Oct. 25, 2021

A Surge in Startups is a Surprise in the Pandemic Economy

As part of Global Entrepreneurship Week (Nov. 8-12), UCalgary Alumni hosts two inspiring, yet practical noon-hour webinars for would-be entrepreneurs
Jana Boyko, BA'16, BComm'16

The COVID-19 pandemic appears to have unleashed a tidal wave of entrepreneurial activity in Canada, with 41 per cent of aspiring entrepreneurs reporting that the pandemic has emboldened them — making them want to start a business — now.

The recent RBC Small Business Poll also found 58 per cent of those polled agree that the pandemic, in a strange way, has made opening a business less of a gamble. Living in uncertain times seems to have created new opportunities for small businesses and 84 per cent of RBC poll respondents admit to becoming bigger fans of supporting local and are now choosing to buy from small businesses in their community.

Startups are a key source of job growth, innovation and economic resiliency, says author and business coach Jana Boyko, BA'16, BComm'16, leader of UCalgary Alumni’s upcoming webinar series, Entrepreneur Essentials.

A former marketing and business strategist at Critical Mass, Boyko has worked with multinationals like Visa and Nissan, as well as Canadian organizations such as Travel Alberta, the Calgary Stampede and the Alberta Ballet. Yet, in 2018, Boyko ditched a steady paycheque to become a full-time entrepreneur, with a focus on helping individuals build more conscious, sustainable businesses. That’s precisely the advice she’ll impart during her two-part webinar on Nov. 10 and 15.

In advance of these noon-hour sessions, we asked Boyko for a sneak peek by asking her why the pandemic has sparked such a realignment of work values and whether this surge toward self-employment is transitory or long-term.

Why has “entrepreneurship” become such a hot topic?

Over the past 18 months, I think many people have become acutely aware of what’s truly important to them. I’ve spoken with many aspiring entrepreneurs who’ve admitted to feeling burnt out and disconnected from their current work experiences. They’ve also told me that they’re craving more freedom and purpose. Entrepreneurship is interesting in that it presents a profound opportunity to be the ultimate architect of your work and life, and that seems to resonate with a lot of people these days.

Do you predict entrepreneurship to continue to grow?

Yes. For many people, it’s exciting to pursue business ideas that feel meaningful and will have positive impact in the world. There’s a lot that needs to be addressed in terms of combating climate change and creating ethical, inclusive work environments, and I believe entrepreneurs are well-positioned to be leaders in this space. 

How can people start their entrepreneurial journey?

By starting with yourself. It’s essential to clarify your needs, values, boundaries and vision before embarking on your entrepreneurial journey. We can’t build businesses at the expense of ourselves. Instead, we need to intentionally design businesses in support of who we are and how we desire to live.

How do you know if you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?

I’ve always said that, if you have a genuine desire to become an entrepreneur, you have what it takes. You can always learn new skills and bring on people and resources to support you. But patience is an important quality to have. Entrepreneurship is a process, and it’s important to approach the journey with curiosity and creativity. There are a million ways to bring your product or service to life, and a million ways to make money. You just have to find the one that’s right for you.

Why are so many women finding an entrepreneurial path so attractive?

For many women I coach, their existing careers aren’t in alignment with how they desire to live and work (i.e., many struggle with burnout, exceptionally long hours and excessive pressures and deadlines). Entrepreneurship offers a profound opportunity to create flexible work and income that supports women in their multidimensional roles and lived experiences (i.e., as mothers, caregivers, partners, etc.). Entrepreneurship also provides women with the opportunity to create companies and work experiences that are more inclusive, equitable, emotionally aware and meaningful.

What are two common mistakes that many fresh entrepreneurs make?

  • They rush into entrepreneurial partnerships too quickly without first really evaluating whether the opportunity truly aligns with their values, working style and vision.
  • They focus too much on strategy and not enough on mindset. Entrepreneurship is really an experience rooted in personal development, and resolving doubt and fear is part of the process. Our intuition can also be a powerful guide in business, but not something many people are tapped into.


I’ve had a few. My biggest is that I didn’t start sooner. In the early days, I had a few business collaborations that weren’t a great fit, and now I’m very mindful of who I collaborate with in business contexts. I’m also very discerning in terms of the types of projects and clients I take on as it’s essential that the work I’m involved in aligns with my passions and skillsets.

Bedside Business Plan

What kind of tips might we discover in the webinars . . . is there something about building a prosperous business model?

Yes. Being prosperous in business is essential to feeling good as an entrepreneur. Knowing your numbers early and understanding your expenses, revenue streams and profit margins (even if just estimates in the beginning) will help you build a viable business model. Numbers can feel intimidating for many entrepreneurs, but, when you have clarity in this area, you can make the best decisions for your business. I also believe personal development is a big part of entrepreneurship and, as new entrepreneurs, we often have to work on addressing and resolving limiting belief systems or narratives that keep us from the success we desire and deserve.

What’s the gist of your new book, Bedside Business Plan?

I created Bedside Business Plan after years of connecting with aspiring entrepreneurs and constantly hearing, “I’m not sure where to start.” There’s a wealth of business advice out there, but limited resources when it comes to getting started with a new idea. This book is a guided journal that’s been crafted to make the experience of writing a business plan approachable, while still being comprehensive.

Find more details on Jana Boyko in our new alumni business directory, Alumni Built. Join business coach, author and UCalgary alumna Jana Boyko on Nov. 10 and/or Nov. 15 at noon for two free webinars that will teach you the fundamentals of entrepreneurship. No prerequisite is necessary. Register here.