A new program aimed at helping Squamish businesses with their recovery from closures and other impacts related to COVID-19 is now available.
The District of Squamish, in partnership with entrepreneur accelerator Spring Activator and the not-for-profit Discovery Foundation — and supported by the Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Squamish, and the Downtown Squamish BIA — announced the launch of the free Squamish Business Resilience Program last week. The online program helps businesses by providing tools and resources.
"We recognize the various challenges that our local business community is experiencing this year in the wake of COVID-19," said Mayor Karen Elliott in a news release about the program. "This program acts as a guidebook to recovery that can be implemented by Squamish businesses across various industry sectors and it is our hope that by making this program accessible in our community that we are providing another option to help smooth the path to recovery. "
Over four modules, which participants can finish at their own pace, business owners are guided to, among other things, review their current situation, make a new plan, and learn about funding plans.
Local businesses that register have access to the program for six months.
There's also an online forum, called Spring Online Community Platform, where local businesses can share information, experiences, and resources.
How is business doing?
A recent District survey that received 88 local business responses found that 39% of respondents said that currently, business was fair or steady; 39% said business was slow or poor while 23% said that business was good or increasing.
"That is definitely a shift from where it was previous years," said the District's economic development officer, Kate Mulligan.
For 2018/2019, 64% of respondents to a similar survey said business was good or increasing.
In the latest survey, when asked: "What is the estimated impact of COVID-19 on your company’s overall financial
performance for 2020?" 47% said it would have a "high impact, financial performance is expected to be significantly under budget." Whereas, 33% said they expected it would have a moderate impact while 21% said would have a low impact.
Owners or managers from Squamish retail, restaurant, fitness, tech, and transportation businesses participated in the survey, according to Mulligan.
Spring Activator founder and CEO, Keith Ippel says Canada is the "tale of two cities" in terms of how businesses are coping with COVID-19 overall.
"There are a lot of businesses out there that are struggling. Sometimes we can see that across sectors like tourism, and hospitality, and some other businesses are obviously individually struggling and it is a hard time for a lot of businesses. There are, of course, other businesses, say in the health care space or other sectors that are actually thriving," he said. "The hard part is that for the businesses that are struggling, there's just not a lot of time to respond in order to save the business and put it back on its feet again."
Ippel says that for some businesses, the struggle is trying to find new ways to sell their products and services in the pandemic era, for some it is and finding new ways to deliver those offerings. For some businesses, finding new products to sell to recreate sales is what they are finding challenging.
"Adapting how they sell, what they sell and where they sell it," he said.
He said expects businesses will have to adapt or pivot two to four times throughout the current global recession.
"That is one of the biggest reasons we created the Business Resilience Program to create a set of resources, and support that entrepreneurs can continue to go back to over the course of the recession, to not only make them resilient today, but to ensure that over the course of the recession they are not only resilient but come out thriving on the other side," he said. **
Mulligan said what has been good to see is how local businesses are pivoting and coming together.
"It has been quite impressive how the community comes together in these times and how many programs have been put out there by different levels of government and different organizations, but also just industries themselves," she said. "Everything from our breweries being able to deliver beer or ciders to your door to e-commerce really taking off."
Ultimately, what is critical is that Squamish consumers shop locally at this time, Mulligan added.
"The more local economy you can support, the better."
Go to squamish.ca to register or find out more about the Squamish Business Resilience Program.
**Please note, this story has been corrected since it was first posted. Due to a copy-editing error, this quote was attributed to Mulligan, but should have been attributed to Ippel.