As published by NEXT Canada

Entrepreneurs, innovators and SMBs are more than just the backbone of our economy. They’re the gas pedal helping us navigate uncertainty and accelerate positive change. As Canada looks down the road to recovery, entrepreneurs will be absolutely crucial to helping us build back better and to disrupting and shaping the future towards an innovation economy that delivers long-term, sustainable growth.

Entrepreneurs are finding solutions to our most pressing challenges, while delivering meaningful and long-term value to their stakeholders and communities along the way. Our recent The Entrepreneur Shift series further demonstrates how entrepreneurs have responded quickly and with agility during the pandemic. We’re proud to work with innovators like Mandy Rennehan of, who provided basic amenities that her industry was deprived of during lockdowns. Or Anthony Palermo, who leveraged the RFID technology his company, Connect&GO, is built on to provide contactless solutions to improve consumer health and safety. And Mark McAllister, who expedited the delivery of COVID-19 test results through his company, VeroSource Solutions. 

It’s been incredible to see the resilience and agility entrepreneurs have shown in overcoming adversity and pushing us — as a society — forward to find new ways to live, work and play. We cannot let this momentum towards an accelerated innovation economy wither.

With the pandemic, Canada went into survival mode, spending billions on keeping the economy open, businesses running and citizens safe — like most other countries. Although necessary, a shift is required to support and sustain ambitious new projects and innovations that push us from surviving to thriving. This sentiment was front and centre in this year’s federal budget — with investments in R&D, skills training, commercialization and venture capital programs. 

The building blocks are there to help entrepreneurs on their business growth journeys. But there’s certainly more we can do to provide the right support and resources to help drive an innovation economy that will propel Canada’s recovery, keep Canadian entrepreneurs on Canadian soil and build greater competitiveness on the global stage. Achieving a true innovation economy will require the collective power of entrepreneurship, technology and collaboration.

At EY, we’re not here for the next decade, we’re here for at least the next century. And we continually act with this long-term mindset to help propel Canada’s economy forward by providing growth resources and a collaborative environment for entrepreneurs and startups. We’re committed to enabling the journeys that lead to ground-breaking innovations, new industries and creative solutions that help solve the world’s growing issues. Through our deep sector knowledge and expertise, emerging technologies and global network of like-minded entrepreneurs, we’re helping these businesses grow, scale and overcome ever-evolving challenges to seize the upside of disruption.

A foundational way we’re doing this is through EY Ripples, our global corporate responsibility program that provides pro bono support by offering the time, experience and skills of EY employees to entrepreneurial organizations such as NEXT Canada. Through the program, we help scale businesses that purposefully drive progress towards sustainable environmental, social and governance goals.

Similarly, for more than 25 years, our renowned EY Entrepreneur Of The Year program has recognized unstoppable entrepreneurs that are transforming the world through unbounded innovation, growth and prosperity. More than an awards program, we’re building a global community that connects the dots between ambitious entrepreneurs and businesses leaders from around the world to inspire collaboration, spark innovation and redefine the meaning of success.

While it’s important to celebrate the successes and achievements of Canadian entrepreneurs, innovators and SMBs, stories of triumph don’t always paint a full picture.

Canada has a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem, with cities such as Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal capturing global attention for their research facilities, technology hubs and entrepreneurial talent. But what these ecosystems lack is diversity. Consider this reality: only 1.4% of Canada’s SMBs are owned by Indigenous entrepreneurs, 77% of Black-owned businesses generated less than $100,000 in revenue in 2019, and just 16% of Canadian SMB owners are women.

The reality is these underrepresented groups, and many others, don’t fall short of good ideas. They simply continue to face significant barriers to securing capital and resources to enable their businesses to grow and scale. Entrepreneurship is for all; and creativity and innovation shouldn’t be capped by gender, race, age, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

Whether by offering equitable access to financing, mentorship or fostering stronger ecosystem relationships — we need to get to the root of the problem to expedite the distribution of opportunities to leverage untapped perspectives and help advance diverse entrepreneurs.

Through the Entrepreneurial Winning Women program, EY is providing the necessary resources and networks to champion women entrepreneurs and help them overcome these challenges to unlock their full potential. But we know women are just one underrepresented group in Canada’s large entrepreneurial ecosystem. That’s why we’re excited to be expanding similar opportunities to those in other marginalized communities, such as Black and Indigenous entrepreneurs, with the upcoming launch of the Entrepreneur Access Network in Canada.

Achieving an innovation economy and driving real economic impact in Canada and beyond will only become a reality once our entrepreneurial ecosystem is inclusive and reflective of our communities. Now is the time for our public and private sectors to collaborate and support the development and scale of all entrepreneurs for Canada to capture global market share and position ourselves as leaders in the worldwide economy.