As Traditional Jobs Vanish, more Durham Residents turn to self employment

As traditional jobs vanish, more Durham residents creating their own businesses

Single-person companies account for 9,500 new businesses year over year

Oshawa This Week

DURHAM — When it comes to finding a job, an increasing number of Durham residents are opting to create their own.

The data shows businesses where people work for themselves with zero employees represents the fastest-growing segment of employers in Durham with a 33 per cent increase between June 2014 and 2015.

Whitby resident Chris Kehagias was a 13-year employee at Johnson Controls, a feeder plant for General Motors, when he opted to go into business for himself.

It all started about three years ago when he was trying to get a quote to get the cedars in his backyard cut and ended up getting a machine to do it himself.

“I did the neighbours’ homes, I did the whole area, it just kind of blew up from there,” he said. “I gave people customer service and I gave them good quotes and it boomed from there.”

He launched iTrim4U and before long he had to make a choice between his manufacturing job and his budding business.

“I couldn’t handle both jobs and Johnson Controls gave me a pension and paid me well there, but I couldn’t do both and I had to make a decision and it was the right decision I made to run my own business,” he said, adding that he now gets jobs all over Durham and Toronto and is the largest specialty hedge trimmer in the area.

He now hires summer students to help with the work.

While his business flourishes, the manufacturing industry he used to work in is shedding jobs.

Statistics Canada data shows that single-person businesses are showing growth in a number of fields, including real estate, professional and administrative services, the finance sector, construction and the trades, health care and more. Across all industries, they represent an increase of 9,500 new businesses in Durham year over year.

“This is not a Durham Region specific trend but a trend across the province and trend across the country,” said Heather McMillan, executive director of Durham Workforce Authority. “The largest economic drivers are small- and medium-sized businesses.”

Teresa Shaver is the executive director of the Business Advisory Centre of Durham, a government-funded non-profit organization that helps people start and grow their businesses.

Between April and October, the BACD saw a 30 per cent increase in their clientele with 400 people consulting the organization about starting a new business.

Ms. Shaver attributes some of the growth to the end of the Ontario Self-Employment Benefit Program, a provincial program that supported unemployed Ontarians trying to launch a business.

But for most people, it’s a changing employment landscape that leaves going into business for themselves as the best option.

“One of the reasons I think that is, is the large companies of yesteryear are disappearing or their workforce is globalized, and because of that a lot of the jobs that used to be here are all over the world,” said Ms. Shaver. “Also, I think people have changed, a lot of people, if they’re not able to find the right job, opening their own business is a very viable option.”

Ms. Shaver also points out that Durham is growing and as new residents move in, some are opting to start their own businesses and taking an initial pay cut to avoid commuting.

“I hear this from a lot of our clients, they want to be happy and a lot of them start businesses that are nowhere near what they were earning but they want to work for themselves.”

The BACD numbers show the largest number of their clients are starting businesses in the professional, scientific and technical services category, a catch-all label that includes accountants, engineers, architects, marketing and various types of consulting work. It’s followed by retail which means anyone selling a product, the food and hospitality industry and construction.

In some cases, said Ms. Shaver, people are working contract jobs for larger businesses but are self-employed. One example is a business owner who buys a truck so she can pick up jobs making deliveries for large retail stores.

Ms. Shaver points out that small businesses do have a high failure rate and says the most important factor is understanding the target market.

“If they are making their move to their own business, the people that are the most successful are the people that really pay attention to marketing, sales and networking,” she said.

Mr. Kehagias said constantly looking for clients is the key, whether it’s ensuring he gets positive reviews online or dropping flyers in an area or simply encouraging word-of-mouth.

“I have to look for the work, I have to get the work, I can’t just stay home.”

Mr. Kehagias said he believes there are opportunities available for those who are willing to work hard, and believes others can create their own work.

“I’d like to give hope to people who are losing their jobs, so they can find something, just don’t give up.”

For more information about the BACD and support for new entrepreneurs, visit or call 905-668-4949.


•The fastest growing segment of employers in Durham is people who work for themselves with zero employees.

•The segment represents more than 29,000 businesses

•Experts believe the trend represents people opting to create their own jobs in a tough job market

Drew Sauveur
Author: Drew Sauveur

Local business owner and resident of Durham Region

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