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Getting out of the rat race. Having green space and a large home to raise kids in. Being minutes from the waterfront, cottage lifestyle that so many of us love but don’t have access to. In other words, living the dream.

Whether you are starting a business in a new community or tapping a new community to expand your existing business, you can have the best of both worlds: the small town, cottage lifestyle with big city business at your doorstep.

“Really?” Yes, really.

There are some important considerations, however, so read on for some tips and ideas on expanding / starting a business in a new community.

Are you thinking of expanding your existing business into a new area to capture those customers?

First off, do your research. If you’re expanding a business with the hope of tapping into a new range of customers, you need to make sure that the customer base you are looking for actually exists in your geographical location of choice.

Learn what you can about the local government, as they will have their own rules and methods for everything from expanding a building to home office allowances. Innisfil Economic Development group is a great example in that they provide a one connection system to their local government. Through one point of contact, you can get all the information you need on licencing, hiring, taxes, local grants and financing, even data and statistics on the area. No running around from place to place!

Introducing yourself and your business to the local governance groups and economic development committees is a great way to start to get known. These people know everyone in town! And they’re connected to other people / businesses that might be useful to you.

In fact, you should probably consider re-doing your business plan, with the new location in mind. Everything including revenue streams, expenses (capital and ongoing), competition, marketing, USP, target market / customer base could be different than your current location.

The importance of spending time in the area that you want to expand to can’t be understated. You can’t get a full picture of the lifestyle, of the customers, of their needs and wants if you don’t immerse yourself in the space.

To make this clear, let’s add a little story:

Imagine you own a business in the GTA that services young families by providing babysitting services via an app, specializing in last minute / urgent care placements. Parents can review pre-vetted / security checked candidates, book a sitter and pay for their services, all through your app.

Now you want to expand to a new geographic location. You’ve looked at the market in terms of the availability of sitters to add to your database, but you’re not sure about a couple of things:

  1. Are there enough young families to warrant this kind of service?
  2. Is the culture in that area such that they might use an app like that (urban vs. rural), or is it a place where people rely on friends and family for babysitting?
  3. Is there a need for ‘last minute’ or urgent care placements?
  4. Is there competition, whether through an app or a website?
  5. What is the going rate for babysitting in the new area? Will people pay a premium for the service you are offering?
  6. How do people connect? Social media platforms? Facebook groups? Or are they more of a print media kind of place?

These and so many other questions need to be answered, questions that might be difficult to ascertain from a distance. Here is a fabulous case example of a company that tried to expand their business from New York to Philadelphia and failed, from Entrepreneur.com magazine. The person who was originally hired to manage the new expansion turned around and opened a similar business, when the first one closed, but with changes to accommodate local tastes and interests.

Read the whole piece online but just to give you a taste, here’s some of how the case example worked out: for starters, a business with the name ‘Brooklyn’ in it was never going to fly in Philly! But that marketing failure aside, there were other reasons why the original business failed and the new one was successful, including the fact that shopping habits for local Philly residents were markedly different from Brooklyn residents. These are the ‘details’ that can make or break a move!

Establishing yourself in a new area will require some effort on your part, to both market the business and network among other business owners. Yes, it can feel a little like starting from scratch, but the return on investment will be worth it. Once you’ve made the decision to expand or relocate and you know where you’re going to go, there’s a lot you can do to make your entry into that new market easier:

  • As soon as you have an address, start letting people know about your arrival! The local chamber of commerce is a great start but don’t ignore social media! Get connected with other local businesses online and introduce yourself. There are often closed Facebook groups for local businesses, as well as a host of geographic based hashtags. Find out where the businesses hang out and join in the conversation!
  • Turn some of those virtual connections into real life ones! The ideal is to try and meet a new network connection for coffee once a week! If you can do that, you’ll be well on your way to building that essential network of businesses that can talk you up, throw business your way or pave the way to your growth in the area by providing inside information that you might not otherwise know!
  • Dig deep with a few connections. Not everyone you meet is going to be a good networking connection, but if you can really get to know a few people, your actions will have a snowball effect. It’s about quality over quantity. Meet a lot of people: really get to know a few of them.
  • Look for networking opportunities, including learning based ones, in your new area. That could be anything from a local business group meet-up to a seminar on local taxation. Don’t go there with the idea that you’re going to give the hard sell about your business to everyone in the room, but these kinds of more relaxed events can be useful to make contacts.
  • If there aren’t many networking opportunities that you can find, create one! If you’re looking to connect with other business owners, odds are there are other businesses who are too! This is a proactive way of breaking the ice with new contacts and will entrench you in the area as someone worth knowing!
  • Have some kind of physical materials, with your branding and new contact info, at the ready. Your website and social media presence are vital but when you meet someone face to face, or if you drop by to chat with them and they’re not there, it’s nice to have some branded material to leave behind.

TIP for those who work from home: join a co-working space, if one is available in your new community! Even if you don’t go there all the time, the opportunity this kind of environment might afford you to connect with other businesses that work in a similar style to you, if not in the same industry, can be useful.

Are you thinking of starting or expanding your business into a new area but your customers will still be elsewhere?

If you’re not trying to tap into the local market—an internet based business, for example—but want to leverage lower cost of living, lower ongoing business expenses and a ready supply of employable people, your research will be different. That said, the effort of re-doing your business plan with a view to the new location is still valid.

Opening a new business, or expanding an existing one, to leverage the cost advantages of a more rural community, for example, can be a very effective way to boost the bottom line. As long as you can still reach your customers in a cost effective way, you can gain a lot both personally and professionally, by moving out of an expensive urban centre.

After all, homes in the GTA are averaging over $500K and that’s for a tiny condo! Looking beyond the boundaries of Toronto to areas outside of it but that are still within a hop, skip and a jump of your market or commercial shipping lines is worthwhile. You don’t have to go far beyond the boundaries of the city—barely 45 minutes—to find homes and commercial spaces that are half the price of the GTA. Agricultural land and retail locations and other relocation opportunities, within innovative work environments, will make leaving the city a breeze.

Are you thinking about starting or expanding your business outside of the GTA to leverage the lifestyle other communities can offer?

There are a lot of services you can leverage in this area, including the one stop assistance at the Innisfil Economic Development group (more details, below!):

Nottawasaga Futures

The community futures (CFDC) program is a Government of Canada initiative that supports rural Ontario communities. Nottawasaga futures, our local CFDC, offers a wide variety of programs and services supporting community economic development and business growth.  Nottawasaga Futures provides business loans from $2,500 up to $150,000 to help new or existing businesses with start-up, expansion or stabilization plans that help maintain or create jobs in Innisfil.

https://www.nottawasaga.com/

Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre

The Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre (HBEC) helps entrepreneurs start, build and grow businesses. Located at the Georgian College Barrie Campus, HBEC is a one stop shop for established and aspiring entrepreneurs providing training, mentorship, networking and funding support.

Register online and attend an intake session (in person or through Skype) to learn more about the HBEC programs and services. The HBEC team will help you to write your business plan through their lean business plan canvas workshops or further faster program. After you complete your lean business plan canvas, the HBEC team will assess your needs and connect you with their team of mentors who will support you through launching and growing your business.   

Sign up for your intake today and get started:

https://www.georgiancollege.ca/community-alumni/entrepreneurship-centre/

Futurepreneur

Futurepreneur is a Canadian not-for-profit organization that has been fueling the entrepreneurial passions of Canada’s young aspiring entrepreneurs for over two decades by providing financing, mentoring and support tools.

Futurepreneur has developed a free online, interactive business plan writer that has been designed to simplify the business planning process. The tool is dynamic and allows you to customize your plan and it provides you with tips, tricks and examples to guide you as you write your business plan.

Visit www.futurepreneur.com to learn more and get started.

Centre for Changemaking and Social Innovation

The Centre for Changemaking and Social Innovation brings faculty of Georgian College, students, and non-profits together to promote and build social entrepreneurial skills for individuals. Skills such as team building, problem solving leadership and communication are all addressed through in-class opportunities and activities

Visit them at www.georgiancollege.ca/community-alumni/centre-social-entrepreneurship/ for more information

–           Ric – venture labs

Startup Canada

Entrepreneurs working with entrepreneurs and other community leaders and government organizations to build better, stronger businesses. That’s what Startup Canada is all about. With support through Startup Canada Communities (including a location in Barrie), national level events, peer networking and task forces for research and support, as well as a host of other opportunities for entrepreneurs to work together, mentor and learn from one another, Startup Canada is a superior point of contact for all elements of the entrepreneurial sphere.

Visit www.startupcan.ca and sign up for their newsletter or get involved!

Founder Institute

This one of a kind startup accelerator and launch program gives aspiring entrepreneurs the solid foundation needed to start and grow a successful business. With mentorship and post-graduate support in place, including fundraising and a network of peers, the program provides an intensive curriculum that is geared towards entrepreneurs who really have what it takes to build and sustain a business.

If you’re ready for the hard work of being an entrepreneur, you are ready for the Founder Institute. Visit their site for more information: www.fi.co/

Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs

Whether you’re in the research or business planning phase, or you are ready to expand your business to new and greater heights, the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs can connect you with an expert in your area who can help point you in the right direction. With links to guides on starting your business, developing an online strategy to closing your business or planning an exit strategy, there are resources that are geared towards entrepreneurs of all types in Ontario.

Visit www.onebusiness.ca for more information or to connect with someone today!

Looking for a co-working environment? The Creative Space is ideal!

The Creative Space is a coworking space that provides entrepreneurs with a professional alternative to working from a home office or coffee shop. The coworking space is a hub for local entrepreneurs and offers comfortable chairs, spacious desks and high-speed wireless internet. Prices range from $25 for a day pass to $300 for a full-time membership.

Visit www.thecreativespace.ca for locations and more information!

Are you ready to dive into the South Simcoe entrepreneurship community? Review the resources below to find and register for events.

If you’ve picked Innisfil as your destination of choice to start a new business or grow / relocate an existing business, you are halfway to an ecosystem that can give you innovative support that you need to grow a business.

Designed to help entrepreneurs at every stage of their business development, from idea incubation to growth of a going concern, the Innisfil Economic Development Team can help you accelerate your plans and move forward with your dream. Here’s how:

  1. You’ll have one point of contact at Town Hall, simplifying the process so you’re not chasing answers and being transferred from department to department.
  2. Are you building or expanding a physical site? Get a FREE pre-consultation with our team of subject matter experts from Building, Planning, Engineering, Fire and Operations to provide valuable feedback on your construction project plans.
  3. Are you looking for the perfect place to set up your business? Our team can help you with site selection. We’ll help you find the right location to grow your business in our community, including home-based options!
  4. Do you need financing, mentoring or other business planning support? We have connections to unique government and private financing options, mentorship and business planning support, to help you turn your idea into a growing business.
  5. Do you need staff? We can connect you with employment support, including job fairs, and wage/training subsidies.
  6. We also offer connection to the local residential real estate community so that you can complete your dream of living and working in a beautiful part of the province, with calm lakes at your doorstep and the GTA only a stone’s throw away.

Want to know more? Download our eBook here!

Ultimately, a startup or an expansion / relocation requires more than just picking a spot and hanging a shingle. It requires research and thought, capital and resources. For so many businesses, there is no need to be located in Toronto proper. You can open a business in a smaller community, be within easy reach of the GTA market and live a lifestyle that seems like you’re on vacation a lot more days of the year than you ever were before. Think about that for a second and then get to work!

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