Making it easier for entrepreneurs and small business owners: a conversation with Shadi McIsaac, CEO and co-founder of Ownr | RBC Ventures

Making it easier for entrepreneurs and small business owners: a conversation with Shadi McIsaac, CEO and co-founder of Ownr

We sat down with Shadi McIsaac, CEO and co-founder of Ownr, to learn more about her story and why she finds the entrepreneurial journey so fascinating. Ownr’s a digital platform that makes it easy for entrepreneurs and small business owners to register, incorporate, create legal agreements, manage employees and more.

To learn more about Ownr, please visit: www.ownr.co

Why did you start Ownr?

I think my story is true for many Canadian families: I am the daughter of immigrant parents who had to embrace their entrepreneurial grit when they started their lives here, so I have seen firsthand how entrepreneurship can give Canadians the opportunity to shape their lives and provide for their family. Being witness to the struggles faced by entrepreneurs, I wanted to build a platform that allows Canadians, with aspirations big and small, the opportunity to realize their life goals through new business creation.


What problems does Ownr help solve for small businesses?

Ownr works by addressing two big barriers to entry for business owners and entrepreneurs: considerable upfront financial costs and limited knowledge as to what is involved from a government and legal perspective. Ownr can help entrepreneurs incorporate their business for a fraction of the cost of hiring a lawyer or an accountant using plain language and simple-to-use online forms. The savings are significant since the cost of incorporating a business with a lawyer is ~$1500, and with Ownr it’s approximately $600-$700. It’s been tremendous to help over 50,000 entrepreneurs launch their business using our simple, convenient and affordable solution.


How has the team evolved since its founding?

When we started Ownr in 2017 it was just a handful of us trying to get our first iteration of the product shipped. Since then, we’ve steady grown in size. In the summer of 2020, Ownr acquired Founded Technologies. With the acquisition we were fortunate enough to bring on the entire Founded team, in addition to the three co-founders. In the last 14 months we’ve doubled our team size to a little over 40 people, building out specialized teams across product, customer success, sales and partnerships to support the evolution of our product and growth in volumes. Over the next 12 months we are looking to double in size again across all areas of the business. The fun never stops and we are looking forward to bringing on more talented and mission driven individuals who are going to help us build Ownr.


Why are entrepreneurs and small business owners so interesting to you?

I find entrepreneurs and small business owners fascinating because I think they are change agents both at a micro and macro level. At a micro level, individuals pursue business ownership for a myriad of personal reasons: financial necessity, pursuing a passion or vocation, wanting flexible work that best suits their life and so on, but what’s common amongst all of them is sheer determination and perseverance. Through their hard work, they are able to create a product or service that provides value to the market, and change their own personal circumstance.

Roll that up to the macro level and the collective output has a significant impact on private sector employment, Canada’s GDP, and the overall economy. I find that incredibly powerful and it’s a lot of my motivation to continue to bring the best of Ownr forward to support entrepreneurs.


What’s your approach to innovation, and how does it contribute to RBC’s success?

My approach to innovation is a simple one. Start with business owners and work backwards from there. What is their experience when starting a business? What takes up the most amount time and money? Where in the business formation process does it presents the most administrative complexity? Where can be we provide the most value by providing superior solutions? That’s been our mentality consistently. That’s what led us to pursue business formation because there was a tangible opportunity to solve a real and persistent problem for entrepreneurs.

As it pertains to innovation and its contribution to broader RBC, business formation precedes a business banking need. To the extent that we are able to provide value to entrepreneurs by way of time and money saved via our legal tech platform, it allows us to continue to support them via a seamless account open experience with RBC.


What’s it been like leading the team through tremendous growth, along with a stressful remote work/pandemic situation?

It’s been a tremendous and character building experience. The benefit of being a software business was that we were able to transition to remote working relatively easily in the early days of COVID-19. We are also in a privileged position of supporting entrepreneurs with their business formation needs at a time when government kiosks and lawyers offices have been intermittently closed. As a team, we were laser focused on that, and it helped provide a powerful anchor as we navigated remote work and the pandemic.


Where do you see Ownr going in the next two to five years?

Over the next two to five years, we will be layering on new value propositions, beyond business formation and company management, to help entrepreneurs start, run and grow their business. To give a flavour of what we are thinking about, this can include anything from a business planning tool, to more seamless banking solutions through a deeper integration with RBC.

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Mike Dobbins