Launching a Side Hustle for Under $250

For most wannapreneurs (wannabe entrepreneurs), coming up with the right business idea is often the biggest obstacle. But sometimes an opportunity falls in your lap that you didn’t consider before. I consider myself a serial entrepreneur, having started seven different businesses over the years, and this recently happened to me.

As an entrepreneur, I am always thinking about different business ideas and opportunities. I have operated various types of businesses over the years (nearly all part-time), everything from web design, computer camps, consulting, training, blogging, indie book publishing, online product sales and more. But a recent experience spurred my latest side business or “side hustle” if you will.

A friend reached out to me, asking if I could help a colleague with their resume. Over the last decade or more I have helped numerous friends and family members to build or revamp their resumes, with great success. Since my free time is at a premium these days, I agreed to help for $50 per hour.

First I reviewed the “client’s” existing resume and then we met for coffee to get into more detail about her work history, skills and ambitions for the future. I really enjoyed the process. The result was a much more powerful resume, and my client was very pleased.

Then it occurred to me. Everyone I had helped over the years had success with their new resumes…they had either gotten the job they were after or at the very least landed an interview. They also felt much more confident with their qualifications.

It turns out I have a knack for helping people extract valuable transferable skills and accomplishments from their work history, many they didn’t even realize they had. Through my own experience and background, I have learned what skills and talents make someone a valuable team member. I am able to wordsmith these accomplishments, crafting a narrative in the form of an attractive, powerful resume.

And now I realized clients were willing to pay me for this service.

I am not a certified resume writer, or job counselor…so what qualifies me to help clients with their resume? It turns out that my nearly 20 years of experience in business development, marketing, entrepreneurship, management, and personal branding gives me a unique edge. I have hired my own employees, and have been involved in hiring at several positions I have held over the years. I know what skills I look for in great candidates, and have worked with enough talented colleagues to recognize the skills necessary to be successful and effective in any organization.

Shortly after my own revelation, I began the process of establishing and launching my new service. It will focus on resume development and personal brand development – something I have had success with personally, as a published author, brand advocate for Blackberry, and Startup Canada Award winner. With hard work and a plan, it is possible to craft your own story, while building authority and expertise in a particular area or industry.

How does this apply to you? Think about it. We all have talents, experience and qualifications that we can utilize to operate a side hustle. Would you be happy making extra money in your spare time doing something you enjoy? Side hustles are often low-cost operations that fit your schedule, and your lifestyle. Work as much or as little as you’d like (in your spare time), and who knows, you might find there is enough demand (and satisfaction) to someday make it a full-time venture.

With this in mind, I wanted to describe each step and the costs incurred to launch my new service in less than a week. It is easier and less expensive than you might think!

  1. Choose a business name. Sometimes it helps to look and see if the website domain name is available. I had several ideas, but I liked BrandMe.Social because I felt it best described the service I offered, and the .social (top level domain) is relatively new and unique. Cost = $20
  2. Register your business. It is important to register the business with your province or state to make it official. In my case the Ontario government charges $60 for five years ( for a sole proprietor or partnership. Incorporation costs significantly more. Cost = $60
  3. Get a logo and branding. Having a visual and easily identifiable logo is important for brand recognition. Branding takes the colours and style of your logo and extends it to things like social media banners, letterhead, business cards etc. It is a good idea to maintain a common appearance and theme. Cost = $45 (using – a website where freelancers from around the world offer various services, often starting at $5).
  4. Having a website is essential for businesses today. While some small businesses utilize a Facebook Page as their online presence (which certainly is a good idea), having a dedicated website in my opinion is still a necessity. Facebook is great for connecting with customers socially, but a website can have more content, more capabilities and align better with your brand. I opted to build a website using which had a number of templates to choose from and included one year of hosting. Check it out: Cost = $140
  5. Networking is essential for building a business, so my last purchase was business cards. I utilized and found a design that went well with my website and branding. I customized the text myself and uploaded my logo. I received 250 cards within a week! Cost = $20
  6. Promotion. Tell all of your friends and family about your new venture. Ask for referrals. Share on social media and start engaging with potential clients. Get the word out using free techniques before spending any money on advertising and promotion. Cost = FREE

You might have noticed that the grand total was actually $285. But in my case I did not register the business, as I intend to offer the service under another existing business I operate, saving me $60…therefore I only spent $225.

It is important to recognize that there are some other important steps along the way. As soon as I decided on the business name/domain name, I made sure to secure the name on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media platforms. Again, you want to try to be consistent across mediums so that your customers and clients can find you.

You may have noticed that I did not mention writing a business plan, and performing a lot of market research to ensure the business was feasible. I did make a plan, but it was a one-page business plan – identifying what my ideal client looks like, our unique selling proposition (what makes us different), how I will market the service, a startup budget and a bit more.

Since this is just another side business for me, there isn’t a lot to lose. There is no inventory or major expenses to incur – since I am offering a service, it is just my time, which is valuable to me, but doesn’t technically cost me anything.

Since my costs are so low, this will be a worthwhile venture even with one client a month. And technically I have already had my first paying customer, so I am on my way.

Once my website was complete, I shared the news of this new service on Facebook and LinkedIn. My Facebook page already has over 40 likes, and continues to grow. From here I am confident I can connect with new clients through word-of-mouth referrals and social media alone. I don’t anticipate spending any money on advertising, beyond perhaps some targeted Facebook ads down the road (because of the nature of the business, I am not limited to local clientele).

Feel free to check out my website at I’d love to hear your feedback or answer any questions you may have about starting your own side business.

The easiest way to get into business is to get started with as little cost and risk as possible. I have shown you how to launch a new business in a week for less than $250. What is holding you back?

StartUP Sault Founder Receives 2017 Startup Canada Award

August 25, 2017| Sault Ste. Marie, ON –  Nevin Buconjic was recognized yesterday by Startup Canada as a regional winner (Ontario) of the Startup Canada Entrepreneur Promotion Award, for advancing​ the​ environment​ ​and​ culture​ ​for​ entrepreneurship​ ​in​ ​Canada. Buconjic accepted the award at a red carpet ceremony in Ottawa attended by leading Canadian investors, innovators and anchor company executives.

“It is with great honor that I accept this award for my work with Startup Canada, StartUP Sault and other activities promoting and fostering entrepreneurship in Sault Ste. Marie and beyond, said Nevin Buconjic, Founder and Community Lead of StartUP Sault. We don’t do these things for the recognition, but it feels truly rewarding to be recognized by my peers, and Canada’s entrepreneurial community.”

“Congratulations to all of this year’s 2017 regional award winners,” said Victoria Lennox, Co-Founder and CEO of Startup Canada. “Each and every one of these outstanding individuals and organizations have an immense impact on the future of Canada and they all represent the greatness and diversity of our nation’s entrepreneurship community.”

The Startup Canada Awards is the hallmark event and the largest celebration of the Canadian entrepreneurship community – recognizing the individuals, communities, and institutions that have demonstrated innovation, excellence, outstanding achievement, and impact in advancing Canadian entrepreneurship.

After hundreds of nominations poured in from across the country this Summer, Nevin Buconjic was one of the over 55 regional award winners that have been pushed forward to the National Adjudication Committee; comprised of some of Canada’s leading entrepreneurship and industry experts. The national winners will be celebrated at the Startup Canada Awards Grand Finale in Ottawa on October 19, 2017.

For more information, and to schedule interviews, please contact:

Nevin Buconjic



Startup Canada Press Contact:

Lindsay Bright

Communications, Marketing and Digital Production Administrator, Startup Canada

613-627-0787 ext. 101


About StartUP Sault:

StartUP Sault is a grass-roots, volunteer organization connecting new entrepreneurs with the small business resources available in the community, and provides the support of existing entrepreneurs who are building successful companies. StartUP Sault connects local entrepreneurs and innovators through events, meetups and networking opportunities. We are part of the Startup Canada Network. For more information about StartUP Sault, visit and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

 Since 2014, StartUP Sault has held 32 local events, meetups and training sessions, impacted over 1,200 entrepreneurs and students, completed two entrepreneurial ecosystem projects and hosted discussions of eight business and leadership books through its Startup Book Club program.

About the Startup Canada Awards

The Startup Canada Awards celebrate and distinguish outstanding achievement in advancing Canadian entrepreneurship.

The objectives of the awards are to:

  1. Celebrate those working to advance entrepreneurship in Canada;
  2. Increase awareness of the importance of strengthening Canada’s entrepreneurship ecosystem and culture; and,
  3. Incentivize efforts and elevate the ambitions of the Canadian entrepreneurial community.

 About Startup Canada

Startup Canada is the leading national social enterprise supporting and giving a voice to entrepreneurs through online programs, national awards, flagship events, partnerships with private sector and government to foster a community for startup and small business success across the country. Learn more at

Sault Ste. Marie Needs More Entrepreneurs

StartUP Sault Ste. Marie recently celebrated three years as a catalyst for building a supportive and knowledgeable “Startup Community” in Sault Ste. Marie.

Through our partnerships, activities, programs and tools, StartUP Sault Ste. Marie has worked to engage local entrepreneurs, facilitated the sharing of knowledge, helped educate the business community and promoted entrepreneurship as a satisfying career option.

Sault Ste. Marie, as with many communities, has challenges to overcome to achieve continued growth, support its citizens and in general remain a great place to live, work and play. To realize these broader goals, it is imperative the community’s business sector continue to grow, and thrive.

For our business community to continue to grow, Sault Ste. Marie needs more entrepreneurs — more entrepreneurs to start new businesses, more entrepreneurs to take over existing businesses and more entrepreneurs to create new products and services.

Sault Ste. Marie has a shortage of entrepreneurs. We need more to achieve growth and prosperity for our community. We need to graduate more entrepreneurs, not just employees. We need to foster more interest in entrepreneurship as a career option for youth. We need to support creativity and the development of new ideas, solutions and opportunities.

Entrepreneurship isn’t just about running a business. It is a mindset. It is about solving problems and being innovative. Successful entrepreneurs solve their customers’ problems and pain points – sometimes even creating solutions to problems we don’t realize we have yet.

Entrepreneurship in our schools should involve enhancing our creative, problem solving skills with a healthy mix of studying successful entrepreneurs and what it takes to start and grow a business.

We need to ensure our elementary and high schools are teaching entrepreneurship. We should be teaching our young people meaningful technology skills. We should be improving creativity and problem-solving skills.

Finally, we should be mashing all of this together through opportunities in idea generation, business simulations and the opportunity to launch real-world businesses

Sault Ste. Marie’s post-secondary programs need to reinforce the entrepreneurial mindset by incorporating entrepreneurship into more programs. We can’t expect to graduate more entrepreneurs when their exposure to the subject is limited to one or two classes during their three or four years of schooling.

In order to build an entrepreneurial culture in Sault Ste. Marie, we need to develop a mindset where entrepreneurship is accepted and encouraged as a career option, the same as getting a job. After all, times have changed. Millennials are now faced with the reality that there are no job guarantees.

We must engage more with potential entrepreneurs and better promote the various programs and services offered to assist in starting local businesses.

To better service existing entrepreneurs, the community’s entrepreneurial ecosystem should collaborate more to assist entrepreneurs in starting and growing their businesses.

The ‘Catalyst’ — a project that is led by the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation (SSMEDC) and partnered with StartUP Sault Ste. Marie, aims to create a “one-door approach” to services in Sault Ste. Marie for small business assistance.

The project team includes representatives from various organizations in the community such as the Millworks Centre for Entrepreneurship, Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce, the Community Development Corporation of Sault Ste. Marie & Area, the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre, BDC, Social Enterprise Evolution and more.

The objective is to coordinate services, identify gaps, and develop tools for directing entrepreneurs more efficiently to the available services in the community. Building on the Startup Roadmap, developed last year by StartUP Sault, which identified services available at the Idea, Launch and Growth phases, the project aims to create a “continuum” of services to guide entrepreneurs on each step of their journey.

The one-door approach will mean that no matter which organization an individual contacts first – they can be seamlessly pointed to the appropriate organization or resource available in the community to best assist them.

Despite best efforts of these partners, the general public does not often understand what services exist in the community to help start or grow a business. The Catalyst project is designed to help in this regard.

As I have laid out here, there are many things we can do together as a community and entrepreneurial ecosystem that can enhance the potential success and growth of our small business sector.

We will continue to make progress and pursue our goals, but it is important to understand that we all have a role to play in building up our community. It is much easier to build when we are all pushing in the same direction.

Find more information about Startup Sault online, or follow them on Facebook or Twitter to keep up-to-date on Startup Sault events, startup tips and other useful information.


Nevin Buconjic is a serial entrepreneur, author and community builder. Nevin is also the Founder and Community Lead for StartUP Sault, a volunteer organization helping to build a strong and supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem in Sault Ste. Marie.

Small Businesses Can be a Great Tax Write-off

Depositphotos_2072662_lThere are many reasons to start a business — to earn extra money, be your own boss, do something you love, even change the world.

But as we approach tax time, many of you may not realize that a small business can provide significant tax benefits as well. Because a small business can incur significant costs during startup and beyond, these expenses can be written off against the business’ and even your personal income.

Now, before we continue, I want to provide the disclaimer than I am not an accountant, tax attorney or even a bookkeeper – and I cannot legally provide tax advice. I will however, talk about my own experiences. I have been an entrepreneur for many years, and have benefitted personally from small business write-offs (mostly from part-time businesses).

While there are advantages and disadvantages of different business structures such as partnerships or corporations, for tax purposes I prefer the simplest of all business structures – the sole proprietorship.

“The owner of a sole proprietorship has sole
responsibility for making decisions, receives

All the profits, claims all losses, and does

not have separate legal status from the business”.

 – Canadian Revenue Agency


In a sole proprietorship, any business losses are written-off against your personal income. In other words, if expenses exceed revenues (considered a business loss) in your business, then the loss can be used to actually lower your taxable income.

Depending on the type of business you are in or plan to start, the expenses involved in buying equipment, software or tools could be significant. Not to mention other costs like rent, advertising, and high-speed Internet. All of these expenses, especially in the first few years, may result in a business loss (on paper) which in turn may provide a write-off against your income.

Do you run the business out of your home? Then the portion of your home utilized for the business – a home office, garage or kitchen table may be written off. In other words, based on the square footage of that work space (let’s say 10% of the home’s square footage), a percentage of your utility bill, Internet, telephone and other costs may be eligible. These deductions can really add up.

Do you use your personal vehicle for business? Do you drive to client meetings, travel for your business, or make the odd delivery? Then a portion of the costs of operating the vehicle for your business may be deductible as well. But make sure to keep accurate records of the mileage, fuel and other costs associated with the vehicle. A log book is handy to record mileage each time the vehicle is used for business.

While some costs can be directly deducted against revenue, others like equipment and other assets need to be amortized over several years (capital cost allowance or CCA), based on Canada Revenue Agency rules. For example, typically a computer is considered a Class 10 property with 30% CCA. In other words, 30% of the cost of the computer is deductible each year – however, in the first year of use only half of that can be deducted. Therefore, for a $1,000 laptop purchased for the business, $150 is deductible the first year, $300 the second year etc. until the full amount is deducted.

Sound complicated? To ensure you are following the rules, as well as maximizing small business write-offs, I highly recommend the use of a bookkeeping or accounting firm. In my case, I have utilized bookkeeping services from Marian’s Bookkeeping for many years – for both business and personal taxes.

Often times running a part-time or side business can provide the greatest tax benefits, because of the additional deductions, which in the end are applied against your salary or personal income from your full-time job.

But before you decide to turn a hobby into a part-time business or start a business just so you can write-off all of your electronic gadgets, consider this. For the CRA to consider your business as “real” and allow you to utilize small business deductions, your business must have a reasonable expectation of profit. In other words, turning a hobby into a new business (photography for example) is ok, as long as it is not just an excuse to buy all of the latest camera equipment for your own personal use. You must actually be attempting to bring in revenues and eventually earn a profit. This is an important distinction – one to definitely keep in mind.

So if it wasn’t already a fantastic idea to start your own business, tax deductions can make the idea even sweeter. Think about that as you write that cheque to pay your taxes this spring!


About Startup Sault:

Startup Sault connects new entrepreneurs with the small business resources available in the community, and provides the support of existing entrepreneurs who are building successful companies.

Our community enterprise partners include the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre (SSMIC), Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation (SSMEDC), Community Development Corporation of Sault Ste. Marie (CDC), Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce, Sault College, Social Entrepreneurship Evolution, Business Development Bank of Canada and Village Media Inc.

For more information about Startup Sault, visit  Follow us on Facebook ( or Twitter ( to keep up to date on Startup Sault events, startup tips and other useful information.


About the Author: Nevin Buconjic is an entrepreneur, author, consultant and community builder. Nevin is the founder and community lead for Startup Sault. Find him at

Summer is Over, Let’s Get Back on Track

Originally Printed in Northern Ontario Business, October 2015.

Depositphotos_6268977_xlAlthough I have been out of school for many years, when September comes around, I still feel the excitement of the first day of school. Maybe not the hopes or fears that kids feel…but definitely a sense of an opportunity for new beginnings, or simply a perfect time to reevaluate my business and personal goals.

Like many of you, I like to make personal goals — whether it is to get back to the gym, eat better, or simply read more.  Whatever it might be, it’s important to challenge ourselves.  The same goes for your business.  At regular intervals you should be evaluating your business, developing goals and planning your next steps.

Perhaps you want to expand your local business, change the menu at your diner, add a new product line, or move into a bigger retail space.  One of the best ways to approach goal setting is to follow the SMART principle. SMART is an acronym used in goal setting and strategic planning, and means your goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

In 2012, I set a goal to write my first book.  I have counselled and assisted hundreds of entrepreneurs, and spoken to even more students about opportunities in entrepreneurship.  I wanted to share my experiences and business knowledge with others interested in following their dreams.  I made the following goal:

I am going to write a book to show people how to start their own business, sharing my personal lessons, stories and business knowledge.  I will write the book in 3 months.  I will self-publish my book as a digital ebook on, and promote my book using various strategies I have learned.  I will sell 5,000 copies in the first 3 years.

I completed the book in three months.  However, this is where the plan changed.  While editing my book, I decided to remove a whole chapter.  Since my book was still being finalized, I decided to turn the single chapter into its own ebook and publish it on Amazon just for the experience.  “25 Money-Making Businesses You Can Start in Your Spare Time” was born.

I learned everything I could about self-publishing and promoting your own books.  I put a launch strategy in place, which included offering free copies of my book to Amazon customers.  To my amazement, my promotional efforts worked extremely well.  Over time my book sales accelerated, and within seven months I sold 2,000 copies.  Less than nine months later I had sold 4,000 copies and in another two months I broke the 5,000 mark!

I tracked sales on a daily basis and modified my marketing strategy as I went.  I was averaging over 300 sales a month – and in my best month sold over 500 copies.  By setting a specific, measurable, relevant and time-bound goal, I achieved success.  If I had simply decided to write a book, with no plan, I may have never finished.

In the end I did self-published my original book (Starting Your Own Business: An Entrepreneur’s Guide), but my chapter-turned-book has outsold it almost 10:1.  Had I never adapted that single chapter, I might have never accomplished my goal, and never realized that I could be a successful self-published author!

Using the SMART principle I was able to set a goal that worked for me.  When things changed, I adapted, but continued completing tasks required to reach my goal.  To be honest, I didn’t know if I would ever sell 5,000 copies, but today I look back on this experience and I am so glad that I set such a challenge for myself.

So as you say goodbye to summer and start to focus more on your business, take the time to evaluate your existing goals, and if you don’t have any – make some.

In the end it works, and you will be feel a sense of accomplishment each time you reach your goal, not to mention reaping the rewards that come along with it.


About the Author: Nevin Buconjic is a serial entrepreneur, author, consultant and community builder. Nevin is the founder and community lead for StartUP Sault ( Find him at

Taking the Next Step – Starting Your Own Business

business man writing business strategy concept

business man writing business strategy concept

Originally Printed in Northern Ontario Business, July 2015.

I often meet people who are intrigued by the idea of starting their own business, but are intimidated by the fact that they have no experience or simply don’t know where to begin.

What I say to these people is, “Start slow, focus on your idea, and ask for help when you need it.”

In my last article (in Northern Ontario Business) I talked about all of the free resources available to entrepreneurs in Northern Ontario. I encourage everyone to take advantage of the programs, funding and business advisory services available in their communities.

The act of starting a business use to be inherently more risky than it is today. With the Internet and social media, today’s entrepreneurs have access to knowledge, tools and resources that never existed before.

Where market research may have once involved going to the library to look up company (competitor) information, or annual reports, or conducting a survey via mail or the telephone, today budding entrepreneurs can access incredible volumes of information, news and data as they research their ideas and potential markets from the comfort of their home or even on their mobile device.

Also available is access to customers, friends and colleagues who can provide feedback in real-time. Online survey tools such as Survey Monkey allow users to effortlessly capture both quantitative and qualitative data and valuable customer feedback – and the results are compiled into fancy graphs and charts for you.

Social media provides unprecedented access to millions of people, celebrities, friends, customers and even competitors. Social media offers a powerful platform for building brand awareness and crafting both creative and inexpensive marketing.

Through the Internet, one can launch a new business practically overnight. Online tools like Wix ( allow you to build a website, and even take online payments in a matter of hours.

For literally a few hundred dollars you can launch a new online business and test your business concept in the real world.  No more spending hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to launch a new business that may fail in the end.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that entrepreneurs skip the whole research component of their business concept, or fail to crunch the numbers to see if their idea is feasible. But just as times have changed, full-blown business plans are also becoming less popular – in favour of faster, more valuable tools such as one-page business plans, or a business model canvas.

Today entrepreneurs are encouraged to launch quickly, get customer feedback and then refine their product or business model accordingly.  Whether launching a new mobile app, a digital ebook or a physical product, today it is easier than ever to gain valuable feedback directly from customers, and use that feedback to make your product better before investing too heavily.

I recommend that you pick up a copy of The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future, by Chris Guillebeau, if you’d like some inspiration about launching a new business for very little money. The author interviewed thousands of entrepreneurs who launched meaningful businesses for a very modest investment. The book is both insightful and inspirational, as these entrepreneurs launched successful businesses doing what they loved or are passionate about.

I can hear many of you saying to yourselves, “I would love to start a business, but I have a full-time job or I work multiple part-time jobs just to make ends meet.”

Starting a simple business now can be a stepping stone for later.

Get your feet wet with a low-cost, part time business.‎ In my best-selling book, 25 Money-Making Businesses You Can Start in Your Spare Time, I share 25 business opportunities that you can start part-time, and in most cases with very little capital. These are businesses that can put you through school, provide extra income, or lead to bigger and better opportunities down the road.

Just a few examples include providing virtual assistant services, affiliate marketing, writing ebooks, offering tutoring services and even selling physical products on

Most of the ideas in my book come from my own personal experience or that of my clients, colleagues and fellow entrepreneurs. I have met many individuals who started with a hobby or a passion and turned it into a full-time business – one that exceeded all of their expectations. In many cases they were able to leave their full-time jobs as the business grew.

To read up on even more business ideas you can use today, feel free to check out my book on or, available in paperback and Kindle ebook.

If you’ve ever considered starting your own business, now is the time. Take the next step…get started today!


About the Author: Nevin Buconjic is a serial entrepreneur, author, consultant and Strategic Business Advisor with the Ontario government. Nevin is the founder and community lead for StartUP Sault ( Find him at

Building a Thriving Small Business Sector in Northern Ontario

Entreprenerus Wanted smallerOriginally published on, April 24, 2015

The importance of small business to Northern Ontario cannot be overstated.

Northern Ontario is a region heavily dependent on resource-based industry, from mining and forestry to steel. Our economies ebb and flow with the cycles of big business and industry.

Most of our cities and towns learned long ago, that relying solely on resource-based industry and traditional manufacturing is a recipe for disaster. Communities like Sault Ste. Marie have worked hard to diversify their economies for many years, with varying degrees of success.

While they are now much less reliant on these major industries, the fact remains that they still represents the bulk of private sector jobs in our communities. Just look at the impact of the latest recession on the forestry sector in Ontario, or the impact of low oil prices on Tenaris Algoma Tubes and other companies that supply the oil sector.

When these commodity-based sectors have economic challenges, jobs are often lost and communities can be devastated. We are left with the small businesses that call each community home. I think most people would agree that a thriving small business scene is an essential component of a healthy and happy community.

Small business drives innovation, leads job creation and builds wealth like no other economic engine in our nation. Over 98% of businesses in Canada have less than 100 employees, and small business employs almost 70% of the private workforce.

Small business helps to grow and strengthen our communities, and strong communities attract greater investment.

What can we do to encourage and support new business startups in Northern Ontario?

There are many organizations across the north that deliver small business support services and government funding programs.

Ontario’s Small Business Enterprise Centres provide business advisory services and assistance for new businesses, and are located in Sudbury, Timmins, Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay, Thunder Bay and Kenora.

The Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre, NORCAT in Sudbury, the Northwestern Ontario Innovation Centre in Thunder Bay, IION in North Bay and the Productivity and Innovation Centre in Timmins work with technology and science companies to build those sectors in their perspective communities.

Small business incubators offer affordable office space, access to shared resources, training and more. Co-working spaces are popping up, where entrepreneurs, freelancers, consultants, or anyone for that matter, can rent a desk for the day, week or month. These co-working spaces are often open-concept, and encourage collaboration and networking.

There is no shortage of small business resources available to both new and existing entrepreneurs in the north. There are also additional funding programs through NOHFC, Fednor, Community Futures Development Corporations and more.

It clearly isn’t lack of support that is the problem. Perhaps potential entrepreneurs are unaware of these resources. No matter how well these organizations promote themselves and their services, there will be those who never get the message.

In Sault Ste. Marie, we are trying to fix this. I founded StartUP Sault (part of the Startup Canada network) in early 2014, to help build a thriving startup community.

With the support of Startup Canada, our local community enterprise partners and an amazing team of volunteers, StartUP Sault works to connect local entrepreneurs via learning and networking opportunities, and events like Startup Drinks and Startup Book Club.

The goal of StartUP Sault is to provide regular meetups and build a sense of community among local entrepreneurs. By regularly coming together, we are enhancing the opportunities to collaborate, share knowledge and even partner on new business ventures.

We have found that StartUP Sault events attract younger entrepreneurs, as well as budding entrepreneurs of all ages – often a different demographic than other business or networking events. We are reaching people that perhaps need support the most.

We can connect those entrepreneurs with others who are willing to help, and also direct them to the appropriate community partners – whether they need help with their business plan, startup advice, or funding to get started.

StartUP Sault and the 19 other startup communities across the country are all volunteer-driven and led by entrepreneurs with a long-term vision of building an environment that supports new startups and the growth of existing small business.

In a recent visit to Sault Ste. Marie, Startup Canada CEO, Victoria Lennox connected with incubator clients at the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre, spoke to business students at Sault College, met with our community enterprise partners and toured Mill Square, the former St. Mary’s Paper site now being redeveloped.

Before boarding her flight home, Victoria commented that great things are happening in Sault Ste. Marie and that StartUP Sault is making a difference.

Perhaps in the years to come, all of our northern cities will become thriving startup communities. All it takes is the will to make it happen, and a few entrepreneurs to drive the charge. I believe it can be done.

For more information about StartUP Sault, visit


About the Author: Nevin Buconjic is a serial entrepreneur, author, consultant and Strategic Business Advisor with the Ontario government. Nevin is the founder and community lead for Startup Sault. Find him at

Anyone Can Start a Business – Why Not You?

Building a business is not rocket science; it’s about having a great idea and seeing it through with integrity.” – Sir Richard Branson

As the tremendously successful entrepreneur, Richard Branson states in the above quote, starting and building a business isn’t rocket science — in fact much of it is common sense, luck and the ability to see opportunities that others do not.

According to Dr. Michael G. Goldsby, Professor of Entrepreneurship at Ball State University, “Entrepreneurship is fundamentally about seeing what is missing from the world and then figuring out a way to make it better.  Great entrepreneurs see problems as opportunities.  The best way to create a successful business is to solve the problems of their customers.”

hand holds book of big idea

Successful entrepreneurs take risks.  They are not afraid to fail, and many entrepreneurs fail numerous times before becoming truly successful.  These “failures” are seen as opportunities to learn what not to do next time.  In Silicon Valley, the home of Facebook, Google and many others, entrepreneurs see their failed businesses as a badge of honor – and even investors view them as invaluable experience.

Although risk-taking is one of the qualities of successful entrepreneurs, you can minimize your financial risks by starting your business on a part-time basis and keeping your day job.  Often times you can operate a home-based business, until you prove your concept, or build your business to the point you are ready to expand.

This will allow you to grow your business slowly, keeping things manageable, and utilizing minimal resources.  I know a number of entrepreneurs who operate successful part-time businesses, including photographers, web designers, and consultants.

I run several businesses of my own on a part-time basis, and of the six businesses I have started in my life, only one of them started out as a full-time business.  I am a big fan of “bootstrapping” your business, which means starting and growing a business on a small budget, utilizing inexpensive and often free methods for marketing your business, and gradually growing and reinvesting in the business over time.  By not incurring debt to start the business, there is less risk involved and your biggest investment is your time and effort.

Some of you may have heard of the concept of “Lean Startup”.  While much of it applies to the software industry, the essential take away is to get your product to market as soon as possible for the lowest cost possible.  The idea is to launch a “minimum viable product” – one that isn’t perfect or ready for prime time, but one that works and you can utilize to get feedback from customers.

You will use that feedback to improve the product to one that is ready.

In other words, get to market as quickly as possible with a product and then improve the product from the feedback you receive.  We see this process occurring all the time online – where companies often release software or apps for free, build large user bases, collect feedback and improve the product over time.  Through this process, they prove their ideas are marketable, build significant user bases, and eventually release a paid version to generate revenue.

Startup Sault’s December book club featured Chris Guillebeau’s best-selling book, The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make A Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future.  The book features interviews with thousands of successful entrepreneurs who have started microbusinesses — businesses they started for a couple of hundred dollars.  What he finds is that many of the entrepreneurs followed a similar pattern, “get started quickly and see what happens.”

Guillebeau is an advocate of this method, and adds that “there’s nothing wrong with planning, but you can spend a lifetime making a plan that never turns into action. In the battle between planning and action, action wins.”  So while planning is important (failure to plan is like planning to fail, as the quote goes), many entrepreneurs are moving away from developing full business plans before starting their business.

Many practitioners are promoting the concept of focusing on developing the business model rather than spending time writing a business plan.  Others are resorting to one-page business plans that answer the essential questions about the business, while skipping over much of the detailed analysis and planning.

Because a lot of new entrepreneurs find the thought of trying to write a full-blown business plan as daunting, these alternatives provide the opportunity to plan your business while not getting too bogged down before you even begin.

So don’t get discouraged if you don’t know where to begin.  “Anyone can come up with a great business idea if they are willing to take the time to learn the right skills and build the right toolkit to get it done,” says Dr. Goldsby.

And building the right toolkit is accomplished by learning everything you can about starting a business, and accessing the expertise and resources available to you at local organizations like the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation and Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre – both organizations provide business counseling and advice, access to training and resources, and even funding programs to start or grow your business.

Connect with other entrepreneurs by attending Startup Sault events like Startup Drinks and Startup Book Club.  The SSM Chamber of Commerce offers networking opportunities through Take Five.  You never know who you will meet at these networking functions – competitors, future customers, successful entrepreneurs, even potential business partners.

Take advantage of the available resources and do your homework – this will go a long way to set yourself up for success.

So what is your big idea?

Join us next time when we will talk about starting your business on a budget, and promoting your business using free or low-cost marketing tools and mediums.

About the Author: Nevin Buconjic is an entrepreneur, author, consultant and Strategic Business Advisor with the Ontario government. Nevin is the founder and community lead for Startup Sault. Find him at

Nevin Buconjic Represents Sault Ste. Marie in Ottawa to help Build Canada’s Entrepreneurship Community

As many of you know, I am passionate about entrepreneurship and small business, coming from a background of small business and economic development. In my free time I operate multiple businesses, and I have written two books on small business as well.

About a year ago, I took the initiative to apply on behalf of Sault Ste. Marie, to join Startup Canada – a pan-Canadian network to provide entrepreneurs with a single doorway to enter their local entrepreneur community to access mentors, space, funding and support to start and grow their businesses and to connect with other startup founders.

Startup Canada, and its 19 Startup Communities are volunteer organizations and are led by entrepreneurs, not government. We are grass-roots and inclusive, with the goal of building more entrepreneurial communities across the country – in an effort to connect and strengthen the infrastructure for new startups and existing businesses.


Requirements for becoming a Startup Community include building a team of volunteers and entrepreneurs, forging partnerships with community organizations that deliver programming and resources to the business community, and drafting a clear vision and plan of action.

Sault Ste. Marie was accepted and joined 16 other communities – 3 more were just recently announced in November — Toronto, Charlottetown and Halifax.

We formally launched Startup Sault in March 2014 with our first event – Startup Drinks, a casual networking opportunity to connect local entrepreneurs and business owners. Over 30 people attended the first event, and it proved a great opportunity to meet new people, discuss ideas, and hopefully collaborate on future projects.

Startup Drinks is now held every two months, and recently we introduced our latest program – Startup Book Club.

Startup Book Club participants read and discuss the latest business-related books (as well as classics) to glean tips, models and strategies to take their business to the next level. Startup Book Club creates an opportunity for local entrepreneurs, students, small business owners and others to discuss not only the content of each book, but their own strategies and experiences as well.

The first book choice was “The $100 Startup”, by Chris Guillebeau and the next choice for February 5th (6:00-8:00PM) at Q Café & Bakery is “How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age.”

Startup Sault continues to be involved in other events through our community partners, including the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre, Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation, SSM Chamber of Commerce and the Community Development Corporation of Sault Ste. Marie.

In May, Startup Sault offered a 5-day training session from the Canadian Entrepreneurship Institute via live streaming. The training featured keynote lectures by world-leading innovators, entrepreneurs, educators and policy makers; attendees gained the knowledge, tools and network necessary to make a meaningful impact in advancing innovation and entrepreneurship in their community, as well as their own business or organization.

MP HayesJust recently, I represented Sault Ste. Marie in Ottawa, meeting with Members of Parliament (including Sault MP – Bryan Hayes), Senators and Ministers as part of Startup Canada Day on the Hill.

Startup Canada Day on the Hill is a collaboration of Canada’s entrepreneurial community and partnering political and government leaders. Drawing nearly 1,000 attendees throughout the day, including some of Canada’s top entrepreneurs, investors, industry leaders, media personalities and government decision makers, the program is filled with meaningful government roundtables, media interviews, fireside discussions, TED-style keynotes, entrepreneur bootcamps, on-site mentorship, and an evening ‘Startup Soiree’, showcasing entrepreneurs and their products from across Canada.

15742921278_2d73084880_oI spoke on stage to share perspectives of entrepreneurs from the community and to the impact that Startup Sault Ste. Marie has had over the last 12 months in fuelling economic development through entrepreneurship. I also worked with public servants and industry leaders to educate them on how they can work with grassroots, entrepreneur organizations like Startup Canada to accelerate entrepreneurial growth in Canada.

The two days of events were jam packed with meetings, events and networking. I had the opportunity to meet and work with my colleagues from other Startup Communities across the country. Not only was it a team building exercise, but we all worked together to impress upon our federally elected officials – even Prime Minister Harper — the importance of supporting entrepreneurship, and supporting the Startup Canada movement.

Prime Minister PicIt was an incredible experience.

In just two short years, Startup Canada has grown to become the leading entrepreneurship organization in Canada with more than 85,000 entrepreneurs, 400 partners and 300 volunteers.  We continue to build on this momentum.

Startup Sault also continues on its mission to strengthen and build a more entrepreneurial community in Sault Ste. Marie, and other Startup Communities across the country do the same.

Startup Canada’s goal is to reach 100 Startup Communities over the next two years, truly connecting entrepreneurs across the country — driving competitiveness, innovation, job creation, and economic growth along the way.

I hope you will join us in our movement. Together, let’s take risks, generate big ideas, and push the economy forward.

About Startup Sault:

Startup Sault connects new entrepreneurs with the small business resources available in the community, and provides the support of existing entrepreneurs who are building successful companies.

For more information about Startup Sault, visit  Follow us on Facebook ( or Twitter ( to keep up to date on Startup Sault events, startup tips and other useful information.

Let’s take risks, generate some big ideas

SONY DSCThe importance of small business to our country, province and community cannot be overstated.

Small business drives innovation, leads job creation and builds wealth like no other economic engine in our nation.

This space, every other month, will be used to provide you with the resources you need to start a business, grow an existing business, and help drive an entrepreneurial culture in our community.

Did you know that 98 percent of businesses in Canada have less than 100 employees, and almost 70 percent of the private workforce is employed by small businesses?

Small businesses created over 75 percent of all private jobs in Canada over the last decade.

Sault Ste. Marie has done a good job of diversifying its economy since the 1990’s.

Through Destiny Sault Ste. Marie, the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre and other initiatives, the city has been able to grow various sectors including Information Technology, green energy, education, and more – lessening its reliance upon the steel and forest sectors.

Along the way the small business sector has developed and changed, and Sault Ste. Marie has been recognized nationally as a top 100 Entrepreneurial City in Canada (ranking as high as 23rd in 2012).

There are numerous resources available to entrepreneurs and small business in our area, including Business Sault Ste. Marie – a division of the Economic Development Corporation (SSMEDC), the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre (SSMIC), the Community Development Corporation of Sault Ste. Marie & Area (CDC), Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce (SSMCOC), and more.

These organizations provide business startup assistance and other resources to new and established businesses in the community.

They provide an essential role in our small business community.

But there is more we can do as a community to ensure we build an entrepreneurial community within Sault Ste. Marie that is strong, supportive, vibrant and inclusive.

An entrepreneurial community led by entrepreneurs.

Startup Sault is doing just that.

Startup Sault is a volunteer–led movement to bring together entrepreneurs, investors, mentors and small business service providers in Sault Ste. Marie to create a supportive and knowledgeable environment where business startups can flourish.

We are part of the Startup Canada network – a pan-Canadian network to provide entrepreneurs with a single doorway to enter their local entrepreneur community to access mentors, space, funding and support to start and grow their businesses and to connect with other startup founders online and on the ground.

Startup_CanadaStartup Canada is a national entrepreneur-led undertaking to enhance the nation’s competitiveness and prosperity through uniting and strengthening Canada’s entrepreneurship ecosystem and promoting a vibrant entrepreneurial culture to create a unified brand as a rallying point for Canadians.

Startup Canada has the support of more than 85,000 Canadians, 400 partners and 300 volunteers across the country and in its network of over 20 thriving startup communities. To learn more about Startup Canada, watch this video.

With the support of this national movement, and our amazing team of local entrepreneurs and volunteers, Startup Sault will help build a strong and spirited entrepreneurial community in Sault Ste. Marie.

Since our launch in March 2014, Startup Sault has held a number of unique networking events including Startup Drinks, a casual, fun networking opportunity to meet and hangout with other entrepreneurs.

In May, Startup Sault offered a 5-day training session from the Canadian Entrepreneurship Institute via live streaming.

The training featured keynote lectures by world-leading innovators, entrepreneurs, educators and policy makers; attendees gained the knowledge, tools and network necessary to make a meaningful impact in advancing innovation and entrepreneurship in their community, as well as their own business or organization.

On October 9th we held a Startup Drinks event at the Water Tower Pub, and our fall line-up of events includes the next Startup Drinks, November 20th, as well as our newest program – Startup Book Club, October 29th (kick-off ) and December 3rd.

Startup Book Club participants will read and discuss the latest business-related books (as well as classics) to glean tips, models and strategies to take their business to the next level.

Startup Book Club will create an opportunity for local entrepreneurs, students, small business owners and others to discuss not only the content of each book, but their own strategies and experiences as well.

I hope you will join us in our movement.

Together, let’s take risks, generate big ideas, and push the economy forward.

About Startup Sault:

Startup Sault connects new entrepreneurs with the small business resources available in the community, and provides the support of existing entrepreneurs who are building successful companies.

Our community enterprise partners include the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre (SSMIC), Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corporation (SSMEDC), Community Development Corporation of Sault Ste. Marie (CDC), and Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce.

For more information about Startup Sault, visit Follow us on Facebook ( or Twitter ( to keep up to date on Startup Sault events, startup tips and other useful information.

About the Author: Nevin Buconjic is an entrepreneur, author, consultant and Strategic Business Advisor with the Ontario government. Nevin is the founder and community lead for Startup Sault.