So you want to start a business...

Posted on June 7, 2017

By Rosalind Lockyer PARO Centre for Women's Enterprise, Executive Director

Fantastic idea!  I agree with you 100%. 


Every family should have at least one small business. Why? 

Today is a world of precarious employment- contract work, part-time, casual employment.  These opportunities often do not translate into full-time permanent jobs with all kinds of benefits.  There are many other reasons for starting a business, but the uncertainty of continuous employment is increasingly a reality we must face. "A business can be that security you need to fill gaps in employment, and has the potential to provide you with a phenomenal and sustainable livelihood." 

There are many other reasons to start a small business. Women tell me every day that flexibility that allows them to fulfill their family care responsibilities is very important.  Unlike years past, women often do not have the choice to stay at home without contributing to the family income.  But just as important to women is that feeling of empowerment that comes from being a successful business owner of their own venture.  

So, there are many reasons to start a business, and I have named but a few. However, many prospective entrepreneurs come to PARO with the question,

"How do I know what business to start?”

Yes, that is an important question for many, and certainly there are several things to consider.  But, I think the most important question is, “What will make you want to get up in the morning feeling enthused? What will you be passionate about?”  This passion will keep you going.  There will be lots of hard work, and many difficult days when growing a business, so we need to love what we are doing.  


Now, how do we start to discover what would be a good business idea for you?

Step one for me, is to close your eyes without a lot of pre-thought and imagine yourself doing your business.  Where are you, indoors, outdoors?  How are you dressed, in casual clothes, in a business suit?  Who are you talking to, a person from the general public, to another business owner, to a senior?  Are you an early morning person, or do you enjoy working in the evenings?  Are you happy to work evening and weekends, or is this not going to work for you?  Are you OK with working long hours in the summer or not?  Answering these questions gives you valuable information about what is important for you.  You will not stay with a business cutting lawns, no matter how lucrative, if you would rather be at the lake in the summer.  You will be depressed doing bookkeeping in your basement office, if you would rather be outdoors, or running around town meeting with people.

Step two, an important consideration is do you have enough capital to start and grow this particular business idea.


PARO can help you find funding.  We have our Peer Lending and Social Enterprise program that offers both grants and loans. PARO has grants for people with disabilities.  Also, we partner with Futurpreneur Canada and other sources of funding. However, most business ideas need you to have some of your own assets or cash to get started. And depending on the business, the need for start-up funds can be anywhere from a few hundred to hundreds of thousands.  So do not consider starting a restaurant if you have a couple of hundred dollars as you will need much more than that. However, you can start a bookkeeping business if you have a laptop and computerized accounting software.

Step three, another important consideration would be what skills and experience do you have that are important to your business? You may have to hire people to fill in any gaps in your own experience, but you still should have a good knowledge and the important skills to contribute to the business you are growing.  

Next we must think about the trends in the market. There must be individuals or other businesses that will want to purchase your product or service. So, you do not want to open a movie rental store; that trend is past. Look around you, and on the internet, to see what is gaining in popularity today. Also, remember that people and businesses purchase benefits, not things, and what benefits them the most will encourage a higher price. Ask yourself, will my product or service provide a benefit to anyone?  Will they feel better, look better, be able to do their work faster, live longer, fill a gap in the supplies they need to do their business. I can go on and on in this area, but you get the idea. 

Now that you have answered all of these questions, I go back to what I know is most important. This is your opportunity to do something you love. Take time to figure out what that is. Then, come see PARO.