Canada’s minister of small business and export promotion visited several outfits in Richmond this week as part of a tour of B.C.’s small business community.
Mary Ng went to the Richmond Night Market Monday along with its founder Raymond Cheung to hear about the challenges and opportunities those business owners face, many of them from the Chinese-Canadian community.
“I thought the night market was spectacular,” she told the Richmond News. “What I saw was what I thought to be some of the best small business that is representative of what our country has to offer.”
As the largest Night Market in North America – attracting over 1 million visitors each year – the Richmond Night Market is a hub for local small businesses that are looking to showcase their products. Huge thanks to Raymond Cheung for showing us around! @jpeschisolido pic.twitter.com/hLMKNsSAyu— Mary Ng (@mary_ng) August 20, 2018
She thinks the Night Market is particularly useful as a type of start-up incubator ground for young entrepreneurs to try their hand at setting up a business. In this case, the business would be a tent selling fun or eclectic festival food.
“You’re testing your staff, you’re serving customers at a high volume,” she said.
There’s the added benefit of bringing businesses together in one central location that’s accessible by transit, and having the Night Market itself take care of marketing and publicity, she said.
What’s more, she said, the beauty of being successful at the Night Market is that a young entrepreneur gains skills and confidence and may have enough capital to purchase a permanent location to start a restaurant.
She said Cheung told her about a few stall operators who did just that.
“The Night market provides an opportunity to start their business and then really give it a good kick at the can,” she said.
Continuing her tour, Ng visited a local Richmond bakery called Sable Shortbread on Tuesday.
After having some fun laying cookies on a baking sheet, she announced the federal government is adding an additional $3.5 million to the Canada Summer Jobs program so small businesses can hire young people.
Lorraine Pike, who co-owns the bakery with her daughter, says the minister picked Sable Shortbread because they hired a summer student through the Canada Summer Jobs program.
“I remember well how hard it was to find summer work when I was a student,” Pike told the Richmond News. “We want to support them as much as possible.”
She hires students in the summer so the bakery can get its products to more farmers markets. They don’t have a brick-and-mortar retail store, so selling at markets and fairs is an important chunk of their sales.
“(The program) helps pay their wage. It allows me to pay them more, since we pay above minimum wage,” she said.
The minister is interested in helping Canadian small businesses start up, grow bigger and access new markets.
“Small business is so important to Canadian economy,” Ng said.
According to a news release from Canada Business, 99 per cent of businesses in Canada are considered small or medium enterprises. And those businesses employ 90 per cent of people working in the private sector.
One thing she wants to help them improve on, though, is getting ready to export their goods and services beyond Canadian borders. Right now, only 12 per cent of Canadian small businesses export, according to Canada Business.
“There’s a real opportunity here to help businesses become export ready and take advantage of customers in other markets,” she said. “So they can be competitive, grow and eventually create jobs.”