MUN’s Harris Centre released its annual “Vital Signs Report” on October 10th, and its introduction preamble spoke to the entrepreneurial boom that occurred in response to the bleak and legendary budget drop of 2016.

“There seems to be a growing focus on innovation and invention – new ways of looking at old problems,” the report reads.

One of the guest panelists at the launch event was Paula Sheppard, CEO at NLOWE.

“I do feel that the downturn in the economy has been a factor in the increasing number of entrepreneurs,” Sheppard says.

“People are looking to find ways to be financially self-sufficient when the job market is not as strong as it once was.”

But Sheppard also credits a more welcoming entrepreneurial culture, as well as the large number of supports available for start-ups.

“There are a number of organizations, NLOWE included, that provide support to start-ups. There is also strong support from Government for small business, as they realize that small businesses are the backbone of the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador.”

She’s certainly right about that. A 2016 document from Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada, titled Key Small Business Statistics, says that 97.9% of employer businesses in the Canadian economy are small businesses.

Here in NL, small businesses employ 114,800 of us.  The same document though, reported a net drop of 4,810 small Canadian businesses in 2016, whereas here in our province, we’re seeing net increases.

Number of Female Entrepreneurs Has Nearly Tripled in 10 Years

No matter the cause, Sheppard is certain there’s been an increase in entrepreneurial activity in our province. In fact, she can prove it. NLOWE completed a survey in 2018 that compared data over a 10 year period (2008-2018).

“In 2008, 23% of women had been in business 5 years or less,” she says. “In 2018, that number rose significantly to 67%.”

She adds that a TD Economics report released in 2015 indicated that self-employed women in our province increased by a whopping 48% between 2009-2014.  The national average was 3.3%.

Things are looking bright on the entrepreneurial front. One key to keeping it this way, or one way to maintain this momentum, would be to get government, big industrial projects, and large corporations committed — legally committed — to partnering with local businesses.

This could be enforced in a number of ways. For example, it could be standard policy that a contract must go to a local entrepreneur’s company if their company can offer within X% of the best price on a tender/bid.