On March 11, the World Health Organization announced COVID-19 was now considered a global pandemic. Since then, entrepreneurs across British Columbia have been grappling with a rapidly shifting business landscape.
As we often like to say, small business is big business in BC. It makes up 98 per cent of all businesses in our province, employing over 1.1 million people (53 per cent of private sector employment). These businesses are the backbone of our provincial economy, providing essential services and a vital sense of community in rural towns and villages. It also takes a community to support these businesses. Now, more than ever, they need the support of that community.
While certain sectors are suffering right now, things will get better. The support we show now can help small businesses weather this storm and emerge to continue serving our communities. Here are six ways you can show support to your favourite small business during COVID-19.
Though the media has been filled with images of empty grocery store aisles and carts full of toilet paper it isn’t telling the full story. Smaller, independent stores have not been seeing the same demand and will carry many of the staple products people need. Consider diverting some spend to these smaller stores. It can make a real difference to these entrepreneurs in a time of need. When it comes to items like fruit and veg or fresh meat, the goods on offer in these stores can even be higher quality.
With social distancing in effect, many businesses in the service industry have had to shut their doors. Many still have online stores that are very much open for business and overheads such as rent and staffing costs to cover. Showing support by buying merchandise can help cover these costs and show business owners the strength of their community.
Support Crowdfunding Initiatives
Faced with fixed costs and disappearance of their regular income streams, some local businesses have turned to crowdfunding campaigns to help stay in business. One such example is SBBC Award Finalist Catoro Cafe, who have reached out to their community for support in this time of need. While not forced to close, businesses like Catoro are taking the selfless move of closing their doors despite the inherent risks it brings for their business.
Buy a Gift Card
Sure, we might not be able to sit down to a meal at our favourite restaurant but we can show support by buying a gift card. A lot of bars/restaurants are promoting gift card purchases right now as they provide a quick injection of cash to help them cover staffing and bills. This type of support has been championed by Dan Kelly, President of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business:
“If you’re a small hair salon nail salon trying to hang on during this difficult time, the future of your business may be in jeopardy, so buying a gift card or booking a service a few months in advance can be a really really helpful signal to the business owner, that brighter days are around the corner and they should try to stick it out.”
An example of a local business adopting this approach can be found in The Federal Store, located in Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood. This small luncheonette and grocer has enabled their community to show support by buying a gift card for themselves, or as a gift.
Leave a Review
Customer reviews have never carried more weight. Whether it’s Yelp, Airbnb or lately Uber, customers are used to leaving feedback and expressing their opinions. Did you know that most businesses can also be reviewed on Google? In fact, Google Reviews can give businesses a big credibility boost without having to spend any money. They appear in prominent positions on Google search listings, and even play a role in improving the search ranking of a business. If you’re not in a financial position to make a purchase, a positive Google Review can make a huge difference.
A trend we’ve noticed among food service businesses is a nimble transition to a food delivery service. Many traditional sit-down restaurants are now trialing delivery services, enabling their customers to enjoy their favorite meals while practicing safe social distancing. Call your favourite restaurant or message them on social media. If they’re offering delivery, show your support and place an order. An example of this in action is the Breaking Bread initiative. This website lists BC-based restaurants now offering a takeaway or delivery option.
Here to Help
Small Business BC is here to help small businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic. Please visit our COVID-19 Resources page or download the Business Continuity Checklist we created with the BC Government Small Business Branch.