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 (www.wix.com) 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 Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com.

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 www.amazon.ca or www.amazon.com, 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!

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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 (www.startupsault.ca). Find him at www.nevinbuconjic.com

Building a Thriving Small Business Sector in Northern Ontario

Entreprenerus Wanted smallerOriginally published on www.northernontariobusiness.com, 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 www.startupsault.ca.

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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 www.nevinbuconjic.com

Launch of My Latest Ebook

Last week I released my latest ebook on Amazon Kindle, entitled “25 Money-Making Businesses You Can Start in Your Spare Time”.

The book will help anyone looking to start a small business, or just earn extra money in their spare time.

For those struggling to make ends meet in today’s tough economy, these 25 ideas can lead to some great opportunities for the future.  I hope that this information will provide a needed push to those currently on the fence or wanting to start a business but just aren’t sure what kind of business is possible.

You can find my book here on Amazon.com.

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