Catherine Davies is the Sales and Events Manager for Songhees Events & Catering, one of several businesses owned by Songhees Nation as part of the Songhees Economic Development Corporation. Songhees Events & Catering offers conference and meeting spaces with full-service catering on and off site, the Gallery Café and the Songhees Food Truck. Their catering team is 80% Indigenous with a focus on mentorship and teaching for Indigenous youth.
How is Songhees Events & Catering coping through the pandemic?
These are unprecedented times and much like many other businesses we have been taking it week by week, sometimes even day by day. Announcements and situations have been changing daily and as such the team has focused on staying flexible and ready to pivot.
Our company is also part of a bigger picture for Songhees Nation, and at the beginning of the pandemic the main focus was on how Songhees Events & Catering could support the community. As such, the team was part of a task force that put together grocery boxes that were delivered to all band members, through support from Songhees Nation.
In addition to supporting Songhees community, the management team have been working with other local businesses on various community driven projects. These include working with Topsoil to prep our Rooftop Garden and updating our website with support from Animikii. This will offer local indigenous artists a place to sell their work through our soon-to-be online Gallery Café store. In doing all of these projects, our hope is to be ready to open as soon as it is safe to do so, and provide a stable business for staff to return to.
How has the crisis affected your business, and how do you anticipate it will continue to affect it?
As part of the events industry we have obviously felt a major impact to the business. With large gatherings postponed for the foreseeable future, the team has had to look at new ways to offer their services. The He’Was Hall which hosts gatherings of up to 1,000 people will need to be reimagined, as well as the other larger meeting spaces in the building.
The Songhees Gallery Café located inside the centre has had to temporarily close; however, we hope to see this open during phase 2, albeit in a very different way, including making it mobile by participating in the Esquimalt Farmers Market.
Our off-site catering continues to be able to offer meal deliveries and we hope to have our Food Truck, which was scheduled to open this May, in operation by June 1st. We expect a slower start to the season, but with a busy and local spot, we hope to be able to service the local community.
What advice are you giving yourself and your team for riding this out?
Stay the course, this troubling time will end, and we will be stronger for it. If you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed reach out. We care and are there for you. If you need more then a friend to talk things out there are resources for you.
What is the opportunity in the challenge for you and your business?
The opportunity is to think outside the box, how can we pivot to meet the challenge? Finding new business opportunities that we can carry into the future beyond COVID-19. This also an opportunity to work on projects that we would not have otherwise had the opportunity to do.
What advice have you applied or are you applying from previous experiences coping through crises?
Knowing that we are resilient, we take strength through connections with our families, community, friends and colleagues.
What are your resources right now? Do you have a mentor supporting you, peer group, books you read?
We are truly fortunate to work with a great team and to be able to do much of our work from home. We meet once or twice a week as well as staying connected as we work on projects. We are each other’s support team and cheerleaders.
Local associations and groups have also been great supports for the team including the Greater Victoria Chamber, Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, Destination Greater Victoria and of course all our local suppliers and farmers who ensure the supply is still available.