Who is the Canadian Entrepreneur? A Study on People Building a Business.
Entrepreneurs and small businesses are important to Canada’s economy and account for 78% of private sector job creation. In celebration of Small Business Month, Staples partnered with Startup Canada, the grassroots voice of entrepreneurs in Canada, to learn more about entrepreneurs in Canada. Three hundred twenty five Canadian entrepreneurs participated in a study, sharing their experiences and challenges of building a business. The study provided valuable insights that Staples Canada will use to continue growing its service level to small businesses.
Who are they?
They are entrepreneurs.
Of course they are entrepreneurs, but entrepreneurs generally do not view working on their business as a ‘job’. Their business is highly connected with their personal identity – how they see themselves, how they view the world around them, and how they take decisions. “I am passionate about what I do,” said Shelly King, solo-entrepreneur and the founder of Peterborough-based business Puppeteria. “I like to work on things that are meaningful and entrepreneurship gives me the freedom to work on my own terms.”
If given the chance, they would do it all over again. More than 80% of the respondents indicated that they were likely to start another company, with 35% being ‘extremely likely’.
They work incredibly hard.
Building a business isn’t your typical 9 to 5 job. Sixty per cent of survey respondents reported working more than 40 hours a week, with 22% working more than 60 hours a week. There was a positive correlation between the number of hours worked and the maturity of the business – the more time the entrepreneur contributes, the more mature the business and vice versa.
John Arnott, serial entrepreneur and CEO of Nimble Ventures says he is lucky if he gets six hours of sleep a night. “I have never been able to sit on a beach and do nothing,” said John. “I know from experience that every successful startup is really a 20-year overnight success…it is a 24/7 adventure.”
What drives them?
They know an opportunity when they see it.
The majority of entrepreneurs are not motivated by money or an inability to work for others; rather, the top five motivations of entrepreneurs to start-up and dedicate themselves and their time to their businesses are:
- Identifying and wanting to fill a gap in the market (55%);
- Desiring greater independence and flexibility (50%);
- Needing a challenge (45%);
- Aspiring to change the world and leave a legacy (40%); and,
- Wanting to create a better future for themselves and their families (37%).
They are competitive risk-takers.
It takes a lot of courage to start a company, which is reflected in the personalities of the study’s respondents. Eighty six per cent indicated they are comfortable taking risks or consider themselves to be ‘risk-takers’, and 68% consider themselves to have competitive personalities.
They have an optimistic view of the future.
Eighty one per cent of entrepreneurs who completed the study are confident or extremely confident in the future success of their business. “I am am confident in the future success of my company because over time you improve and get better based on customer feedback,” said Craig Rennick, founder of Amplifii, a full-service marketing solutions provider in Toronto who already has two successful exits under his belt. “Perseverance with customer feedback gives me confidence because every day I get a little bit closer…if you keep working you will eventually succeed.”
How are they tackling challenges?
They are looking for new business.
The three largest areas of focus of entrepreneurs surveyed are growing sales (40%), finding funding (11%) and growing their team (9%), which is in complete alignment with their top three concerns and challenges – finding customers (35%), finding funding (20%), and managing cash flow (13%).
Respondents are growing their customer base by becoming members of professional associations, attending networking events, leveraging social media channels like LinkedIn and Twitter, creating blogs, using inbound forms and maximizing SEO on their websites, attending trade shows, actively participating in their startup communities and embedding functional referral systems into their sales funnels.
To find funding, respondents are focused on driving revenue through new customer acquisition and traditional lending from financial institutions. Several had raised funding through pre-sales of their products using the KickStarter crowdfunding website and a number had also taken advantage of government tax credits, grants, procurement programs and accelerators.
They go to the experts for support.
When seeking advice and support, entrepreneurs overwhelmingly seek advice from experts and coaches (83%), professional networks (82%) and mentors (65%), and to a lesser extent family and friends (58%) and online networks (43.3%).
“I leverage a mix of mentors and work with them through formal and informal interactions for both business and emotional support,” said Daniel Marabotto, founder of Winnipeg-based Las Salsas Corp. Daniel receives business support from the Manitoba Food Processors Association to help him with his business processes, mentorship through the Futurpreneur program, and marketing support through Buy Manitoba to help him sell to small stores in Winnipeg and larger chain stores across Canada.
When searching for products and services, entrepreneurs primarily rely on their professional networks (72%) and search engines (70%).
They connect with their community.
Many entrepreneurs remarked they did not feel ‘understood’ or ‘supported’ by existing support structures like incubators and government-funded education and mentorship programs, with only 40% of respondents indicating they felt supported.
Entrepreneurs cited informal and grassroots groups, co-working hubs and makerspaces as more welcoming, inclusive and helpful, with 57% of entrepreneurs feeling connected to other entrepreneurs in their community. When Farris Kathadra, founder of Recelerate Digital in Victoria, B.C. reaches out for support, he prefers the advice and assistance of other entrepreneurs and uses entrepreneur support hubs like ViaTEC to find others with whom to bounce off ideas.
The team at Staples is here to help small businesses grow. That does not just mean offering great products and services. This survey is representative of our commitment to understanding our customers and providing valued support to entrepreneurs on their journey.