Choosing to start a business in the best economic times in Canada is challenging enough. But when you are thinking about starting a business during rough economic times, depressed commodity markets, or during any multitude of other crises, you’re likely to receive a few strange looks and skepticism.
Although there’s no guarantee of success in any conditions when starting a business, it is possible to have success, even in the middle of rough economies. Disney chose to begin merchandising Mickey Mouse heavily during the middle of the Great Depression, fueling the company’s growth and success in the subsequent years. FedEx began operations in 1971, which was at the end of one recession and a couple of years before another one.
If you have a great business idea, the economic conditions in which you start the business may not matter that much. Canada and the rest of the world move forward, even during rough economic times or other crises. No matter when they occur, brilliant business ideas often receive their just reward, especially when accompanied with proper execution.
Maybe you don’t have a killer business idea yet, but you’re ready to give it some contemplation. We’ve collected some information that can help you determine some of the best businesses to start in Canada.
Find Your Niche: How to Choose Which Industry to Start a Business In
When starting a business, you need to start by choosing an industry. Finding the right niche, whether it’s for a media, tech, retail, or other business, is a great starting point. Here’s how to do it:
Focus on Your Skills
To think about the industry in which you would be best suited to start a business, it’s important to take a self-inventory of your skills and interests. Be honest about what you like to do and make a list. At the same time, jot down some things that do not interest you.
After completing your list, ask friends and family for their opinions. They may notice something about your skills that you don’t see.
This list is important, as it hopefully will give you a starting point for finding an industry where your skills and interests align. Starting a business is hard work that rarely fits inside the confines of a typical 40-hour work week, so if you are going to put in that much time and effort, it should be in a business and industry that interest you.
Whether you’re working for someone else or for yourself in your own business, it feels a lot less like work if it’s something you truly enjoy and in which you can have success.
Look for Inspiration
Once you have a few candidates for niches, start looking for something that inspires you within each of those industries:
- Maybe it’s a story about another person who started a business that inspires you to try a different business in the same industry.
- Perhaps you’ve heard about a particular health or social problem that you’d like to come up with an idea to solve, helping people along the way.
- Or perhaps you have seen something that isn’t as efficient as it should be. Maybe you have an idea for a new product or process that helps other businesses operate more efficiently.
Inspiration for a new business can come from almost anywhere. Once you’ve chosen a niche (or a few), think of an angle that you can approach that inspires you.
What’s Your “Vision”?
We all know that the time you will dedicate to starting a business is extensive. The hope is that the hours you put in during the early days will pay off by making things easier for you down the road or by helping you increase your take home pay significantly.
So what is your goal for the new business two, five, and 10 years down the road? Are you willing to put in long hours now with the hopeful payoff of having the business on cruise control in a few years? Or do you want to stay heavily involved in your business well into the future?
Determining what you want your work life and business to look like in the future can help you select an industry in which you’d like to work. Certain industries are better suited to having the business owner heavily involved forever, while others allow you to pass the ball to coworkers when you’re ready to give up control and slow down.
Narrow Your List
By this point, you should have a pretty good idea of the niche you prefer, and maybe even some ideas about what type of business might be a good selection in that industry.
To further narrow your ideas for finding the best industry and best business for you, here are a few more suggestions.
Starting an Online Vs. Offline Business
As you’re selecting the industry in which you want to start a business, it’s important to think about whether you want a business that primarily works online, primarily works offline in a physical location, or some of both.
Pros and Cons of Online Businesses
With an online business, you do not need a physical store. You can operate out of your home if you want.
Some of the pros of an online business include:
Some cons of an online business include:
Pros and Cons of Offline Businesses
An offline business will operate in an industry that commonly has physical stores. Another common name for this type of industry is brick and mortar.
Some pros of an offline business include:
Some cons of an offline business include:
Mixing Online and Offline Business
Many industries and businesses have a mixture of an online and offline presence. This is a good idea, as you can take advantage of the benefits of both types of settings.
However, trying to do both at the same time can introduce some complexity into your operations that you may not be ready to tackle when you are in the startup phase.
Generally, a business will end up operating with far more of a presence offline or online in the early days. It then will migrate and grow into the other setting as necessary as the business expands.
Evergreen Niches: Industries That Survive in Any Economy
Evergreen niches are the most desirable for any entrepreneur. These are industries that will always be in demand. While they may suffer temporary dips in demand, they will always be around.
If you can operate in an industry that does not suffer huge ups and downs, reacting wildly to changes in the local or national economy, you will feel more comfortable about your business’ prospects.
Some of the ways you can judge the ability of an industry to withstand severe economic swings include:
One of the best ways to survive economic, social, and political changes in a business is by being nimble and willing to adapt to perceived changes in the industry.
Here are the 10 most successful evergreen industries found among Canadian business owners and startups.
The agricultural industry chugs along, regardless of the surrounding economic conditions. Farmers have set seasons for planting, for harvesting, and for caring for livestock, and economic conditions don’t change those seasons.
Farming itself certainly has its ups and downs, based on uncontrollable things like weather and markets, but food is obviously an essential need, which gives the industry stability over the long haul.
Some startups choose to delve into organic farming or a similar segment of the ag industry, meaning they could be eligible for farm grants. Other ag-related businesses that are more stable include equipment maintenance and repair, as well as sales of feed for livestock and of insect control methods.
People will always need a place to live, and businesses in certain industries will always need a physical location.
The construction industry has some ups and downs during tough economic times, but it is far less susceptible to these swings in the economy than real estate and similar industries. Construction of new buildings and renovations occur in almost any economic situation.
Even if you are not physically involved in a construction business, you can participate in the construction industry through the sale of products to construction companies, through engineering consulting work, or through equipment repair and maintenance. Someone who has experience with safety equipment and ergonomics could be beneficial for a construction company, too.
As people and businesses perform more work online, often working with extremely sensitive information, hackers are going to try to steal that information. Small and medium sized businesses across Canada need cybersecurity protection.
If you have the ability to provide cybersecurity services to SMBs, either through the installation and monitoring of software or through consultations regarding secure hardware and software installations for SMBs, you will be part of an industry that has excellent long-term growth prospects and stability.
E-commerce is more of a business model than a niche, but given the explosive growth in online purchases it’s important to keep this model top-of-mind when choosing the business you want to enter.
And although giant e-commerce retailers like Amazon may dominate the market, there’s plenty of room for a startup to enter this industry. If you have a great set of products that your customers need, you can create a stable e-commerce site. You may not grow as large as Amazon, but you can create a strong business in the e-commerce industry.
One of the biggest benefits of e-commerce is the low cost to start. If you have some marketing skills and can cultivate customer loyalty, you can build a strong e-commerce site quickly.
Education and E-Learning
As people choose homeschooling for their children, they need advice and resources to help them give their kids the best experience possible, sometimes through e-learning.
You can build a business that provides advice and supplies to parents looking to homeschool children or who want to obtain tutoring services.
College admission testing tutors are always in high demand as well.
Grocery stores may be the most commonly recognized type of food industry business, but as a startup, you probably don’t want to compete head to head with Loblaw’s or Sobeys immediately! Still, you can carve out a strong position with the right kinds of foods.
If you grow uncommon produce, or if you have a recipe for sauces or other kinds of packaged foods, you can create a steady business with loyal customers. Selling your products at local offline markets or through a website are both possible within the food industry.
Even during tough economic times, people still need to take care of their homes and appliances. If you have the ability to perform repairs on furnaces, washing machines, and vehicles, the homeowner services industry is one that is protected against economic downturns.
Additionally, hiring businesses to handle snow removal, lawn maintenance, trash removal, and other jobs at the home is common, giving you a steady stream of income.
Personal Shopping and Delivery
People have shown that they are more than willing to pay for services that will save them time and hassle, regardless of the prevailing economic conditions, hence the popularity of startups in this industry.
If you live in a small urban area or even a rural area, you may not have a lot of competition from existing participants in the personal shopping and delivery industries, as the existing companies tend to stick to large urban areas.
Social Media Marketing
Connecting with customers is one of the most challenging aspects of running a small or medium sized business these days. If the SMB doesn’t have a handle on its social media presence, it can lose customers before it even knows what happened.
If you have a good understanding of social media usage and trends, you can turn this into a consulting business serving SMBs that may not have a dedicated social media or marketing person on staff.
Although the social media industry is relatively new, it’s related to the well-established marketing industry. Even in tough times, businesses need to pay attention to their social media and marketing presence to maintain an open channel with customers.
No matter what kind of business someone is running, it almost certainly has a technical aspect to it, making use of computing hardware and software. Because these investments pay off in more efficient performance out of employees, companies tend to be willing to spend money on tech in all kinds of economies.
SMBs may not have a dedicated IT department, which leaves them at a disadvantage when trying to select the technologies in which they want to invest.
If you have a working knowledge of tech hardware and software, you can open a consulting business in the tech industry to help these SMBs. And if you have the ability to do the installations and troubleshooting for them, in addition to providing advice on what they need, you’ll make yourself an invaluable partner for them in any kind of economic situation.
Your Business Idea Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect!
Finally, don’t let hesitation and doubt cloud your judgment when selecting an industry in which to start a business. There’s a difference between healthy skepticism about your abilities in a certain industry and about failing to move forward because you’re frozen with fear.
You don’t have to have a perfect plan in place to select an industry and open the process of starting a business. In fact, no business is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes when running a business. Learning to deal with adversity is a key aspect of having a successful business venture, moving forward and correcting mistakes as you learn more.
When you take the time to consider the best industry in which to start your business, though, you’ll give yourself a better chance of reducing the effect of those kinds of mistakes.
Maurice (Moe) Muise learned the ins-and-outs of government while an employee of the Government of Canada in Ottawa for 10 years. His current focus is helping small businesses in Ontario to identify and maximize government grants to grow their business.
Click here to learn more about Moe’s background and how he can help your business.