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Business Makeover, Canadian Style

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What I can say is that, if you are planning to start a home-business in Canada, you need to plan, plan, plan! It all starts with a good or passionate idea. It was only last year when I came to Vancouver, Canada, to start my cosmetics business. It's only small, and I work from home.

By Heidi Hansen

It was only last year when I came to Vancouver, Canada, to start my cosmetics business. It's only small, and I work from home. I had been living in the UK until then. It's not that I don't love the UK, but I just fancied a change, which is probably the case with most people moving overseas. Lots of people were saying that Canada would be perfect for me, and that it wasn't such a giant leap from life in the UK. It seemed like an easy transition to make. I was also told work permits weren't as hard to get hold of like in some foreign countries. I have family in New York, too, so it meant I'd be closer to them.

My friends were right: the work permit was simple to get. There was a lot of paperwork, and waiting for it all to be finalised is hard - especially if you're impatient like me! I'm still working on my permanent residency, which takes a whole year to validate after the submission of the application. Only two months to go, though!

As for starting my own business, I did cosmetics in England for a while. I create and sell my own. It is still struggling, but I enjoy making money from something I have a passion for. I've had to work part-time at a bar on occasion, too, but that's fine by me.

What I can say is that, if you are planning to start a home-business in Canada, you need to plan, plan, plan! It all starts with a good or passionate idea. It was hard to do market research before I moved. I just thought, if women enjoy my products in the UK, they'd enjoy them anywhere.

That said, I couldn't stress enough the issue of knowing your market. Women's love of cosmetics is fairly universal, so I was able to transpose it well. However, if your product is a little more niche, then I'd be a bit more cautious and diligent than I was.

The benefits of home-business are obvious really, the same as any form of self-employment: independence and control. The down-side is keeping your finances in check, knowing your limitations and abilities, and the commitment to your work. Commitment can mean not putting enough time in or, conversely, running yourself into the ground. It's about a good, methodical business balance. I was an over-worker, which doesn't help when times are bad and you have to find another means of earning money whilst still trying to keep your dream alive.

As for the lifestyle, I adapted to it enthusiastically and was just so happy to be experiencing a new culture and people. Evidently, English is my mother tongue, so there were no language barriers to contend with. However, French is also spoken in Canada, and there are many people who go to French classes if they spend a lot of time or live in the French regions of the country. Product packaging invariably comes in French and English, which makes things easier. You may even learn a bit of French while you're at it!

Thankfully, the people are lovely here. I find I fit in well, and our cultures and attitudes aren't particularly dissimilar. The locals are very friendly and they're the type of folk who'll go out of the way to be polite.

The only major pitfalls I've faced are connected to my status as a non-resident. Opening a bank account and renting a house can be difficult. There are many procedures to go through, but you'll get there in the end.

My tips before coming here are do your research! Internet groups are good for speaking to expatriates and other people thinking of moving. I expect the community forum on this website will be a big help too. Not many people are brave enough to overthrow their lives for something new, so whatever you do, just go for it!

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