Get To Know The BC Small Business Sector

Last Updated: June 12, 2017
About the Small Business Sector in British Columbia and Canada:

Small business is BIG business in British Columbia.

According to the most recent BC stats 2011 publication: Small Business Profile, over 98% of all businesses operating in the province are in fact small businesses. Most of these businesses (82%) hire between 0-4 employees, and many businesses are run from home-offices or without a bricks and mortar storefront. Over the past few years, the number of small businesses in BC has been on the rise with 9000 new businesses opening between 2007-2010, and this trend shows no signs of slowing.

Across Canada, according to recent Industry Canada reports, there are just over 1 million small business. These businesses employ approximately 5 million Canadians. Simple math tells us that, on average, a small business in Canada employs 5 people. The five sectors that are most prominent for small business in Canada are non-institutional health care (such as family practices or alternative medicine), forestry, other services (anything that doesn’t fit into a predefined service category), construction, and accommodation and food. In total, about 79% of small businesses in Canada are in the service sector, while 21% represent the manufacturing sector.

What’s the Difference Between Small, Medium and Big business?

The term ‘small business’ can be misleading. Part of the confusion is due to the fact that a brand new startup with zero customers, no first sale, and just a single owner/employee, and a million-dollar operation with twenty employees, and five years of business success are both (by most definitions) technically small businesses. BC has nearly 400,000 small businesses in operation, but within this massive group you will find an incredible amount of diversity.

A small business, as defined by the BC Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation, is any business that has fewer than 50 employees. A business with fewer than 5 employees is often referred to as a micro-business. But the number of employees within an organization doesn’t always tell the entire story.

Another term you are likely to come across when researching or learning about small business, is the term SME. SME stands for Small and Medium Enterprises. Again, this term encompasses a vast group of business types and sizes. Medium size business generally is defined as any organization employing between 51-500 employees.

At times you may come across other guidelines for determining what is and isn’t small business. Financial institutions often identify their clients as ‘small business’ or ‘commercial’ clients depending on the lending requirements or complexity of financial needs for a business.

Detailed Reports:

Two great resources to learn about the small business sector in BC, and for all of Canada, are the BC Stats publication: Small Business Profile (annual) and the Industry Canada report Key Small Business Statistics (semi-annual). These reports are a treasure trove of up to date information about the state of small business in our province and our country.

bc stats

If you’re looking for current and accurate information regarding the provincial economy, try visiting A Guide to the BC Economy, updated by the BC Ministry of Regional Economic and Skills Development. This is a particularly useful site for tracking emerging industries in BC, identifying growth areas for economic development, and to learn more about the overall shape of our provincial economy.

Websites for Small Business News:

Lastly, it never hurts to stay on top of the small business news reports by following a few regional, national or international news sources. We recommend browsing a few of the following small business news reports, and setting up a bookmark or RSS feed if you want to receive regular content on a daily basis.

Other sources for researching the Small Business Sector:

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo Harrison Hot Springs (Explored!) created by Taylor.McBride, on August 9, 2009. Photo made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-2.0 noncommercial license. Last viewed on December 1, 2011.