23 business tips from Canadian small business owners
You made it through 2022. Congratulations! No, seriously — surviving any year of business is reason enough for celebration, never mind a year as wild and unpredictable as the past 12 months have been.
With last year squarely in the rear-view mirror now though, it’s time to look ahead at what’s next — and that’s where we come in.
We’ve put together a list of 23 business tips for 2023 to help set you down the path to success heading into the next 365 days and beyond.
They’re tried-and-tested business strategies proven out by real Canadian small business leaders from across the country.
Ready to make 2023 a banner year for your business? Read on for everything you’ll need to make it happen.
Starting from a strong foundation
Some of our favourite Canadian startups illustrate the importance of laying a good foundation early on.
1. Take that leap of faith
Being nimble and open to change is the hallmark of a successful entrepreneur. That’s how Sol Pilates Studio’s Lisa Cowan went from Pilates instructor to business owner: by taking the leap when her studio’s previous owner decided to retire and building her own studio in the space. When you see an opportunity, jump on it!
2. Show your audience your worth
One of the biggest advantages to bringing your business online is the opportunity it gives you to present your products and services directly to your audience.
Cameron O’Neill’s architectural firm 2LS Design does just that, bringing everything from photos to 2D and 3D renders to their online experience to show off their design chops digitally.
3. Carve out your niche
What makes your business stand out amongst the rest? That’s a question Pizza Hub answered in sizzling style, leaning on owner Harpreet Banwait’s passion for culinary fusion to put unexpected twists on typical fast-food fare. The result? Some of the best piri piri potato wedges this side of the St. Lawrence.
4. Be your own boss
This might sound like an obvious point to make to a room full of entrepreneurs, but if you can work for yourself rather than working for somebody else … do it!
That’s how Fun French Tutoring get its start, after all — when owner Kisha Provo asked herself why she’d work for someone else when she had the skillset to do it herself.
5. Do one thing really, really well
Nathalie Laroche and Charles Fortier carved out success in their farming business Ferme Sanglier des Bois by focusing on one thing and one thing only: producing the best wild boar meat around. They even used their engineering degrees to do so, fostering a business that produces the only 100% wild game certified boar meat in Quebec.
6. Be first on the scene
If you can beat the competition to the punch, you’ve won the race before it’s even begun.
That was how Sara Koonar found her success. She established Platform Media – one of Canada’s first influencer marketing agencies – before the sector really took off. As a result, she was able to offer experienced client service while others were just opening their doors.
7. Embrace your roots
Even in our digital, global economy, customers still prefer to shop local whenever they can – so, lean into your roots!
ThankU.ca did just that by opting for a .ca domain name and embracing their Victoria, BC headquartering as a mark of quality. Eight years later, that Canadian business is still going strong.
Building for a digital world
Going digital has helped many homegrown ventures survive the unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19.
8. First things first: get online
This might sound like entry-level advice, but you’d be surprised at how many small businesses have yet to really establish themselves online with a thoughtful, deliberate digital presence.
Tech evangelist Marc Saltzman went years (even in his field!) without a website — until he used GoDaddy’s Website Builder to make the leap online a cinch.
9. Become fluent in e-comm
Make shopping your brand easy by taking a page out of Jasmine Branderhorst’s book. She created a digital e-commerce storefront for The Underline’s customers to browse, shop, and purchase home goods from — all without ever leaving the comfort of their couches.
10. When life gives you lemons, redesign your website!
When the pandemic first hit, it pushed a lot of businesses to reconsider how they interact and engage with their customers.
Piñata Smash Cake owner Stephany Rasmusson saw an opportunity and took advantage of the situation, redesigning her website to smashing success.
Setting course for future success
Savvy business owners know they need to keep one eye on the future, even as they focus on the daily demands of running their ventures.
11. Rise through resiliency
Setting your own path to success is never a straight and easy road. That was a lesson Sameer Chunara learned when the pandemic knocked St. George Physiotherapy Clinic around.
By leaning into resiliency and offering a telehealth option for his patients, though, Chunara’s practice came through stronger than ever.
12. Build a community around your business
When you create community around your product or service, it tends to sell itself. See Kidisha Joseph’s Soi Official for proof.
With plans to not only grow the business but also start a business mentorship program, Joseph’s community continues to come through for her — and yours will, too.
13. Celebrate the victories and learn from the mistakes
Small business ownership isn’t all fair seas and smooth sailing, as Pirate Toronto’s Vanya Drakul can wholeheartedly attest.
It’s important to:
- Celebrate the wins
- Learn from the stumbles
- Take it all in stride
That’s the only way to chart new waters and set sail for success, after all!
14. If something isn’t working, switch it up
It can be unnerving to shake things up. But that nimbleness is sometimes just what’s needed to find small business success.
Look at the story behind Freeze DNA for proof: the brainchild of Anthony Stanberry, Justin Stanberry, and Jermaine Smith began as an advertising firm before becoming a children’s book publishing company. Talk about a pivot!
15. Be the expert on your customers
From data-driven insights to in-person conversations, there’s no shortage of ways to learn and connect with your customers and clients. This key focus has helped keep Mekaila Blasko’s Huddy Buddies on the path to success for six years now and counting.
16. Build toward growth
The one thing WSAD (previously Web Solutions) owner Sam Hachem set out to do with his business was to build around growth. What was once a business offering simple site design has since expanded to accommodate services around email, domain forwarding, and more — to the success of all involved.
Values and culture to create ongoing opportunity
There’s more to small business success than creating a terrific product or service. These entrepreneurs suggest that bringing your whole self to work pays off in subtle ways.
17. Bring your values to work
Your values are what make you, you — and they’re what make your business unique, too. Dr. Dev Vohra made a name for his dental practice by bringing small-town values to the burgeoning city of Burlington, ON.
What values can you bring to your business to make it stand out?
18. Live your passion
You know that old chestnut, “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life”? That’s the philosophy Your North Apparel owner Jordan McTaggart took when he established his adventure clothing company. And that commitment has allowed him to live his dreams — both on and off the clock.
Sounds like the way to do it to us!
19. Give your team ongoing feedback
Providing effective feedback can be tough, but the trick is to do so often and consistently. That’s the secret behind the business model for Jody Swain’s Hire and Fire Your Kids, an app that gamifies family chores.
This popular app allows parents to provide immediate feedback (positive and opportunity-focused!) to set kids up for success in the working world. It’s a model approach to teaching responsibility at a young age.
20. Pursue perfection (even though you won’t ever catch it)
John Macdonell founded Mac’s Metalworks on the philosophy of pursuing perfection. He knew full well they wouldn’t be able to catch it, as perfection is unattainable by its nature.
He also believes that through that effort, he and his son can create magic along the way — and they’ve been doing so now for more than three decades of business success.
21. Balance work and life for long-term sustainability
No matter how big your business gets, the key to staying on top of your game is ensuring your level of effort is sustainable by putting a strong focus on work-life balance.
This goes from the smallest solopreneur endeavour all the way to the top. This is a principal that Love It or List It Vancouver’s real estate agent Todd Talbot steadfastly adheres to.
22. When you meet an obstacle, go around it
Best friends Valeria Gonzalez and Tinisha Powell were sitting on the draft of what would become their first published children’s book.
The only problem was they couldn’t find anybody to help them with the publishing bit!
So they decided to embrace entrepreneurship and do it themselves — and ValTin Publishing was born.
23. Build meaning into your business
Your business means the world to you, so take the extra step and ensure your work stands for the same things you do — just like Kerin Johns did with Black Owned Toronto.
By making your work meaningful, not only will it be more passion-driven, but it will connect more deeply with your target audience, too. A win-win if we’ve ever heard one.
The last word on making 2023 a breakout year
The new year means a fresh start and the chance to make your mark with your venture. These tips have worked to elevate real Canadian businesses across the country — lean into them and they’ll help bring success to your business, too.
Here’s to a brilliant and busy 2023!
Image by: Planet Volumes on Unsplash