Why Small Businesses Do Well In Kingston


With a large concentration of small businesses in the Kingston area, there must be something in the water that’s keeping them afloat. Businesses pop up faster than they diminish, and we welcome them with open, curious arms.

We’re Canada’s first capital and we’re proud of our heritage and old buildings. Kingston also has a variety of minority groups that have introduced their cultures as businesses to Kingston’s Canadian-born residents, and we love them for it. Beyond being the first capital and increasing minorities, there have to be other underlying reasons why Kingston does so well with the small business scene. We did some research and compiled a few reasons, with the help from some of our favourite local businesses, that we think have created such a successful community.

We’re a city full of great minds and deep pockets.

1.67% of Kingston’s population has a PhD - that’s over 3 times the national average, and we like to spend a lot of our money here where we live. With three public educational institutes, Queen’s University, Royal Military College and St. Lawrence College, a huge portion of Kingston is educated. Kingston is above the national average for educated cities in Canada by 5%, and the average household income, according to Stats Canada, when this article is published, is $92,572. That’s a great deal of money and, since the cost of living isn’t through the roof as it is in other larger metropolitan areas of Canada, we have more money to spend. And, we spend it in the city we love.

We’re a city full of creativity.

Thanks to the many markets and festivals, as well as online communities, Kingston has grown in small creative businesses, usually run from the homes of those the ideas seed from and appreciated by many Kingstonians. One business in particular, Purlin J’s Roving Yarn Co., owned by Joan Sharpe, has gained popularity at local events by beginner to expert knitters with her Yarn Truck.

She says,

"I've lived in Kingston for almost twenty years and there's nowhere else I want to be. It seems to me that Kingston attracts makers, artists, and ‘do-ers’. That's inspiring. And since my business is small-scale, I get to know my customers and in turn get a sense of the community in which we all reside. The enthusiasm for the yarn truck continues to grow, and I'm proud to say that Kingston has really stepped up and supported this innovative retail operation."

Kingston wants to help startup businesses.

Jolisa Masucol, head of Customer Success for the online subscription business, Scent Trunk, and recent grad of St. Lawrence College, provided some insight.

“Scent Trunk started out of the Queen's Summer Innovation Initiative in 2014. Will, [the] CEO and founder, decided to keep the business in Kingston because of the strong ties to the startup community at the time. We had a good ecosystem at Innovation Park including amazing advisors as well as access to a great co-working space. We also were able to get help with funding opportunities that would help us develop the technology of our company. Flash forward to a very busy three years, we've decided to keep manufacturing and customer service in Kingston out of convenience, including the human capital that runs operations and proximity to the [US] border.”


Using local products to sell locally.

Local products has contributed to the success of many small businesses in Kingston and its surrounding areas. One thing about Kingston is that we like to feel connected and therefore root for each other’s success. Friendly business competition is always fun, but the community sees the opportunities that can be achieved if we work with rather than against each other.

Southpaw Cat Cafe opened on Bayridge Drive in the west end on November 5, 2016, and has grown into a successful part of the Kingston community. Here's what Scott Fardella, the founder, had to say.

“I grew up in Kingston and I've always said it's a small city with a big city feel. Kingston residents are very loyal to their small business community, and the support for animal welfare in this city is overwhelming! It's been wonderful. I think those are a few of the reasons why Southpaw has been so successful so far. We try to stay as local and as green as possible. Most of our to-go products (cups, lids, etc.) come from Green Shift in Toronto, a company whose goal is to support and grow sustainable businesses.”

Southpaw uses predominantly local baked goods in their cafe. They’ve also recently added delicious cheesecake mason jars from a small business out of the neighbouring town of Sunbury, Ontario, called the Cheesecakery Bakery.  

Kingston has many other great ways of remaining local, such as Wendy’s Country Market. Wendy’s is a Lyndhurst based farm and delivery service that connects local restaurants with local farms. They deliver to 24 popular Kingston restaurants, helping to ensure that the city and area’s economy stays strong and flourishing.

Whatever the reason, Kingston has definitely defined itself as a unique place to live. With a small town feel, but a diverse set of demographics, small businesses are well loved in Kingston.


Where do you like to shop local in Kingston? Let us know in the comments below.


Kimberley Falk – Multimedia Writer




Small BusinessSpark SLCComment