#supportlocal is so important - now more than ever!
So, let me start off by saying.. My how things have changed! And so quickly!
Small businesses everywhere are being hit hard with the outbreak of COVID-19... here's how a small handful of my entrepreneur friends are responding!
As an entrepreneur myself - the owner of LJM & Co. Creative Business Solutions, Grand River Studios and Luscious Rebel Boudoir - I have an incredible passion for helping other business owners and entrepreneurs grow their reach, brand and visual marketing. I was inspired to start this blog as a platform to not only highlight local business owners here in K-W/Cambridge and surrounding communities...but also to bring us all together and share advice during these uncertain times! I reached out to my own social circle of entrepreneurs asking for their input - and I got an incredible response! I couldn’t possibly fit everything that each owner said to me over the last few days even with this being the lengthy post it is - but there were several points that seem to be unanimous among business owners and entrepreneurs! One of the biggest messages was a message of HOPE. We WILL get through this!
There were two basic questions I asked each owner I spoke with, through Facebook, video chat, or e-mail asking them to each give me the story from their perspective. I wanted to share from as many of these amazing people & business owners as I could!
How is this affecting you as an owner, and what measures have you had to put in place to protect you, your staff and your clients at this time?
It is clear that many businesses are being shut down either by the government, health & safety or by choice to avoid taking any risks of exposure. Our smaller local businesses that haven’t had to close their doors temporarily; are having appointments cancelled, re-booked and have experienced a complete 180-degree change in our flow of income in only a matter of days! I know for myself, my bookings have all been rescheduled or placed on hold for the time being, as well as meetings being moved to virtual Zoom video conferencing. As a way to support my clients, I was proactive in reaching out to everyone individually as things were unfolding to offer any support and reassurance I could. At this point, I - as well as all owners I have spoken with - am more concerned with the well being of my clients then with the effect this crisis has already had on my own income!
One of the first people who had gotten back to me right away was Jennifer Dupuis-Katsikas; a newborn photographer and owner of Kitchener studio Panda & Co. Photography. She said her newborn photo-shoots have all been cancelled or postponed until at least the end of March, as a precaution until further notice.
Christian Sachs of wedding photographer husband & wife duo at Love Sprouts Photography Inc. based out of Lucan, ON, also said that many couples are being forced to cancel weddings and wedding photographers all over are dealing with a rush of concerned and panicking clients needing to cancel/ reschedule events and shoots.
Cafe Pyrus owner Tyzun says that they have had to close their dining areas at both Kitchener locations on March.17th, and have take-out and delivery in place so they can continue to serve their loyal customers. Tyzun has given his staff the option to keep working or stay home and has worked schedules to accommodate everyone as best as he can. Cafe Pyrus is a well known local cafe, especially among the creative community - known widely for supporting local artist, musicians, slam poets and more. Having to close their dining room to these community events and small intimate shows hasn’t only affected their operations I am sure, but also the sense of community Tzyun and his staff work so hard to build. They are loved, and we’re all eagerly awaiting the time we can celebrate local talent again - while supporting this amazing business! Their food is delicious and they offer vegetarian and vegan options as well! If you can order some take out from them - please do!
Grain & Burl is a local custom furniture business in Kitchener, ON, that makes luxury pieces for their clientele. Terry Foster spoke with me Tuesday over Facebook saying he’s lucky to currently have enough business to sustain them for the time being but is concerned with how they will be affected once that runs out as fewer orders are coming in. Terry said that “Luxury goods & services typically get hit harder during [and after] any crisis.”. Terry is focusing on building and stocking up on smaller retail items right now and offering custom desks for those needing to work from home.
Crystal Malone owner & creator for Crafty Crystal in Kitchener, ON says that she is playing it day by day regarding her DIY events and is communication to her clients on any changes as they come. She is taking extra precautions to ensure she is able to serve her customers safely.
Steph and her wife Krista work with dogs in their respectable Grooming [Follow Your Paws], Training & Boarding [Structured K9] Companies based out of Guelph, ON. They are now saving their clients the travel by picking up and dropping dogs off for grooming, have limited and/or cancelled training classes and private training sessions. Because everything is changing so quickly, they are preparing for any possible measures they will have to take to protect their customers, and themselves.
From everyone I spoke with, there was a clear message that all businesses, no matter how big or small, are doing what they can to continue to serve the public, and are working to adhere to health & safety guidelines. Many businesses are being forced to close their doors either due to health & safety risks, being ordered by the government to close or because traffic, sales and appointments have stopped so quickly, it would cost the owners more to try to remain open rather than close.
PonyBoy Vapes co-owner Shaun talked to me Tuesday about trying to stay open with no staff as they’ve chosen to stay home and self-isolate; and each owner is working all hours of their respective locations in Uptown , and Guelph, ON. On Tuesday, he left the door open so patrons didn’t need to touch any handles and now have a hands-off policy in their stores. The debit machine is sanitized between every client, as it’s the one thing, each customer is sure to touch! With a product such as vapes and the products that go along with vaping - they are highly regulated and cannot move their business online during this time, and are facing more challenges such as a shortage of supplies and suppliers putting rations on the popular product to get their customers what they need as best they can.
Byan Caporicci - CEO of Sprout Studio; an online all-in-one management system for photographers based out of St. Catherines, ON - says that staff are working from home, and they have implemented a ‘First Aid’ section of their GetSproutStudio.com/firstaid resource center for their subscribers to help the photography/creative community navigate through cancellations, rescheduling and more. They immediately got to work adding new features to their system to make dealing with these challenges easier for those using Sprout Studio to manage their business.
Amy Hanley of The Oak Barrel/ H20 Delivery Services - a Cambridge,ON wine store/wine making shop, and water delivery business - say they are facing an increase of water delivery requests and are doing their part to practice social distancing during water deliveries. Customers are being spaced out during this time in the wine shop, and they are following advice on proper sanitation and cleaning in their facilities. As an owner, she is working from home with her 5 children; managing business, staff and operations while keeping her children occupied and happy. Their store hours remain the same at this time, but they are prepared to reduce hours or possibly close should they be advised to do so.
What advice can you offer other local business owners during this time?
My friend Jody McDonald - RMT - opened her private Massage practice in downtown Galt just 7 months ago. With the College calling a cease to all non-essential appointments, she had to make the decision to close her doors for the time being. She said “Having to close my doors so soon after just opening is scary”. She made a PSA 'plea' in her e-mail to me;
“ I pledge and encourage everyone that once this is over, to only purchase from or visit locally owned businesses. Forget the big box stores, they've made plenty of money during the panic buying. Start frequenting locally-owned cafés, make an appointment at your hairstylist, buy from the bakery, visit your nail salon and book yourself a massage. ‘Big box’ will survive, it's our community businesses we need to heavily support to make sure our community recovers as quickly as possible.”
“Do what you can, while you can.” was the simple yet straight-forward advice given to me by Nivek Russel, owner of Kitchener Tattoo. Nivek and his wife made the tough call on March 19th to close their shop for the time being until it is safe to do so. Being a tattoo artist means you are already in such a high-risk environment and they are wanting to be safe, rather than add to that risk. E-mail consultations are still being taken for future appointments and like many others, he is spreading a message of love, appreciation as well as a healthy amount of caution to his friends and clients.
Kimberly Gawne of Star Students Private Tutoring stressed the importance of health, fitness and self-care; “I cannot stress enough, how important it is to take care of yourself - mentally, physically, and emotionally. You can not present yourself as a business owner if you don’t take care of yourself first.” She also gave very important advice; to get your budget under control, as we have no idea how long this will last. “Plan for a worst-case scenario and figure out how you’re coping if we are shut down as a society in the next 3 months.” As of Tuesday, it is business as usual for Kimberly who continues to educate and reassure her clients about COVID-19, being sure to address any possible misinformation and remains dedicated to help ease any concerns at this time.
Amy of The Oak Barrel/ H20 Delivery Services had similar advice: “Be creative, be proactive, plan worst case. Know your customers and find a way to plan on helping them through this because they [your customers] will help you after.”
Almost every owner I know has been working fard to find alternate ways of servicing their clients. Erin Washkurak of @BoldMoveSolutions is a Personal Training and ‘Mindset Coach’. She has had to close her offices, and gym facilities; however, is working hard to provide free content to her network of clients, friends and fellow trainers. “Right now we are all in the same boat, so I feel that ‘free’ right now - will translate into sales later.”
Tony Smith and Tristan Bolton of local Kitchener IT company Bolton Smith Inc. shared how they are helping other businesses during this time by offering solutions to work from home and helping businesses be more secure since hackers and scammers have already taken advantage of many during this.
“With the closing down of offices, it’s a great time to be able to work from home. There are a number of different options to work remotely, no matter your company size, and be able to work in a safe and secure environment online. That being said, we have seen a large increase in hackers and scammers trying to take advantage of this situation. No matter what, if an email or text message seems suspicious or out of place, always consult your IT company. We are here to help no matter the environment or situation you are going through.”
Karen of The Mindful Hub, a local Kitchener wellness center with a wide variety of services available has had to also close their doors temporarily. She’s focused on creating online content and moving classes to be held remotely - online instead. She also runs a local tutoring company Indigo Tutoring; with staff and is working hard to continue to provide her students with as much support as possible. They have placed a hold on all in-person sessions for the time being; offering alternate solutions such as online sessions, and resources. They specialize in serving students with learning disabilities and are offering all the support they can to their staff, and students right now. She says; “Know this is temporary, take it one day at a time, give what you can away [for free] and support each other right now. The world needs us to be loving, kind and supportive of each other. Move whatever you can to online and support other businesses by buying local whenever you can”... “Find ways to offer your services in a different way if possible or to create new services or products [to your clients].”
Nickie Primeaux, owner/hairstylist of Nickie’s Beauty Bar is offering similar support and additional safety measures to her own clients. Her advice to others is to use this time to network with other businesses right now! She suggests banding together to create joint offers for your customers. For example; she is offering 10% off for baked goods from a local bakery she has networked with. “I have reached out to other small businesses to start sharing each other’s tags and pages so that people can support local rather than big box stores. Including some bakeries doing porch and drop off goodies and I'm doing gift cards or small deposits to be on a waiting list to get in as soon as we open again.” The idea of offering a wait-list is being used by many service-based owners and offers the ability to take deposits now - for future appointments. Purchasing gift cards/ certificates are also a perfect way to support your local business owners!
Terry Foster of Grain & Burl spoke with me about his belief that business moving to operate predominantly online as much as possible is the ‘future of businesses in today’s world’. He said that of course there are many industries that can’t do this - but moving as much online as you can is a smart move now. Now you have the time as an entrepreneur to put a higher focus on your marketing, and update your websites, social media platforms, and even use this time to create content for your online network to view, and share.
Kirstie Smallman of Soma Soul Motion says to make sure you LAUGH often, as laughter boosts our immune systems and provides a healing medicine. As many have stressed; your mental, emotional and physical health is so important - especially now. She has been offering free online Nia classes that put focus, intention and accountability on mental, spiritual and physical wellness, through movement and dance! She drew the parallel of the microcosm to the macrocosm - humans to the planet - and said that these recent events are showing a parallel of how we [humanity as a whole] have treated mother earth. These parallels should create the intention to do better moving forward. You’ll find me sharing her #staythefuckhomeandDANCE tagged classes as often as I can - so you can experience Nia, from home!
Christian Sachs of Love Sprouts Photography had some more personal advice to offer: "Organize your house - spring cleaning can start early without interruptions. Hang out with your kids - they won't be little forever. It is okay to panic/worry, but this will pass. And as weird as it sounds, plan a vacation. Having something to look forward to after this madness, might ease some of that mental stress."
To sum this all up; the most popular messages I gathered were to focus on your own overall health, re-visit your marketing strategy, learn new things, team up with and support other businesses, shop local as much as you can and above all - stay safe and sane through all this craziness! It’s important to remember that as a person in a position to influence others that you are doing your best to share correct information from accredited health specialists during this time, and create an abundance of positive, supportive and calming energy among your networks to reassure your friends, clients and people as a general whole that we are strong, and we will see this through!
No matter what your personal & political views may be towards the outbreak we are faced with today; there is one thing that is certain: This is happening!
I am incredibly humbled to know so many amazing PEOPLE that’s focus is to simply support one another through this and offer whatever help we each can! I find from my own personal experience over the last week or so; that many I know are responding with compassion, understanding and generosity instead of what the media has shown us as a wide-spread fear and panic. Many of my friends who have had to go out to gather groceries and necessities say that it’s actually very few and far between they experience this level of panic and selfishness. Seeing the social media posts of those offering to personally deliver items in need, to those needing to isolate warms my heart… and the donations many have made to those less fortunate shows how beautiful our community really is.
Looking for ways to fill all that newfound time you have? This is a great time to start that new project/hobby you’ve been putting off because you could never ‘find the time’. Well, guess what?! Now you’ve got the time!
Much love to everyone, and don’t forget to subscribe for my upcoming weekly feature posts highlighting more of your local businesses! Are you a local business owner? Reach out to me to set up a phone/video interview to be featured! I’m going to be featuring a different business/owner on Saturday each week moving forward. If my part to play in this is offering a platform to show off your venture, products, services and passion - then hell - that’s what I’m going to do!
Check out the websites & social media of those mentioned in this post below and give them all some love!!