You have what it takes to launch a successful business – a great idea, some subject matter expertise and the drive to overcome barriers – but how do you turn that idea into a real company?
Wondering where to begin, you probably hop online and start researching resources for entrepreneurs in your area. Hundreds of links appear in a split second, and you go from unsure to overwhelmed faster than Google displayed the results of your query.
Time is one of the most valuable resources when starting a business, and you could spend hours, if not days, seeking information on next steps. But you need to move at “startup speed”, as they say in Silicon Valley, and be strategic about where you invest your time.
Whether you are new to entrepreneurship, or are a seasoned business person, all of the struggles that come with launching a new venture can be even greater if you’re new to town and unfamiliar with the resources available to you.
In Atlantic Canada, we are fortunate to have a number of great support systems in each of the four provinces. From programming and events, to government services and non-profits, there are plenty of people and organizations that want to help you succeed. If you’re new to Atlantic Canada and eager to get to work on that business idea you’ve been daydreaming about, here’s a list of places to start:
While many resources vary by province, there are a number of services that span across the Atlantic region.
As part of the federal government’s effort to support entrepreneurs, Canada Business was established to provide free information to new and existing businesses. Through a network of service centres across the country, Canada Business’ bilingual staff will help you learn about relevant government programs and services, regulations and permits, taxation, importing and exporting, and more.
Community Business Development Corporations
Community Business Development Corporations (CBDCs) are not-for-profit organizations that assist entrepreneurs with starting, growing and modernizing their businesses in rural Atlantic Canadian communities. CBDCs provide financial assistance to aspiring entrepreneurs with a sound business plan, counselling and advice for when you’re looking for guidance, professional development and training opportunities to help you expand your skill set, and more.
If you’re thinking about reaching out to a CBDC, take a look at their website and be sure to reach out to the appropriate branch. It’s also recommended that you browse their programs and explore their business plan template so you can make the most out of your first meeting with an advisor.
Propel ICT is an Atlantic Canadian accelerator organization that aims to help establish the region as a “nerve centre for technology.” Through their virtual accelerator, Incite, Propel helps founders build scalable technology companies. Incite is divided into two phases; the first phase is ideal for new entrepreneurs because it focuses on validating the problem-solution fit. The three-month portion of the accelerator helps participants develop a better understanding of their target customers’ experience with the problem, and whether their product is enticing enough to draw customers away from the solution they already use.
If you’re a young entrepreneur looking for financing, this is a great option for you. Futurpreneur is a national non-profit that provides ﬁnancing, mentorship and support to aspiring business owners, between the ages of 18-39. The organization offers loans up to $20,000 for your business, and you can access additional financing of up to $40,000 through their partnership with the Business Development Bank of Canada. The best part about Futurpreneur’s financing is that they match you with a suitable mentor, so that you have the support you need to make the best decisions for you business.
Your local Chamber of Commerce
Your local Chamber of Commerce can provide a ton of value to your business. From group rates on health benefits and advertising opportunities to networking events and free training, Chamber of Commerce organizations are a great resource for entrepreneurs.
If you’re unsure of how to become a member, check to see if your Chamber of choice has a website where you can learn more about membership benefits. If you like what you see, reach out to the organization’s staff member that deals with memberships and ask if there are any opportunities to “try before you buy”. You may be able to attend an event or workshop for free or at the discounted member rate to test if the membership is something you will actually use. Ultimately, the membership is an investment of time and money – so you want to make sure it’s the right fit for you and your business. Keep in mind that the value you get out of the membership directly relates to the time you invest in engaging with the organization and participating in their events. The more effort you put forward, the more value you’ll get in return.
Venn Innovation is a technology and innovation association based in Moncton, New Brunswick. The organization helps entrepreneurs by connecting them with their partners and resources to assist them with validating and testing their ideas, growing and developing their companies, and entering and expanding into new markets.
Venn offers a number of programs and services, including Venn Garage and Market Intelligence. Venn Garage, a non-cohort based program, is designed to help entrepreneurs in New Brunswick validate their startup idea, acquire early adopters and initial funding, and prepare startup teams for accelerators. The Venn Garage program is a great option for entrepreneurs in the early stages of developing their business, as it provides them with the resources they need to reach the next level.
If your business operates in New Brunswick’s life sciences sector, BioNB is an organization you should know about. BioNB supports bioscience ventures by fostering a supportive business environment through coaching, advocacy and community-building activities. The organization focuses on growing New Brunswick’s bioscience industry by providing leadership and support to increase the research, development and commercialization capacity in the province.
If you’re looking to fund your bioscience startup, the organization offers a tool to help you navigate all the funding options available. BioNB’s Funding Navigator tool on their website is a comprehensive database of funding available to New Brunswick-based companies and researchers working in biosciences. Simply select what type of organization you are (e.g. startup, SME, etc.) and choose what type of funding you’re looking for, and the Navigator will show you all the funding you may qualify for. This tool is a great starting point if you’re looking for sector-specific funding.
When you’re just starting a new business, sometimes the best thing you can do is surround yourself with like-minded people in a supportive environment. Established in 2013, Planet Hatch is a Fredericton, New Brunswick-based organization that combines programs and workspace to entrepreneurs, and is a comprehensive resource to start and grow their businesses. The organization supports its clients through various programs, events, funding, mentorship, and other great offerings. Since opening their doors, Planet Hatch has supported more than 200 new companies that have gone on to create over 200 jobs.
The organization offers a membership that gives you access to their co-working space, along with some other great perks. Included in the membership, you receive access to meeting space, discounts on local services, the option to rent a locker, a membership to the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce, and more.
Joint Economic Development Initiative
The Join Economic Development Initiative (JEDI) is a non-profit organization that helps foster Indigenous participation in New Brunswick’s economy by supporting Indigenous businesses and participating in community economic development.
The JEDI offers a Business Incubator Program that is designed for current or aspiring Indigenous entrepreneurs. The 10-week program provides participants with the skills, tools and resources they need to run a successful business. Entrepreneurs in the program benefit from access to a customized business support plan, mentorship from successful entrepreneurs, perks like free tools and discounts, and much more.
Newfoundland and Labrador
The Genesis Centre is an innovation hub for technology startups based in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. Genesis’ provides programming and space to tech companies. Since opening, companies that have participated in Genesis’ programs have raised $95 million in private capital, reached $150 million in annual revenue generated, and created more than 1,200 jobs.
For early-stage technology companies, Genesis’ offers an eight-week pre-incubator program that helps entrepreneurs engage with their potential customers, validate their idea and find problem-solution fit.
Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs
Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs (NLOWE) supports female entrepreneurs by helping them overcome challenges and leverage opportunities as they support and grow their business. With business advisors in every region of the province, Newfoundland and Labrador-based women entrepreneurs can access NLOWE’s free services no matter where they are located.
For aspiring entrepreneurs, NLOWE offers a Self-Employment Assistance (SEA) program for unemployed individuals who want to launch a business as a means to viable employment. The program provides support to participants as they develop their business plan. Once the plan is completed, participants have the option to apply for additional support to put their plan into action.
YMCA of Newfoundland and Labrador
The YMCA of Newfoundland and Labrador is a great resource for new entrepreneurs. They offer a Business Planning Program that provides business development services to new businesses. Program participants benefit from personalized consulting on their company’s needs through a step-by-step business planning process. In addition to assistance with business planning, the YMCA also offers training opportunities in topics such as finance and accounting, taxation, human resources, marketing, operations management, and more.
Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technology and Innovation
Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technology and Innovation (NATI) is a not-for-profit industry association that supports the province’s technology sector. NATI hosts a number of networking events aimed at connecting the technology and startup community.
The organization recently announced it is planning to release a new strategy that focuses on developing the talent that is critical to fueling the growth of successful technology companies in the province, and continuing to offer programming and resources to businesses operating in the industry. With this new strategic direction, NATI is certainly a resource to follow for up-and-coming entrepreneurs.
Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development
Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development (CEED) has a 20-year history of supporting entrepreneurs in Nova Scotia. The organization offers workshops and programs, along with other business support services, to provide entrepreneurs with the resources they need to grow their innovative ideas into successful businesses.
One of the workshops CEED offers is a free Start Smart workshop. Start Smart will help you kick-start your business by exploring resources available to entrepreneurs, providing an overview of CEED’s programs and offering tools to start or grow a business. This workshop is also a perfect opportunity to ask any questions you may have. Check out CEED’s events calendar to find out when the next workshop is taking place.
Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia
Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS) is an organization that supports newcomers in Nova Scotia. Recognizing that many immigrants are entrepreneurial, ISANS offers resources to help their clients start businesses in the province. ISANS has a team of business professionals dedicated to helping immigrant entrepreneurs navigate business requirements and connecting them with the local community. ISANS also offers one-on-one business counselling, workshops and networking opportunities, along with other ISANS services like language training.
Centre for Women in Business
If you’re a female entrepreneur in Nova Scotia, this next resource is for you. Centre for Women in Business (CWB) has supported more than 13,000 women entrepreneurs and business leaders since 1992. Located on Mount Saint Vincent University’s campus, the non-profit organization provides training and resources to help women develop the skills and network they need to thrive in the business community.
Through their Business Skills Certificate training programs, CWB offers skill development opportunities in the areas of financial management, social media marketing, and human resources. They also host events to help you connect with like-minded people, and provide one-on-one business advisories to help you form an action plan for your business.
Ignite Labs is a hub for entrepreneurs located in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. By providing structure, mentoring and partner resources to startup companies, Ignite is helping catalyze entrepreneurial activity in Southwestern Nova Scotia.
The organization offers workspace through their tenancy program and hosts events that help connect and develop the startup community in their part of the province. Ignite also focuses on engaging youth in entrepreneurship by offering programs and events designed to help youth think entrepreneurially through their various partnerships with community groups.
If you’re exploring a technology-based idea for a business, Volta Academy is a great option to help you learn the basics of launching a tech startup. Instructed by entrepreneurs and industry experts, the 11-week program provides hands-on experience and teaches you about the fundamental aspects of going from an idea to a viable tech-enabled business. Weekly sessions cover topics such as customer discovery, design thinking, product development, how to pitch, and more. Volta Academy runs twice a year and applications are open now for the fall semester.
Navigate Startup House
Navigate Startup House is a Cape Breton-based tech startup incubator that provides co-working and event space, along with access to meeting rooms and acceleration programming. The organization offers desk or semi-private office space with 24-hour access. They also provide opportunities for local entrepreneurs to learn and connect with each other through events.
Nova Scotia Power Makerspace
If you’re looking for somewhere to build products in Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Power Makerspace is the place for you. Managed by Innovacorp, the facility provides space, equipment, materials and education to enable creative and entrepreneurial people to design and build innovative products.
With 4,000 sq.ft. of space, located in Sydney, Cape Breton, the Nova Scotia Power Makerspace has everything you need to build or iterate on your product. The space features a general work area, tool library, metal working shop, woodworking tools, an electronics/robotics lab, as well as 3D drawing and printing abilities.
Prince Edward Island
Located in downtown Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Startup Zone is one of the Island’s top resources for business support and the main hub for startups in the province. The organization offers a residency program that provides startups with work and meeting space, mentorship, business model development, and professional office hours in critical areas of business operations, such as accounting, legal, marketing, and more. Startup Zone also hosts seminars and events so you can gain new skills and build relationships that help your business grow.
Summerside Makerspace is a non-profit organization that offers a place for people on PEI to “make, teach and learn”. The space offers tools, such as a 3D printer, and resources to create products. Entrepreneurs sign up for a membership to access the space and connect with their community of creatives.
PEI Business Women’s Association
PEI Business Women’s Association (PEIWBA) is a non-profit organization that supports and promotes women in business on Prince Edward Island. PEIWBA supports women entrepreneurs through their programs, workshops, and professional development events.
For those new to entrepreneurship, PEIWBA hosts Startup 101. The half-day workshop helps participants navigate the process of starting a business by providing information and reference materials on how to get to the next phase of launching your business. The workshop focuses on a variety of topics, such as identifying your business idea, conducting research, planning, financing, selecting a business structure, licensing and permits, along with other important subjects.
Prince Edward Island BioAlliance
Prince Edward Island BioAlliance (PEI BioAlliance) private sector-led not-for-profit that develops and coordinates the growth strategy for “Prince Edward Island Bioscience Cluster”. The organization runs a virtual incubator called Emergence, with the goal of supporting the establishment and development of innovative bioscience and agriculture businesses. The incubator offers a number of benefits, including tailored business support services, one-on-one and team-based mentorship, access to international networks, funding opportunities and more.
PEI Connectors is an initiative led by the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce that helps entrepreneurial newcomers tap into the local business community by facilitating connections between immigrant entrepreneurs and business leaders.
PEI Connectors also support their clients through one-on-one business plan development support, and hosts workshops and information sessions throughout the year to keep their clients informed and engaged with the business community.
While we’ve only covered a portion of the incredible resources available in the region, this roundup is sure to help you get started, no matter where you are in Atlantic Canada.