Starting a local business in Ottawa – follow these tips to launch

Starting a business in Ottawa is an exciting opportunity for you to create a great future for yourself, but there is a lot to think about and plan for before you launch. The most important first step is a strategy that helps you get your business off to the best start possible. To help you, consider these tips, each designed to help you think about your business’s launch differently.

#1: Make Sure Your Community Fits Your Needs

Ottawa is a diverse city with so much to offer. Still, you need to ensure it is the right fit for your target audience. A few things make this area a standout option for businesses. Here are some facts from the City of Ottawa’s website to help you ensure that it is the right fit for your business:

  • many university graduates live in Ottawa, which may mean young, fresh ideas and employees may be available.
  • About 43% of the labour force in Ottawa is based in creative or knowledge-based occupations. That includes science, engineering, arts, health care, education, business, law, and finance. That’s a diverse workforce to work with for most companies.
  • The city is working to build up its infrastructure and abilities to meet business needs. That includes areas of life sciences, wireless, defense and security, and media.

#2: Vet Your Business Idea and Competition

Before launching, be sure that your business idea, products, or services will thrive. Take the time to determine who your customers are, including their demographics. Then, work to build your understanding of your competitors. How are customers getting help for their needs right now? What do competitors offer in comparison to what you plan to offer? What can you do better?

Fleshing out these areas gives you an idea of what to expect when moving forward with your business, and it will give you an idea of what tweaks you will need to make for your company to be successful.

#3: Reach Out to Local Business Support Programs

Don’t go it alone. There are a lot of tools out there to help you get your business off the ground. Ottawa offers a range of supportive tools to help you. The following can support your launch:

  • Community economic development and business improvement area grants could help you get the funding you need.
  • Check out the business assistance program called Take It Back! As well as the supportive tools for immigrant startup owners.
  • The Innovation Pilot Program is an excellent tool that can help you get insight and support for the technology to support your business’s needs.

You can find links to many city programs on their website, including tools available to support your business as you work to build it from the ground up.

#4: Create Your Brand

When you launch your business, you want to ensure that everyone’s first impression is positive and memorable — it is key to building your brand. Once they step into your shop, you want to wow customers with your products and your brand. This will help them remember the business and ensure that they are return clients.

Branding is done on multiple fronts. At the heart of this is developing your main branding elements, such as your logo, website, color scheme, and even the font you’ll use. All of these components help to define what your brand is. By painting a picture of your brand through your logo and coloring, you are creating an impression that people will link to the excellent service they have. This is important. You need them to think of you first whenever they have a need you can help them fulfill.

Creating your branding can be a challenge. You need to appeal to your customers directly and convey your message clearly. You can create a logo and other branding assets online with tools like Tailor Brands logo creator. It’s a great, affordable way to get started crafting your brand.

#5: Get a Business Plan in Place

If you have not done so yet, be sure you put a business plan in place. This is a document that is critical for your planning and organization. It is also required when turning to banks and other lenders who you may need to turn to for capital or to invest in your company.

A business plan outlines quite a bit of information about your business, including:

  • Who owns it
  • Who manages it
  • What the industry is, including a breakdown of products and services
  • How the business will be marketed
  • Estimated revenue and expenses
  • Plans for growth

Business plans come in different forms, but the more comprehensive you make yours, the better it will be at communicating clearly what your business offers and why it will be profitable. If the prospect of creating your own business plan seems daunting, the good news is you can hire a company to do this for you (which is wise when you do not have the time to build your plan yourself), or you can use a business planning software like LivePlan to help you.

#6: Get Licensing in Place

Before you launch your business, you need to be sure you fulfill all the legal requirements to operate within the community. In nearly all situations, you will need to obtain the necessary license and permits. These vary by industry and the type of work you are doing, but they are critical.

The BizPal application is one of the easiest ways to do this. This tool is free to use and helps you streamline the entire business permitting process, saving you time and money. Use the tool to do it independently, or employ a company that offers support for setting up a business.

#7: Build an Online Presence

The next step in building your business is creating an online presence for your business. Like with branding, your online presence on social media sites and your website helps people learn about your company, products, and services. Often, potential customers spend a significant amount of time researching companies available to them online before contacting them for help. If they cannot find you, they will likely find a competitor.

Use your website and social media to better educate about your products, but also as a way to engage with your customers. Talk about what they are talking about and find ways to create attention-grabbing content they want to read and share with friends and family. This helps to build your business’s recognition quickly.

You can hire a company to handle this process for you or tackle the work yourself using one of the top all-in-one local marketing software options. The goal here should be to create a website and social media presence that is authentic to what you want your brand to be known for, which may mean it is best to turn to a pro to help you desire your business.

#8: Find a Mentor to Support Your Success

There are a lot of ups and downs when starting a business. There may be questions and problems that occur over time—having a mentor to turn to can help you make good decisions and support your success. Perhaps this is someone in the community with a strong, locally owned business that you admire. Talk to them about your ideas. Maybe, even turn to local elected officials within the neighborhood you plan to operate in. Find out what insights your local councillor or MPP can offer to you.

Having a mentor is one of the most important steps. You can find help with things like marketing, finding capital to build your business, and knowing when to expand in the abundance of information online, but having someone local in Ottawa who knows the local climate is the most important and most valuable asset.

It’s the right time to start planning your business, and these tips will provide you with some things to think about to help you find success sooner. You may have a great idea, but make sure to plan appropriately to avoid limiting your success.

Photo: Unsplash