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Rob Murray CEO, Intrigue Media

We started Intrigue in 2007 during our third year of university. Our goal was $8,000 in annual revenue; we ended up at $20,000. At the time, we were creative. Somehow, one of us qualified for a $2,500 Future Shop credit card with no interest and no payments for 90 days. We would buy $2,500 worth of equipment for digital advertising—a flat-screen TV, computer, mount and cables—and install it. We’d sell $2,500 worth of advertising in 90 days before any interest accrued. We did that 11 times, and in seven months, we had more than $25,000 in advertising assets.

We had to prove the concept worked with dollars from customers as opposed to raising money and hoping people would buy something.

Eventually, the process became a growth constraint and we sought outside funding, but we only did that once we proved—with dollars—that we had a market.

Story continues below advertisement

This Canadian software success story has no intention of selling out to big private equity firms

CANADA'S TOP GROWING COMPANIES

Carinne Chambers-Saini CEO, Diva International

We have bootstrapped our entire business from the beginning. When we first started Diva in 2003, we had time on our side, as there were no competitor menstrual cups on the market yet. We also didn’t have many options for raising capital. This meant building up our business took much longer, and this approach wouldn’t necessarily work for every business or every industry—but for us, slowly and steadily building our grassroots fanbase was what helped us achieve success.

With the consumer packaged goods industry, the listing fees required to get your product on retail shelves are a big investment and carry a lot of risk—and if you get listed before you have created a demand, you will likely fail in stores and face delisting fees. Now that we are ready to grow and scale quickly, we’ve reached a point, particularly as we look toward expanding our e-commerce operations, where external investment may make sense.

Jordan Boesch CEO, 7shifts

7shifts CEO Jordan Boesch stands in a Smoke's Poutinerie in Saskatoon.

DAVID-STOBBE, DAVID STOBBE/David Stobbe

We bootstrapped 7shifts so that it could pay for one employee—me. But I knew that we could make a major impact with our employee scheduling software, so we moved to Silicon Valley to take part in an accelerator. The headway we made from that initial cash injection taught us funding was necessary to take 7shifts to the next level.

Our competition is heavily funded, which meant we required funds to achieve the global scale we’re at today. But you must understand the business and industry you want to build in, and then decide what makes sense for your risk level and personal goals.

Rivki Mandelbaum Director of corporate strategy, Marlin Spring

We made the decision to self-finance at the beginning, when our company, Marlin Spring, was in its formative stages. As new entrepreneurs, we believed in our long-term vision to become a pre-eminent real estate management company in North America. In the early stages, self-financing proved to be quite successful for us.

However, in order to scale Marlin Spring and sustain our growth, we needed to build strong partnerships. Our financing partners offered extraordinary value beyond capital— they acted as a sounding board when discussing new ideas and helped facilitate key connections with other investors. This helped us advance from our first acquisition in 2013 to our current 30-plus projects and eight million square feet of real estate.

Ultimately, for us, self-financing proved to be an excellent option to quickly launch our business, but to truly gain scale, we have greatly benefited from building long-term strategic partnerships.

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Roy Almog Founder & Broker, 2% Realty Inc.

We have been bootstrapping at 2% Realty since day one, and it’s been working really well for us. As our business is purely commission-based, it would be hard for me to sleep at night knowing a large loan repayment is due on the first of each month—whether we have sales or not. The biggest limitation we’ve come across by bootstrapping is our ability to grow into foreign markets. For our U.S. deployment plan, we are going to be raising capital to ensure we fuel our rapid growth and have enough in reserves to meet our aggressive expansion plans. I guess I’m in for some sleepless nights ahead.

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