City ‘very welcoming’ of local small businesses
Amid commercial stores and corporations, many small businesses are present in Waterloo. However, getting a small business started in the city and keeping it running has its challenges.
“I think it is pretty easy to start a business here,” said Chris Farrell, manager of the Waterloo Region Small Business Centre.
“Especially not only easy in terms of regulatory issues, but easy in the sense that there are a lot of people who are willing to volunteer their time to help startups to become successful.”
The Waterloo Region Small Business Centre helps more traditional brick and mortar businesses start and maintain their business by offering seminars and workshops that could be helpful to entrepreneurs, networking sessions, one-on-one consultations and mentoring opportunities.
“A lot of it is helping them work through their ideas and some of the regulatory things they would need to address, connecting them with experts, helping them to prepare business plans and market research,” said Farrell.
Words Worth Books, a bookstore in uptown Waterloo, has been up and running for just over thirty years and utilized the Small Business Centre’s services.
According to co-owners David Worsley and Mandy Brouse, these services were helpful in developing the business in a hands-on manner. Worseley did not believe there was much for them to improve upon, as the services were all extremely beneficial for them.
When asked if Waterloo is supportive to small businesses, Worsley responded, “Yes, generally. Uptown has changed around here a lot. There has been a lot of development.”
In addition to Words Worth Books, the Small Business Centre has helped a little over 450 companies start up in Waterloo just over the past year.
Nougat Bakery and Delicatessen started about 18 years ago and currently has locations in Waterloo and Kitchener. Jay Konduros and his wife took over the Kitchener location two years ago and opened the uptown Waterloo location this past summer.
They utilized the government’s services to get permits from the City of Waterloo and are also a part of the Uptown Waterloo Business Improvement Area, which they believe is very “welcoming and informative.” Overall, Kondouros said Waterloo is a great place to run a business.
“It seems to be very welcoming of local independent businesses, certainly there is nothing the City of Waterloo has done to make it difficult … there is an encouragement for us to do well,” Konduros said.
Despite these successes, Farrell explained that, according to statistics, only 50 per cent of businesses that started would remain in business their first year, but as years go on this number begins to decline.
According to Worsley the construction of the light rail transit system could be a cause for concern. The LRT is planned to extend 19 kilometres between Conestoga Mall in the City of Waterloo and Fairview Park Mall in the City of Kitchener.
“Construction is going to be right at my front door for four months,” said Worsley. “The train runs basically from mall to mall … that’s a lot of small businesses that are really going to need help from the region or the city.”