Competing with the big guys: 3 steps to figure out why holiday shoppers should buy from your small business


As we come out of the chaos of the Black Friday weekend, small retailersCompeting with the big guys may be left wondering how they can compete against big box competitors in these final weeks before Christmas. Big Box retailers often have the ability to win on price. They can negotiate for better costs and manufactures’ sales incentives, cover the losses of of key products sold under cost, and have exclusive products with their own price points.

It is important for small business owners to compete, but not by trying to engage in a price war. As a small business owner you should be able to clearly and specifically explain what gives your business a competitive advantage.

The following three steps will help.

  1. Inventory the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors.

Their strengths will be a source of inspiration if you can keep customers happy by doing the same things, or a source of important information if you can’t. Their weaknesses, specifically the ones that annoy their customers, will help to show where there is opportunity. Will customers pay you more if you can solve the problem?

  1. Define your ‘Unique Selling Proposition’ for yourself and your customers.

Use your understanding of your competitors’ weaknesses to decide what you can do better, then create a specific statement that demonstrates this advantage.

  • Do you have specialized knowledge or qualification that they do not?
  • Do you do house calls or give specific advice?
  • Do you provide a design service or manufacture to meet special requests?
  • Can you deliver products and services faster?
  • Are your materials or processes measurably better?

It is important to be specific and not rely on overly general statements. Don’t just say you offer “better customer service,” be prepared to provide an example or reason to prove it.

  1. Chart your position amongst your competitors regarding quality and price.

In almost every market there is a place for all three of:

  • standard (perceived) quality, standard price businesses,
  • high (perceived) quality, high price businesses, and
  • low (perceived) quality, low price

For example, people are willing to spend more money on premium brand cars because they perceive the quality as being higher than more standard priced cars. Maserati is not expected to compete on price with Ford, and doing so could be damaging to both brands. Test to see if the Unique Selling Proposition that you described above will help you to explain why you are a higher quality business that can justify either a slightly or exceptionally higher price.

Once you have decided why people should buy from your small retail business, you should concisely deliver a message that describes this advantage. Attempting to sell the same products and services in the same way will be frustrating if you are being compared to your competitors on price alone. Remembering to tell them why you are better and worth more can help to define your unique place in the market.


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Leveraging your credit score: How it can help secure a small business loan

Starting a business may require a large amount of money for start-up and

Credit score

working capital.  A new business may need financing, yet has no financial or credit history.  Lenders will often want to assess the character of the loan applicant based on the borrower’s personal credit history before approving a loan.

A borrower’s personal credit rating shows how an individual has handled credit payments both current and in the past.  This is how a lender can measure the “character” of the borrower.

A credit rating or score is a historical record of debt instrument payments including:

  • mortgages
  • term loans
  • lines of credit
  • car loans
  • cell phone accounts
  • anything involving credit (e.g. credit cards)

A credit score also indicates if there have been any late payments or write-offs to bad debt. The credit rating will illustrate:

  • How dependable you are at managing credit.
  • If you pay your bills on time or miss any payments.
  • If you have declared bankruptcy (this information remains on your file for six to seven years).
  • Inquiries: How often and which companies have inquired about your credit history (applying for credit frequently in a short period of time may indicate that you are experiencing financial difficulties).

A poor credit history or no credit history may result in you being refused a loan or being subject to higher interest rates on your loan.

Ways to improve your credit rating

  • Pull your own credit profile to ensure it is accurate and error-free. Contact one of the two major credit reporting agencies to request your credit information.
  • Make regular payments and pay your bills on time.
  • Pay at least the minimum balance on your credit cards.
  • Consolidate your debts.
  • Keep your credit card balances below 50% of your card’s credit limit.

To make it easier to obtain financing for your small business, make sure your personal finances are in order – it makes for a good impression on your potential investors and lenders!

One of the goals of the Centre is to empower small and medium-sized enterprises and give you the tools to achieve success.  For more information about resources, services, business events and seminars, contact us by dialing 311, 1-866-442-5866, online at, by email at or visit us at 1151 Bronte Road, Oakville. You can also follow us on Twitter and find us on Facebook.

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Website for Entrepreneurs

Halton Region Small Business Centre (SBC) is a unique resource in Halton, which provides support to “main street” small business owners, youth and new Canadian

Start here

entrepreneurs.  The SBC is part of a collaborative Network of Entrepreneurs within Ontario assisting entrepreneurs and small business owners successfully start and grow their businesses and create employment opportunities.

Services available at the SBC include: Consultations, events and information sessions, and a resource centre. You can find online and printed materials on our newly updated website.  A few highlights of our newly update website include: Continue reading

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Global Entrepreneurship Week

Global Entrepreneurship Week is the world’s largest celebration of entrepreneurship.Global Entrepreneurship Week Canada

The week runs from November 16 – 22 and offers local, national and global activities designed to help people explore entrepreneurship and innovation. The activities range from large-scale competitions to informal events connecting participants, mentors and partners.

In recognition of the week, the Halton Region Small Business Centre will be holding a special youth networking event on Tuesday, November 17.  The event will be for youth who may be thinking about entrepreneurship or who are at the beginning of planning or starting a business.  It will feature participants from the youth programs – Summer Company, Starter Company and Futurpreneur Canada as well as local mentors who generously give their time to work with the youth.

The event is a great way for all to come together to celebrate Halton’s young entrepreneurs and learn more about the services and resources available to youth who may be thinking about entrepreneurship.

To learn more about the event and for registration details, visit or dial 311

Posted in Economic Development, Halton Small Business Centre, Retail Sales, Small Business Advice, Small Business Financing, Summer Company, Youth Entrepreneur Program | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

3 Things to check when considering hiring your first employee

Hiring a first employee can mark an exciting milestone in the growth of a new business. It is usually and indicator that the business is in demand and needs to be able to do more.

Employment Application Form

Taking on a new employee can be a large financial commitment and the timing for taking on the additional cost may not always line up with when an entrepreneurship feels they need to help of a new employee.

The following three questions are important for analysing the decision to grow by adding more workers.

  1. What is the impact on cash?

Understanding the affordability of the new worker is the most important factor. The expenses include not only the salary or wage, but also mandatory costs such as:

  • Employment Insurance premiums
  • Canada Pension Plan contributions
  • Workplace Safety and Insurance Board premiums.

An employee can bring new capabilities to the business that make these costs worthwhile, but underestimating the price could lead to a serious cash flow problem.

Tip: Consider building a model for the expanded business using a cash flow projection worksheet to see how the business’s overall expenses change.

  1. What is the impact on the company’s capacity?

The most worthwhile expansion will be one that allows the business to make more money. If the new employee will produce a product or deliver services to customers, the impact on the number of units of a product produced or service jobs that can be completed is likely clear.

A new administrative or technical resource might be harder to measure. The impact on capacity could be the result of giving the worker a job that would have previously been done by the owner, freeing up the owner to make more product or deliver more service. The decision to add an employee will be easier if it can be justified specifically by knowing how much more work the business will do as a result of the expansion.

Tip: Consider adding the increased potential for sales into the cash flow projection worksheet mentioned earlier to see how the business’s overall potential for profit will change. Continue reading

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Lesser known sources of financing

When starting or expanding a business venture, one topic that must be addressed is financing. Most entrepreneurs usually think about traditional sources of financing such as loans and grants, however there are other great instruments that are out there that aren’t always in the forefront of business financing.

Here are some lesser known sources of financing:

  • Tax refunds and credits – These initiatives help to reduce the amount of taxes that you have to pay, or can act to reimburse for some business expenses. These refunds and credits are applicable to many types of business and activities, from research and development to hiring a summer student.
  • Wage subsidies – are available to reduce payroll expenses for hiring students, apprentices, recent graduates and individuals with disabilities.
  • Financing search tool – this is a search engine for government financial supports. This search tool also allows the user to filter results by province, region or industry.

Continue reading

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Halton’s Bridges to Better Business event – Business of Art and the Art of Business



Thanks for attending our Bridges to Better Business event that was held on October 14, 2015.  It was a great success!  Here’s what you said about the day:

“Thank you for arranging such a wonderful event. The keynote speakers shared
valuable life experiences which the audience could relate to.”

“Great event, wonderful seeing the Region so involved in the Arts.”

“It was a fantastic opportunity for me to meet other fellow creative entrepreneurs
and to hear their experiences from the field.”

“Wonderful Session – well planned out.”

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