Small Business and Social Enterprise: To Thrive Not Fail
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