Nunavut logo – From words to WORK

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Reality Checks

Nunavut has only 29 businesses for every 1,000 population, the lowest for any territory or province in Canada (the Canadian average is almost 72 per 1,000 population). What does this tell us? First, these statistics show that starting a business in Nunavut isn’t easy; but they also tell us there is a great opportunity for business growth in the territory.

Many business services are provided in English only, and this can be frustrating to business owners in Nunavut, who want to work in the Inuit language. Most online services, banking institutions and federal government departments provide their services only in English or French.

Nunavut has a small population, and that means there are a small number of local customers for business. To reach a larger market, you must export, and deal with the high cost of transportation and communications. The development of e-commerce has helped some Nunavut businesses reach more customers outside the territory.

Businesses need services and support that are not readily available in many Nunavut communities. These services range from a source of office supplies to bookkeeping services, and most importantly, a local bank.

Labour costs are generally higher in Nunavut than in other parts of Canada. The higher cost of living in Nunavut contributes, in part, to higher wages. Business in Nunavut must compete for skilled workers with government, Inuit organizations, and major resource developers, who pay top hourly rates.

Doing business means daily bookkeeping! You must keep complete records of your financial transactions including details and copies of invoices and receipts, bills and bill payments, payroll and bank statements.

In Nunavut, it’s difficult to find institutions or individuals who will invest in your business or provide financial advice and support. Without personal savings or a community lending institution it is difficult for many small businesses to obtain financing. The lack of financing options can make it hard for local entrepreneurs to move forward with their business ideas.

Iqaluit makes up about 25 per cent of Nunavut’s population, but has 45 per cent of all the businesses in the territory. This gathering of businesses in a major metropolitan centre is typical throughout Canada. However, in Nunavut, with a decentralized government structure, and major resource development projects planned by the private sector near other communities, entrepreneurs outside Iqaluit have new opportunities for business growth.

Nunavut is one of the most expensive places to do business in Canada. Commercial power rates and insurance costs, and above all, the cost of transportation, are the highest in Canada.