Best business ideas in Canada [updated]

Be your own boss

This business ideas Canada post was originally published on 2 April, 2019 and updated on 29 October, 2019 and 28 February 2022.

Canada’s economy is evolving as pandemic priorities change: After a tough two years, employment is on the rise and full recovery is on the horizon.

With the The Great Resignation well underway, as employees look to find work that offers both financial opportunities and personal satisfaction, this might be the the right time to take the plunge and start the small business you’ve always dreamed of.

Here’s a look at twelve great business ideas in Canada, along with startup costs.

Related: What does the Great Resignation mean for employers and workers?

12 great business ideas for Canada

Thinking about starting your own business? Here are twelve good ideas, along with the general startup costs for each.

  1. Photographer $
  2. Real estate $$
  3. Personal trainer $
  4. Mobile home services $$
  5. Freelance content creator $
  6. Rideshare driver $$
  7. Goods transportation $$$
  8. Niche retail business $$$
  9. Online specialty sales $$
  10. Influencer marketing $
  11. Pet Care Services $$
  12. Technology repair $$

Interested? Let’s dig into the startup requirements of each business.

1. Photographer $

Business Ideas in Canada Woman with Camera
Customers pay photographers to capture weddings, births and daily life.

Combine cutting-edge digital technology, social media and an eye for detail and you could make money as a photographer.

The biggest cost here? A high-end professional camera, which could cost $2,000 to $5,000.

Still, this makes the list of home business ideas with low startup costs since the camera should last for years if properly maintained.

Courses in photography don’t hurt either, but the biggest challenge for startup photographers is getting the word out. They’ll need active social media accounts and a website with hosting capable of handling large image files.

Related: What type of WordPress hosting do you need?

2. Real estate $$

Real estate remains one of the most reliable industries in Canada. Despite occasional instability, the buying and selling of residential and commercial properties is an evergreen job.

This potentially lucrative business isn’t tied to a 9-5 schedule.

 

According to the British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA), new agents can expect to pay more than $2,000 for licensing courses and the same for first-time license registration. In addition, each province maintains its own real estate board that charges initiation fees and monthly dues.

Also critical? Building a new client base. While this can be done via word-of-mouth, new agents are often best served by professionally-designed websites linked to social media accounts.

Related: How to become a real estate agent in Canada

3. Personal trainer $

The fitness market in Canada is expected to reach $4.7 billion this year, making it a good opportunity for entrepreneurs. It’s also one of several home business ideas with low startup costs listed here.

Personal training offers a simple path to startup: prospective trainers pay for certification courses ($500 – $1000) and then start looking for clients. While it helps to own some fitness equipment, many clients prefer to work out in their own homes.

Expertise, not equipment, is your most valuable asset.

 

The challenge? As this market expands, you need a reliable way to find and keep new clients. Here, a great domain name and website can help get new customers to contact you directly.

Related: Lisa Cowan and her passion for Pilates

4. Mobile home services $$

Business Ideas in Canada Person Snow Blowing a Sidewalk

Next on our list of top business ideas in Canada are mobile home services. It’s a lucrative market because no one really wants to wash their own windows, mow their own lawn or clean their own car. Canadians are already over-worked and looking for more vacation time.

Tap into a growing market of stressed and tired homeowners just looking for a break.

Getting started here requires some capital investment. For example, if you start a window washing business you’ll need:

  • Multiple ladders
  • A vehicle capable of carrying those ladders
  • Tools and products to efficiently clean windows

Insurance is also a requirement — homeowners won’t hire you if they’re worried about potential injuries leading to litigation.

Bottom line? Expect to pay between $10,000 and $50,000 to get started.

5. Freelance content creator $

The gig economy offers a host of opportunities for content creation specialists looking to work from home. This is another home business idea with low startup costs for:

  • Freelance writers
  • Graphic designers
  • Website developers
  • Researchers
  • Videographers

As mentioned, startup costs are minimal. A freelance writer can get to work with a computer and reliable internet connection.

The challenge? Finding clients. Freelancers need reliable, high-quality websites that draw in prospective clients and encourage them to learn more. A strong professional network is also a good source of steady leads.

6. Rideshare driver $$

Ridesharing services are quickly becoming popular in Canada. While Uber has been here for several years, competitor Lyft has now entered the Toronto market with plans to expand across the country.

Driving for a rideshare company offers several benefits. Drivers can:

  • Set their own schedules
  • Use their own vehicles
  • Leave the logistical details such as pickups, drop-offs and payment to the service’s mobile app

Potential drawbacks include wear-and-tear on your vehicle and associated fees. These can range from 25 to 40% depending on the type of ride, distance and time of day.

Startup costs here are variable. If you already own a safe and reliable car, you can get started with virtually no overhead. If you need a new car — or if you prefer to tap the more lucrative market of longer-haul rides in larger vehicles — you could end up spending anywhere from $20,000 to $70,000.

7. Goods transportation $$$

Business Ideas in Canada Semitruck in the Road

Transportation and warehousing are critical to the country’s economy, and both are on the rebound as recoveries gain speed. As a result, there’s always a need for businesses capable of moving goods cross-province or cross-country quickly and safely.

If you can build a reputation for service and reliability, this could provide long-term, stable income.

Starting a transport business comes with substantial costs, with the largest being the vehicle itself. Buying trucks outright can cost anywhere from $15,000 for smaller, used fleet vehicles to over $150,000 for large semitrucks and trailers. In addition, you’ll need:

  • A license to carry commercial goods
  • Insurance for your vehicle and its cargo
  • A name for your business, registered in your province

All told, you could easily spend more than $200,000 to get up and running with a transportation business.

8. Niche retail business $$$

While smaller specialty stores suffered during the pandemic, the market is starting to rebound. This sector now accounts for $5 billion of the Canadian economy.

If you can find the right product — for example, specialty pet supplies or organic baked goods — and the right location, it’s possible to establish your brand as one to watch.

The challenge? Small retail businesses are costly and time-consuming.

 

For example, renting retail space in the nation’s capital ranges from $10 per square foot in the suburbs to more than $40 downtown. Business owners must also consider the cost of:

  • Staffing
  • Inventory management
  • Insurance

If you’d rather avoid the upfront costs of a retail store, start online by using social and having a website that sells products. You can even boost your online visibility further by adding a custom logo that captures your brand’s essence on all your digital assets. Create one in minutes using GoDaddy’s free logo maker and choose from hundreds of curated templates and fonts to design with (no prior design skills necessary).

9. Online specialty sales $$

Speaking of online sales, another business opportunity that’s gaining ground is online specialty sales. This is a great choice if you have a particular talent for creating handcrafted goods and want a business you can operate from home.

Consider online sales platform Etsy — in Canada there are now more than 190,000 sellers online and 69% say their income has held steady or grown during the pandemic. Along with an online sales marketplace, you can also sell your goods directly through a personal e-commerce website.

When it comes to costs, raw materials matter.

 

Consider woodworking. While the costs of lumber have fallen from pandemic records in April and May of 2021, they still remain high. Along withWooden cutout of a reindeer on a jigsaw raw materials, online sales come with costs including:

  • Website design, deployment and hosting
  • Shipping and returns
  • The time investment required to create your products

All told, you’ll likely spend around $2,000 getting your business off the ground, and will operate in the red thanks to material costs for the first year or so until sales begin to stabilize.

Related: Supply chain management tips for small businesses

10. Influencer marketing $

While there’s still some confusion around the term “influencer marketing,” there’s no denying its impact: Viral video platform TikTok has more than 1 billion followers worldwide. While Canadians can’t make use of its “Creator’s Fund,” they can get paid directly by brands for sponsored posts and other activities.

When it comes to startup costs, you can get your marketing efforts off the ground for $100 – $500. Common purchases include:

  • Ring light for high-quality video capture ($20 – $150)
  • Video editing software (free – $100)
  • Substantial time investment: More complicated videos can take days or weeks to create.

Although the monetary costs of getting started with viral and influencer marketing are low, be prepared to put in the time and effort to build a social following that not only watches your content but is willing to spend money.

Worth noting? Under Canada’s Competition Act, influencers must disclose all “material connections” they have with businesses. This includes any payment made for posts, discounts received, or free products given.

Related: Platform Media leads the way for influencer marketing

11. Pet care services $$

According to recent data, there are now more than 15 million pet dogs and cats across Canada (cats have the edge here with 8.1 million to dogs’ 7.7 million).

This growth is no surprise. With loneliness and depression common concerns during the pandemic — and with many people spending significant amounts of time at home — pets offered a way for Canadians to feel connected.

With return-to-work initiatives now underway, however, pet care services are in high demand.

Tiny dog being bathed

Depending on the approach you take, starting this type of small business could cost you between $1,000 and $10,000.

For example, if you’re starting a dog walking service you’ll need a business license from your local municipality, along with pet insurance to account for any issues that occur during your walk.

If you’re looking to start a pet grooming business, meanwhile, you’ll need to invest in the tools necessary to take care of dogs and cats. And if you opt for a mobile grooming business you’ll need to invest in a reliable vehicle.

You’ll also need to consider:

  • Potential pet certifications, such as those from Pet Sitters International
  • Animal first aid certifications
  • A professionally-built website to help new clients find you

Related: Can you make any money with a pet daycare business?

12. Technology repair $$

Technology adoption continues to grow across the country. As noted by Statistics Canada, 94% of Canadians now have internet access via broadband connections and devices in their home, while 80% have mobile data plans for devices such as smartphones and tablets. The result? Massive opportunity for skilled repair professionals to fix devices when they stop working.

To get started in this space, be prepared to spend $1,000 to $5,000. Along with purchasing the tools you’ll need to repair electronics, you’ll also need to spend on:

  • Creating a clean workspace
  • Completing certification courses, such as CompTIA A+, or Server+ if you’re working with businesses
  • Building a solid website

Expect the first few months of business to be relatively slow as your name recognition grows and people recommend your services.

The cardinal rule for success in this field? Don’t take on work that’s outside your area of expertise.

If you encounter a problem you can’t solve, return the device and issue a refund. While this results in a revenue loss, it’s better than the alternative of causing irreparable device damage, which in turn can sink your business reputation.

You could be the next big thing

Ready to ditch the daily grind for a small business opportunity? Canada offers variety, depth and potential for growth. If one of the twelve options on our list of business ideas in Canada fits, start planning now. Then read How to start a business in Canada for the steps required of all Canadian startups.


FAQs and figures: your biggest business questions answered

How do I turn ideas into opportunities?

The best small business ideas are the ones that make the jump from potential to profitable. But how do you make this happen in practice?

According to the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), it’s all about looking for windows of opportunity.

Find something that you’re passionate about doing and then look for openings in the market that aren’t being filled.

Consider our pet services example above. While pet companies are common, the rapid uptick in pet ownership during the pandemic means more people than ever are looking for help with their pets. And as travel once again becomes an option, pet owners will be searching for reliable businesses that can take care of their homes and pets while they’re away.

How do I pick the right name?

What’s in a name? Quite a bit, actually. The right name can get your business noticed and grow your customer base. The not-quite-right name, meanwhile, may see you overlooked by prospective clients.

Consider fast-food giant Subway. Originally called Pete’s Super Submarines, the now-familiar chain struggled in its first few years. After making the change to the shorter name and iconic logo, the company turned its first profit, and the rest is history.

When it comes to picking a name, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does it reflect the product or service you offer?
  • Does it align with how you want your business to be perceived?
  • Is it easy to pronounce and remember?
  • Is it unique (and not already in use)?

You can learn more about how successful startups choose a brand name here.

What ownership structures exist for small businesses?

Depending on the type of business you’re building, different ownership structures may suit your goals.

  • Sole proprietorship

This is the most common type of ownership for a small business in Canada. In a sole proprietorship, you’re responsible for all aspects of the business. If your business takes a loss, you can apply that loss to other sources of income (such as another job) to reduce your taxes owing. The downside? You’re personally responsible for all debts incurred by your business.

  • Partnership

In a partnership, two (or more) owners share responsibility for the business. While there is no specific legal structure for a partnership, most businesses that operate under this model draw up a contract that lays out roles, responsibilities, and shares of revenue for each partner. In this case, responsibility for debts is shared equally among partners.

  • Incorporation

You may also choose to formally incorporate your small business. As noted by the BDC, while this often seems intimidating, incorporating a small business with a simple business model can take less than 20 minutes and cost less than $200.

While making the move to incorporation means you need to keep accurate and complete records of all financial transactions and provide these to relevant government agencies each year, you gain the benefit of protection of personal assets from corporate debts.

What do I need to register my business?

To register your business, you need four key pieces of information:

  • The location of your main office.
  • Which provinces and territories you’ll operate in.
  • Your business name.
  • The type of business (sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation).

Since business registration is handled at the provincial level, you’ll need to register in each province or territory where you’re planning to operate. Not sure where to get started? Check out this list of regional-based business support from the Government of Canada.

What supports exist for new small businesses?

Getting your small business off the ground can be time-consuming — and expensive.

One option to offset these costs is applying for a business loan with your bank, but depending on your credit history, current finances, and the viability of your idea, this can be challenging.

To help streamline this process, the Government of Canada offers several grant and financing programs. The Online Business Benefits Finder tool offers a personalized list of potential supports — from loans and capital investments to tax credits and wage subsidies, depending on the needs of your business.