Skip to main content
A new poll by RBC shows strong entrepreneurial spirit at both ends of the generation gap. As millennials look to business ownership as a viable career path, boomers continue to actively launch small businesses of their own at high rates, as well.

Both boomers and millennials are driving Canada’s small business economy according to a 2019 RBC Small Business poll. While the motivations for starting a business may differ, both generation show signs of practicality and optimism in how they think about business ownership.

Boomers: Driven to Action

When it comes to starting businesses, boomers are doers, driven by post-retirement goals, career confidence, and know-how. Over 40% of small business owners are boomers, with empty-nesters being the most likely Canadians to own a small business.

When Leslie Bradford-Scott and her husband Peter started their bath and body product business, translating their business expertise into the new venture was key. Like many empty-nesters, seeing her children doing well also made entrepreneurship seem more enticing.

“As a late-life entrepreneur, I was able to bring a wealth of learning and experiences to my start-up,” she says of Walton Wood Farm. “With my kids grown and on their own, I no longer had the constant worry of financially supporting them. It was time to do something for myself.”

Millennials: Looking Forward

When it comes to starting a business, millennials indicated they are deliberate in their approach to entrepreneurship — getting systems and networks in place to help them succeed. In total, 70% of millennials said they have considered entrepreneurship, much higher than the national average of 57%. Yet, only 15% have started or purchased a business.

Andy Dale, founder of LeDaveed, built a strong network when starting out his brand. “I have a circle of mentors, I have advisors, an executive coach,” he says. “Friends and family love you, but you really have to cultivate that intellectual support in the business community — you need a circle of professional people who stimulate you.”

Much like boomers, family is often a key factor for millennials considering business ownership. Many millennials say they see entrepreneurship as a way to balance work with family and children. In fact, more than two-thirds feel they could confidently run a business while remaining an at-home parent.

The Changing Business Owner Landscape

In recent years, new patterns of entrepreneurship have emerged, such as side-hustles and the gig economy. These flexible approaches have gained traction, with nearly half of Canadians considering starting a business already participating in the gig economy.

Natasha Varma, Vaundry co-founder, suggests this approach offers Canadians flexibility when starting a business. “Starting a business involves risk, it takes sacrifices, and you have to really believe in the idea and yourself. So if you have an idea — even if you pursue it while you’re still at your job — you can’t ignore it.”

A Healthy Business Ecosystem

With more boomers and millennials becoming entrepreneurs, Canada’s small business landscape continues to expand and change. As new millennial entrepreneurs emerge, they join experienced boomers in the desire to build businesses that are both personally meaningful and rewarding.

Source: RBC Small Business Poll. August, 2019.