'They are the foundation': Victoria puts local shops in the spotlight for Small Business Month
Small businesses are a major player in B.C.’s economy, including here in the Capital Region, so this month the province is highlighting the vital role the sector plays in all of our lives.
Each October, the B.C. government celebrates "Small Business Month" in recognition of the contributions of small business owners and entrepreneurs to our local economy and community.
On Friday, Victoria’s mayor and local business representatives gathered at the newly opened Neighbourly Café & Grocer at 2031 Store St. to celebrate the region's small businesses.
"This month is a chance to celebrate their resilience, their ingenuity and what they contribute to our community," said Jeff Bray, executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association (DVBA) at Friday's event.
Victoria’s Chamber of Commerce has 1,400 members, 85 per cent of which are small businesses with fewer than 10 employees, according to Bruce Williams, CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce.
"They are the foundation, the backbone, not only of this economy, but the national economy across Canada," Williams said as he enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate made fresh at the café.
Many local businesses have had to innovate and adapt during the pandemic by adding online products, services or expanding their retail space to accommodate COVID-19 capacity restrictions implemented by the province.
Ongoing challenges persist for small business though, such as difficulty finding employees, rising costs and supply chain issues.
Businesses like the Neighbourly Café & Grocer not only rely on local companies to make and supply many of the products they sell, but also on locals to come in and buy those products.
"I think it brings more value to its city," said Karlie Scheifele, club manager of KWENCH, a Victoria small business collective that includes the Neighbourly Café & Grocer.
"You’re all supporting each other in the local economy. So for us, that’s something we’re really passionate about," she said.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps praised businesses that have had the courage to open during these difficult times on Friday.
"Neighbourly, and all the other businesses that have opened during the pandemic, are just so welcomed as part of our recovery landscape, and as part of our landscape in Victoria for the future," she said.
The Victoria Chamber of Commerce, the DVBA and the mayor all encourage Victorians to continue supporting local when making purchasing decisions.