Pandemic spurs entrepreneurial boom in Canada as new startups surge, new poll says

Entrepreneurship image
Entrepreneurship image

A downturn seems like the worst time to start a business.

But just as the pandemic was upending the economy and forcing many small businesses to close, Carter Sullivan launched a startup.

Now the 24-year-old digital content creator and lifestyle influencer is on track to earn a six-figure salary.

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“Everyone was trapped at home and I saw that my channel was growing and starting to become profitable,” the Ottawa resident said in an interview.

“I figured it was a good time to see if I could grow a hobby into a business.”

She’s not alone.

New research indicates the pandemic spurred an entrepreneurial boom in Canada.

A survey by Intuit, a global tech firm that makes software like TurboTax and QuickBooks, shows nearly a quarter of small businesses in Canada were started in the last two years.

The poll, conducted by Angus Reid, also found that new entrepreneurs are almost twice as likely to have multiple businesses.

While half the small business owners surveyed said rising costs and inflation are a challenge, 90 per cent of new entrepreneurs said they still feel optimistic about the future.

“It’s no secret there’s been a lot of hardship and disruption since COVID,” said David Marquis, vice-president and country manager of Intuit Canada.

“But underneath that context, we’re seeing business trends that are encouraging. Innovation and entrepreneurship in Canada is quite healthy.”

“Technology democratizes the ability of smaller enterprises to compete because it levels the playing field.”

The survey found generation Zs and millennials (roughly speaking, adults aged 40 and younger) make up more than half the entrepreneurs who started new businesses.

The flurry of entrepreneurial activity among younger Canadians during the pandemic reflects in part how technology is helping lower barriers to entry, Marquis said.

“Entrepreneurship is alive and well in that younger age cohort and a lot of their success may stem from the fact that they’re more digitally savvy,” he said.

“Technology democratizes the ability of smaller enterprises to compete because it levels the playing field.”

Meanwhile, the survey also found 25 per cent of Canadian entrepreneurs polled consider their business to be a side hustle.

Sullivan, for example, started her business while working a full-time job in the health-care field.

As her business grew, though, she was able to reduce her hours in the corporate world. She now calls her part-time office job – not her startup – her “side hustle.”

Multiple income streams

“I want to still have that steady source of income,” Sullivan said of her day job, noting that brands she works with sometimes pay quickly and at other times take months to pay an invoice.

“I’m just someone who personally believes in multiple streams of income. I want to keep my foot in the door of the corporate world but also grow my own dreams.”

The survey found that 63 per cent of new entrepreneurs earn more money as a small business owner than they did at their previous job.

“Money is a motivator,” Marquis said. “But it’s also a desire to be your own boss.”

The Intuit research, included in a new report released Tuesday entitled The New Generation of Entrepreneurship in Canada, was based off two surveys.

The first was a two-question survey of 1,503 people across Canada, while the second was a 10-minute online survey among 645 Canadian small business owners.

Both surveys were conducted in English and French between April 26 and May 4.

The polling industry’s professional body, the Canadian Research Insights Council, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.

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