If a newcomer has little or no prior experience as an entrepreneur, he or she would be well advised to learn as much as possible about the Canadian business environment before launching a business. Even for those who had their own businesses before coming to Canada, they will likely find that the licensing, regulatory, taxation, employment, customer service and other cultural expectations and rules are very different in this country. All the more challenging it will be, if the newcomer does not have very good English proficiency.
On the other hand, there are newcomers who are “born entrepreneurs” and may have some clever business ideas and sound plans. They would be greatly helped by having good mentors, assistance in building a network of useful contacts, and access to financing. Private sponsors, in addition to possibly being able to act as business mentors themselves, based upon their own experience, should consider helping to make such useful connections.
Guides and other resources to starting a business in Ontario
There are many online resources available for newcomers thinking of starting their own businesses in the GTA. These include:
- Newcomer Business and Innovation Portal (Ryerson University.)
- Where can I get help to start a business? (Settlement.org.)
- Business Startups (City of Toronto.)
- What do I need to know about licensing and regulations to start a business in Ontario? (Settlement.org.)
- Start your business: Discover the key steps to starting your own business (BDC.)
- Immigrant Entrepreneurship – links to resources to help get started (Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC).)
- Small business: advice, support services, regulations (Government of Ontario.)
- Checklists and guides for starting a business (Government of Canada – Canada Business Network.)
- Business guide for newcomers to Canada (Government of Canada – FedDev Ontario.)
- Common questions when starting a business (Small Business Centre London ON.)
See also this online video, Tips for New Canadians on Starting a Business, produced by ACCES Employment. BDC also offers “3 tips for starting a business as an immigrant to Canada,” related to credit scores, Canadian culture, and mentorship.
Programs to help newcomers start a business
There are several programs for newcomers wishing to establish their own businesses in the GTA, which are not primarily focused on either home-based enterprise, or on improving English language proficiency. These programs are offered by:
- ACCES Employment
- Enactus Ryerson
- Futurpreneur Canada
- Job Skills
- Jumpstart (RCJP)
- Scadding Court Community Centre
- Skills for Change.
Organizations within the GTA offering home-based programs for entrepreneurs include:
- Indus Community Services
- Newcomer Women’s Services Toronto
Details may be found in the Programs & Events section of this website, filtering for “Entrepreneurship”, under “Type”. These programs may require as little as CLB 4 English proficiency.
For more information on mentorship opportunities, see our separate article on Mentorship, as well as our database of Programs & Events, with the filter set to display only programs of the type, “Mentorship”. Note that there are many organizations in the GTA that offer a mentorship program in association with TRIEC, but these are limited to newcomers who were professionally trained and became skilled before coming to Canada and these programs require a minimum English proficiency of CLB 6 and are focused on newcomers seeking employment.
OSLT programs for those with an entrepreneurial interest
Colleges in the GTA, including Centennial, George Brown, Humber, and Seneca, offer Occupation Specific Language Training (OSLT), especially tailored for newcomers with entrepreneurial ambitions. See our separate article on Employment-Related Language Training. Also, consider searching for programs of the types “Entrepreneurial” and “OSLT” in our Programs & Events section. These OSLT programs also require a minimum English proficiency of CLB 6.
Programs for entrepreneurs with little or no minimum English proficiency requirement
At the other end of the formal education and language proficiency spectrum are some programs in the GTA that are designed to help women become self-employed, using skills they may have, such as sewing, cooking, and child care, often in their own homes. These programs have very low English language proficiency requirements, if any. A search of our Programs & Events database, filtering for “entrepreneurship”, under “Type”, will also display these offerings, including from organizations such as Newcomer Women’s Services and YWCA. There may be no formal minimum English language proficiency requirement for these programs.
(The organization, Mes Amis, used to have a program for Syrian refugee newcomers to promote entrepreneurial enterprise in sewing, but this program is not currently operating.)
Financial support for newcomers to start a business
For leads on financing a new business started by a newcomer, see the Funding page on the Ryerson Newcomer Business and Innovation Portal.
For loans up to $15,000, also see the program of Access Community Capital Fund.
In May, 2019, “seven teams of Syrian refugee entrepreneurs were given a chance to pitch their proposals to investors through a joint pilot program by Toronto-based Refugee Career Jumpstart Project and Angel Investors Ontario, which aims to help them turn their dreams into reality”: From robots to restaurants: Refugee entrepreneurs pitch business plans in hopes of turning dreams into reality (Toronto Star, May 9/19.)