23 Of The Best Businesses To Start in Canada for October 2023

Posted on September 27, 2023 by Dan Kent
23 Of The Best Businesses To Start in Canada

The lure of entrepreneurship can be incredibly enticing for many who feel trapped at an unwanted full-time job. Even those in high paying jobs can still feel a bit invaded by being under the control and mercy of the employer.

It's no coincidence that most people on the Forbes richest list got there by owning a business. With a rock-solid business plan, excellent execution, and some work, almost anyone can run a successful business. That's not to say it's easy. In fact, it's tough and only gets more challenging as you become more successful. But the rewards are worth it, even if you don't make it onto the Forbes list.

Many wannabe Canadian entrepreneurs have less ambitious goals. They want the freedom associated with running their own business. This flexibility ensures they'll never miss another hockey game, dance recital, or date night ever again. In fact, many will intentionally give up the opportunity to earn more money for a better work/life balance. To them, entrepreneurship represents freedom, not a path to riches.

No matter the overall goal, there are still a few problems with starting a business. For starters, many don't know the first thing about running a business. They can identify what seems to be a good business opportunity but have no idea where to go from there. A small business owner must also successfully wear many hats, ultimately responsible for everything from payroll, working out the taxes and how to pay less tax, to procurement, to picking the best business bank account, the overall long-term vision, and everything in between. 

In other words, running a successful business is more than just taking a business idea and going with it. It can take some serious work to make it succeed.

Other folks are confident in their ability to manage, leveraging skills acquired in the corporate world to successfully manage their business. But they struggle for that perfect business idea, that big passive income generator and vehicle they'll use to finally escape the rat race forever.

What are the best businesses to start in Canada?

  • Refereeing sports
  • Consulting
  • Social media marketer
  • Specialty manufacturing
  • Online shop
  • Landscaping
  • Start a franchise
  • Cleaning
  • Photography
  • Immigration consultant
  • Real estate
  • Graphic designer
  • Food truck
  • Dog walking
  • Freelance writing
  • Tutor
  • Web design
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Bookkeeping
  • Healthcare concierge
  • Medical driver
  • T-shirts
  • Food delivery

Here are 23 of the best business ideas, ranging from part-time work you can easily do from home to full-scale businesses that will require some money to get going but are still quite accessible for most.

23. Refereeing sports

Refereeing youth sports is the perfect part-time business for someone looking to get out of the house, get some exercise, and help kids learn and progress. Just be prepared to take a certain amount of abuse from overzealous parents and coaches.

It can also be surprisingly lucrative. This author knows someone who is a part-time basketball referee for about three months of the year, and he nets a few thousand dollars for a little bit of evening and weekend work. It works out to about $50 per hour, and he always ends up at least a few pounds leaner at the end of the season.

The only problem? Refereeing sports doesn't scale. You're exchanging your time for money. 

22. Consulting

A consulting business is straightforward to set up. All you need is a cheap website and demonstrated expertise on a business subject (or the confidence to fake it). Many older executives or professionals pick up consulting work as they transition into retirement. 

Becoming a full-time consultant is a tougher journey, but certainly achievable with solid promotional skills. A vast network is also a huge help since most consulting work is word-of-mouth based. 

Many consultants also offer project work, leading a new initiative at a company or taking on a short-term project. 

21. Social media marketer

Do you love Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter? And do you have a demonstrated ability to grow a following on any of those platforms? Then you may be a good fit as a freelance social media marketer.

Let's face it; many small and medium-sized businesses do an extremely poor social media job. They see the value of it, but they don't know where to start. They'd happily hire an expert and let them run with it.

One advantage of being a social media marketer is it's the kind of business that can either stay a one-person operation or grow indefinitely as the firm hires more people to service an expanding customer base. And it can be done from nearly anywhere worldwide, further adding to its flexibility. 

20. Specialty manufacturing

Many people don't realize just how much manufacturing is done locally, right here in Canada. And for products that could easily be made overseas, too. 

Here's what typically happens. A business requires a niche product, but there isn't enough volume to get any large-scale manufacturer on board. An astute entrepreneur sees the opportunity, realizing it won't take much to get started. In fact, many of these businesses are run out of someone's garage or in a tiny space in some forgotten corner of industrial real estate.

If you don't want to start such a business from scratch, don't worry. Specialty manufacturers often can be purchased for a song since many would-be buyers are scared off by the inability to scale.

19. Online shop

Retail has long been a popular business idea since it offers low entry barriers and is an easy-to-understand business. But it also has high fixed costs, there's a ton of competition in virtually every niche, and you'll need a good chunk of capital upfront.

There's a better option. Folks looking to get into the retail business can start an online store.

Moving the traditional store online has all sorts of advantages. You can market to the entire globe rather than people in your neighbourhood. There's way less overhead, too. And you can easily link your shop to large sites like Amazon to take advantage of their traffic. 

18. Landscaping

Landscaping is a simple business many readers can start today using equipment they probably already own.

Busy professionals want a nice lawn, but many simply don't have the patience or the expertise to make it happen. They're happy to pay someone to do it, freeing up time to enjoy their yard with their family. 

Plus, landscaping can be an excellent choice for those looking to spend the winter in a warmer climate. It can be an excellent lifestyle business. Or you can expand it, offering snow and ice removal during the cold months. 

17. Start a franchise

Millions of Canadians dream of starting a restaurant, but most don't bother. They're discouraged by the high entry costs and failure rate of restaurants before them.

A fast-food franchise is an excellent alternative. It's like owning your own restaurant with an instruction manual attached. It's up to the operator to execute as instructed. If they do, there's a strong possibility the location will be successful.

Don't want to run a fast-food franchise? No problem. There are dozens of other franchises, covering everything from retail to hotels to real estate to even your local UPS store. 

16. Cleaning

Cleaning is another excellent business one can start with nothing more than a few bucks worth of equipment, a marketing plan, and pure hustle.

There are multiple opportunities for a cleaning business, too. An owner can focus on commercial work, signing contracts to clean an office or retail business at night when everyone goes home. Or one can try to crack the residential market, getting less predictable work like cleaning a rental property after a tenant moves out.

The beautiful part of cleaning is you can really grow it via word of mouth. Satisfied clients are likely to tell their friends, and the scalability is pretty endless and some people would consider this work one of the potential ways to get rich if the business can be expanded significantly.

15. Photography

Love taking pictures? Then you can start your own photography business.

Many different occasions could use a professional photographer. Getting married? Having a baby? Hosting a family reunion? Those are all great excuses to call a photographer and take some pictures. 

A professional photographer doesn't have to limit themselves to pictures of people. Real estate agents often hire professionals to give their listings an extra oomph. Or, a photographer can use one of many online marketplaces to sell their nature shots to millions of prospective buyers.

14. Immigration consultant

There are millions of people looking to make a permanent move to Canada, enticed by our high standard of living, relative stability, and abundant opportunities. There's just one problem. They hardly know where to begin.

Governments make immigration complex because they want to ensure the best make it through the qualifying process. This creates a barrier to entry that excludes many, especially those without a solid grasp of English. 

An immigration consultant can easily earn thousands from each potential client, giving applicants important information on the best places to live, how to navigate the mountain of paperwork or even things like finding various familiar ethnic foods. 

13. Real estate

Thousands of Canadians have their own real estate businesses, capitalizing on one of the country's most profitable industries in several ways.

Many go the simple route, choosing to buy and hold a rental property or three, content with tenants slowly paying off the mortgage. This simple business can be effective, with many landlords leveraging the strategy into a bonafide real estate empire, all while working a few evenings or weekends a month.

There are other more active real estate businesses, like flipping properties. This is a much more hands-on business, with headaches like finding contractors, pulling permits, and working with real estate agents. But it can also be quite lucrative, especially if you build a system that scales. 

Another relatively easy real estate business idea is storage. It's a booming market with relatively low entry costs compared to the rest of the real estate sector.

12. Graphic designer

Have decent design chops and a knack for creating sharp-looking graphics and logos? You could quickly start a part-time, side-hustle graphic design business today, with the potential to scale it into a much larger business over time. 

This profitable business idea can also be started for just a few dollars. You only need a subscription to the proper software, a computer, and a system to identify customers. Like many web-based businesses, you can likely run a graphic design business without a local business license, too.

A business like graphic design, with virtually zero expenses, also ensures excellent profit margins. That means you could be profitable with the first customer.

11. Food truck

Opening a food truck can be an excellent part-time business. It offers far lower overhead than a traditional restaurant, likely a much simpler menu, the ability to cater to your schedule around big events, and fewer employees. After all, you can only fit so much in a food truck.

Another big plus of a food truck is a wannabe restaurant owner can use one to test out their restaurant concept, focusing on just a few dishes to get right. If the food truck is a smash hit, then perhaps it's time to expand. And if it fails (like so many restaurant concepts do), then it was a low-risk way to test out the market.

Besides, nothing spices up a friend's wedding or a neighbourhood block party more than its own food truck.

10. Dog walking

Collectively, Canadians worship our pets. Many view their cat or dog as substitute children. They will do whatever it takes to ensure they're healthy and comfortable. 

Many would love to walk their dogs more but don't have the time. So they hire a professional dog walker who ensures the valued family member gets a good walk every day.

There are two big advantages to a dog walking business. Firstly, you get to spend time with adorable dogs, and who doesn't like that? As an added bonus, you get paid to spend time outside and exercise, additional perks for those that love the outdoors.

A dog walking business can also be scaled into something bigger, offering other services like pet sitting or vet delivery. 

9. Freelance writing

Many aspiring wordsmiths long for the day when they finally get a lucrative book deal, dreaming of the opportunity to write for a living.

But it doesn't have to be that complicated. In fact, many different websites need freelance writers to help them rank for specific terms on search engines, drive website engagement, or simply update the blog. Content is king online, and there's a huge market for providing it.

All you need to get started is a computer, an internet connection, and the ability to pitch your services to prospective businesses. An experienced writer will be able to work quickly, turning writing into one of the more profitable ways to make money online on a dollar-per-hour basis, anyway.

8. Tutor

Without quality education, many are doomed to a life of lower wages, fewer opportunities, and a generally worse existence. This creates an incentive for parents to make sure that their children have access to every educational opportunity.

This creates plenty of opportunities for tutors, especially in notoriously tricky subjects like math or physics. The cost of a tutor is relatively small in the scheme of things, especially when a good grade could mean the difference between a good university and a mediocre one or, even worse, not getting in at all.

You don't even need teaching experience to tutor. As long as you can convince parents you have expertise in the subject and can help their child, they'll gladly pay. 

7. Web design

Thousands of small businesses could benefit from getting on the internet in the first place or improving their website from 2007. 

The problem is these business owners are scared off by the myriad of web design services, which lock them into pricey monthly contracts or require them to pay someone $100+ per hour to make minor changes or update the blog.

A freelance web designer is the solution for many of these businesses. The best part is most don't want anything complicated, meaning even someone without much coding experience can quickly get started in this business. 

6. Affiliate marketing

Becoming an affiliate marketer is one of the more lucrative online business ideas because it can scale forever. 

Here's how it works. You start up a website, usually one that exclusively covers a specific niche. You then cover that niche from every conceivable angle, suggesting ways customers can get the best value for their money. The affiliate marketer gets paid when someone clicks through and makes a purchase based on their selections. 

Affiliate marketing can be a big money maker, but be warned. It's a crowded field filled with plenty of folks with experience and deep pockets. Still, with a virtually limitless world of opportunity, most should be able to find a niche or two that can generate some profits.

5. Bookkeeping

You don't need a fancy accounting degree or knowledge of all sorts of arcane terms to start a bookkeeping business. You just need a little know-how, a firm grasp of accounting basics, and a solid understanding of the software. 

Bookkeepers aren't responsible for taxes or any significant financial decisions. They simply keep the books organized, compiling all the information needed so the specialized professionals can make big-picture decisions. In other words, the stakes aren't as high as you might think. 

The size of the potential market is also quite large since many small businesses out there would love a part-time bookkeeper. That means plenty of opportunity to scale the business into something that could eventually replace your full-time job.

4. Healthcare concierge

Canada has one of the best healthcare systems in the world, but there are also downfalls. Many people are forced to wait months for simple tests because of equipment shortages and an inadequate number of specialists. 

In most other places, wealthier folks simply pay extra to jump the line, getting their healthcare at private clinics. In Canada, a somewhat different solution is emerging, one where someone is paid to monitor key resource availability, saving their clients weeks or even months of wait time.

Here's how it works. A patient pays a healthcare concierge a fee. This person is in regular contact with hospitals and clinics. If there's a last-minute cancellation, they'll get you in. These folks also help navigate the complex world of Canadian healthcare more comfortably.

3. Medical driver

One of the harsh realities of getting older is you generally make more trips to the doctor right at the same time as your ability to drive yourself wanes. Many lean on their children or grandchildren to drive them, but they're often unavailable. Medical couriers fill that void, making sure the elderly get to their appointments both safely and on time. 

One of the nice things about a medical courier business is its growth potential. Do an excellent job for one or two seniors, and they'll tell their friends. After all, a full car is more profitable than a half-full one. There's also potential to expand into related services, like picking up their prescriptions or delivering medical supplies from one place to another.

2. T-shirts

There are two ways to open up your own t-shirt business. You can get the equipment and print your own, or you can design the t-shirt and use various online tools to sell them straight from another printer.

Printing a t-shirt on your own can be an interesting local business, but the real money is in designing shirts people want to wear. It is a business that can get much bigger quickly, and you don't need to worry about anything except design and marketing. Printing the shirts yourself creates a bottleneck and means you have to worry about the shipping.

The big problem with a t-shirt business is there's a lot of noise and a great deal of competition. How do you get your designs to stand out in a crowded marketplace

1. Food delivery

Although food delivery has been around for decades, the pandemic vaulted it to a whole new level.

The beauty of delivering food through Skip The Dishes, Uber Eats, or Doordash is the flexibility offered. You can turn the app on when you feel like it, and you don't need much specialized equipment to get started -- just a thermal bag, a smartphone, and a mode of swift transport.

You won't get rich delivering food, but it's a nice way to earn a little extra money on your terms. And the barriers to entry are incredibly low. Depending on how quickly the various services approve you, you can be in business in as little as a few hours.

Disclaimer: The writer of this article or employees of Stocktrades Ltd may have positions in securities listed in this article. Stocktrades Ltd may also be compensated via affiliate links in this post. Stocktrades Ltd will run advertisements on our posts. These advertisements do not represent an endorsement by us.

Dan Kent

About the author

An active dividend and growth investor, Dan has been involved with the website since its inception. He is primarily a researcher and writer here at Stocktrades.ca, and his pieces have numerous mentions on the Globe and Mail, Forbes, Winnipeg Free Press, and other high authority financial websites. He has become an authority figure in the Canadian finance niche, primarily due to his attention to detail and overall dedication to achieving the highest returns on his investments. Investing on his own since he was 19 years old, Dan has compiled the experience and knowledge needed to be successful in the world of self-directed investing, and is always happy to bring that knowledge to Stocktrades.ca readers and any other publications that give him the opportunity to write. He has completed the Canadian Securities Course, manages his TFSA, RRSPs and a LIRA at Qtrade, and has compiled a real estate portfolio of his primary residence and 2 rental properties, all before his 30th birthday.