Peter Wood, owner of Bear & Joey, has a message for new small businesses who are not eligible for wage or rent subsidies during the pandemic: head to SAVESTARTUPS.CA.
He teamed up with a colleague to create the site as a gathering place for businesses to share their stories and amplify their voices to spark legislative change.
While Federal government programs like CEWS and CERS have been critical in supporting small and medium sized business through COVID 19, a substantial number of fragile new businesses still do not qualify, nearly one year into business.
Wood’s own business, which was launched in July of 2019 is among those who don’t qualify. “In our first year,” he says, “we’ve employed over 50 people, paid taxes and have continued to operate in the same conditions as everyone else. We are not after a hand-out, we want the same support as our industry peers.”
The hospitality sector is not the only industry speaking up. Salons, pilates studios, retail boutiques have also come forward.
Wood believes that if a business can demonstrate a genuine financial commitment to their project prior to COVID 19, they should be eligible for the same government support. These fragile, younger businesses are facing the same economic conditions as their industry peers. What they don’t have is years worth of loyal clientele, nor the financial buffer of better years of trade.
Young businesses only have one shot at making a strong first impression which is nearly impossible to achieve with the reduced hours, razor thin staff, and limited offerings during the pandemic.
Over the past seven months, Wood has been working alongside restauranteur Scarlet Osbourne (El Segundo, Sechelt) in lobbying both Provincial and Federal Governments. They have spoken with 40+ businesses from here to Ontario who are experiencing this inequality.
Some of the stories they’ve heard are brutal: businesses paying $24,000 per month rent; borderline bankruptcy; retirement funds on the line.
Wood and Osbourne have been working closely with MPs Laurel Collins and Gord Johns, who have helped amplify their voices in numerous ways including an in depth mention of Victoria businesses Bear & Joey, Hey Happy Coffee and Vicious Poodle in the House of Commons.
- They have been in discussion with The Ministry of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, The Ministry of Economic Development and Other Languages.
- They have Petition e-3054 currently under the review in the House of Commons.
- They are planning to “stack” the House of Commons with continual petitions.
- Wood has emailed every MP in British Columbia multiple times to update them on their efforts including savestartups.ca.
They have also joined forces with The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) who are also pushing for this cause, and who helped increase CEWS and CERS to its current levels.
How can Island businesses participate?
Register your business at savestartups.ca
Connect with Peter Wood directly at email@example.com
Contact your local MP to bring further attention to this subject and get your business on the radar.
STORY UPDATE (December 2021):
Despite advocacy efforts by Save Startups members for the cause, Peter Wood tells Douglas they have seen no resolution.
“The three strategies that we have proposed to the government have all been shot down already,” he says. In addition to a paper and e-petition to the House of Commons, the movement asked for a request for the lowest bracket of subsidies given to industry peers, for government to adopt an industry average and apply it retroactively and for “a forward facing reporting of post COVID figures (whenever we get there) compared to figures shown during COVID, showing the true impact of the pandemic. Here we would receive a subsidy month to month moving forward.”
He’s now asking for the public’s help, requesting that people contact their local MPs and assert their support for the Save Startups campaign.