The start-up environment in Canada can appear challenging, given the country’s relatively small domestic market, yet there’s good news to be found in the variety of support and services available to entrepreneurs, from a start-up’s infancy right through the life-cycle of the business.

At whatever phase you find yourself, chances are there are resources available to you that can help you grow your start-up’s customer base and maybe even become the next Fortune 500 company.

First, a word about some potential hurdles to overcome.

There is a perception that Canadian companies, particularly in the tech space, are risk-averse: they would rather be bought out or licensed by a larger company than grow locally and organically.

"The good news is that with the less robust economic times, it is becoming a bit easier for small firms in competition for talent with their larger counterparts."

This perception needs to change

Every day, I meet, read about or hear of some unbelievably talented Canadian entrepreneurs who are looking to start a business or take it to the next level. And whether or not the company ever becomes the next Shopify or Hootsuite, they are helping to create jobs, build our economy and strengthen Canada’s international brand.

Even those that fail are strong evidence of Canada’s growing entrepreneurial spirit, with many successful firms emerging from the school of hard knocks.

Finding the right people and being able to afford to attract and retain them is always a challenge for start-ups. The good news is that with the less robust economic times, it is becoming a bit easier for small firms in competition for talent with their larger counterparts. Canada also has a more flexible process for highly skilled immigrants than the US, which can help in attracting overseas talent to supplement our workforce.

Financial support

Financing is often a problem, but there is growing support available for promising start-ups. I recently visited some of the start-ups that were supported through Futurpreneur—an awesome group that helps young Canadians start their business with mentorship and financing. BDC is also a strong support of start-ups and has a variety of financing options available to entrepreneurs of all ages.

And I can’t speak more highly of Scotiabank’s Running Start program—designed to provide support, lending and significant discounts on banking fees to start-ups.

The tax environment for start-ups in Canada also deserves a nod. I recently gave two speeches in Europe and I heard audible gasps (the good kind) when I shared that Canada’s rate of taxation on small business income (under $500,000) was set to fall from 11 percent to 9 percent over the next four years.

The lower rate of taxation on small business was created to recognize the challenges small firms have in raising capital compared to their larger counterparts. I didn’t share how many years of lobbying on the part of my organization were required to make this happen though! Many provinces have also made solid progress on lowering their small business tax rates, including the zero rate in my home province of Manitoba.

Once a business has been around for a few weeks or months, entrepreneurs learn quickly how much red tape and paperwork is often involved. Progress is being made here too, with new federal legislation requiring the elimination of one regulation for each new one that is adopted. 

Still, a start-up entrepreneur needs someone in their corner to provide information and serve as an advocate while they focus on bringing their product or service to market. To help, CFIB launched mystartup.ca to help customize our wealth of resources to help start-ups save time and money.

There are literally hundreds of low-cost services for Canadian start-ups, covering seed financing, accelerators/incubators, crowd-funding, networking, and even office space sharing.

With the right tools at your disposal, your next entrepreneurial venture is ready to start up!