Small Business and Social Enterprise: To Thrive Not Fail


  • Tina Barton


Small businesses (those with up to 99 employees) are the most common business type in Canada – comprising 97.9 per cent of businesses, and contributing close to one-third of Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP). Yet a significant number of these businesses fail, with only about 50 per cent lasting at least five years, according to Industry Canada. Social enterprises – businesses that provide valuable products or services while delivering social and sometime environmental returns – struggle even more than small businesses to attract finance, grow, and sustain. What are the similarities and differences between these two groups’ needs, and how can Canada’s three levels of government and the broader business ecosystem better support small businesses and social enterprises to thrive? This paper takes a comprehensive look at key business needs, barriers to success, enabling factors, and policy incentives, drawing upon academic literature, studies and reports from the government, non-profit, and social enterprise sectors, as well as recommendations from business advocacy groups primarily from Canada and the United States. 

Keywords: Small business, social enterprise, business financing, business growth, business ecosystem, procurement policy

Author Biography

Tina Barton

Tina Barton was born and raised in New Zealand, where she completed her undergraduate degree. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Graduate Diploma of Journalism, she travelled the world extensively, exploring urban and rural life across the continents before settling in Ottawa, Canada. Tina has held partnership, marketing and communications positions in the private, non-profit, and media sectors. She has volunteered to help immigrant newcomers find professional opportunities, with urbanists to make architecture more accessible, and with the international business communications community. Tina is interested in the correlation between urban planning and economic opportunity, sustainable market economies, and environmental and social justice. Tina is completing a Master’s in Economic Development and Innovation with the University of Waterloo.