Startup culture has become synonymous with innovation, agility and creativity and is increasingly taking hold in organizations of all sizes and throughout the entrepreneurial ecosystem. With its contests, incubators, accelerators and dynamic spirit, the culture helps companies grow and stay competitive. Find out how you can use startup culture to grow your business at every stage.
Do you have a good idea? Have the skills to back it up, but lack the funds to launch a business? Know that there are resources out there to help you, and that they form an integral part of the startup ecosystem.
Look for local business development centres in your area. These organizations often offer resources to help out during the startup phase. For example, they could give you access to a specialist who will help you craft the roadmap to your success: your business plan.
Academic institutions are another possibility. They often have courses on launching a business, some of which are tied to government grants.
If you get the support of an organization at the start of your project, they will likely want to work with you all along your journey, in order to provide you with further targeted assistance. Because when you succeed, they do too!
Once you have a solid business plan, you’ll be ready to look for funding. Some financial institutions will be more interested in your project if you worked with a business development organization in the pre-startup phase.
Beyond loans, there are many government grant programs, depending on your industry. There are also organizations whose sole mission is to help you find these funds! Once again, start by checking in with a regional business development centre. They’ll be glad to offer support.
Not all projects get financial support from banks and investors the first time around, and that’s normal. If that’s your case, consider exploring less traditional avenues. A crowdfunding campaign could be a good idea.
This type of online campaign can prove the relevance of your offer on the market, by showing that customers are interested in your product or service. The income from this first campaign can also provide you with a financial base that will help you secure further funding down the road.
You’ve launched your business and you’ve made your first sale. At this stage, the key is to make the best use of all the resources in Canada’s startup ecosystem.
Join a business incubator or accelerator
Incubators and accelerators are essential startup resources and can make all the difference in the consolidation of your business.
Incubator and accelerator programs vary in duration. They’re usually local or regional structures and are often organized in partnership with a larger company or an academic institution. Typically, they provide mentoring, networking opportunities, resource sharing and even office and administrative support.
It’s not uncommon for companies in the same industry to congregate in a physical space, whether it’s a large loft or the entire floor of an office tower. Don’t hesitate to join one of these spaces; you could reap multiple benefits.
You could share rent and electricity with other companies, for example, or split the cost of a photocopier or monthly internet payments, or even split a shared employee's salary.
Beyond the savings, your shared-space colleagues could end up giving you small assignments, becoming clients or collaborators, or even bidding on projects with you. You could share valuable knowledge on all kinds of subjects around the coffee machine.
To find a shared business space, check with your local chamber of commerce or business development agency, your banker, or in discussion groups on social media.
Taking courses at a business school or university is another good option. The course content may be on the theoretical side, but the classes themselves will give you the opportunity to meet people and expand your network.
Once your company has overcome the challenges of getting up and running, you can continue to cultivate startup culture and reap its many benefits.
Chambers of commerce exist to rally a community of business people at the local or regional level and to create synergy among them. They will help you forge partnerships. Always worth looking into!
Although they’re more festive and informal, networking events can be real business catalysts if you know how to play your cards in a social context.
Although trendy happy hours are a classic, there are many other types of networking activities. What they all have in common is the chance to meet people in a relaxed setting and strike up conversations and relationships that can lead to opportunities. So introduce yourself! You’re part of the startup movement too.
Beyond face-to-face meetings, you can cultivate your online presence by finding groups on social media related to your industry.
When seeking advice, however, watch out for claims made by people saying they are experts. It can be helpful to cross-check the information provided by these "gurus" in a discussion group and vet their claims to fame.
There is also an abundance of training sessions, webinars and online events on the web, all of which can be a source of interesting new connections and valuable information.
Professional associations can be quite formal, as is the case with professional orders. Others, such as regional and national industry clusters, are more informal.
Professional associations often disseminate industry news through print or digital publications. They organize events and sometimes even gala evenings where they recognize industry leaders and game changers.
But their main job is to represent your sector with decision makers and provide you with resources to help you manage your operations and grow your business.
Your bank has invested in you and wants to succeed. Bank advisors know a lot of entrepreneurs and can put you in touch with their contacts. They certainly have ideas that can help you, because they’ve seen and heard all kinds of stories, of business wins and business failures. So get their experience working for you.
Enter contests or entrepreneurship competitions
A good way to gain recognition with potential new clients or investors is to enter entrepreneurship competitions. They happen all year round, at festivals and major conferences and even on television.
You will need to master the art of the “pitch,” which means presenting your business idea in a catchy way and in a short amount of time. Even if you don’t come out as a winner in a competition, you’ll have practised presenting your project and you will definitely have gained visibility. Who knows where that can take you!
Launching a business and growing it is the project of a lifetime for many. At first, you may feel like you have to do everything yourself, but that doesn’t mean you’re alone.
Find the organizations that are there to support your efforts and work with them to strengthen your company. Once your business is on solid footing, try to maintain a startup mindset and startup values.
And talk to our specialists. They know all about the world of startups in Canada and can help you find nearby resources that will meet your needs.
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