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The Great Paperwork Quest of ’16.

So we sat down awhile ago and said, “Hey, let’s start an awesome business! We’ll have incredible escape rooms filled with fun puzzles and we’ll call ourselves ‘SideQuests’!” And then we said, “Yes! Let’s do that!” And then we asked, “So what do we need to do?”

Our initial thoughts were something like this:

Step 1: Design incredible escape rooms.

Step 2: Design an awesome logo and a cool website.

Step 3: Find the perfect location.

Step 4: Do the necessary paperworky stuff.

Step 5: Move in.

Step 6: Share escape room fun with Edmonton!

When all was said and done, we took a look at those six steps and realized that Step 4 used mysterious and somewhat vague terminology: “paperworky stuff.” And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what brings us to the heart of today’s post: The “Paperworky Stuff” Quest.

What follows are some of the major paperwork milestones we’ve reached as we head towards Opening Day, with a little bit about what they are and why a new business might need them.

Incorporation

Incorporation is the process of creating a corporation, or a “company,” which is an entity that is independent of its founders. That is, a corporation is treated like its own person, with the same rights and responsibilities as any other Canadian citizen. Not every small business chooses incorporation when they start up, instead forming sole proprietorships or partnerships. Choosing to incorporate is a big decision, and comes with its own pros and cons over the other types of business structures.

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Corporations aren't only for big business!
Corporations aren’t only for big business!

Incorporating is a more expensive process, for one, and involves the joys of organizing a Board of Directors, choosing Officers, issuing shares, submitting an Annual Return, and filing Articles of Incorporation, for another. On the other hand, a corporation has its own protected corporate name, is subject to its own tax rates, can issue shares to raise capital, borrow money in its own name, and continues to exist independent of changes to its founders, directors, officers, or shareholders.

After a lot of research and serious discussion, we opted to start our “Paperworky Stuff” Quest by incorporating nationally and then extra-provincially. This process was surprisingly simpler than we expected thanks to fantastic resources available through Corporations Canada. In the end, our incorporation was a success, and we graduated from just being “SideQuests” to being “SideQuests Adventures Inc.” That’s right. Just like Scooby Doo and the gang’s Mystery Inc. van, we can now proudly advertise those three very intriguing letters in our name. Inc. Yup. That’s right.

Status: Incorporated! Yay Inc.!

Relaxation of Accessibility

This particular bit of paperwork is a lot less common than the rest, simply because modern commercial buildings and spaces are built or renovated to provide barrier-free access for those people whose mobility includes the use of wheelchairs, walkers, canes, or crutches. Barrier-free access might include things like automatic doors, ramps, elevators, chair lifts, and modified washrooms. If a commercial space isn’t already barrier-free, a business is obliged to determine what changes or renovations have to be made to meet barrier-free standards. It does happen, however, that occasionally a space cannot be made barrier-free due to some restriction of the building, or of the business itself. In that case, a business applies to Alberta Municipal Affairs for Relaxation of Accessibility.

Of course, our “Paperworky Stuff” Quest wouldn’t have been complete without at least one piece of slightly non-standard paperwork, and this was it. The fantastic location we chose is the Metals Building in downtown Edmonton, which was built in the early 1900s and most certainly did not have accessibility in mind. Our basement suite is accessible to the public only by a staircase and happens to have tiered washrooms due to unusual plumbing requirements. Add to that the historic nature of the building, and our only choice ended up being to apply for Relaxation.

Status: Relaxation granted! Yay!

Development Permit

A development permit is issued by the City of Edmonton to show approval of proposed businesses, renovations, and changes of use of specific spaces. When a development permit is applied for, the City verifies that your proposed changes meet any zoning and regulations for the area. Once a development permit has been issued, a business is allowed to apply for a Business License and a Building Permit (as necessary).

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Much coffee. Many meetings. Many forms.
Much coffee. Many meetings. Many forms.

Our “Paperworky Stuff” Quest continued as we applied for our development permit. The Metals Building space we chose was not previously occupied by an escape room business and it definitely needs some walls moved around, so our application was for both change of use and renovation.

Status: Under review/Nearly complete.

Business License

A business license is a legal requirement for any business in Edmonton that offers goods or services. Possessing a license shows that your business is in compliance with all necessary laws and regulations. Essentially, this is the most straightforward bit of paperwork in the lot.

This is an easy step on our “Paperworky Stuff” Quest. The application form is all filled out and ready for submission, pending our development permit.

Status: Ready for submission.

Insurance

Everyone knows what insurance is. You need insurance for your car. You need insurance if you own a house. You need insurance for your property and valuables. Insurance is a very essential and necessary thing. So yes, businesses need insurance too.

Getting insurance was actually a really fun step in our “Paperworky Stuff” Quest, mostly because I had a fantastic conversation with the insurance broker when I began looking into insurance. When he asked me what kind of business we were starting and I asked him if he’d heard of escape rooms, it was really awesome to hear him get excited and tell me yes, of course he had, and they’d just had a staff meeting about them the other week. Personally, I think it’s a really good sign when an insurance broker tells you escape rooms are a big thing, there’s a lot of interest in them, and they’re a lot more fun to broker just the right insurance package for than your run-of-the-mill retail shop or café. So there it was – we had great insurance within three days of my call.

Status: Insured. Whew.

Lease

A lease is a contractual agreement between a landlord and a tenant for the occupation and use of a space or property. There are a variety of things that are negotiated for in a commercial lease, not the least of which includes rent per square foot, utilities, property tax, maintenance and janitorial services, building upgrades, renovations, duration of lease, insurance, and signage. The basic tenets of the lease are laid out in what is called an Offer to Lease (OTL) on the part of the prospective tenant, which is then submitted to the landlord. Once the OTL has been negotiated and agreed upon, an official lease is offered to the tenant, who then signs it and commences the terms of the lease.

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MANY PAPERS!
MANY PAPERS!

Falling in love with the basement suite in the Metals Building downtown was almost instantaneous. Securing the lease has been a bit more of a lengthy process. Our OTL was nine solid pages of negotiated details, and we learned a lot about the commercial leasing process, as well as about our particular building. When our OTL was agreed to, we worked to achieve some of the other requirements we needed prior to signing the lease, which including receiving our Relaxation of Accessibility, securing insurance, and checking that the suite met all necessary fire codes. Now we’re on the verge of signing our sixty-two page lease. Yes, you read that correctly. The lease is nearly seven times as long as the original offer. This is very standard in commercial leases. We recommend that you have a lawyer review your commercial lease prior to signing one, because reading it and catching every nuance is a daunting task, let me tell you.

Status: Imminent ink on the paper.

Building Permit

So once you have a development permit in hand, you can apply for a building permit. A building permit actually gives you permission to proceed with construction, renovation, and other modifications to a space once all the proposed changes and plans have been reviewed for safety and compliance to the Alberta Building Code.

This one is another straightforward one on our “Paperworky Stuff” Quest, since the actual submission of the application will be handled by our general contractor. We spent a great deal of time revising floor plans and room layouts, discussing alternatives to some unique quirks of the space, and settling on the scope of the project so that the general contractor could come up with some very spiffy final drawings. He’s got the application ready to go the moment our development permit comes in!

Status: Ready for submission.

Quest Complete?

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There is definitely cause for celebration once this quest is done!
There is definitely cause for celebration once this quest is done!

So as I mentioned earlier, these were just a few of the major milestones on our Quest to get Paperworky Stuff done. Were they all of them? No way! Are there more in our future? Absolutely! Will we report on them? Probably! (Because I am sure there are going to be a lot of fun times and amusing stories as we expand into the wide, wide world of Human Resources and Payroll, not to mention Accounting and Taxes.)

If there’s anything we’ve learned as we’ve gone from having a dream of starting SideQuests to actually starting SideQuests, it’s that Step 4: Do the necessary paperworky stuff was actually a lot bigger than it sounds. And that you should probably add two or three extra weeks to any completion time estimate given to you when you submit one of the above applications because… bureaucracy. Yup.

Have you ever gone through this process? Any tips/stories? Let us know below! If you enjoyed this content, let us know in the comments below. Share/comment/like this on Facebook & Twitter and let us know what you want to see more of in the future![/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Update from the Realm of Paperwork – SideQuests Adventures Inc.

  2. Pingback: A Month (or Two) in Review – SideQuests Adventures Inc.

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