Opinion: I urge you to support your local businesses not only during Small Business Week, but also through the fall and upcoming festive season. Shop local. Dine at your favourite restaurant or try a new one. Instead of ordering something online, buy it locally. Travel again and spend a weekend at a small hotel in another community.
B.C. has weathered an incredible storm over the last 19 months, one that has hit small businesses particularly hard in communities across the province.
Business owners have worked tirelessly to keep their doors open, support their employees, and keep them and their customers safe. They have worked hard to comply with new public health orders and restrictions, often pivoting at a moment’s notice to accommodate changes during this volatile time. In short, they have kept our economy moving while carrying the uncertainty, worry and stress of the pandemic.
This Small Business Week, Oct. 18-24, I want to express my sincere gratitude for small businesses across British Columbia and to applaud their courage, resilience and perseverance as they’ve confronted challenges and overcome hurdles in their path.
We need them. These businesses offer an enormous variety of goods and services. Many of them are family-run enterprises, ones that you and your family have come to rely on over the years. Maybe it’s a café in Campbell River or a chic boutique in Vancouver. An artisan in Kimberley. Maybe it’s a garden centre in Prince George, a machinist in Fort Nelson or a notary public in Kelowna. Maybe it’s a business owned by your neighbour. Maybe it’s you, the reader.
You’ve no doubt seen firsthand the impact the pandemic has had on small businesses, particularly those in the hospitality and tourism sectors. Not knowing whether your business will survive has taken its toll on many owners, with some having to take on additional debt just to survive. Sadly, some businesses have not survived, and still others have had to curtail operations due to lack of staff.
But for every boarded-up storefront, there are scores of owners pressing on with entrepreneurial determination, striving to keep their doors open and their staff employed.
However, let me be clear. While many businesses have been resilient, it doesn’t mean they are thriving. According to a recent survey conducted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, on average, businesses believe they will need 23 months before revenues return to pre-pandemic levels. We have a ways to go.
In a past life, I was a small-business owner. I understand the immense challenges that businesses face in the best of times. The pandemic has exacerbated those challenges and uncovered new ones. It’s why, at the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, we are laser-focused on understanding our members’ needs now and in the coming months so that we can advocate effectively on their behalf.
We encourage the federal and provincial governments to work together to find ways to continue to support small businesses, whether it’s extending existing financial programs that are due to end soon, easing tax burdens or slowing down the introduction of new regulations that will add to the cost of doing business. We need to address our severe skilled labour shortage, exploring all channels from immigration policy to essential skills training that will help us grow the workforce of tomorrow, to the need for affordable housing and child care.
And while the heavy lifting will be done by governments and the business community working together, we as British Columbians also have an important role to play. I urge you to support your local businesses not only during Small Business Week, but also through the fall and upcoming festive season. Shop local. Dine at your favourite restaurant or try a new one. Instead of ordering something online, buy it locally. Travel again and spend a weekend at a small hotel in another community.
Let’s continue to take the team B.C. approach that has enabled us to navigate the pandemic to this point. That means governments, the business community and British Columbians working together to keep businesses open and our economy going. Simply put, if small businesses succeed, B.C. will succeed.
Fiona Famulak is the president and CEO of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, the largest and most broadly-based business organization in the province that represents 100 chambers of commerce and boards of trade and 36,000 businesses of every size and from every sector and region of the province.