Small businesses long predate the advent of large corporations (think blacksmith in medieval Europe). But by the mid-20th century the idea of joining a large company where you could work your entire career and retire with a nice pension became the goal for many.
However, a confluence of factors -- economic, social, and technological -- have led to significant changes in how people now look at their careers. As a result, many people have been forced to explore the possibility of starting their own business while others have made the conscious choice to get out of the corporate "rat race." This recent post about the entrepreneurial mindset of millennials is indicative of the change.
One of the new breed of entrepreneurs is Natalie Sisson, who wrote a book called The Suitcase Entrepreneur. The proliferation of new technology and the dramatic decrease in costs to start a business online has made it possible for people like Natalie to pursue their dreams. Of course many small businesses aren't online at all, but that's a separate post altogether.
The ease of starting a business today also has a downside. At least in the technology world where I operate, a warped sense of what entrepreneurship is all about has taken hold. The success of companies like Instagram, which was purchased by Facebook for $1 billion when the company was less than two years old and without any revenue, leaves everyone with a smart phone thinking, "I could come up with an app and sell it for millions!"
Don't get me wrong, I was raised in Silicon Valley before moving to Vancouver and I love to see entrepreneurs with big dreams. What concerns me is when people build a business with a focus on trying to get big simply based on the belief that "bigger is better" or when those involved with the company view anything other than a multimillion dollar acquisition as a failure.
This mentality loses sight of the reasons why many people pursue entrepreneurship: greater freedom and flexibility in their work, and pursuing something they are passionate about. Of course money matters too, and many small businesses struggle to make ends meet. So we should celebrate those who succeed in creating profitable enterprises, provide valuable goods and services, and create employment opportunities in our communities, even if they aren't the next Instagram.
To celebrate the nearly 1-million entrepreneurs who help drive the Canadian economy, the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) is sponsoring Small Business Week October 20-26. The infographic below, produced by the BDC, provides a good overview of small businesses in Canada. And if you're an aspiring entrepreneur you can see there is a lot of opportunity for businesses that serve small businesses!