up with a name you like, you still have to make sure it’s available to use.

We’ve been there before…
The name is picked. We’re excited to reserve it. Then we get the dreaded “rejected” notice. Gasp. The name has already been taken. Or it’s too similar to a name already in existence.

Let’s help you avoid this. By the end of this section, you’ll have the information needed to confidently pick a great business name and ensure that you can use it!

Here are some tips you can use before reserving a business name:

– Leverage various search engines (Google, Bing, etc) to ensure your business name or very similar sounding names don’t already exist. Note: This only works if these businesses are listed online – something that many businesses are not.

– Use the Companies Office name search tool after you create an account with the Companies Office. This tool only pulls up a list of names spelled exactly as you’ve typed them into the search tool. Try searching for a few different name combinations that are close to the name you want, with slight changes to words and letters.

– Search for a federal corporation with Corporations Canada, as well as trademarks with Canadian Trademarks Database. There is also a new business search tool in beta that you can use called Canada’s Business Registries.

– Don’t invest in business cards and flyers until you have your name picked out and locked in with the Companies Office. It’s not fun to drop cash on these materials when you have a name you are excited to run with, only to find out later that the name has already been taken!

You can skip this step if you plan to operate under your name specifically. For example:
– John Smith’s Cleaning Services
– Mary Jane’s Consulting

Another option is to register as a number corporation. This might look like: 12345678 Manitoba Ltd.

Choose the right business structure

Choosing the right business structure is extremely important for your business. It has business implications on taxes, financing, liability, and much more.

If you’re unsure of the best structure for your business, check out the Manitoba Business Structures Wizard. This is a very helpful tool you can use to compare the different business structure options and learn which one will suit your needs best.

You may also refer to this article on the Government of Canada’s website for more information.

For incorporating at the federal level:

STEP 1: Incorporate federally using the Government of Canada’s online filing system.

STEP 2: Extra-provincial registration
– For information on registering a federal corporation in a province or territory, visit here.
– For information on extra-provincial registration in Manitoba, visit here.

Understand your relevant permits and licenses

To get an idea of the necessary permits and licenses you’ll need to operate your business, check out BizPal.

Home-based Business Permit
If you’re operating a business out of your home, you’ll require a home-based business permit depending on your location. Contact your local municipality to find out.

Here are links for home-based business permits for a few city centers in Manitoba.

Zoning and Building Permits
All businesses operating in a non-residential space are required to obtain a Building Occupancy Permit. The permit must be renewed if there is a change to the type of business, business name, business address or space.

Know your taxes

Some of the most common questions the Small Business Service team at World Trade Centre Winnipeg receives are on taxes.

Questions like:
“Which taxes are my business subject to?” and,
“How do I collect and pay taxes appropriately?”

We aren’t tax experts by any means, and we always make sure business owners consult their accountants on any tax related questions. But to help get you started, we have a few great resources to for you.

CRA Liaison Officer Service: Free personalized and 100% confidential tax help for small business owners and self-employed individuals.

Goods and Services Sales Tax (GST)

When to register and start charging GST/HST: If you are considered a small supplier, you are NOT required to register for a GST account.

Open or manage an account: Once you have your business number, you can open your GST account.

Register voluntarily for a GST/HST account to be eligible to claim input tax credits.

Input tax credits: Main point from article: “If you have an eligible expense that you intend to use only in your commercial activities, you can claim ITCs for the full amount of the GST/HST paid.” This Video on Input Tax Credits has a good overview.

Sales taxes for small business in Canada.

Retail Sales Tax (RST)

– Also known as Provincial Sales Tax (PST), Manitoba is not part of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) system.

– You are required by the law to open an RST account once you exceed $10,000 in revenue within 12 months.

– Contrarily to GST, there are no benefits in creating your RST account early. Once you’re ready to open your RST account, you will connect with someone from the Manitoba Finance – Taxation Department. They will need your 9-digit Business Number.  

– Contact Manitoba Finance – Taxation Division at 204-945-5603 or 1-800-782-0318, or you may apply for an account online here.

Open a business bank account

Keeping your personal and business finances separate is a best practice that you should follow. This will not only help to keep your own finances organized, but lead to more efficient bookkeeping efforts, a smoother time dealing with your accountant during tax-season, and lastly, if an audit ever comes your way (hopefully it doesn’t!) you’ll have proper records that show your business revenue, income, and expenses.

This is an important point to highlight for the business owner who is registered as a sole proprietor. It might be tempting to run everything through your personal bank account, but it might be best if you put in the initial effort to get a separate bank account set up for your business. Again, discuss the best options with your accountant!

You can visit your local financial institution to open a business bank account. You will have to provide your Business Number (BN), a copy of your business registration documentation and partnership agreement if applicable.

Build the right team

“Those that wish to go fast, go alone. Those that wish to go far, go together” – African proverb.

The best business owners are the ones who know their weaknesses and blind spots, then find the right people and resources to help fill these gaps.

Know your strengths and lean into them, but don’t try to tackle the things that are outside of your expertise.

It’s one thing to be curious and learn how things work, but if it’s at the expense of using your time and energy to serve your business best, you’ll only increase your chances of failure.

Outsource and delegate what you aren’t skilled at. Automate tasks that are repeated often and are low-skill but seem to take a lot of time away from doing the more pressing tasks that need your full attention.

As Dan Sullivan often prompts his entrepreneurs to ask themselves, “Who, not how.”

Asking “Who can help?” frees up your resources to work on what you’re great at, while someone else can do what they are great at. This is exponential thinking.

Asking “How can I do this?” is great to understand business operations, but it is purely linear thinking. You can’t keep stacking up more tasks in your daily agenda. You will burn out. You only have so much time and energy in a day.

If you need help with bookkeeping, accounting, legal support, marketing, sales, etc., consider these investments, not expenses!


We’ve covered a lot of information in this article but thought it would be helpful to give you an overview of the process for starting a business in Manitoba.

You’ll need to make sure you have done a proper analysis of your business and industry to see if it’s a worthwhile venture to pursue. Next, you’ll need to get your business name, structure, and the necessary permits, licenses and taxes set up in order to conduct business operations here in Manitoba. And make sure you get the right team of people around you to support your efforts!

As you move through this process, you’ll want to make sure you have the systems in place to ensure the effective operations of your business as a whole. This is where getting a more thorough business plan can help.

If you have any questions, please book a call with us today. Our business advisors would be glad to support you. We can help guide you on the best steps to take, specific to your situation.

For personalized support on starting your Manitoba-based business – submit a Business Information Request

This article was written by Paul Keefe.
“As a WTC Winnipeg Business Advisor, I’m happy to help in any way I can. Don’t hesitate to reach out for guidance on your business journey, challenges, or any related matters.”

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The Importance of a Business Plan – Part 2
How to Validate Your Business Idea

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