Canadian SME Small Business Magazine recently spoke with Shane Murphy, CEO at Ownr, on how solopreneurs, a growing segment of entrepreneurs, can start the new year off right. In our current age of entrepreneurship, solopreneurs – or small business owners who own and operate their business without a team – are becoming more and more prevalent. And regardless of their main goals, be it supplementing their existing income or transitioning to a full-time gig, what they all have in common is their need for access to the right support.
As Ownr’s CEO, Shane leads a team that focuses their efforts on a platform that empowers those entrepreneurs with the tools and support they need to achieve their goals—so even solopreneurs can feel a little less solo. Since 2017, Ownr has served over 135,000 small business owners across Canada with their all-in-one digital platform, helping streamline, automate, and simplify registration and incorporation, everyday paperwork, and manage legal compliance. With affordable and accessible platforms like Ownr, more and more entrepreneurs are realizing that not only is their dream attainable, they can also do it all on their own.
One of Ownr’s keys to success is their commitment to understanding and listening to their customers. Every year, Ownr launches two surveys to gain timely insights on aspiring and existing entrepreneurs in Canada. Their most recent surveys have shaped and guided Shane’s outlook on the new year for solopreneurs and how Ownr can further establish itself as their leading source of support and partner.
What are some of the unique challenges solopreneurs face today?
Solopreneurs have been growing in popularity as Canadians look to increase their income with minimal overhead costs. This trend is evident in our recent survey, where a significant portion (67%) of respondents identified as solopreneurs. These individuals engage in diverse ventures, from social media management services to crafting and selling home-baked goods.
Like all small business owners, solopreneurs are grappling with the effects of economic volatility while they try to manage their cash flow. But unlike other small business owners, they face these challenges all on their own—and with that, solopreneurs have a unique set of trials and tribulations that can impact their success.
Because they’re the only operators of their company, with no support to delegate tasks or knowledgeable teams to help, solopreneurs have to build efficient systems from scratch just to oversee and keep on top of every minutia of their business. In our latest poll, only 54 per cent of the small business owners we surveyed had any formal business education, underscoring the importance of leveraging existing tools and resources to access valuable insights.
On the other hand, 69.4 per cent of our survey’s small business owners indicated they rely significantly on technology to run their business operations, and more than half have taken advantage of online educational resources to learn more about business and entrepreneurship. This shows how ambitious and resourceful small business owners and entrepreneurs are, and that lack of formal education is less of a barrier than ever before.
To face the uncertain, grueling, and mercurial world of entrepreneurship takes undeniable passion, ambition, and drive. This alone makes solopreneurs a group to be celebrated—and one we should be offering the most support and accessible resources to. Because even if their businesses see great demand and success, they’re forced to mitigate output due to limited time, energy, and money. They also go out of their way to communicate product availability and status, set minimum or maximum limits on offerings, and restrict sale windows. In short, solopreneurs have to curb their business growth due to the constraints of their time, finances, and sheer human energy.
A more hidden challenge, and one seldom talked about, is the stigma from having a side hustle or full-time entrepreneurship. One contributing aspect is the popular belief that every business’ end goal should be selling the business, or having an exit strategy. However, a large number of entrepreneurs are purely fuelled by their love and passion for the work and are therefore perfectly happy owning and operating their business for a long time, with no intent of selling. Facing and challenging this stigma can have a negative effect on a solopreneur, leading them to feel isolated, lonely and unmotivated. I think it’s important to find ways to enable their aspirations, rather than giving up a dream for the most profitable path forward.
What should new and existing solopreneurs think about when planning for their business?
One of the mistakes solopreneurs often make is forgoing a comprehensive business plan. Every business owner needs a business plan, especially solopreneurs, in order to map out the feasibility and long-term potential of their business. Without a roadmap, their side hustle would be more of a casual project. While that’s adequate for those who aren’t worried about profitability, it’s not sufficient for solopreneurs with loftier and more ambitious dreams.
While business plans can vary in detail and complexity, every plan should start with these key components as a solid foundation:
A unique business name
- Have I cross-referenced my chosen name with a provincial business directory to avoid complications for future registration and/or incorporation?
- Does my business name reflect the vision for my product or service?
A brief description of the product or service
- What is the unique value proposition?
- What is the target market?
- How much do I need to make to reach my personal income targets?
- What are other companies pricing similar products or services?
- How large is my target market?
- What is the demand for my product or service?
Customer acquisition strategy
- Where would my target market look for similar products or services?
- How can I grow my brand presence (social media, events etc.)?
- What tools should I invest in to maximize efficiency as a solopreneur?
- What are my working hours?
- How much is the upfront cost to start my business?
- Do I need to register or incorporate my business?
Even for small business owners who already have a year or two under their belt, it’s important to review or refresh their business plan. As with most concepts, the first draft won’t be perfect, so it’s essential for solopreneurs to revisit and revise their original business plan with these central questions:
- Were there any recurring issues with the product or service?
- Was there a new or unexpected target market discovered for the product or service?
- Have my operational costs increased? Do I need to increase my prices?
- Can I sustain the operational obligations of the current business as is?
- Can I/should I offer additional products or services?
What should existing solopreneurs consider when scaling their business?
Out of the 67 per cent of solopreneurs we surveyed, 65.1 per cent said they hope to expand their team with the goal of growing their business. While this doesn’t necessarily mean hiring full-time employees, it does mean that there might be a need to outsource a few tasks and responsibilities. Thankfully, there are plenty of third-party services that can connect them with resources they need, from hiring virtual assistants to financial consultants and managers. So one of the tips I want to emphasize is that growth and expansion is possible as long as you have access to the right tools.
There’s now a wide range of tools and technology platforms that cater to solopreneurs and other small business owners. For solopreneurs (and most small business owners, frankly) time and money are the main considerations of building a sustainable business, simply because most of them don’t have much of either. Ownr was created for this very reason—to minimize costs and offer a simpler, more accessible process for registering and incorporating a business.
Other considerations when thinking about growth and scale can include small business insurance, taxes, government regulations, and incorporation. All of these can have potential long-term impact for the business so overlooking any of them can lead to interruption, administrative challenges, and even financial loss. So to any solopreneur hoping to eventually expand and scale operations, make sure to research ahead of time to avoid any surprises that could prevent your business growth.
On the topic of business incorporation, what should solopreneurs think about when it comes to registration and incorporation in the new year?
I always advise solopreneurs to take a step back before or during the start of the new year and fully consider what their business goals are going forward—and once they do that, their chosen business structure will ideally reflect those goals. Most solopreneurs start off by operating as a sole proprietorship with a registered business name. However, as their business expands, or if they need to make a significant investment in things like inventory or equipment, it’s a good time to review their sole proprietorship’s risks and rewards and perhaps consider incorporating their business.
Solopreneurs can also find themselves solely liable for any business debts or losses. This means there is no protection and barrier to a solopreneur’s own assets, so their homes, cars, and personal finances are exposed to considerable potential risk. Because corporations legally exist as their own entity, a great benefit to incorporating is that those personal assets are largely protected—when you’re managing your business’ ins-and-outs all by yourself, you can easily overlook or dismiss this great advantage.
Incorporating may sound like a huge leap – something that only major enterprises can do – but of course that’s not the case. Businesses big or small can benefit from incorporation; it just needs to make sense for your business’ needs. Taking the effort and due diligence to understand whether incorporation is right for your business can go a long way. For example, corporations can benefit from lower tax rates so small business owners can put their tax savings into growing and scaling the business.
Ownr has been helping entrepreneurs make their own individual milestones since 2017—from business name registration to taking the incorporation leap—so we’ve seen firsthand how stressful it can be. But more importantly, we also see its great rewards. So for all solopreneurs just starting out or wanting to take their business to the next level in 2024, don’t be discouraged at trying to manage it all on your own. Just make sure you take care to consider all details of your business goals and remember that you have more tools and support at your disposal than ever before.
If you want to learn practical and useful tips as a small business owner to start the new year right, visit our blog: ownr.co/blog