Pandemic spurs business boom in Canada: Survey

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

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

Now, the 24-year-old digital content creator and lifestyle influencer is on his way to earning a six-figure salary.

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

“I thought now was a good time to see if I could turn a hobby into a business.”

She is not alone.

New research indicates that the pandemic spurred a business boom in Canada.

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

The survey, conducted by Angus Reid, also found that new entrepreneurs are nearly twice as likely to own multiple businesses.

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

“It’s no secret that there have been a lot of hardships and disruptions since COVID,” said David Marquis, vice president and country manager for Intuit Canada.

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

The survey found that Gen Z and millennials (broadly speaking, adults age 40 and under) make up more than half of entrepreneurs starting 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 much of their success may be due to the fact that they are more digitally savvy,” he said.

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

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

Sullivan, for example, started his business while working full time in the health care field.

However, as his business grew, he was able to reduce his hours in the corporate world. He now calls his part-time office job, not his start-up, his “hustle.”

“I want to continue to have that steady source of income,” Sullivan said of her day job, noting that the brands she works with sometimes pay quickly and sometimes 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 percent of new entrepreneurs make more money as a small business owner than they did in their previous job.

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

Intuit’s research, included in a new report released Tuesday titled Canada’s Next Generation of Entrepreneurs, was based on two surveys.

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

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

The professional body for the survey industry, the Canadian Research Insights Council, says that online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not take random samples of the population.

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