B.C. small businesses still finding ways to win
Provincial group honours six companies for thriving on the fly despite pandemic
The husband-and-wife team that owns and operates Sea to Sky Sourdough BReD in Whistler's Creekside scrambled when COVID-19 hit, to pivot from a potential customer base of three million tourists to the about 12,000 residents who make the area their permanent home.
“Our whole business model relied on the visitors we get each year,” said Ed Tatton, who like his wife grew up in England. “So it was devastating when they closed the mountain. Natasha and I had sold our house in the U.K. Everything is on the line for us. If the business fails, then it would essentially take us years to recover.”
The vegan and organic BReD was a week away from celebrating its first anniversary when Whistler/ Blackcomb shut down for the first time in March of 2020.
“I think when you've got that driving force behind you — we've borrowed a lot of money and we've invested a lot of money ourselves — we just have to make it work,” Tatton said.
The Tattons' bakery was one of six Small Business B.C. award winners in the under-35 category for youth entrepreneur.
Like other small-business people, they had to move fast to upgrade their website, to adapt, to come up with creative new ways of getting bread to customers, and to attract new customers. And, like a lot of small-business owners, the Tattons said they were incredibly grateful for the federal and provincial grants available during COVID-19.
A record number of people voted to nominate a small business in their community for outstanding service or products, a sign of support for local entrepreneurs who endured many challenges this past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Small Business B.C. said.
“I think it's clear from the overwhelming number of nominations and the more than 50,000 public votes that the spirit of support for small business runs strong in our province,” Tom Conway, CEO of Small Business B.C., said.
“This has been the most difficult year for small business owners and now their communities are standing behind them, recognizing what they've been through and celebrating their success. We saw an overwhelming show of support from friends, families and communities coming forward to honour the small businesses they love.” Joining the Tattons were:
■ Jada Creations, Terrace, solopreneur category: Owned and operated by founder Jaimie Davis, a Gitxsan & Nisga'a artist, who sells Indigenous wearable art.
■ Matidor, Vancouver, innovation: Co-founders Vincent Lam's and Sean Huang's company simplifies the complex world of software services. “The ultimate location visualization and data collaboration tool for businesses, with the only software solution of its kind that has built-in GIS functionality,” according to the judges.
■ Sisters Sage, Vancouver, community impact: Lynn-Marie and Melissa-Rae Angus, the sisters behind Indigenous handcrafted wellness and self-care products inspired by their culture and traditions, “give out so much inspiration to others who need some personal empowerment.”
■ Bigfoot Donuts, Courtenay, premier's people's choice: Lyndsey Bell and Jay Valeri are on a mission to reinvent the humble doughnut.
■ Charcuterie Vancouver, immigrant entrepreneur: Sadaf Rahimi arrived in Vancouver from Afghanistan, via a short stay in Russia, and established her business in 2019, elevating special events and occasions with custom-made charcuterie boards, tables and boxes.
“At first it was super-difficult,” Rahimi said of running a new business that catered gatherings. “We totally shut down in March and April (or 2020).
By May, she was coming up with new ideas, including buying a 3D printer and targeting special occasions, such as birthdays and Mother's Day, instead of preparing tables for 50 to 200 people at weddings and Christmas parties.
“I had to pivot. Instead of doing boards and tables like we were doing beforehand, we ended up doing individual boxes. … All of a sudden it just boomed.”