It can be easy to feel overwhelmed and insignificant as a small business owner in competition with much larger corporations. You may feel like you can't measure up because they have such deep pockets of resources. But there are ways to set yourself up in a competitive market to find your own success despite the challenges that major competitors can throw at you. But you CAN sit at the same table without trying to be the same.
You may never be able to compete on price - but that's not the only way to play the game.
Niche Markets: Small businesses can thrive by targeting niche markets that larger corporations may overlook or not prioritize. By catering to a specialized audience's unique needs and preferences, establishing themselves as experts in their space and building a loyal customer base.
Personalized Service: Small businesses have the advantage of providing personalized service, often lacking in larger corporations. They can offer more personalized interactions, customized solutions, and attentive customer care, fostering stronger customer relationships. This personal touch can differentiate them from larger competitors and create a memorable brand experience.
Agility and Flexibility: Small businesses are inherently more agile and flexible than large corporations. They can quickly adapt to changing market conditions, implement new strategies, and respond to customer feedback. This ability to move swiftly allows small businesses to stay competitive and capitalize on emerging opportunities without being hindered by bureaucratic processes or layers of decision-making.
Innovation: Small businesses are often at the forefront of innovation and creativity. Without the constraints of corporate red tape, small business owners can experiment with new ideas, products, and services more freely. This innovative spirit enables them to differentiate themselves from larger competitors and offer unique solutions that meet evolving customer needs.
Community Engagement: Small businesses are more connected to their local communities than large corporations. They can engage with customers personally, participate in community events, and support local causes. This grassroots approach builds goodwill and loyalty within the community and helps small businesses generate word-of-mouth referrals and repeat business.
Specialized Expertise: Small businesses often excel in specialized areas where they can leverage their expertise and passion. Whether artisanal craftsmanship, niche consulting services, or specialized knowledge in a particular industry, small businesses can carve out a competitive advantage by focusing on what they do best and delivering exceptional quality in their niche.
While small businesses may face challenges competing with big corporations on a purely financial scale, they possess unique strengths that enable them to thrive in the market. Small businesses can effectively compete and succeed alongside larger competitors by capitalizing on their ability to target niche markets, provide personalized service, embrace innovation, and engage with their communities.
In 2015, Matt and Meg McTaggart started their small family-owned business, Steelhead Food Co., beginning their journey as a humble box-in-box-out wholesaler specializing in selling smoked trout to various establishments such as restaurants, golf courses, and grocery stores. However, their story took a remarkable turn in the summer of 2018 when they seized an incredible opportunity to expand their business. Local rainbow trout producer Cole Munro moved into a larger facility, and Steelhead moved into a fully automated processing facility, setting the stage for their rapid growth.
In 2019, Matt and Meg expanded their product line to include processing perch and pickerel, catering to a broader range of customer preferences. Their commitment to innovation and meeting consumer demands became even more evident in 2020 when they formed a fruitful partnership with Golem Fisheries, opening doors to a new realm of possibilities.
Winter of 2022/2023 brought a turning point for Steelhead as they received an unexpected call from Golem Fisheries in Port Stanley. The call presented an enticing offer to expand their reach and establish a second location in the beautiful fishing village south of St. Thomas. Recognizing the potential for growth and eagerness to provide the community with quality seafood, Steelhead Food Co. jumped at the chance.
Matt and Meg achieved this remarkable growth and success relatively quickly. From a modest wholesaler specializing in smoked trout, they have evolved into a multifaceted business, encompassing retail, wholesale, distribution, processing, and packing. Their commitment to quality, customer satisfaction, and adaptability has driven their flourishing enterprise.
As Steelhead Food Co. continues to grow and innovate, one thing remains certain—their commitment to providing the community with fresh, high-quality fish and seafood will always be at the forefront of their operations.
Drinks often bring people together, uniting folks, despite their differences, in the common interest of enjoying a good brew. While most people pick up some of their favourite refreshments, some like to be more hands-on, interested in how the delicious drinks are brewed and want to play a vital role in their creation. This is where Homebrew Junction comes in.
First opened in October 2020, Homebrew Junction is a haven for those who love everything homebrewed. Homebrewing is a practice in which beers, ciders, wines and kombucha are brewed in small, personal batches within a person's home for personal consumption only. Homebrewing requires unique equipment, supplies and tools often not found easily in retail, especially in St. Thomas. Owner Trevor Hawley soon discovered this, and after needing to find new employment following changes caused by the pandemic, decided, along with his wife Jen, to open up shop in St. Thomas.
In an interview, Trevor explained how great the feeling of connecting with your buyers can be. He describes how he enjoyed helping others get started in the hobby of homebrewing and helping more experienced brewers with any issues. Even just chatting with another homebrewer was an enjoyment. This downtown business opened opportunities for them and their clients to expand their horizons. With all the latest equipment, Homebrew Junction has gained a reputation for customers searching for homebrewing supplies first and foremost.
They offer everything you may need to begin your homebrewing experience, from the sugars to the distillers, and options to match everyone's taste. With over 30+ types of hops, any beer lover will find a new favourite. Homebrew Junction also carries several sweet and fruit-flavoured vodka flavouring, extracts, purees, and more for those with a fruitier palette. They also have a large selection of containers from Brumate, so you can store your self-brewed drinks. For those curious about homebrewing but still need to figure out where to begin, the store has created beer, cider and wine brewing starter kits containing everything a beginner will need. Their expert guidance will help with any questions you may have.
Homebrew Junction is a real treat for any drink connoisseurs looking to up their game and dive into the world of hands-on homebrewing. From their railway-related name to their incredible customer service, this couple-owned business has become a landmark of St. Thomas' downtown culture that will continue to flourish in the Railway City.
Curious about crafts? Are you considering DIYing some Christmas Gifts this year, or do you have a crafty person on your shopping list? Look no further than the Craft Hive! This small family-run shop of surprises first opened in August of 2022, eager to bring all their supplies to St. Thomas. This helped to fill a much-needed vacancy locally, as many local artists and craft enthusiasts had long needed to rely on online shopping or venture to craft stores in London. Now, hard-to-find items from tiny figurine model kits to oil paints can be easily accessed!
From the moment you step in, you’ll be welcomed by the beautiful array of crafts and creations everywhere. From the decorative origami swans to the delightful displays, this store invites every visitor with a plethora of colours and concepts. You’ll be sure to find something to pique your interest.
Maybe you’re curious about a particular medium but unsure how to get involved? The friendly staff is sure to help guide you on the necessary materials, techniques, and tools to bring your vision to life. With books for beginners in embroidery, drawing and more, you can follow step-by-step guides through a new genre of art. The Craft Hive also offers monthly classes and activities, where you can learn step by step about a specific product or work on a craft with a group, a great way to meet other art enthusiasts in the area.
Some of their most unique items include buildable 3D wooden puzzles, which require lots of patience and precision to make an incredible piece, from the Eiffel Tower to a wooden carousel that plays music. Another medium that has emerged in popularity once again is wax seals. While they were more notably used before the 20th century, they have since made a comeback, with more and more artisans trying their hand at the unique art form.
For all things art, from foam sheets to cross-stitching manuals, the Craft Hive is the perfect place to begin your artistic journey and even tick some names off your holiday shopping list...
Whether you have been in business for a while or are just starting, I would like to give you permission to do it your own way.
I always say there are many right ways to run a business. Most of us leave our 9-5s so that no one is telling us what to do, only to find ourselves working 24/7 and, more than ever, facing the pressure to do what everyone thinks we should be doing.
You should be on TikTok.
You should invest a lot of money in your business.
You should write a business plan.
You should charge less.
You should incorporate right away.
You should hire people.
You should grow and scale quickly.
And on and on…
The truth is you get to do it the way that is aligned for you. There are MANY right ways to run your business.
For many years, I taught sourdough workshops and everyone, literally everyone, said, “You should open your own bakery.”
I loved teaching people bread making, working with small groups of customers, running workshops when it worked for my schedule, and being able to pop up in different spaces. But a bakery is a very different business model where you wake up every morning at 3AM, have employees, a commercial lease, a store to keep open and running all year long, and you need 100+ customers daily to make it all work.
Don’t be afraid to tell people no. They don’t have to live with the daily reality of the work that their suggestion might mean. And if it doesn’t light you up, don’t do it. You have permission to do it your way.
Don’t want to grow and have employees? I get it.
Not into dancing on TikTok? I also refuse.
Not ready to take out a loan for your business? That’s fine!
Want to be more available for your family? More power to you!
What are you doing in your business because someone else thinks you should be? Maybe it’s your accountant, a trusted friend, or a family member; perhaps it’s internalized social pressure. Please note where it comes from and learn to say no to things that don’t align with your values and carve out your own way.
You have permission to do it your own way.