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Research Tips for Entrepreneurs: Free/Open Resources

Research Tips for Entrepreneurs


Thinking of starting a business?


This guide contains links to resources that can help you research your plan, from defining the problem through gathering statistics on your target demographic. 


NOTE: This guide contains links to FREE, PARTIALLY-FREE and OPEN resources. If you are a current GBC student or faculty member, make sure to check out our GBC Entrepreneurship Guide, which contains links to eBooks, or our Demographics, Statistics and Consumer Behaviour Guide, which contains links to industry report and marketing databases. 


Research & Define the Problem


Look for reliable information to answer the who/what/when/where/why of the problem you hope to solve.

Can you find evidence that a problem exists? The stronger your evidence, the stronger your funding application/business plan.


Different problems will require different kinds of resources. Thinking of starting a social enterprise? Look in GBC databases or Toronto Public Library academic databases for evidence-based, academic journals, books and reports.


GBC Database Search (for current GBC students, staff and faculty only):


Not a current GBC student? Connect to Toronto Public Library databases


Statistics Canada also has great information - go to Know Your Demographic.


Define your Industry & Find 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



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.


Current GBC students & faculty: CLICK HERE to visit GBC library databases


Not a current student? That's OK, 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 / Open Resources


G2 Learning Hub: 50 Open Data 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)


Gartner (most reports require $ but some are free)

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


Find Industry Trends in the Media


Google Trends - See what people are searching for


Canadian Startup & Tech News





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


Know Your Demographic


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



Researching a specific neighbourhood? Try Neighbourhood Profiles (StatsCan data)

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