At the 100th Meridian, Where the Great…Startups Begin?

A canola crop used for making cooking oil sits in full bloom near Fort Macleod.

One might immediately think of Ontario or Quebec as Canada’s main startup hotbeds, but today the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix is reporting that the province of Saskatchewan possesses the highest percentage of self-employed people in the country.

Of course the statistic, generated by Statistics Canada, could be misleading. The highest percentage of self-employed people doesn’t indicate their success rate, or how much revenue they’re generating. Nevertheless, it’s an encouraging stat for the prarie province, where more than 15 percent of the province’s population declared self-employment income in 2010. The article reported that Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia also had relatively high rates, at around 10-11 percent. The national average was 9.5 percent.

Commentators said that the small and inclusive nature of the province’s startup ecosystem as well as Saskatchewan’s positive current economic stature play roles in why so many are declaring self-employment income.

Furthermore, there’s an “explosion” of business competitions such as the I3 Challenge, Tech Venture Challenge and Progress2Capital Business Planning Challenge, and “new courses on entrepreneurship at the Wilson Centre mean added resources and extra funding.” Coworking spaces like “The Two-Twenty” bring together artistic and creative entrepreneurs, while incubators like Ideas Inc., the first full-service business incubator in the province, provide help for companies.

The province’s large proportion of Native-Canadians likely played a role too, as the article actually detailed several initiatives geared towards Native entrepreneurs. 12.1 percent of Saskatchewan’s population is made up of members of First Nations.

Heather Abbey is a good example: the indigenous artisan started up shopindigenous.ca a few days ago, and already has over 500 artisanal pieces on the site.

The article detailed how Abbey was selected as “Wilson’s Wild Card” on the 2012 CBC Aboriginal Boom Box competition, winning third prize, and was also awarded capital for placing in the top 10 in the Progress-2Capital Competition. Moreover, she placed in the top three in the Mino-Bimaadiziwin Youth Business Plan Competition, placed first in the 2013 Aboriginal Youth Idea Challenge and was selected into the Empower Program for Aboriginal Entrepreneurs, explained the article.

The Star-Phoenix’s article was a breathe of fresh air, both in terms of Native-Canadian entrepreneurs gaining exposure as well as the often over-looked startup ecosystem of Saskatchewan.

Joseph Czikk

Joseph Czikk

Joseph Czikk is Managing Editor at Betakit. Prior to Betakit Joseph wrote for the National Post, Montreal Gazette, Vancouver Sun, Regina Leader Post, Techvibes and BC Business Online. Joseph often goes crazy on twitter during NHL and NFL games.