how to start a boutique in canada

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How to Start a Boutique in Canada: Complete Checklist

There’s nothing more exciting than fulfilling your dreams by starting your own boutique. But getting started can seem like an overwhelming endeavor. You may be asking yourself, where do you even start? No need to worry, we are here to help! Here is a checklist for how to start a boutique in Canada.

Free Resources for How to Start a Boutique in Canada

Checklist: How to Start a Boutique in Canada

  • Research
  • Name, Logo, and Domains
  • Legal and Organizational Matters
  • Branding and More Research
  • Set Up Your Shopify Account
  • Wholesale Shopping
  • Business Tools
  • Launch

Step 1: Research! 

Before choosing a boutique name and logo, research your target audience. 

Define Your Target Customer

Who are they, what do they value, what do they do in their free time? These are all great questions to ask yourself during this process. Some other things to consider during this initial research process are your online presence and competition. 

-Where are your target customers’ eyeballs? 

-What websites are they looking at? 

-Where else do they shop? 

-What social channels are they on? 

-What are their shopping struggles? 

  • Finding the right sizes?
  • Are they too busy to search for looks, lines, or functions?
  • Are they price-driven or quality-driven?

Finding a product 1st and a customer 2nd is a risky way to build a business!  If you find a customer in need of a solution, and then you offer the solution – there you will find a sustainable business! This is an interesting way to think about marketing and a way to get a better insight into your customer.
Click here to download our Customer Identification & Profile Worksheet

Who Are Your Competitors?

Who are the other players in this game?  What are their strengths and weaknesses? Identify these, and you will find opportunities!

Step 2: Name, Logo and Domains

After brainstorming and coming up with the perfect name, snag those social handles. You want to make sure your boutique will be easily found online by your customers. Nothing’s worse than finding a business you love but not being able to find them on socials because of different spelling in their handles … make sure to avoid this issue. 

Business social handles should be:  

  1. Short 
  2. Memorable
  3. Consistent
  4. Distinguishable
  5. Easy to spell
  6. Informative

Be sure to also purchase a domain for your website. There are many websites that you can purchase a domain name from such as GoDaddy, IONOS by 1&1, BlueHost, or even straight through Shopify. Each platform may offer different monthly pricing based on availability, so check out different options to see what will be your best bet. Top-level domains or TDL’s are the domain extensions. The most popular ones include .com, .net, .edu, .org and .gov. In a boutique’s case, .com is usually the best way to go as it is the most memorable for customers. A domain’s cost can range from $2 – $50 a year depending on popularity. 

TIP: If the domain that you want is already taken, you have the option of contacting the domain owner and negotiating a fair price. 
When you have decided on a name and Check name restrictions on Canadian corporations, register your name with the Canadian government.

how to start a boutique in canada

Step 3: Legal and Organizational Matters

The next step for how to start a boutique in Canada is taking legal matters into consideration. Here are some things to look into and take action on:

  • Choose Your Legal Structure (in Canada there are three forms of business ownership: sole proprietorship, the partnership, and the corporation, speak to an accountant)
  • Apply for your Business License (Industry Canada’s BizPaL is a useful tool for finding out what permits and licenses you’ll need to do business)
  • Register for the GST/HST
  • Register for Provincial Sales Tax *If Needed (If you are starting a business in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, or Saskatchewan, you will need to register as a collector of provincial sales tax: PST. In Quebec, you will need to register for Quebec Sales Tax: QST.)

The Boutique Hub is not a law firm, nor are we attorneys. The information provided is general legal information and should be taken into consideration when starting a business. If you are unsure of legal matters you should contact a lawyer. 

Step 4: Branding and Surprise… More Research!

Now that you have your initial research from step one, your name and logo, and your legal matters out of the way, it’s time to connect the dots and figure out branding elements and create the perception you hope consumers have as they meet you, see your store, and experience your company, product or service.
There are three phases of branding:

  • Brand Identity – how your brand looks – It is the way that your business becomes recognizable. Everyone recognizes Coca Cola, Nike, and Apple.   
  • Brand Strategy – describes your mission! This solidifies your purpose, promises and how you can solve your customers’ problems.  How do you want the world to see you? 
  • Brand Marketing – Remember your customer persona, if you target everyone you attract no one. Brand marketing is basically communication of a brand to customers.  

Put it all together! Create a company mood board to put all of your efforts into focus, find clarity through your mood board. Include things such as branding elements, graphic design elements, and product types to confirm your brand identity!  
Branded packaging can be found on Vista Print. You might also begin to consider marketing options during this step, which is where you can consider help from businesses such as the Boutique Marketing Studio or Simply Simplified.

Step 5: Set Up Your Shopify Account

Making sure you have the right tools to sell online is critical. Shopify is the most robust of all e-commerce platforms for online boutique owners, and very simple to get started with.  Start a free trial here with Shopify. 
Get it right the first time with this Shopify Launch Checklist.   

Step 6: Wholesale Shopping

Love to shop? You’ll definitely start having fun with this part! There are lots of online wholesale marketplaces such as Hubventory (coming soon!) but we suggest attending wholesale apparel markets as a way to find and connect with vendors, especially for newbies.

At markets, you’ll be able to see the quality of the apparel, get inspiration, build relationships with vendors, meet and network with other boutique owners, and also visit the Hub’s showroom for education, support, and swag! Your products are the biggest impression people will correlate with your business, make sure it’s a good one. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when buying wholesale: 

1.  Know your customers

2.  Understand all your wholesale buying options (markets, platforms, etc)

3.  Ask about product sizing

4.  What types of pre-packs does the vendor offer

5. What are the minimum requirements of the vendor

6.  Price for profit

Step 7: Business Tools

Before you get the ball officially rolling, you’ll want to make sure you have everything checked off your lists such as having a good shipping provider and supplies, a marketing program, and other tools such as racks for storage, a label printer, mailer cards, etc. We’ve got you covered with a list of resources vetted from boutique owners to help you succeed in your journey! 

  • Computers and Printers
  • Photography Equipment
  • Mannequins
  • Steamer
  • Shelving
  • Tagging Equipment
  • Packaging 
  • Labels
  • Polymailers
  • Hangers

Step 8: Launch!

Recruit some friends or customers to run through your site and literally try to break it before you launch it!  Test everything, and test it again! Imagine creating a brick-and-mortar store, merchandising it, stocking it, staffing it, and marketing it only to launch it on opening day but forgetting to bring the keys to unlock the door? 
Test your payment platforms, taxes, email automation, load speed, inventory counts, pop-ups, and more! Take feedback in stride and remember the reason you started this business in the first place! Stay true to your mission and have fun!

It’s time to celebrate, learn from your mistakes, pivot, and adjust! This is a marathon, not a sprint! Remember to stay active on socials all day and communicate with a mix of education, humor, encouragement, sales strategy, and questions to keep your customers coming back for more! 

This is just the beginning, Boutique Boss! 

Free Guide: 20 Steps to Start a Boutique

  • Are you considering starting an online boutique or opening a brick-and-mortar boutique and need to define your market?
  • Are you trying to figure out what will set your boutique apart?
  • Are you confident you have selected the perfect location?
  • Have you locked down your business name, your EIN, and your domain?
  • Do you have a business plan down on paper?

Use our FREE downloadable guide to start your boutique like a BOSS!

20 Steps to Starting a Boutique

We hope you loved our article on How To Start a Boutique in Canada. How else can The Boutique Hub help you grow?

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