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Dreaming of starting your own business? Take advantage of booming demand for local products!

Posted on Wednesday June 23, 2021

Dreaming of starting your own business? Take advantage of booming demand for local products!

Food is on the minds of Canadians, and buying local is on the rise in New Brunswick. Is this the right time to start the agri-food business you've been dreaming of for the past few years? Will the local food craze last? Read on to find out why it's a good time to start your own business and what the first steps are to get there.

Food sovereignty: An ideal worth pursuing

Canadians are increasingly aware that buying local is a great way to source quality products while at the same time supporting our economy, reducing our carbon footprint and promoting fair treatment of workers. But is this enough to support the development of a multitude of new businesses?

Many people are concerned about the future of agriculture in New Brunswick, and local producers are among them. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture has also called on the federal government to make food production a priority. The goal is to not be dependent on exports and to avoid shocks during unforeseen events such as a pandemic. In New Brunswick, a multi-stakeholder agriculture committee has been established to examine ways to assist the local food production sector. These initiatives are expected to increase food security and sovereignty.

What is food sovereignty? According to the Food Secure Canada, it's the right of people to healthy and culturally appropriate food, produced in an environmentally sustainable way in the aim of achieving food security. Knowing that we can meet the food needs of our local population is an essential goal for our collective future, but how do we get there?

Accelerated digital development

The pandemic has propelled online sales to unprecedented heights. Many businesses that were caught off guard during the first weeks of lockdown quickly put measures in place to ensure their survival and prosperity. As a result, online shopping and delivery services have flourished. Today, the infrastructure is in place to support local entrepreneurs. In addition, initiatives such as Buy Local NB and the Family Farmers Network have been promoting local businesses for several years and helping to increase their visibility.

What does this mean for agribusinesses? For those that have gone digital, online sales have exploded since the pandemic began, and more and more people are signing up to buy products directly from farmers. And by cutting out the middleman, small agribusinesses are getting more for their products.

Before getting started, do your homework!

How can you determine if there's room for your business in the market? It's crucial not to rush things and to do a market study. This will provide you with vital information about your future customers, their needs and your competition so you can evaluate the market share you wish to acquire. 

According to Buy Local NB, New Brunswick is already fully self-sufficient in maple syrup, potatoes and wild blueberries, but there are many other options available. What’s more, only 5% of New Brunswick's land is cultivated, while 50% is suitable for farming. So there's plenty of room for you!

To conduct your market research, you can use surveys, including social media. You can do research into similar businesses and their business models, and look closely at the environment you're interested in. And you can contact existing business owners, either directly or through a professional network.

These different aspects of your study allow you to validate the size of your market, target business opportunities and plan ahead for potential pitfalls. For example, ask yourself how your product adds value over competing  offerings. Your market research will also give you an idea of who your customers are and what they are willing to pay.

Another good idea is to check out the many organizations offering support for business startups. The Government of New Brunswick has a list covering a variety of areas: information on operating costs and incentives, BizPaL single point of access for easy access to information on business licences and permits, business planning and market research tools, and more.

Financing: Get off to a good start

In the agri-food sector, production equipment and facilities can be expensive. What are your financing options?

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), whose role is to develop the local economy, provides information and financial assistance. A tax credit is available to investors in small businesses to help them raise money and find investors for their projects. This credit encourages equity financing.

UNI Business is always there to support local entrepreneurs. Contact a business account manager about credit, but also for valuable advice.

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