Why today’s young Canadians could be our most entrepreneurial generation yet

NewsCategory
8 min read
Emma Wardill

Young Canadians are riding a wave of entrepreneurial zeal and embracing the tech tools they say make it easier than ever to start a business. 

A new GoDaddy study has found three-quarters of Gen Z either have their own business or plan to start one.

 

75% of gen Z own a business or are planning to start one

The survey of more than 1,000 Canadians aged 18-26 found that they: 

  • Rate secure income and work/life balance as more important than job security 
  • Are prepared to take a pay cut to do work they are genuinely passionate about 

The importance of a secure wage and the lure of a supplementary income from a side hustle or small business comes as Canadians are feeling a hip-pocket crunch. 

Rising to the challenge  

Refinished Atelier Renouveau glass-front corner cabinet

Soaring inflation has pushed interest rates to a 22-year high while grocery prices were up nine percent in the year to June 2023.

As the generation that has grown up with tech at their fingertips, it’s no surprise that three in five respondents said technology made it easier to start a business. 

In fact, half of those surveyed believed young Canadians are better equipped than any other generation before them to start their own business.  

Almost two in three said they already use Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools 

Meet Myriam — a Gen Z entrepreneur 

Young Canadian entrepreneur Myriam Provost turned her passion for refreshing vintage furniture into a small business, Atelier Renouveau par Myriam almost two years ago. 

Initially launched as a passion project during the COVID-19 pandemic, the business is now a thriving side hustle that Myriam juggles with a part-time job as a research assistant. 

"I had just finished a Master’s degree in Biomedical Sciences and I was desperately looking for a way to occupy my time and create something of my own,’’ she says. 

I worked full time as a healthcare research assistant, but I wasn’t busy enough to feel fulfilled by it. 

“I have always been a very crafty person and I have a good eye for interior design, so furniture refinishing came naturally to me.” 

From one piece of refreshed furniture in November 2021 and an Instagram account, a business was born. 

Related: Jasmine Branderhorst gets paid to make home goods 

A generation with entrepreneurial ambitions 

Myriam is one of the 29% of young Canadians who already run a small business or side hustle. The GoDaddy survey revealed many more have entrepreneurial ambitions. 

More than a fifth of those surveyed said they planned to start a business or side hustle in the next year, while a quarter said they will wait at least another 12 months before launching their business plans. 

For Myriam, running her own business means she has the ability to structure her days as she pleases. 

What I like most about being a business owner is the flexibility it brings to day-to-day life. 

Myriam at work in Atelier Renouveau

“I am a very organized person, so I manage to fill my days with different tasks and not feel overworked.”

Myriam says her small business also allows her to focus on the values that are important to her, such as sustainability and personalization, as well as to earn her own money. 

“There is a feeling of accomplishment associated with it that I never felt doing anything else,’’ she says. 

Related: The rise of young entrepreneurs in Canada 

Secure income trumps job security 

While previous generations valued the job security that comes with permanent employment in institutions like governments or corporations, that sentiment doesn’t ring as true for younger workers. 

According to the GoDaddy research, nearly half of Gen Z respondents said a regular income was one of the top two most important factors in their career choices, while only 15% nominated job security. 

38% selected work/life balance as one of their top two considerations.

 

Perhaps in a sign of the economic times, two in three young Canadians also said financial security was more important than pursuing their passions at work. 

However, three in four said they would be willing to take up to a 26% cut in their salary to do work they were passionate about. 

Playing the long game 

When it comes to building a business, our Gen Z respondents were pragmatic about their prospects. 

More than two thirds of those surveyed said they understood it would take about a year to build a business.  

Just under half expected to be successful enough in the first year to become a full-time entrepreneur.

75% of young Canadians would take a pay cut to do something they love

Three quarters of the group surveyed said they would be willing to take some short-term financial losses to achieve business success. 

Myriam’s cat poses in front of a green cabinet

A quarter said they were not prepared to take a financial hit.

Where Gen Z turns for advice 

Overwhelmingly, Gen Z are more likely to seek financial advice from: 

  • Their families (69%) 
  • A bank or financial adviser (43%) 
  • Friends (32%)  
  • Social media (21%) 

This rings true for Myriam, whose father is a successful small business owner himself. 

My dad started his own business when my mom was pregnant with me, and he never looked back,’’ she says.  

“Now 27 years later, they are still in business, very successful and work together every day.  

This amazes me even more now that I’m trying to make a living of my own. 

“They also have all the knowledge regarding accounting and taxes for a business, which I knew next to nothing about when I started!” 

A generation of digital natives 

Atelier Renouveau par Myriam Instagram

As the digital generation, it’s fitting that Gen Z nominated social media (71%) and websites (50%) as the clear go-to for starting a business.

Of those young Canadians surveyed who already have a business, nearly four out of five said they have a website, with half running an ecommerce site. 

Myriam said she has been an Instagram user since she was a teenager and so chose the social media outlet as the first public platform for her business. 

“Because I already felt comfortable with it, I created my account @atelier.renouveau at the very same time as I was refinishing my first piece of furniture in November 2021,’’ she says. 

However, Myriam says she soon realised the importance of setting up a website as well to help legitimize her business and attract new customers. 

My website is very important to my business because it makes it feel like a “real business.’

“It might be silly to say, but there was a switch in my mind from side hustle to business when I set up my website for Atelier Renouveau par Myriam.  

“It also is necessary to me for potential clients who don’t have social media accounts.  

Atelier Renouveau par Myriam online portfolio
Myriam used GoDaddy’s Website Builder to create her site.

It’s important to diversify and be visible in multiple ways. 

Using GoDaddy’s tools and with some help from a graphic designer friend, she created a website that is true to her business brand. 

“Tailoring my website’s appearance to my brand identity was easy. It just represents me, my mission and vision so well,’’ she says.  

Related: 17 Canadian entrepreneurs who will inspire you

Facing a future with AI 

As arguably the most technologically literate generation, Gen Z have jumped into the world of Artificial Intelligence (AI) with gusto.  

Two-thirds of gen Z have used AI tools

GoDaddy’s research revealed that almost two in three young Canadians use AI tools. 

The survey found Gen Z used AI for:

  • Creativity (51%) 
  • Writing or production (45%) 
  • Research (40%) 
  • Strategy (33%) 
  • Planning (32%) 

Despite their early adoption of the technology, more than half of young Canadians said they were concerned about AI and the future. 

From passion project to small business success 

After less than two years in business, Myriam has already chalked up a number of achievements in her entrepreneurial journey. 

What I’m most proud of is all the pieces of furniture that I’ve saved from the landfill. 

“In 2022, I did a little over 60 projects and almost 40 to this day in 2023. All these pieces have found new homes, have made people happy and contributed to the local circular economy.” 

Atelier Renouveau par Myriam shows no signs of slowing down. Myriam is currently looking forward to moving out of her apartment workshop and into the larger garage of her first home soon. 

“I want to use new tools, learn new skills and techniques to increase productivity and get a bigger vehicle to accommodate larger pieces of furniture,’’ she says. 

“My mind is boiling with new ideas, and I can’t wait to dive into it. Who knows, I might even go full-time!” 

Myriam’s closing advice  

“My advice is to trust your instincts and not listen to what others have to say.  

Also, you don’t have to drop everything to become a business owner.  

“Start as a hobby, then a side hustle and see if you like it enough to do it full time. That’s how I did it, and I’m not even full-time yet! I still have some courage to muster to cross that bridge …” 

GoDaddy research survey from July 2023 of 1,069 Canadian Gen Zs (18-26yo) conducted via external research agency Antenna Insights. 

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