The makeup and motivations of Canadian small business owners

Small Business Canada

We had the privilege of speaking with Ownr’s CEO and co-founder, Shadi McIsaac. She discussed her views on the ideal age for starting a business, the factors that motivate many Canadian business owners to start their own enterprises, some potential solutions to the issues of cash flow, inflation, and economic instability, and the tactics to strengthen small businesses. Ownr recently published a survey on the traits of Canadian small business owners and the reasons why they decide to become entrepreneurs.

As the CEO and Co-Founder of Ownr, Shadi has seen firsthand the value of entrepreneurship for Canadians to shape their lives, and that lowering the barriers to entrepreneurship is essential for the Canadian economy, community, and identity. Throughout her career, Shadi has sought to empower aspiring and existing entrepreneurs by equipping them with the tools they need to focus on what’s most important — whether that be scaling their business or finding solutions to today’s global challenges. This has laddered up to Shadi spearheading Ownr, allowing Canadians with aspirations big and small the opportunity to realize their full potential through new business creation. 

Since its launch in 2017, Ownr has helped over 85,000 Canadian entrepreneurs incorporate, register, and manage their business by simplifying and automating business formation and everyday compliance work. As a company, Ownr knows that supporting entrepreneurs goes far beyond helping them start their business — the platform also provides ways to manage the day-to-day business such as payroll, legal compliance services, and additional resources to help entrepreneurs grow their business. 

When did you start your career? How has your journey been as the Co-Founder & CEO of Ownr, a platform that offers a simple and convenient way to register or incorporate, as well as other tools to help entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses?

From a young age, I watched immigrant parents shape their lives in Canada as small business owners, so I deeply understand the importance of entrepreneurship in providing independence and financial freedom. Now, as the CEO and Co-Founder of Ownr, I continue to see entrepreneurship shaping the lives of Canadians, and how lowering its barriers is essential for our economy, community and identity. Especially with what we’ve seen in the past year, with the job market and rising cost of living, we want to show people that small business ownership is not only a viable career path, but an amazing opportunity to create financial independence.

What are your thoughts on Ownr’s recently published survey on the characteristics of Canadian small business owners and the reasons why they decide to become entrepreneurs?

From our survey, we saw that the number one reason for Canadians to start their own business was to gain more purpose in life (27.4%), and surprisingly, 29.4 per cent stated that financial factors did not motivate them to start their business. While the majority (59.9%) hope their small business will provide for themselves or dependents, it’s not always the main motivator. With these results, we see that Canadians are continuing to choose entrepreneurship because it gives them long term fulfillment, and we’re so proud to support them in finding and accomplishing their purpose.

What is your perspective regarding the ideal age for starting a business, considering that the majority of Canadian business owners wish they had done it sooner?

What’s so exciting about entrepreneurship is that there truly is no ideal age. The survey revealed that the top two stages of life when Canadians start their business  is when they are  in a full-time career (45.1%) or as a young kid (20.9%). So for some, entrepreneurship has been a life-long goal. While for others, it’s something they only started considering once they were in a traditional 9-5, and perhaps they realized that it wasn’t the right path for them.

Instead, the biggest consideration seems to be the cost of starting a business. Over half (51.3%) of respondents listed getting enough money to start the business as one of their top three challenges they had to overcome at the beginning of their journey. That’s why we recently lowered our sole proprietorship registration fees from $89 to $49 — one of the lowest registration fees in Canada – to help make getting started easier.

What were the driving factors for many Canadian entrepreneurs to launch their own businesses, according to the survey?

The top three reasons were to gain more purpose in life (27.4%), more flexibility in day-to-day schedule (20.1%) and creative freedom (19.6%). Starting their own business to gain an additional revenue source ranked fourth (18.8%).

Even more telling is what small business owners are hoping to achieve long term through entrepreneurship. The top five answers were: provide for myself and/or dependents, to maintain a work-life-balance, a fulfilling career, creating something from the ground-up, and making a difference in their community. Through this, we see that entrepreneurship is not only for the individual, but it creates an opportunity for a positive impact on the wider community.

The makeup and motivations of Canadian small business owners

What are some potential solutions to the problems of cash flow, inflation, and economic instability that businesses are currently most concerned about?

There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but there are always ways to help. Ownr is doing our part by making entrepreneurship accessible and affordable – providing low-cost options to register your own business and day-to-day compliance tools to streamline administrative work.

If Canadians are looking for a way to support their local entrepreneurs, we saw that 59.9 per cent of small business owners said that the holiday season is crucial, with over 1-in-4 (29%) saying that it’s extremely important to their business. So when buying gifts or festive items for the home, please consider supporting the small business owners in your community by shopping locally.

Since the majority of them stated that more customers over the holiday season are crucial to their business, what are the strategies to strengthen small businesses that will help them prosper this season?

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen an influx of e-commerce that is here to stay. For small business owners, it’s important for them to build an online presence, even if they have a brick-and-mortar store, as consumers usually shop online first. This doesn’t have to be an expensive, complicated website – it can be as simple as taking extra time to build a social media presence via an Instagram profile, or even sharing stories about your business on TikTok.

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