Minding your own business

Starting a small business is both exciting and intimidating. In addition to assuming several roles as an entrepreneur, there’s a lot to consider when taking a great idea and turning it into a profit - a business plan, financing, the perfect location, and the permits and licensing that may be required.

While all new business owners will encounter challenges, new Canadians face additional challenges when starting and sustaining a business. Language, culture, and access to resources can quickly become barriers when trying to establish a small business in a new country.

When Anastasia and her husband immigrated to Calgary from Russia in early 2020, they were both seeking employment in the energy sector. Three months after their arrival, the pandemic forced the closure of most workplaces and many companies reduced staff; it was not an ideal time to job hunt, let alone in a new city or country. Anastasia used that time in lock down to really understand her passion and committed to making a career change. Prior to immigrating, she enrolled in courses to become a nail technician, and it soon became her dream to open her own business offering her specialized skills.

 “I finished up my courses just as we were accepted to move to Canada, and during Covid, I took even more courses to get my diploma,” explains Anastasia. “But I wasn’t confident yet in my skills and needed to understand what services were needed in Calgary. I was surprised to discover that my training was of much higher quality and after a few bad experiences working in other salons, I knew I was ready to open my own business.”

Anastasia registered in the 300-hour, 10-week intensive Build Your Business – Newcomers Entrepreneur Program through the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (CCIS). The CCIS provides settlement and integration services to all immigrants and refugees in southern Alberta and the Build Your Business program offers knowledge, tools, and support to help newcomers successfully launch a small business.

“After Covid, and then having a baby, I knew I just needed to do something,” says Anastasia. “And then, the answer was in my email. I got an email from the CCIS about the Build Your Business program and I registered for the very first cohort. I know a lot about my craft, but because I wanted to open a business in Calgary where I know nobody, I know nothing about the local rules, regulations and laws, I was super confused and intimidated. I would have never been able to open anything without this course.”

As part of CCIS’s Build Your Business program, The City of Calgary, through the Business Experience Representative Team, participated in a session to share valuable information about business licensing in Calgary. A specialized Business Experience Representative Team launched in May 2022 as a one-stop shop for business applicants. The team works with local entrepreneurs who are interested in opening a restaurant, brewery, or urban agriculture business, but representatives are also available to provide information and outreach to groups like CCIS. Business Experience Reps guide applicants through the entire licensing process, creating faster and more predictable outcomes.

“When people from The City came to our class, I was so, so surprised to see three people there to help us and willing to answer all of our questions,” says Anastasia. “Where I am from, the government is not working with the people. They feel they are above that, and it is all so difficult and complicated with nobody willing to help. Though The City was able to answer all my questions, I think the most valuable thing for me was to know that I am not alone, that the government is not against me, but working with me, and that they are really there to help.”

In just under a month, Anastasia launched her beauty business Anastasia Evans Nail Studio and set up a location on Calgary’s popular 17 Avenue SW.

“I was so motivated, I started to look for a place during the CCIS course,” she laughs. “And I received my business licence very quickly; it took a bit more time for the Alberta Health inspection as they have very strict rules for my type of business, but now I am open for business.”

“So far, during my time in Calgary and through the course, I have met some very good people – the instructors and my classmates, and now my friends,” she continues. “I would say to those looking to start a business to take a course, be passionate and don’t panic. You’ll face challenges but if you’re ready with a strong idea and plan, everyone is on your side – everybody is wanting to help you succeed. It is still just really unbelievable to me.”

Information about opening a business can be found at calgary.ca/opensooner.

Did you know?

  • All businesses operating in Calgary are required to register their business with The City of Calgary. Business licences are required depending on your business activity and promote individual and public safety. Once registered, many businesses need a business licence and may also need additional permits or inspections.
  • The City is currently waiving fees for new and renewed business licences for companies located in Calgary. Fees will be waived until March 16, 2023.

Categories: Business

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