When it comes to accessing resources required to start a business in Canada, newcomer entrepreneurs may feel like strangers in a strange land.
It’s something people born or raised in this country perhaps take for granted: we know where to find things and we know how things work. Ask a Canadian citizen about where an entrepreneur should go to register a business and most will guess their local city hall—which is the correct answer in most markets.
Being new to this country, newcomers are naturally unfamiliar with the way things work here. They’re trying to understand what makes Canadians tick such as why we drink something called a “Double Double.” Plus, with English as their second language, many newcomers are doubly burdened with the struggle to simply communicate.
If you’re a newcomer entrepreneur, congratulations for choosing to confront these challenges and pursue your self-employed dream. And you can make your journey a little easier by following this list of recommended stops to get your business up and running.
While you likely bring some business skills from your previous home country, it never hurts to learn more about building and running a successful company. In fact, many entrepreneurs believe that learning should be a lifelong activity. The best place to stop for knowledge in Canada is our incredible (and free) library system.
Imagine being able to access advice and information from some of the world’s greatest business minds, such as Tom Peters, Jim Collins, Seth Godin, Richard Branson, Peter Drucker, Michael E. Gerber, Napoleon Hill and Stephen Covey—for free! Check out your favourite book and learn how to build your business.
Some public libraries also offer free business seminars, networking events and free Internet access. It’s also a nice quiet place to work on your business plan and your business. You can find a public library nearest you on the Library and Archives Canada website.
Local economic development office
Another stop on your road to entrepreneurship should be your local economic development office. While the names may differ by region, an Economic Development Office (EDO) is typically found within your city or town hall.
These government-funded offices offer a wealth of services, support and connections for entrepreneurs. While each EDO is different, ask your local office for help registering your business, obtaining any required permits or licenses and locating suitable premises to lease. The EDO can also help you get started by supplying information on local market demographics, identifying financial assistance programs and connecting you to local business groups such as a Chamber of Commerce.
Perhaps most importantly, an EDO supplies invaluable local market insight that can’t be obtained elsewhere. They know the area and the people in it. An EDO can help you quickly assess the opportunities for your particular business in a particular market so you can decide whether or not it’s the place for you to plant your company seed.
Most major Canadian financial institutions offer programs designed specifically to support newcomers or newcomer entrepreneurs. From affordable banking service packages to educational resources to credit and loans, stop by your favourite bank to see what they can do for you.
You’ll soon discover that Canada is rich with government support. We offer countless programs, endless assistance and billions of dollars in various financial initiatives to support pretty much anything you want to do in this country.
One of the best sites to learn about and access federal programs is Service Canada. There you’ll find information and resources for pretty much anything. For example, you can access parenting programs offered by the Public Health Agency of Canada or search the Job Bank administered by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.
Click on the section about Starting a Business to find a tidy set of instructions on how to research your marketplace, prepare a business plan, register your business, hire staff and apply for benefits such as grants and financing.
Canada wants you and your new business to succeed. That’s aptly demonstrated by the sheer volume of government, non-profit and private-sector resources all devoted to helping you. After all, this country was built by immigrants, so it makes good sense that Canada continues that excellent tradition by giving you whatever you need to get the job done.
One final thought: if you don’t find what you need, just ask. Lean (nicely) on the people who are paid to advise and support your business development by asking them any questions that can help you identity and embrace programs, services and resources unknown to you. Don’t be shy. It may take some digging but, believe me, everything you need to succeed in this country is available to those who ask.
Roger Pierce is the founder of NewcomerStartup.com, co-author of the book Thriving Solo: How to Grow a Successful Business and one of Canada’s top experts on starting up. Pierce helps others get into business by sharing what he’s learned from launching 12 companies.
New to Canada? This is Part 6 of startup expert Roger Pierce’s 7-part series on how to make your venture a true Canadian success story. Read the earlier columns in the series here