As Calgary continues to grow and diversify, so does the business community and the opportunities for new businesses to develop. In a May 2018 report from the City of Calgary’s Economic Development sector it was stated that Calgary has the “[s]econd highest small business concentration of major cities in Canada.” In the same report, it was noted that Statistics Canada found that Calgary has the highest number of millionaires per capita out of major Canadian cities. With these statistics, it is no wonder that Calgary’s start-up community has been growing and gaining traction over the years.
With the number of Calgarian start-ups growing, the start-up community has grown with it. Organizations such as Startup Grind Calgary and Startup Calgary provide start-ups with opportunities to network and seek mentorship from successful business owners to help guide them through their journey of creating their business. Startup Calgary, for example, has workshops, community events, speaker series, and conferences to allow start-ups to learn more about building a business and promote their companies. With the help of the start-up community in Calgary, paired with the city’s hopes for economic growth, creating a start-up becomes a more palpable feat.
Creating a business is a formidable task, and the steps to get there are tedious. However, as it’s been observed in Calgary, they can be broken down into five focal steps:
1. Generate an idea and formulate your pitch.
Find a hole in the market that needs to be filled or improved, and develop an idea or product that will fill the demand.
An idea is the first step, and often one of the most exciting. However, throughout the entire process of building a start-up it is important to recognize that an idea is not enough, and often cannot be built upon to its full potential by one single person. Finding a team of people who have different perspectives and skills to work on building the idea and creating a business plan allows the initial idea to grow richer and more suitable to the industry. A cohesive group where there is a solid basis of understanding among all the members of what the goals are and how those goals will be achieved, helps to avoid any major conflicts that could potentially dismantle the company.
Conducting research and educating yourself as much as possible in your potential industry is key in allowing your product to fit into the market successfully. Having a precise understanding of why the product would benefit the market, how it would work, and why customers and investors should be interested in the idea is essential in ensuring the idea is a good one and garnering any sort of interest in the idea.
With the help of your team, putting the idea – along with the research behind it –into words and creating a pitch helps to further develop, explain, and elaborate on what the idea really is and why it is necessary for the marketplace. Building the pitch also allows the team to explore if their idea is really one that is useful and can be presented in an intriguing way to attract customers and investors alike.
2. Create a prototype of the product or service.
Allowing the idea to manifest into a tangible product – whether it be a physical object, a software, or a business model to be implemented – is at the centre of creating a start-up. Without the product, all other aspects of building the business are completely null.
It is during this creating stage that your teams different skill sets and perspectives will perhaps be the most useful. Creating the product requires a great amount of brainstorming, discussion, debate, and changing and molding of the product to ensure that it will be the best fit for the market and the desired customer. Finding a balance between the numerous requirements and hopes for the product, while still maintaining functionality and a reasonable financial investment, is a tedious and complex process, but is one of your more necessary steps.
3. Establish a brand on social media and garnering a customer base.
Marketing a company is a huge component of building a brand. Finding the right branding for a product is imperative to ensure its success with not only the customers, but also investors.
When you are starting out on social media or beginning to create a customer base, it is important to decide who your target audience is and what strategies are best suited to that demographic. An important aspect of learning how to gain a social media following is understanding what customers like and do not like.
Learning how to keep those customers is just as important as learning how to gain them. There is a fine balance that needs to be found between maintaining an enduring social media presence, but also not bombarding or boring customers with content.
4. Search for investors or funding.
Despite having the best intentions and a great idea, the reality is that we need money to truly get our product off the ground. Getting it however is often extremely difficult and can often times be heartbreaking. After going through all your initial steps, making various sacrifices and putting in a copious amount of time into creating a business, the ability for a start-up to find funding can make or break a company. The fragile but imperative nature of finding funding means that planning ahead of time and perfecting the product, pitch, and customer reach is essential in order to interest investors.
Finding the financing to strengthen and improve the initial idea can seem daunting. Luckily, there are many programs in place for Calgarian entrepreneurs to seek funding for their ideas, such as ATB BoostR.
ATB BoostR is an Alberta crowd-funding program for start-ups to promote their businesses, share their product, and gain funding. Through this platform, people who are interested in funding a campaign can purchase rewards from the start-up, which can be either products or services, and therefore provide that initial funding that they need. Not only does ATB BoostR provide a platform for start-ups to raise capital for themselves, but it also provides advising and opportunities to pitch the idea at different ATB pitch events. A campaign that successfully meets their crowd funding goal is “boosted” and has fortunately received the funding they needed to continue growing their start-up.
5. Improve product and continue molding to the market as it changes and grows.
When a start-up successfully receives the funding it needs, the real work begins. With financial assistance, the product is able to be developed into a better and more advanced quality that is ready to be put on the market and distributed to customers. Furthermore, with financing, more effort can be put into marketing the product and widening the customer base. It is important to remember when running a business that the market changes daily, and businesses must reflect that pattern by constantly changing in order to continue to fulfill customer demand.
Calgary’s start-up community has proven to be among the more supportive, with guidance and advice more readily available for hopeful entrepreneurs. Partnered with these steps to start-up, the ambitious task of beginning a start-up becomes much more tangible.