Sparking Innovation: It Takes a Village


Every successful small business starts with a spark of innovation and the desire to meet a need.  For many of us, the idea of being able to paddle one’s own canoe also has a certain allure. 

However, recent reports indicate the number of entrepreneurs in Canada is declining, which is impacting small business creation.

A report by the Business Development Bank of Canada found that the country has 100,000 fewer entrepreneurs than it did 20 years ago, despite the fact that the population has grown by more than 10 million over the same period.

This decline in entrepreneurship is a long-term trend that has been accelerated by barriers related to the uncertainty of the pandemic, strong labour markets, and rising inflation.

Self-employment has become less attractive to Canada’s younger workers, and entrepreneurship is becoming less enticing for Canadians in general.

Why should we all be worried about this low propensity to innovate and create new businesses?

The reality is that new businesses are responsible for almost all net new job creation in this country. Additionally, Canada is lagging behind other countries in terms of innovation.

So, what’s the solution?

Research suggests the answer may be support for financing and marketing but my own learnings would suggest, it’s as much about small businesses having to respond to the (1) challenge of the need to have a wide range of skills and abilities to be successful and (2) having little support or resources to tackle them on your own.

As long-time community business developer Ernesto Sirolli has been suggesting over many years, a successful business needs to pay attention to three distinct areas (1) the actual product or service, (2) marketing, and (3) financial management. But perhaps even more important, he has promoted an understanding that no one is ever going to be good at all three. 

His “it takes a village approach” isn’t new but it remains more important than ever today when many small existing and emerging businesses at the heart of our communities are at risk.

The core of Sirolli’s message is that grassroots-up, person-centered, responsive economic development works. And, if it is well understood and community-driven and led, it works better than anything else because when a community can help motivated people succeed, success travels.

Read more about Ernesto Sirolli’s approach by revisiting this blog. Now, more than ever it’s an important approach to community economic development.

Posted on 11-04-23

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