When you think of Nova Scotia, you may think about tourism, agriculture, and fishing. These certainly remain key industries in this Canadian province.
However, the province is embracing other types of industries, helping to diversify Nova Scotia’s economy. Information technology, communications technology, and clean technology are among the fastest growing industries in Nova Scotia.
Having success with a new business partly depends on starting in the right business area. We have some advice for selecting the best business to start in Nova Scotia.
Why Start a Business in Nova Scotia? Key Stats
Nova Scotia is a friendly environment for small and medium-sized businesses. In fact, 92% of all businesses in Nova Scotia are businesses of this size, resulting in more than 30,000 small and medium-sized businesses in the province.
The labour force in Nova Scotia has been steadily growing for many years, nearing its all-time high at almost 514,000 people in late 2022. Employment in Nova Scotia was also near an all-time high of about 483,000 people in late 2022.
The number of active businesses in Nova Scotia increased 2.1% from late 2021 to late 2022, showing a continuation of improving economic conditions. Nova Scotia’s business growth numbers are nearly identical to the numbers for all of Canada.
All these numbers contribute to a robustly growing economy in Nova Scotia. The province’s real GDP growth from 2021 to 2022 was 6.2%, ahead of the 5.0% GDP growth in all of Canada during the same period.
Another reason to consider starting a business in Nova Scotia is the presence of Halifax, which has a metro population of almost 440,000. It is one of the largest cities along Canada’s East Coast, which means you have a large potential customer base and pool of potential employees.
Biggest Industries in Nova Scotia
When you are considering starting a business in Nova Scotia, studying the strongest industries in the province can give you a leg up in having success. You could directly provide goods or services to those industries, or you could focus on a niche area related to some of those industries.
Traditionally, Nova Scotia’s economy relies on resource-based industries, including fishing, agriculture, and forestry. In fact, Nova Scotia is one of the world’s largest exporters of Christmas trees, lobsters, and berries.
Nova Scotia’s economy continues to diversify, though, as it embraces more sectors of the market related to technology. These include areas like information and communications technology.
According to Statista, the largest industries in Nova Scotia, as determined by percentage of the province’s GDP, are:
What Kind of Business Should I Start in Nova Scotia?
If you are struggling to come up with a business idea in which you have confidence, you aren’t alone. Developing brilliant business ideas isn’t easy, or we’d all be millionaires!
It may help to think about it analytically. Run your business ideas through the three stages of business development – Niche, Offer, and Channel (or NOC).
Niche is the industry in which you want to start the business. You can pick a niche in which you have some familiarity, but it’s more important to focus on items like:
Offer is the products or the services that you will provide for customers initially. (Remember, there’s always room to expand as you have more success!) Consider:
If your customer base calls for it, you may end up choosing to provide both goods and services.
Channel is the manner by which you will make your goods and services available to your customers, including:
Certainly, there are other aspects of business development, such as marketing, hiring employees, and finding start-up money. However, using the principles of NOC can help you figure out which type of business has the best chance at success for you.
Best Businesses to Start in Nova Scotia
When trying to develop a business idea in Nova Scotia, you may want to stick close to the primary industries the province supports. We mentioned some of the more traditional industries earlier, including fishing, agriculture, forestry, petroleum production, and mining.
Additionally, the provincial government of Nova Scotia has identified 11 industry sectors that it believes are poised for growth, including:
You may want to start a business related to one of the traditional industries or to one of the growth industry sectors. Sticking with these areas gives you a greater chance of either having an established potential base of customers or of entering an industry poised for quick growth.
For example, even if you don’t work directly in agriculture or fishing, you might be able to provide goods and services that support those areas of the economy. Perhaps you can service and repair equipment that these industries require.
Manufacturing Business Ideas for Nova Scotia
Home-Based Business Ideas for Nova Scotia
How to Start a Business in Nova Scotia - 8 Steps
The steps for starting a small business in Nova Scotia aren’t complex, but they do require some legwork on your part.
Use some of the tips we outlined earlier to figure out which industry or niche makes the most sense for you. After you identify areas where you can fulfill a need, create a set of goals for your business.
It can be helpful to study statistics related to your preferred business area. The Small Business Hub provides data from the Canadian census. It can provide data tailored to Nova Scotia or even to Halifax.
A business plan is extremely helpful both for you and for any potential financiers. The plan shows how you expect the business to operate and to make money. (Turning a profit is an extremely important step!) Creating the plan forces you to think about multiple areas of the business. You may find that your overall business idea needs further tweaking. When seeking funding, you may find that the quality of your business plan is the make or break factor.
Starting a business can be a daunting task, requiring quite a bit of research and time. If you have a passion for this type of business, you may enjoy the steps required. If you’d rather find another option that involves less legwork, though, consider buying an existing business. You still need to do extensive research on the business, but this option has some advantages in terms of time.
Location is another important aspect of your business. If you choose to have a brick-and-mortar location, finding a location close to your customers that’s also welcoming to new customers is important. In Nova Scotia, you will want to consider whether to operate a business in Halifax or in a more rural area. Running an online business from your home is possible, too, if you have the space and technology available.
Before you can start operating, you must register your business with the provincial government in Nova Scotia. During the registration process, you will select a unique business name and determine the operational structure of the business. Access Nova Scotia has specific information about this process.
Depending on the type of business you select, you may need to hold certain provincial or local permits to operate legally. The BizPaL service helps you figure out what you need.
Should you need help with any aspect of starting or registering your business, Nova Scotia has numerous resources that you can access.