If you’re looking for the best business to start in Ontario, you’re in the right place! In this guide we cover key Ontario industries, the kinds of businesses you can start, and specific ideas for easy and profitable Ontario businesses.
Why Start a Business in Ontario? Key Business Stats
Recent Economic Data for Ontario
To help you decide which niche (industry) to enter, we’ve gathered some data on the Ontario economy in this section.
Biggest Industries in Ontario
The economy of Ontario is made up of approximately 80% services and 20% goods.
Of the goods sector, more than half is manufacturing, one-third is construction, and one-tenth is utilities.
Invest Ontario (a central agency of the Government of Ontario) focuses on promoting three sectors where Ontario has a competitive advantage – advanced manufacturing, life sciences, and technology – and highlights the following industries for future growth:
The services sector in Ontario consists of the following industries:
Below is a chart that summarizes the goods and services sectors in Ontario:
What Kind of Business to Start in Ontario?
Deciding what type of business to start can be an overwhelming process. I like to think of it in three stages, and I remember those stages with the acronym NOC:
the industry that you want to start a business in. It’s extremely important to choose an industry with the following characteristics:
the product or service that you will be selling to customers. There are two steps here:
how you will distribute your product or service. The two main channels are:
Now that we’ve gone through the framework for choosing a niche, brainstorming offers, and deciding on the channel to sell those offers, let’s get into some specific suggestions for businesses to start in Ontario:
Best Businesses to Start in Ontario: Home-Based, Online, Manufacturing & More
The best business to start for you will depend on your personal situation. Do you have a full-time job and are looking for a side business? Do you have young kids and want to start a business that you can run from home?
In the sections below we cover the best business ideas that meet a range of needs.
Manufacturing Business Ideas for Ontario Entrepreneurs
When deciding which manufacturing business to start in Ontario, keep in mind the industries that Ontario already has an advantage in, due to the focus of its universities and research centres and the skill set of its labour force.
As mentioned in the Economic Data section above, Ontario has an edge in these sectors:
That means the province has a large skilled workforce that can be hired to work in these industries. (It also means that the government provides financial incentives, including grants, to start companies in these fields.)
IT and Cleantech Business Ideas for Ontario Entrepreneurs
Cleantech is a very hot industry sector in Ontario. It is strongly supported by the Government of Ontario as a growth industry and is also supported by many incubators in the province.
Key stats for the cleantech sector in Ontario include:
Another option is starting a business in the information technology sector, which generates about $48 billion of GDP annually in Ontario each year. More than 400,000 people work in IT in the province.
Information technology can involve businesses like:
Food and Beverage Business Ideas for Ontario Entrepreneurs
The food and beverage industry is extremely large in Ontario. Manufacturing of food and beverage products alone accounts for annual revenues of $48 billion in Ontario.
Here are 10 business ideas for the food and beverage industry in Ontario:
Tourism Business Ideas for Ontario Entrepreneurs
For those looking to start a new business in Ontario, one of the most popular industries is tourism. Ontario has about 88,000 businesses related to the tourism industry, and they account for about 395,000 jobs.
Tourism has a mixture of sole proprietors and large companies, meaning new business owners can jump into this industry with almost any type of idea for a small or large business. Such jobs may not require a significant investment in start-up resources, either.
Ontario generates almost $36.7 billion in economic activity annually related to tourism.
Home-Based Business Ideas for Ontario Entrepreneurs
If you’re a full-time parent of young children (or, even more challenging, a member of the “sandwich generation”), you’re probably looking for a business that you can do from home.
The home-based business you choose will depend on whether you want to create a product or provide a service, and whether you want to run your business solely online or in-person.
Here are some home-based business ideas for Ontarians:
Online Home-Based Business Ideas
1. Niche blog
A niche blog involves choosing a niche (topic), and then starting a blog that covers all angles of that topic.
Many people start a niche blog on a hobby or topic that interests them. Some people then grow their blog into a full-time income generator by putting ads on their blog, creating and selling “information products” such as e-books, selling services, or promoting other people’s products as an affiliate (see the next bullet point).
2. Affiliate marketing website
Affiliate marketing involves promoting other people’s products in exchange for a commission (the commission is set by the vendor).
Affiliate marketing is a huge industry, and it’s an extremely popular online business model. You can integrate affiliate marketing into a niche blog by reviewing products that are popular with your audience.
3. Dropshipping website
Dropshipping is similar to affiliate marketing in that it involves selling other people’s products. However, instead of sending customers to the product vendor’s website (and taking a commission when the customer buys from the vendor), you make the sale on your own website, and then get the vendor to ship the product directly to the customer.
The benefit of dropshipping over affiliate marketing is that instead of settling for the commission that the vendor sets, you can set your own price for the product (because you’re making the sale on your own website). The downside is that you have to set up your own shopping cart, handle payments, etc.
4. E-commerce business
E-commerce involves creating your own product, which you then sell on your own website.
There are many challenges to setting up an e-commerce business (deciding on a product, manufacturing the product, distribution, etc.) but the potential rewards are huge.
Pro tip: a shortcut to creating your own product is to buy a “private label” product. Private label products are products that are already being manufactured and that you can add your own brand to (along with choosing the price, altering the product, etc.)
5. Bed and breakfast
To take advantage of Ontario’s tourism industry, you can start a home-based business where you allow others to stay in your home. This is a great alternative to traditional hotels, especially in rural areas where tourists want a realistic local experience.
Having enough bedrooms and bathrooms in the home to accommodate all potential guests can be a challenge, but this is a great business for those who love meeting new people.
Side Hustle Business Ideas for Ontario Entrepreneurs
A side business (or “side hustle”) is a part-time business that you can run while you have a full-time job. One of the best things about a side hustle is that you can test the viability of your business idea on a part-time basis without losing the security of your salary from your full-time business.
A side business can be online or in-person – it just depends on the type of business you want to operate and on your preferences. Many side hustles do not require a significant amount of initial investment capital, which is another advantage.
A disadvantage is that it can be tough to devote the time required for the side hustle while you are working full time elsewhere. You may not give your side hustle a true chance to succeed because you cannot throw all of your time and energy into it.
Side business gigs are popular. The Angus Reid Institute estimates that about 40% of Canadians aged 35 and younger have tried a side hustle in the past five years.
Although some people simply use a side hustle to generate some extra income, others are looking to potentially create a full-time business they can run in the future.
Some of the best side hustle business ideas in Ontario include:
1. Freelance writing
Freelance writers can create their own blogs and websites with consumer articles, relying on advertising and subscriptions for funding, or they can work for
2. Freelance photography
Freelance photographers can shoot photos for hire at events or for advertising. They even can start blogs where they showcase their photos.
3. Freelance coding
Programmers can work as freelancers to write apps or other software to help businesses solve problems. Some freelancers may code and design new websites for businesses, too. (Many website creation software packages don’t require you to know any coding.)
Consider providing rides for people to places like medical appointments or try making deliveries for people (through a platform like UberEats).
Create a digital store to sell products that you make or to sell locally sourced products from Ontario.
Small Town Business Ideas for Ontario Entrepreneurs
With the recent surge in immigration to “exurbs” and small towns in Canada, there are many Canadians and immigrants choosing to move to smaller centres outside the big cities. This presents an opportunity to entrepreneurs to serve those newcomers.
Think of it this way. Ontario’s population is about 14.6 million. Ontario has 14 cities that have populations of more than 100,000 people. Those 14 cities account for about 10 million people. But that means that another 4.6 million people live outside those 14 cities in Ontario.
That’s a lot of potential customers for your new small business in small cities, small towns, and rural areas of Ontario. Here are some small-town business ideas for Ontario:
1. Property management
You could perform repairs and general maintenance on multi-family properties or business properties for investment real estate owners who live elsewhere. You also could provide the same services during the tourism off-season for people who own cabins or vacation homes in the province.
2. Snow removal and lawn care
Ontario can receive anywhere from 100 cm to 300 cm of snowfall per year, providing snow removal companies plenty of work in the winter months. During the rest of the year, such companies could change over to lawn care companies.
3. Financial advisor
You could provide financial advice regarding investments and retirement accounts for people living anywhere in Ontario. Financial advisors do not have to operate out of a large urban area like Toronto.
4. Small engine repair
In rural areas of Ontario, people may be more likely to have property maintenance machinery and recreational vehicles. Such items need regular repair and maintenance. You could provide a mobile repair service.
5. Tourism guides
People visiting rural areas of Ontario may need help from hunting guides, fishing guides, or hiking guides.
Easiest Business to Start in Ontario – Best Businesses for Novices
The easiest businesses to start are online, because you only need a website (or even just a social media account) to start making money.
Keep in mind, however, that “easy” often goes hand-in-hand with “competition”. There’s a term for this in business: “low barrier to entry”. Low barrier to entry means it’s easy to get into a business, which also means there’s probably lots of people getting into that business. Hence, high competition.
Some options for easy businesses to start in Ontario where you don’t need a lot of experience as an entrepreneur include:
1. Online stores
Starting an online store is easy, and a few different ecommerce software packages can help you. From Ontario, you could sell locally sourced products or products that you make yourself.
Whether you are a freelance handyman, photographer, writer, or web designer, you can advertise your services online. You often can use tools and hardware that you already have on hand to run these types of freelancing businesses, limiting the required investment.
3. Pet care
Offering mobile pet-related services, such as grooming, walking, or daycare, can be a great way to start a business that doesn’t require a lot of experience, licensing, or overhead.
4. Social media and web consultant
Many business owners in Ontario may struggle with building up a social media following or with having a strong web presence. If you have experience with the digital world, you can provide consultancy services with a limited amount of investment money required.
Starting a home cleaning or business cleaning service can be easier than other types of businesses. This type of business does have some expenses for cleaning supplies, and you may need a few employees. However, it’s a good way to start a business quickly, as you don’t need a lot of training.