No business is an island. To scale a business, well, it takes an ecosystem! Government, partners, customers, banks, investors, mentors, employees, community support, and so much more!
As a startup founder in a new country, it can be daunting to put yourself out there and build this ecosystem from scratch. But hey, that’s why we’re writing this blog. We’re leaving you with some tips to get you closing on deals faster!
This is your introduction to growth-hacking your way to business opportunities in Canada.
1. Keep your friends close, keep your competition closer:
Mallika Kazim, a Senior Business Advisor at BDC Advisory Services, says, “Don’t wait until a competitor launches a new product before changing your strategy.”
As a new entrepreneur in Canada, a deep understanding of your competition is a smart-cut (smart+shortcut) way to build a robust industry blueprint. It can inform key decisions about your product features, pricing, promotion, market expansion plans and growth opportunities. Let’s look at the food delivery industry; the global market may look like it’s monopolized by the biggies like Uber Eats or Grubhub as they race to gain markets across the map. Despite this, startups like the Spanish Glovo, have been able to raise $1.2B in funding by focusing on markets in South America and North Africa. DoorDash, a similar last-mile delivery company, expanded its footprint to 27 countries overnight with a strategic acquisition of Wolt, which gave them access to Scandinavian and Baltic countries.
Here are some really simple ways to keep track of your competition:
- Follow their press releases to receive their latest announcements
- Read publicly published Annual Reports
- Track traffic to their Websites/blogs
- Put Google Alerts for their mentions in news articles
- Track analyst’s reports or white papers that include your competition
- Check their advertising campaigns to understand who they are targeting
- Check for Patent applications by your competition
- Monitor Trade shows they attend to gauge their markets/suppliers/distributors’ networks
- Track their customer satisfaction levels through reviews, social media engagement, and trust pilot ratings
Free Canadian Government Resource to check out the competition:
Canadian business registry, Beta, helps you search businesses and get information on the legal name, status, location, province or territory where the business is registered, along with a direct link to the official registry source of any company.
2. Get out and rub elbows with your peers:
No one ever says, “I wish I hadn’t gone to that networking event.” Networking builds connections with people who can help in the future. No one can predict what will happen in the future. You never know when someone you meet today could become a big part of your life tomorrow.
That’s the power of networking.
It helps your business by expanding your knowledge, staying informed about industry trends, and gaining access to new resources and opportunities. It can help you identify potential partners, suppliers, and customers and can help you establish a positive reputation in your industry.
Here are some networking events that can be a window to endless growth opportunities for your startup in Canada:
- Brampton Entrepreneur Centre: The City of Brampton has a very active Brampton Entrepreneur Centre that regularly hosts online and in-person networking and upskilling events. Their calendar is always buzzing with expert-led workshops, mastermind sessions, and programs. You can view their detailed calendar here; it’s lined up with events months in advance!
- Jelly Social: An entrepreneurship ecosystem specifically designed for BIPOC founders, Jelly Social hosts online events every month to help 4000+ Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour build meaningful relationships in the Canadian startup landscape.
ICUBE: A resource centre for entrepreneurs building social enterprises has free virtual events! Whether you’re early-stage or growth-stage, they’ve got something for everyone. You can even watch Peel’s 2023 Flagship Startup Pitch Competition, of which ICUBE is a partner – together with the ICUBE community and cheer on your favourite participants! Add it to your calendar now.
3. Get connected with your neighbourhood:
Business can begin at home too! Every city or town in any Canadian province has a business centre for small businesses. You can use them to immerse yourself in the local business culture better and find new opportunities. Thanks to Canada’s Open Data policy, you can get easy access to guidance on licence & permit processes, directories, trade indexes, regulations, and more. Many business centres have free consultations for legal and accounting services. You can even do business with the local government by simply setting up an account on the local portal and bidding on tenders!
This is an excellent starting point for any business owner new to the country. It can help identify legitimate clients, customers, employees, strategic partners, and promotional opportunities just next door! Find a Small Business Enterprise Centre near you right here!
4. Optimize Government Support
The Canadian government, on all levels, is very business-friendly. The numerous programs, funds, financing options and grants available to entrepreneurs across industries evidence this.
Use the Business Benefit Finder here, curated by the Government of Canada. You can discover benefits linked to your business by province, need, industry, and goal. Looking for wage subsidiaries, resources to buy or lease a property, or searching for funding or tax credits? Want to sell internationally, increase working capital, or find a research facility? No problem. The Business Benefit Finder will sort you out!
The Canadian government has been funding startups in the millions. Sanctuary, an AI and Robotics company founded by Geordie Rose, Suzanne Gildert, Olivia Norton, and Ajay Agrawal in 2018, was recently the recipient of $30 million through the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) from the Government of Canada. You can view the entire list of updated funds disbursed to startups under the SIF here.
5. Think outside the border –
Starting-up in Canada offers you preferred access to many parts of the world! Canada’s vast trade network is a fantastic opportunity for you to take your business international. Here are some of the most searched new trade agreements:
- Can-UK TCA – Canada-UK Trade Continuity Agreement
- CUSMA – Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement
- CPTPP – Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership
You can browse through all of Canada’s updated free trade agreements (FTA), plurilateral agreements, foreign investment promotion and protection agreements (FIPA), and World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements here.
6. Get the inside scoop from Mentors –
Mentors achieve their mentorship status after years of success in their industry. A well-nurtured mentorship relationship can help your business bypass many unforeseen challenges and chart a fast-tracked growth path! Mentors encompass a wealth of information, first-hand lessons, industry tips, and act as the best-sounding board for your ideas.
Being notable in their industry, surrounded by their level of network and experience, also makes them privy to forward-looking trends before anyone else, ensuring they are at the helm of industry-defining changes. They are often connected to government schemes, programs, and opportunities that can potentially open up many doors for your business.
Read our blog on how Mentorship works in Canada.
- Find the win, win, win: Sometimes, what you need is already looking for you! Let’s take a look at some wildly successful strategic partnerships.
- Uber and Spotify: Uber users can connect to Spotify and stream their favourite music while on their ride.
- Starbucks and Barnes & Noble: Barnes & Noble offers Starbucks Coffee ranges to customers who want to enjoy a coffee with their book.
- Apple and MasterCard: MasterCard customers could connect their iPhones and make contactless payments through Apple Pay.
Canada’s largest producer of Ethanol and specialty alcohol, Greenfield Global, strategically partnered with Truly Green Farms, a greenhouse tomato producer, to reduce waste diverted into the environment and lowered each other’s input costs. Greenfield Global piped steam and CO2 into Truly Green Farms and, in return, received organic waste from the farm, which they could process into alcohol.
There are a multitude of strategic partnerships waiting to be discovered by the keen eye of a creative entrepreneur. Think, research and development, outsourcing, joint ventures, affiliate marketing, licensing, and more!
Want to be the next big Canadian startup?
BHive is a startup incubator in Brampton, Ontario, that offers international startups the tools, resources, and space to establish – and quickly scale – their businesses in Canada and North America. To apply to our Global Entrepreneur Incubation Program, click here!