There are many great research resources available and a good place to start is the Canada Business Network (, which provides a wide range of business research and start up resources in conjunction with various partners and agencies across Canada. Research of particular interest would include demographic information, in terms of quantifying both the numbers of potential customers in your geographic area and the amount of money that they spend. This information could help you to do a “macro” level assessment of the amount of potential ladies clothing consignment sales in your area. The Canada Business Network has research libraries with great librarians who can help you to find the right information. All you have to do is visit the website, select your region, and have a look at the resources that are available to you.

If this “first pass” of research indicates that there’s a market for your business, it’s time to get creative. How can you differentiate yourself from existing businesses? Could you sell online? Are there other services or product areas that you could co-locate with your store to bring in additional revenue? There is no secret to it, just let the ideas flow and research the ones that you think have some potential. This creative thought process can help to identify ideas that you may not have previously considered.

To find out what type of revenue to expect, check out Statistics Canada’s Small Business Profiles that summarize the actual financial results of businesses, sorted by NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) code. The report includes an Income Statement and key financial ratios, presented on an overall and quartile basis for companies within the industry code in Canada, as well as for particular regional areas. These business profiles are excellent information, and the research librarians that are part of the Canada Business Network can help you to identify the industry code and information that you need. You will then be able to utilize this “micro” (i.e., company specific) information to better understand the potential financial results, as well as in conjunction with the “macro” market information you have already collected.


If you plan to approach people who already have a similar business to collect information, a few Dos and Donts:

  • Do keep whatever contact you have with them on the “up and up”. You would never want to be perceived as trying to “steal” someone’s idea, and regardless of your intentions, we all know that “perception is reality” to many people.
  • Do be prepared to be surprised by the information they might be willing to share with you on a casual basis. You might find out, for example, that they want to get out of the business, sell it, or take on a partner. You just never know; this type of situation does happen and could create an opportunity for you.
  • Don’t take steps to work for a company part time, unless the owner knows that you have an interest in starting a similar business. Otherwise you run the risk of looking like you are trying to get an inside look at the company before starting your own (and, remember, perception is reality).
  • Don’t get too emotionally attached to the business idea. Sometimes, finding the “perfect” thing to do can almost leave you breathless, but remember, this is a business that will have to provide for your income requirements. It’s great that you love it, but you need to have a balanced approach to be successful and manage against the downside. Consider the benefits that an objective business advisor could bring to the process.
  • Do be mindful of your research and use it. If the market is too small, create a new idea. Conduct additional research to identify any interesting trends in other markets that could be introduced in your own area. Having ideas and some flexibility in your “back pocket” could help you to evolve your idea to something that is a blend of what you love and what makes money.


And Don’t give up. Opportunities are out there; it just takes some creativity, flexibility, and patience.

A business advisor known for her practical and solution-based approach, Jenifer Bartman assists companies in transition, including early stage, financing, growth, and succession/sale of business. Her areas of expertise include strategic and business planning, financing readiness, executive coaching, marketing, and succession plan development and implementation.