May 27, 2024

Reviving Canada’s Entrepreneurial Spirit: A Call to Action for the Business Community

Over the last two decades, a quiet crisis has been unfolding within the Canadian economic landscape: the sharp decline in the rate of new entrepreneurs. This trend is particularly alarming given the pivotal role that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) play in our economy, generating 98% of all jobs and acting as the backbone of both local and national economic structures. Recent reports from Business Development Canada paint a stark picture—entrepreneurial initiatives have halved, signaling a potential disruption in innovation and economic vitality.

Why is this happening, and what can be done to reverse this trend? As an entrepreneur who founded SNFLWR Investment Corporation after re-evaluating my personal and professional circumstances, I have experienced firsthand how the right mindset can lead not only to business success but also to profound personal fulfillment and societal contribution. SNFLWR began as a homage to my late mother, whose favorite flower was the sunflower. Sunflowers symbolize loyalty, durability, abundance, beauty, and remind us keep our head up and face the sun no matter how dark or negative the circumstances can feel sometimes. How I interpret and incorporate that symbolism into my daily life, is to not be afraid to face things head on (face the sun), and to be direct, be transparent, and be honest with unwavering conviction. 

Through personal insights and uncommon connections, I aim to illustrate how we can reignite the spirit of entrepreneurship across Canada through crucial shifts in mindset and by embracing community support to nurture entrepreneurship. Adopting a proactive, resilient, and community-focused approach may hold the key to revitalizing our economic landscape in Canada.

1. Embracing the Entrepreneurial Spirit

My path to founding SNFLWR was guided by a pivotal realization: you can always fall back into traditional employment, but you will forever kick yourself if you don’t bet on yourself once in a while. If you come across one of those moments in life where the timing feels right and you find yourself questioning who you are bringing value to, now is the time to bet on yourself. Why not you?  This shift in perspective was crucial, helping me to view entrepreneurial ventures not as a risk, but as an opportunity for significant personal and professional growth. Understanding that failure is an integral part of the learning process, not an end to it, gave me the courage to step forward and transform my vision into reality.

For many Canadians, the idea of stepping into the realm of entrepreneurship is fraught with fears of financial instability and the uncertainties that come with forging a new path. However, by redefining the concept of employment as a fallback rather than a finality, we can foster a culture of resilience and boldness. Knowing that the safety net of traditional work is always there allows aspiring entrepreneurs to pursue their passions and ambitions freely, liberating them from the paralysis of fear. This mindset not only empowers individuals to take the leap but also nurtures a more dynamic and innovative entrepreneurial landscape.

2. Redefining Success: Aligning Personal Values with Professional Goals

In the entrepreneurial world, redefining success to encompass more than just financial gain is essential for long-term fulfillment and impact. My experience has shown me how powerful aligning personal values with professional objectives can be. It begins by deeply understanding what success truly means to you, whether it’s pursuing your passions, achieving work-life balance, or making a significant societal impact. This introspection allows entrepreneurs to transcend ‘traditional’ benchmarks of success, cultivating businesses that not only prosper financially but also enrich the lives of all involved. At SNFLWR, we truly believe that the success of any organization is closely tied to the strength of the community, so as we expand so does our dedication to giving back.

This broader definition of success, with values alignment with one’s core beliefs and desires, can fundamentally transform your approach to entrepreneurship. When your business activities resonate with your personal values, they enhance your life and foster a fulfilling entrepreneurial journey, rather than detracting from your well-being. This holistic approach to defining success cultivates not only a thriving business but also a richer, more balanced life.

3. Harnessing Fear and Doubt as Catalysts for Growth

Entrepreneurship invariably pushes us out of our comfort zones and the entrepreneurial journey is fraught with uncertainties and risks that challenge our resolve. However, it is within these moments of vulnerability that the seeds of innovation and progress are sown.

I have worked for and with many large corporations, and I have seen first-hand how inefficient processes can get with scale, so I have always been passionate about simplifying these processes in business while still creating value and the same (or better) outcome. Rather than remaining as a cog in the wheel of large corporations, I chose to embrace this vision as an opportunity for growth, and like many entrepreneurs, no matter their level of success, there were instances of self-doubt throughout my journey to starting SNFLWR. This strong sense of vulnerability in entrepreneurship can be difficult, but truthfully, for me, there was also comfort in knowing that there was always a safety blanket and I could go back to traditional employment.

Far from being signs of weakness, these emotions are indicators of the ambitious goals we dare to set. They remind us that we are pushing beyond the mundane, challenging the status quo, and pursuing innovation. I personally believe that if our goals do not stir a hint of fear, they may just not be bold enough. The real transformation occurs when we reframe these fears and doubts from obstacles to allies. Rather than succumbing to it, we can channel these feelings into driving our forward momentum. By facing our fears directly, we unlock new opportunities for growth and advancement. Each challenge faced equips us with greater resilience and moves us one step closer to success.

4. Creating Lasting Connections

One of the biggest lessons that I have learned is that entrepreneurship is not a solitary endeavor—it’s a collaborative journey fueled by the wisdom, guidance, and support of a diverse community. From the outset, I’ve committed to fostering a strong network of mentors, supporters, and champions who have played a pivotal role in shaping my trajectory.

Mentorship lies at the heart of entrepreneurship. By recognizing the invaluable insights and perspective that seasoned mentors bring to the table, we can draw from their wealth of experience to navigate the complexities of business ownership. By seeking guidance from mentors who have carved out their niche in the business world already, we gain wisdom, avoid common pitfalls, and accelerate our learning curve.

My first mentor was my first “real” boss, David Wallach, who is the owner/founder of Barclay Street Real Estate and Triumph Real Estate Fund in Calgary. I was a commercial real estate broker when I worked for David, and he provided many nuggets of wisdom over the years, but one that stuck with me was “hire slow, fire fast”. This isn’t just for hiring/firing employees, but rather, a philosophy around decision-making in life and business. Take time to weigh the facts and understand, but if the answer is clear, then make the decision and be prepared to live with it (or face the sun, as I say).

Mentorship is just one piece of the puzzle. Support from the broader community is equally essential to success. I have an unwavering commitment to ensuring I am a “connector” for others, whether or not it benefits me personally, bringing together other leaders and learners in my network creates a stronger web of support for everyone to draw from in the future.  Whether it’s family members, friends, or fellow entrepreneurs, having a strong support system in place provides the encouragement and reassurance needed to overcome the challenges of entrepreneurship. Their unwavering belief in our vision and willingness to lend a helping hand during both successes and setbacks have been instrumental in sustaining momentum and resilience. One thing I’ve learned on this topic, is that people don’t forget when you connect the dots for them and unlock value. They will forever be your champion, and will be the ones that sing your praises to your face, and behind your back.

5. Supporting Transparency and the Next Generation

In order to help reverse the trend of declining entrepreneurship in Canada, we need to foster a culture where entrepreneurial activities are encouraged and supported from a young age. Programs that simulate entrepreneurial experiences and mentorship initiatives can play a significant role in this. At SNFLWR, we advocate for real-world business education and active mentorship to cultivate a robust future workforce.

My work with Purppl exemplifies this commitment. Purppl’s goal is to support social entrepreneurs and impact leaders through coaching, consulting, and building community networks, all aimed at creating regenerative enterprises that address systemic inequity. I cannot necessarily disclose all the clients I work with at Purppl due to confidentiality reasons, but these clients are the ones out there literally changing and saving lives – day in and day out. These are the true champions of our society, and it is the for-profit sector’s responsibility to do what we can to allow these groups to continue doing what they are doing and not have to worry about relying on grants, or losing funding, for example.  Spending time supporting and empowering these types of social purpose driven organizations will never result in a bad outcome.

From policy makers to educators, and from large corporations to individuals, each has a role in fostering an environment that nurtures and celebrates entrepreneurial ventures. I truly believe there is no “secret sauce” in business, and I am dedicated to lifting the veil and sharing what I have learned with the next generation of entrepreneurs.

As we consider the future of entrepreneurship in Canada, it’s important to recognize the profound impact that mindset, community support, and mentorship have on fostering a vibrant entrepreneurial culture. Embracing challenges, reframing our perceptions of success, and nurturing the next generation are not just strategies but necessary steps towards revitalizing this country’s entrepreneurial spirit.

The path forward requires a collective effort to forge an environment where entrepreneurship flourishes. If we continue to champion these values, we can ensure that the spirit of enterprise is not only preserved but thrives.

By Jeremy Dawn, CEO of SNFLWR Corporation