How to grow your startup business

How to grow your startup business

Entrepreneurship is becoming more attractive and popular. In fact, two million Canadians launched startup businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic. But not all one-of-a-kind ideas turn into successful companies; they need to grow to stay alive, remain healthy, and meet customer needs. Determining how to grow your startup business can be a challenge, especially when a one-size-fits-all strategy does not exist. 

Although every business’ journey is different, we have chosen our top 6 pieces of advice for startup entrepreneurs that should be taken into consideration when trying to grow a business.


6 Tips to Grow Your Startup Business


1. Identify a real market need

New inventions and technologies are fantastic, but even the most innovative idea or product will not succeed if there is no demand from consumers. Discovering what consumer needs are not being met, and then offering a solution to their problem, will put you on track to quickly grow sales.


2. Be the tortoise, not the hare

We have all seen headlines about startups that found overnight success. This is not your typical success story. Almost always, slow and steady wins the race. Some startups want to sprint right from the start and begin allocating funds across a variety of channels in hopes of landing big customer acquisitions. However, spreading your resources too thin will not attract quality leads. Slow down and begin strategically focusing on smaller, qualified audience segments by applying low-cost marketing strategies.


3. Quality before quantity

Startups need to make money quickly, but the quality of your product or service should not take a hit in order to do so. If you cut corners to save on costs, your customers will notice and your brand will lose credibility. In the beginning stages of your company, the quality of your product is what will attract customers to buy, become repeat customers, and recommend your product to others.


4. Remember your purpose

It is normal in the beginning to develop tunnel vision when you are focused on achieving growth. However, creating a successful business involves connecting all decisions you make back to the reason or purpose for launching your startup. Strong brands are able to connect with customers because they have never lost sight of who they are, their mission, or their reason for existing.


5. Set your priorities (and follow them)

Let’s face it, as a startup business owner you always have a lot you want to accomplish. This is why defining a clear priority list will keep you on track with what matters most. After launching your business, your top priority is to drive growth and you do not want to get distracted by projects that will not directly aid in this goal. Creating a priority list also prevents you from getting overwhelmed so you can maintain good mental health while being a busy entrepreneur. 


6. Build a team that supports your culture

One of the most effective ways to achieve growth is for every member of your team to be an ambassador of your brand and someone who enhances your business culture. Customer perception accounts for a whole lot, and they can easily detect when a brand is not authentic. If your messaging is happy-go-lucky but your company culture is not, this will seep through to consumers. 



Startup incubators help grow your startup business 


One of the most effective ways to grow your business is to join a startup incubator that offers support, knowledge, business expertise, skills training, workshops, networking opportunities, and mentorship. When you are unsure of what steps to take next, startup incubators provide guidance to help you make decisions that will be best for your business.

Innovation Cluster Peterborough and the Kawarthas have helped hundreds of startups launch, grow, and scale their businesses successfully. Learn more about its programs and apply at


Why is good mental health for entrepreneurs so important?

Why is good mental health for entrepreneurs so important?

Being an entrepreneur has many advantages. It allows you to follow your passion, set your own schedule, and be your own boss. But any experienced entrepreneur will tell you that the road to success does not go without challenges or obstacles. Working through problems is a priority as a startup business owner, but mental health for entrepreneurs needs to be given the same level of importance.

Why is mental health important for entrepreneurs?

From a mental health survey of more than 300 entrepreneurs, 63% reported dealing with burnout and 59% dealing with anxiety – a far cry from the glamourized entrepreneurial lifestyle that populates our Instagram feeds. 

Although being an entrepreneur can be an amazing lifestyle, in reality, it is common for individuals to have stressors over finances, the day-to-day, or keeping a work-life balance. To ensure these natural thoughts do not escalate into larger problems, knowing how to properly identify signs of poor mental health and its effects needs to be more openly discussed.


Common symptoms of poor mental health amongst entrepreneurs


  • Inability to focus  

When you feel overwhelmed by the laundry list of projects you need to complete, it can be extremely difficult to focus on any of them. This can lead to feeling more stressed or overwhelmed because it is taking much longer to scratch tasks off your list.


  • Exhaustion

Regardless of how much sleep you are getting, chronically feeling mentally and physically exhausted is a sign you are headed for burnout. When you no longer have the energy to do the work you once loved, this is something to take note of.


  • Decreased performance

Due to exhaustion and an inability to focus, you begin to notice a decrease in the quality of your work. Creativity and innovation are best fueled by a clear mind, but when you have a lot on your mind and you are not well-rested, this can hinder bringing forth your best self.


  • Anxiety

Feeling anxious all the time is a sign that something needs to change. Experiencing a small dose of anxiety over an upcoming investor pitch or sales meeting is quite common, but this anxiety should not be a daily occurrence.


  • Lack of patience

If you tend to be a fairly patient person but find yourself becoming short with team members or others around you, this can begin to negatively affect relationships which can impact your business.


How can entrepreneurs manage their mental health?


  • Practice self-care

Rest, sleep, exercise, eat healthily, meditate, and disconnect.

  • Don’t keep emotions bottled

Chances are if you do, it will build to become worse. Talk to other entrepreneurs or trusted people to who you can vent and go for advice.

  • Slow down your pace

Entrepreneurs often have many jobs on the go. Sometimes the best way to lower stress and have better mental health is to take a breath and slow down.

  • Take up a hobby

When you are already super busy, adding another element to your life can seem impossible. However, taking time to focus on a passion unrelated to your business can bring more joy and balance to your life.

  • Set clear boundaries

We know that at times you would be able to fill 24 hours of your day with work. This is why it is healthy to set clear boundaries such as firm working hours, device-free time, and when you have set aside time for yourself or your family. 

  • Join a startup incubator

Startup incubators help entrepreneurs work through all the steps to launch and grow a successful business. Having mentors to keep you focused and stay on the right track can alleviate a lot of stress and overall, improve your mental health.

Visit Innovation Cluster Peterborough and the Kawarthas to discover how they help entrepreneurs launch, grow, and scale their businesses in a welcoming, inclusive, and stress-free environment.

Everything you need to know about having a startup mentor

Everything you need to know about having a startup mentor

When launching a startup, acquiring a lot of knowledge and skills is an ongoing process. Thanks to our technology-driven world, there are unlimited resources available at our fingertips. But as convenient and accessible as these online materials may be, they do not understand your business, are not able to give tailored advice, and the information may not always be accurate or trustworthy. Learning from a startup mentor – their lived experiences, industry expertise, and path to success – is arguably one of the most valuable ingredients that will set your business up for success.


What is a startup mentor?


A startup mentor is someone who provides guidance and advice as you navigate launching, operating, and growing your startup business. Commonly they are a seasoned and successful entrepreneur, have had years of relevant experience within your industry, or are an expert in a field crucial to your startup’s success.

Startup businesses can either form a relationship with one sole mentor, or due to the various types of mentors that exist they may acquire many with each serving a different purpose.



Types of Startup Mentors


  • Successful Entrepreneurs

Company founders who are mentored by successful entrepreneurs are more than 3x more likely to become top performers. Simply put, business mentors for startups who are successful entrepreneurs have been in your shoes in one way or another and have the first-hand experience to guide you through the different stages of your company’s growth.

Every successful entrepreneur has had some major wins along their journey, but it is often their failures where you will learn the biggest lessons. Their years of experience can provide you with insider tips, teach you critical skills, secure strategic partnerships, and provide networking opportunities that can lead to introductions with investors or key suppliers.


  • Industry Expert

Industry experts who become startup mentors have the ability to teach entrepreneurs crucial knowledge, existing regulations, the industry’s competitive landscape, and popular trends and preferences among customers.

Due to their years of experience and expertise, they have formed deep connections with important players that can lead to promising introductions, and they have an ability to sense where the industry is headed.


  • Field Expert

Field experts may or may not work within your startup’s given industry, but they have deep experience, knowledge, and skillsets in a particular area that is of great value to your business. Examples of this may be a sales executive, seasoned marketing professional, engineer, software developer, or technical expert to name a few.

Receiving mentorship from a professional in an area that is critical to your company’s success such as startup marketing is a huge benefit and can avoid having to navigate these areas on your own.



Roles of Startup Mentors 


No matter what type of mentor you choose, there are various roles they can play in helping to launch, grow, and scale your business. 


5 Major Roles of a Mentor in a Startup 

  1. Guide – Navigated by their experience, they ensure startups are headed in the right direction.
  2. Brings Customer Perspective – Has knowledge of the current customer profile through research or expertise.
  3. Investor Relations – Helps gain access to startup investors, secure funds, and can help as a liaison once they have come onboard. 
  4. Teacher – Business mentors for startups often have skills that require training to learn. Examples could be training on a particular software or technology or it could be communication skills that will help with things like networking, public speaking, or communicating effectively with your team. 
  5. Sounding Board – Innovative ideas are what have made some of the best companies successful, but not all ideas will be successful on the market. It is a huge benefit to have a mentor act as a sounding board to listen to all of your ideas and provide constructive feedback.



How do mentors help startups?


Approximately 70% of mentored businesses survive five years which is more than double the rate of non-mentored companies. The reason for this is simple: startup mentors provide many benefits that prepare them to succeed in today’s market but also protect them from making big mistakes that could significantly hinder their company’s growth. 



5 Benefits of Startup Mentors 


  • Develop new skills and training

When you are first starting your business, you most likely do not have a large amount of cash available in your startup budget to spend on training workshops and seminars. Mentors possess a wide range of skills that you can learn from.


  • You don’t face challenges alone

Every startup no matter how brilliant or funded is at some point going to face challenges. Quite often as a new business owner, you will come across issues you have never dealt with before. 

Startup mentors have been where you are and have been up against a lot of adversity. They can provide invaluable advice and tips on how to navigate problems, and are there for support as you make your way through them.


  • Greater opportunities for growth

Learning from startup mentors provides you the opportunity to learn from the areas in which they have succeeded, and have had losses, and to learn how to make educated business decisions based on these experiences. In addition, mentors have the knowledge, skills, and connections to aid in your business’ overall growth.


  • Connections

Over many years as an entrepreneur, working in their industry, or refining their skill set, all startup mentors have formed connections with other professionals, investors, suppliers, and contractors and their introduction to these individuals can give you a foot in the door that you need.


  • Build Confidence

Launching and operating a startup business can be overwhelming and at times, nerve-racking. Having the guidance and support of an experienced mentor can boost your confidence as a business owner and provide reassurance that you are on the right path. 



How to choose the right startup mentor for your business


Thus far we have outlined the types of mentors, the roles they play, and their benefits, but how to choose the right mentor for your business is equally important. Aside from the obvious factors including their business experience, industry knowledge, and skillset, often these “on paper” qualifications are not enough. Just like not every qualified candidate for a job position is going to be a good fit, neither are mentors. 

It all comes down to characteristics. 


Characteristics of a strong mentor


  • Has good chemistry with you

Sometimes how or if you bond with a person is the deciding factor. If your relationship seems forced, you will not feel comfortable approaching them regularly with concerns.


  • Makes themselves available

A good startup mentor should not be difficult to connect with. Depending on the needs of your business and what stage you are in, scheduling regular meetings or phone calls would be the best scenario. This way, you can bring any items you want to discuss with your mentor to your regularly scheduled meetings rather than emailing or calling every time you need their advice or input.


  • A good listener

Receiving advice, being told stories, and learning new skills is fantastic, but sometimes you need someone who will actively listen to you and provide their thoughts.


  • Positive attitude

Encouragement and keeping a positive attitude go a long way. As experienced and knowledgeable as a mentor may be, if they are always negative and shutting down your ideas this will not benefit you or your startup.


  • Honesty

Being “too nice” also exists, and this is not good either. There is a tactful way mentors can tell you your idea is not strong or there are issues with your business plan. If you are about to make a poor decision or your idea poses some serious red flags, you want a mentor who is not afraid to constructively point out problems.



How to find a startup mentor for your business


  • Networking events

Attending local events, tradeshows, conferences, and workshops geared toward the business community or your specific industry is a fantastic way to find mentors for startups. Have a casual yet polished business pitch ready so you can convey the essence of your business clearly to many people.


  • Online business platforms

There are great digital platforms that present opportunities to not only connect with mentors in your local region but across the world. Platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter are used heavily by business professionals and are great places to begin building connections.


  • Startup Incubators

Startup incubators offer mentorship, programming, workshops, and networking opportunities that heavily increase the success rate of their clients. In fact, using a startup incubator increases a company’s survival rate to 87%. 

Innovation Cluster Peterborough and the Kawarthas, a startup incubator that supports technology and innovation-driven companies, is located between Toronto and Ottawa and is led by Innovation Specialists who are seasoned entrepreneurs that are passionate about being a tech startup mentor.  To learn more and apply, visit

How to find investors for your startup business

How to find investors for your startup business

Launching a startup business is a significant accomplishment. It takes lots of drive, commitment, and courage to transition your innovative idea into a legitimate business. But it is no secret that even the most passionate and brilliant entrepreneurs will face greater challenges if their businesses do not have proper financial support. Exploring how to find investors for your startup business, and more precisely, attracting ones that will have the expertise to take your company to the next level, is critical in your startup’s early stages to set yourself up for long-term success.


Where to find investors for your startup business


There are different types of investors for startups, each with its own set of perks. It is important when looking for investors for your startup business to recognize what stage your startup is currently in, how much funding you require, and if your company is what a particular investor will be looking to invest in.

Here we will look at three types of equity financing receiving funding in exchange for a share of your company.


  1.     Family and Friends

This avenue can be really attractive as the conditions of investment are typically more lenient and advantageous. There are many things to consider when approaching family and friends, but two of the most important are deciding whether your agreement will be a loan or an investment, and ensuring the terms of your agreement are clear.

For example, will they expect interest paid on the loan? If it is an investment, what percentage of future profits will they receive? Your terms must be clear and in writing so there is no confusion or problems down the road.


  1. Angel Investors

Angel investors are people with significant disposable funds who seek promising investment opportunities. Typically, investment in your startup is exchanged for equity in your business. The difference between angel investors for startups and venture capitalists is they usually are not only interested in generating a return on their investment but are also invested in your company’s long-term future.

Angel investors not only can provide funding, but offer years of industry expertise that can be of equal value when working to grow and scale your business. Well-established angel networks like the Peterborough Region Angel Network located in Peterborough, Ontario, invest in promising startup businesses and care about helping companies achieve success.


  1. Venture Capitalists

Venture capitalists are investors who provide businesses capital in exchange for benefits such as company equity, a seat on your board of directors, or a percentage of future profits. Venture capitalists can either be individuals or large firms and they gravitate toward startups with above-average growth potential.



How to get investors for your startup


With an overview of where to begin looking for investment opportunities, you may be wondering how to attract investors for startups and get them to invest.

The answer is networking.

Networking helps your startup business grow, and by attending industry events and forming connections you will gain knowledge about the best investment opportunities. Even if you do not network directly with investors, meeting other business owners and leaders opens up doors to get an introduction with an investor they may have in their network.

An effective way to increase your networking and connect with investors is through a startup incubator. Startup incubators host events and workshops, are closely connected with angel networks and offer knowledge and tips on how to successfully give a business pitch and secure investor funding.

Innovation Cluster Peterborough and the Kawarthas offers year-round networking and mentorship that helps startups find and attract investors. 

To learn more, visit


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