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Research Tips for Entrepreneurs: A Guide to Open Resources

Research Tips for Entrepreneurs

Thinking of starting a business? Every Business Plan begins with a description of the industry your new business will participate in. What are the major trends, products and services? Who are the customers? Who are the major players? What is the outlook for this industry?


Your job is to convince prospective investors that you understand the industry your business will be part of, and specifically the role your business will play, or the gap that it will fill. Including reliable, evidence-based information and statistics is a powerful way to help tell your story.


The steps below will help you get started.


*Note: This guide contains OPEN (i.e. free or partly-free) resources available to the public. For more resources available ONLY to current GBC students for use in course work, see the GBC Entrepreneurship Research Guide.

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1. Define your Industry & Find Basic Industry Information

Industries are officially defined and categorized by NAICS (North American Industry Classification System), which was developed jointly by the statistical agencies of Canada, the US, and Mexico.


NAICS divides the economy into

20 sectors (2-digit codes)                  ex. 72 Accommodation and Food Services

102 subsectors (3-digit codes)          ex. 722 Food Services and Drinking Places

322 industry groups (4-digit codes)   ex. 7223 Special Food Services

708 industries (5-digit codes)            ex. 72232 Caterers


See Canadian Industry Statistics from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada​ to

  • Find your NAICS code 
  • Find basic info about your industry in Canada
    • Click on each section (Financial Performance, Business, etc) to see stats
  • No information available? Scroll to the bottom of the page and choose a broader industry group or subsector



2. Find Industry / Market Reports

Industry Reports discuss trends, products/services, market share, major companies, and other factors affecting the industry.


In general, these are not free - they are valuable resources created by analysts who are expert researchers with in-depth knowledge of the field. Typically, you'll need a subscription to an industry reports database to access these.

Your library may have access, but please note GBC library databases are for academic use only, and cannot be used for commercial purposes.


However, substitutes may be found. For example:


Government Data


FedDev Ontario Small Business Services - Market Research Guide


City of Toronto Industry Profiles 2018

  • A downloadable Excel file. Includes labour information and other demographics 


City of Toronto - Industry Sector Report

  • Distribution of jobs in the sector, key assets, education/training options, city support etc.


Government of Canada - Industry Sectors 

  • Industry profiles, reports, publications, related sites


Government of Canada - Research and Business Intelligence

  • Industry sector data, financial benchmarks, labour trends and business statistics



Independent / Non-Government Resources


MaRS - Market Research for Startups


BDC - (Business Development Bank of Canada) - Practical Guide to Market Research



  • Sponsored by Michigan State University. A good source for international business information. 


Vault Industry Reports

  • Create an account for free access to some industry reports & resources


BigCharts / Market Watch - Industry Analyzer

  • See current data for Dow Jones industry sectors, including some company-specific data


Statista - off-campus use of publicy-available stats only

  • Information retrieved from GBC's subscription to Statista may not be used for commerical purposes. However, Statista makes some information freely available online
  • Go to when OFF CAMPUS to access



Consulting Firms will sometimes release industry/market reports to the public (some full reports may require purchase)


PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Canada

McKinsey & Co.


Ernst & Young



Toronto Public Library - Subscription Databases


Business Databases via Toronto Public Library 

*These will require a TPL library card or TPL digital card to log in


2b. Find Industry Trends in the Media


Google Trends - See what people are searching for


Newspapers and Magazines via Toronto Public Library*

*These will require a TPL library card or TPL digital card to log in

  • Canadian NewsStream for all Canadian newspapers
  • CBCA and CPI.Q for Magazines and Business Trade publications
  • Pressreader Online access to newspapers and magazines from over 100 countries in over 60 languages


3. Know Your Demographic

Statistics Canada contains many types of reports and information sources. See:



Most regions use StatsCan census data to create neighbourhood-specific or ward-specific profiles. See:

City of Toronto Neighbourhood Profiles 

Peel Region Ward Profiles (Brampton, Caledon, Mississauga)

Markham Ward Profiles

St. Catherines Statistics & Demographics 

Richmond Hill Demographics and Census 

Hamilton Ward profiles




Nielson Demographics

  • Some reports freely available


Need More Help? Contact me!

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Christa Lochead
Christa Lochead
George Brown College
Library Learning Commons
416 415-5000

'Begin' mug photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash