Canadian Founder? Enter the U.S. When The Business is Ready

Canadian Founder? Enter the U.S. When The Business is Ready

Early on in my career in the premium end of CPG, I learned that most brands’ early adopters tend to be those folks more into natural/organic products in general. That is, they’re much more likely to notice new brands.

And, even the less ‘pure and righteous’ tend to be college-educated in the world of premium CPG. It’s less about income than education and a certain orientation away from tradition and toward an ever-changing urban future.  

Although Canada and the U.S. have similar proportions of bachelors’ degree holders, their geographic concentration is different in both countries. In Canada, four cities gather up large concentrations of college grads to whom you can feasibly excite with a new brand – Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, and Calgary. In the U.S., we have 20 cities with 1,000,000 college grads or more. In my rough calculation using 2016 Canadian Census data, Canada doesn’t even have one city with 1,000,000 bachelor’s degree holders.  

This means that your more educated audience is spread out more in Canada, harder to find in dense concentrations. It means you will be tempted to hop across the continent as you add distribution. 

But it’s critical to distinguish two things:  

  1. The need for initial growth/momentum 


  2. A longer-term need for scale (i.e., $100M or more in trailing annual sales) 

Canadian entrepreneurs MUST generate initial growth and finalize iteration in Canada, preferably in just one metro. If you can not build a $1M trailing business in one Canadian city, you don’t have a viable business to scale.  

Once you’ve accomplished this, the U.S. will be a critical market to accelerate and grow towards a ‘real’ scale, yes, but there is NO reason to rush there right away. The bigger you are in terms of trailing sales BEFORE you enter the U.S., the more you will be able to maneuver the market to your advantage, especially impressing buyers with your initial success. 

Don’t let the Polar Vortex become your metaphor for initial growth. You’ll thank me if you enter the U.S. with a stable, growing Canadian business first. 

Dr. James Richardson

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