Tap into help from the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs

For starting, funding, and growing a business ONE is wealth of information

Are you just starting a business in the graphic arts sector or are you ready to take your business to the next level? If so, you need to know about the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs (ONE). ONE is a complex web of 130-plus independent, not-for-profit organization members that span government agencies, university labs, incubators and industry partnerships. All are aimed at supporting the growth of Ontario businesses at different stages of development, from researchers with promising ideas, to startups with a new technology product.

ONE has been a program in Ontario with various formats as far back as 1987. In 2016 it received $97.7 million in provincial funding and the Ontario government established a panel of innovations experts to  to evaluate its effectiveness and efficiency.

The panel conducted a comprehensive review of the network’s entrepreneurial strategy programs and services, and in the fall of 2017 it proposed a number of recommendations for the government to consider in order to help Ontario’s entrepreneurs compete and win in a global marketplace.

The panel’s report makes recommendations to the Minister of Research, Innovation and Science on steps the government might take to adapt to our current business environment, what it calls the “global innovation arms race”.

Briefly summarized, these recommendations include:

Greater strategic focus on building global reach- Quoting from the report, “There is increasing evidence to show that a company’s degree of global connectedness is a harbinger of its future growth.”

Stronger central governance- This would ensure that funding is aligned to provincial priorities and that common metrics are used to gauge whether a program’s goals are being achieved.

Regional Innovation Centres (RICs) to specialize in client services and serve specific needs- Grouping RICs based on roles and responsibilities, and strategically placing RICs in regions of greatest opportunities would allow for greater specialization and collaboration.

How can ONE help you? In three specific areas:  starting a business, growing your business, and financing your business.

Starting a business

Ontario provides both online and in-person resources to help you start your business. The online resources include business toolkits, business guides with respect to federal and provincial programs, services and regulations, business registration forms. It’s called Your Guide to Small Business. In person, your local ONE Centre can help with a free review of your business plan and one-on-one consultations before, during and after your launch. These centres host events and seminars too, which can help you develop skills, gain information and connect with local experts and peers. Further, if your business will be based on commercializing new research or technology, ONE Centres offer free one-on-one consultations, entrepreneurial training courses and many other tailored start-up support services.

Growing your business

ONE’s online resources to grow your business include best-practices reports that provide practical information on the growth strategies and tactics of successful small- and medium-sized firms. Another valuable guide is information on hiring incentives that are available to help you grow your workforce – a topic often discussed in this column. Also available are resources that discuss selling or closing your business.

In-person, mentors and peers are available for help developing products and export markets, boosting output, accessing financing for capital projects, and improving your strategic planning.

Financing your business

ONE’s online resources for assistance in financing your business include links to the various forms of financing available in Ontario, from government assistance to private sector financing such as crowdfunding, equity financing and non-government financing organizations. In both of these links, search tools are available to assist you in matching your business to likely sources of financing. 

Depending on your location, in-person experts can guide you to the right places for business funding including market readiness programs, investment accelerator funds, start-up loans, or funding to encourage locating your enterprise in specific regions of the province.

Remember the 2000-year-old words of Seneca the Younger, still true today:  “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” ONE can help you with the preparation; your business acumen can prepare you for the opportunity.

To find out more:  onebusiness.ca

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Elliot Schiller is a Director at Toronto’s Teeger Schiller Inc., a firm specializing in government funding and systems selection/implementation. His clients receive over $5 M annually to support ongoing business innovation. E-mail eschiller@teegerschiller.com, visit www.FundingHelp.ca or phone 1-888-816-0222 Ext. 102