Every October, Edmonton celebrates the local innovators and entrepreneurs that make its business community so vibrant. This year, Small Business Week will, once again, put the spotlight on little companies that make a big impact.
The annual event was founded by the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), which remains the presenting sponsor of Small Business Week in Edmonton and across Canada. The week’s sessions, panels and events in the Capital City are coordinated by the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce. Janet Riopel, CEO of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, describes it as “an annual, national event celebrating entrepreneurship.”
“BDC initiated Small Business Week back in 1979 as a means of recognizing entrepreneurs and the important role they play in our communities,” says Todd Tougas, vice president of the Alberta North region of BDC. “BDC has remained heavily involved in organizing or sponsoring Small Business Week events ever since, often in conjunction with organizations such as the local Chambers of Commerce.”
It’s no wonder the Chamber would have an interest in supporting small businesses, which may not be big in size, but collectively, they play a large and vital role in our local economy. “Close to 85 per cent of our members are small enterprises,” says Riopel. “They are core to everything we do at the Chamber and to our key mission of creating the best environment for business in Edmonton.”
What to Expect This Year
“Small Business Week will include several smaller-scale, intimate events, which our members always respond enthusiastically to, offering entrepreneurs and small business owners the opportunity to build meaningful, valuable connections” says Riopel. “Even in the era of technology, people still crave connection.”
According to Riopel, some events to look forward to include a panel discussion on innovation featuring
several high-profile business leaders, a keynote address on technology, a “Meet the Maker” event at the Italian Centre and several networking events featuring unique twists. One the more unconventional sessions combines networking with working out. “It was so popular last year, we’re bringing it back!” says Riopel.
Why Should Small Business Owners Attend?
Small business owners don’t have a lot of time on their hands, so attending industry events can often take a back seat to work. However, the learning and networking opportunities at Small Business Week are invaluable. It’s a chance to take a step back from the day-to-day operations and look at where your business fits within its industry, the broader market and your own long-term goals.
“Getting out to a Small Business Week event gives business owners a chance to network, to learn what’s happening in the economy both domestically and globally and how it may impact their business, and to learn from each other,” says Tougas.
Small Business Week events also provide an excellent opportunity to connect with others who understand the unique joys and challenges of operating your own business. “Being an entrepreneur can actually be a lonely proposition,” says Tougas. “Sometimes it helps to share your experiences with others who may be facing similar challenges.”
Tougas also points out that Small Business Week has networking potential beyond connecting with other small businesses. It’s an opportunity to connect with potential partners who can help take small businesses to the next level. “Small Business Week gives us a chance to reach out to more entrepreneurs to ensure they are fully aware of who we are and what we do,” he says. “Not all businesses know there is a bank like BDC that is dedicated exclusively to the needs of entrepreneurs, and that we offer so much more than just financing.”
Small Business Week is also about taking a moment to pause and celebrate the value and achievements of small business, and the important role they play in our community. “BDC Small Business Week is really a celebration of entrepreneurs and the incredible contribution they make to our economy,” says Tougas.
Small Business in Edmonton
With almost 166,000 small businesses across the province, this business segment is a big deal. “SMEs (small and medium sized enterprise) represents almost 99 per cent of all businesses and generates about 65 per cent of all the jobs in Canada, so the role of small business is vital to our local economy,” says Tougas. “That’s why we sometimes refer to small business as being ‘big business’ as the small business sector is the engine of our economy.”
According to Tougas, Edmonton, in particularly, is a breeding ground for small, original ventures. “Edmonton is an entrepreneurial community, one where we have a long history of successful entrepreneurs and strong family businesses,” he says. “I believe Edmontonians are predisposed to supporting businesses where the owners are part of the community. Edmonton also provides a favorable environment for business to succeed. The city continues to grow, the population is diverse, and it has the youngest demographic of all the major cities in Canada.”
Of course, small businesses in Edmonton don’t have to remain in that category. According to Riopel, events like Small Business Week can be just what an entrepreneur needs to help propel themselves into a more ambitious position. “Small Business Week is meant to celebrate and inspire entrepreneurs to new heights,” she says. “Innovation, diversification, and exporting to new markets—that’s how small businesses become big businesses. We want to encourage small business owners to think big.”
Small Business by the Numbers
- Of the 34,000+ businesses in Edmonton, 94 per cent are considered small businesses, employing less than 50 persons
- Alberta is home to nearly 166,000 small businesses
- Small businesses account for 97.9 per cent of all firms in Canada
- Between 2005 and 2015, over 87 per cent of the 1.2 million jobs were created in Canada, were attributable to small businesses