It’s harmless, unintentional and unfortunate but the public perception of “small business” is a misleading stereotype.
The misinformed cliché consciously or unconsciously doesn’t take “small business” as seriously as big business. The stereotype is fading and, some say, has been shattered.
According to the Calgary Chamber, the majority of businesses in Alberta are small businesses. In fact, small businesses account for 95 per cent of all business activity in the province and are a driving force of the economy accounting for almost 30 per cent of Alberta’s GDP.
From construction contractors and family-run restaurants to serial entrepreneurs and marketing firms, the province’s small businesses can be found in virtually every sector.
And they are making a big impact. There are about 39 small businesses in Alberta for every 1,000 people, far exceeding the Canadian average of 31.
“Small businesses are critical to Calgary’s economy,” says Phil Roberts, co-founder of Provision Analytics and chair of the Calgary Chamber. “In many instances in Calgary, small businesses have been an incubator of new ideas that bring innovation into our industries. I don’t think we can underestimate the importance of small businesses to a healthy Calgary economy.”
Despite the gutsiness and the determined entrepreneurship that are often key aspects of small businesses, there is agreement, particularly in the Calgary business market, that the recent couple of years have been laced with small business speed bumps.
“There are many challenges facing small businesses,” he points out. “Layered costs from all levels of government make it harder to do business, and the skills gap (the difference between the skills supplied by Calgary’s workforce and the skills required by businesses) is still very much present.
“A survey by the Business Council of Canada showed that Alberta is the province where the skills gap is the most persistent. It presents a challenge for employers looking to fill critical positions as the economy improves.”
Roberts highlights some extra repercussions of the Calgary downturn on area small businesses. “The last couple of years have been tough for all size of businesses. Some which had been around for decades have closed their doors. The encouraging trend is that the economy is showing signs of improvement and the Calgary Chamber will continue to support the business community through all stages of the economic cycle.
“We’re not out of the woods yet; there’s plenty of work ahead to improve access to markets, access to capital and access to skilled labour in an efficient rules-based economy that can attract the investment required for business growth.”
A major boost and recognition for Calgary’s small businesses is all set for October 15-19, 2018. It is Calgary’s version of Small Business Week (SBW), a national recognition and networking opportunity for small businesses.
“Small Business Week gets bigger and better every year. This year, we’ll see innovation and business excellence from companies in every corner of the economy,” he says. “It will honour people who have put everything on the line to make their dream a reality, and companies that have grown to establish themselves as household names.”
Although SBW includes many networking opportunities, two of the biggest events are the Expo and the Awards Gala, happening on the last two days of Calgary’s Small Business Week.
The finalists have been announced and the winners will be congratulated on Friday, October 19, 2018 at the Awards Gala at the Grey Eagle Event Centre.
Two award finalists are excellent examples of the entrepreneurial spirit of small business.
Calgary-based Global Environmental Manufacturing (G.E.M.) Inc. is the manufacturer of Euroshield® Recycled Rubber Roofing Products. The original Euroshield goal was an ingenious response to the overwhelming problem of what to do with the deluge of old tires clogging up landfills and dump sites.
Nearly 20 years of research and much business savvy resulted in the creation of the company’s durable, great-looking and environmentally-friendly green roofing systems.
The innovative Calgary small business was founded by CEO Henry Kamphuis who is a testimonial about the unique dynamics of small business.
“All businesses have to start somewhere and Euroshield started in my garage. Ultimately, success and growth boils down to how well the small business meets or exceeds the needs of consumers,” he says with enthusiasm and pride. “In that sense, I think Euroshield defines small business, with the opportunity to become a world leader in sloped rubber roofing.”
He underscores the importance, and the opportunities, of Calgary small business.
“It is the lifeblood of Calgary’s economy. We have all seen and felt the effects of the oil and gas market slump. Too many eggs in one basket.
“Small businesses offer diversification, employment and stability during challenging times, much like a large mutual fund comprised of many different companies spreading the risk while managing growth.”
Kamphuis and his successful Calgary company are defining examples of small business determination and attitude. “Never give up! In the early days, I was told by industry professionals that what I was intending to manufacture using recycled crumb rubber could not be done. Had I listened to the naysayers, we would not be here today. I sought out positive people with like-minded vision to grow the business.”
Kamphuis is gratified that Euroshield is a Calgary SBW Award finalist. “It’s a terrific feeling of pride that comes from recognition of our hard work and team effort producing Euroshield products and contributing to our local economy on many levels. It’s a vote of confidence that what we do matters and we are making a difference in the world, regardless of how small.”
Burgundy Oak is a truly unique Calgary-based small business. It is creative. It is rustic. It is crafts. It has struck a popular consumer chord and it is successful.
Burgundy Oak is an 8,300-square-foot manufacturing facility where artisan woodworkers handcraft and create one-of-a-kind decor and furniture – from reclaimed Okanagan and Napa Valley wine barrels.
Burgundy Oak founder and CEO Joel Jelinski was a quick study and thrives on the opportunities (and challenges) of being a small business. “Day-to-day operational issues and scalability bottlenecks experienced by a small business are amplified in the early stages of growth,” he says with positivity and experience. “Running a small business is often perceived to be simple and less complex than large corporations. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.”
Jelinski admits that while the recent Calgary downturn was a broadside for businesses of all sizes, Burgundy Oak was not as affected as some. “If a small business is based in Calgary and its revenue is generated within the Calgary city limits, the downturn in the economy likely had a profound effect. For businesses like Burgundy Oak, we manufacture and distribute within Calgary as well as sell to clients all across Canada, so we don’t feel the speed bumps as substantially.
“Small businesses in Calgary help with diversifying the economy. In a city that has heavily relied on oil and gas, the growth of small business helps to support emerging industries and overall economic growth. Small businesses often experience the same issues as a large company, but they don’t always have the resources or capital to solve them,” Jelinski adds.
“We focus on building our company culture and telling stories. We are all young entrepreneurs and extremely passionate about our company. This passion extends to everyone in our company and is reflected in our product.
“I am convinced that purpose, passion and perseverance are the underlying keys to success.”