By Victoria Lennox (@vlennox), co-founder of Startup Canada, blogging on the road from the Cross-Country Tour.
Saskatoon, June 17, 2012 – Startup Canada’s time in the Prairies highlighted the need to better to support and encourage community involvement of newcomer entrepreneurs to enrich and accelerate the growth of entrepreneurial communities.
While many communities in the East of Canada are experiencing aging and declining populations – trends that have far reaching socio-economic implications, including succession planning difficulties for boomer entrepreneurs – smaller cities in the Canadian Prairies like Brandon, Manitoba and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan have growing and increasingly younger populations, as a growing number of newcomers choose to make these communities their home.
“In 2010/2011 the city of Saskatoon received 200 expressions of interest from newcomer entrepreneurs to receive support to start businesses and in 2011/2012 that number jumped to 1,200”, says Canada Business Saskatchewan Director Elaine Enrau. “This represents a great opportunity for our region; however, we need to develop the support that these newcomer entrepreneurs need to hit the ground running, and quickly”.
In major Canadian centers – i.e. Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal – newcomer entrepreneurs can access a wealth of support in learning about the Canadian business environment and how to start a business; however, in smaller communities, the infrastructure is limited, or simply doesn’t exist.
In her opening remarks at the Brandon, Manitoba Town Hall affront a room of the city’s leading entrepreneurs, Mayor Shari Decter Hirst, who is herself a serial entrepreneur, underlined the importance of cultivating an entrepreneurial culture and community in Brandon by celebrating entrepreneurship in newcomer communities; working together to invite newcomers into existing business circles; and, celebrating the diversity of the city’s entrepreneurs. Mayor Hirst underlined that “Brandon is committed to creating a community that embraces, celebrates and supports entrepreneurs from all cultures.”
Our newcomer entrepreneurs bring with them a global entrepreneurial drive, diverse experience and new ideas, and global networks and linkages. We need to welcome, engage and collaborate with newcomer entrepreneurs to ensure that they have the support needed. From welcome packs and resource guides accessible in numerous languages, to pre-arrival training, certification and skills-based support, Town Hall delegates saw tremendous opportunity in empowering newcomers in their region to start and grow flourishing businesses.
Ideas discussed to better support newcomer entrepreneurs included involving newcomer entrepreneurial leaders in community business councils, chambers, and city planning boards as well as developing public celebrations of cross-cultural entrepreneurship. The entrepreneurs of Brandon and Saskatoon felt that more could be done locally to promote, celebrate and enable newcomer entrepreneurship through special events, communications campaigns and targeted programs.
Of course, in Canada, there are successful examples of organizations, programs and resources to support newcomer entrepreneurs. Rather than re-invent the wheel, growing communities can leverage existing resources and best practices that may be found in other cities to support newcomer entrepreneurs – i.e. Immigrant Settlement & Immigration Services in Halifax, the CYBF Immigrant Newcomer Program, and Roger Pierce’s new resource NewcomerStartup.com.
Some resources for Newcomer Entrepreneurs include:
If you know of resources for Newcomer entrepreneurs, please share them here.