By David Gens

In Canada there are already over a million small businesses and these make up 97 percent of the business-employer landscape. With 62 percent of millennials saying they have considered setting up their own business, the number of small businesses will increase, as people turn their pipeline dreams into realities.

As a champion of small businesses, we monitor trends that help – and hinder – entrepreneurs to get their ventures off the ground.

Are you looking to go solo or set up a business in 2018? Here are the need-to-know trends to make a success of it.

New business dreams aren’t just for the young

Most reports focus on the next generation setting up businesses. However, if we look at the 1,500 entrepreneurs we’ve worked with during 2017, the average age group is 40-49 years. In the last twelve months alone, we’ve worked with entrepreneurs in their teens to those in their 60s. It is never too late – or too early in fact – to kick-start a venture on your own. In 2018 we expect to see new businesses created from every demographic, not just the millennials that are often credited with driving innovation.

Specialization and personalization will become even more important

Our globalized world means that many consumers can get what they want at the click of a button. Convenient and mass-produced products and services are available in abundance. Businesses that have a greater chance of success will offer a personalized, meaningful service that makes customers want to come back to you again and again.

Localization will make a come back

 Environmentalism is growing, and consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the detrimental impact of the international distribution of goods (for example, food miles). Consequently, consumers are opting to buy local. “Made in Canada” will become a sought-after label, whether that’s for food, clothes or other products and services. Small businesses that offer local products will be on many Canadians’ wish-lists in 2018.

Businesses with an impact will make a mark

Consumers are increasingly expecting companies to have a purpose. Businesses need to do more than simply make a profit; they need to make a difference, whether that’s to the local community, society overall, or the environment.

The growth of the B Corp community—which is made up of for-profit companies committed to rigorous standards of social and environmental performance—to over 2,300 companies is testament to this trend. If you’re setting up a new venture, think beyond the bottom line from the get-go. Factoring this into your business model will be a differentiator and will likely be valued by potential customers.

Be a minimalist

Minimalism is growing, alongside the anti-waste movement across Canada. Consider how your new venture can be more resourceful & less wasteful. For example, cut out the plastic bags, use recycled products and be rigorous with your own recycling. Tell your customers about your achievements; consumers are increasingly wanting to see this from businesses they chose to work with.

Prepare for the bumps

Setting up a new business is no easy feat. There is a crunch period we see when an organization is between 1-3 years; this is the point when many organizations need extra funding for growth or to offer new services. Entrepreneurs should plan for this crunch. Those businesses that do will have a greater chance of succeeding in the long run.

The year ahead will be one in which small businesses will need to be aware of the changing social context and consumer expectations in order to flourish and succeed.

 David Gens is the CEO and Founder of Merchant Advance Capital.