Numerous small and medium-scale enterprises or SMEs have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has unleashed a devastating financial crisis around the world. With government health measures focused at stopping further transmission of infections, SMEs are struggling to overcome challenges like reduced revenues, increased technology needs, debts, supply chain disruptions, poor liquidity, retaining their employees, and accessing emergency funds released by the government.
In the last 2 months alone, a vast majority of SMEs have completely pivoted their business models to survive the coronavirus pandemic. Many of them have come up with innovative models with virtual services and online product sales being on the platter now as well. Many others have started producing new goods or offering new services to their clients. Several SMEs are also trying to do their bit for their communities and helping frontline workers who are helping the population beat the pandemic. In this article, we’ll look at a few SMEs in the Ontario Chamber Network, who’ve adapted their operating business models, displayed inspiring leadership, and diverted their resources to show their support for local communities, customers, and employees.
CertaPro Painters offers residential and commercial painting services in London. The company generally meets its clients in-person for project discussions. Due to social distancing restrictions, they now conduct virtual meets with their customers using WhatsApp or FaceTime. Their clients give them a virtual home tour and provide information on what changes they’re looking for. After a productive project discussion, the team at CertaPro Painters come up with a formal proposal, which they then discuss with their client over a Zoom call.
Tej Sandhu’s Merit Brewing happens to be a bottle shop, restaurant, online retailer, and brewery in downtown Hamilton that had to shut down their taproom due to the pandemic. Before the pandemic broke out, Merit Brewing’s online store generally delivered 30+ shipments every week in Ontario. Due to the lockdown, Merit Brewing invested aggressively in their e-commerce and delivery platform, which is paying off rich dividends. Hamiltonians are now increasingly ordering from their online website. The company is also diversifying its offerings by including food products on its website. Thanks to the changes on its website and the list of offerings, the company now delivers over three hundred orders every week to immensely satisfied customers.
PRODUCING NEW PRODUCTS
Small Batch Distillers in Beamsville modified their absinthe, gin, and vodka production lines to create disinfectants and hand sanitizer products. Owned by Geoff Dillion, the company has provided free hand sanitizers to local food banks, shelters, municipalities, care homes, paramedics, hospitals, police, and frontline workers. Customers who purchase the company’s beverages online are also given a free bottle of hand sanitizer. So far, they’ve made and donated over 50000 bottles of hand sanitizer to front-line workers battling the pandemic.
Michael Waterson and Sarah Waterson, the owners of Kinsip in Prince Edward County, temporarily ceased their production of alcoholic products like cassis, whisky, and gin, to produce hand sanitizer. These products have been donated for free to frontline and healthcare workers. Customers who use the company’s website to place their orders are also given free hand sanitizers. Kinsip is now working alongside organizations in need of large shipments of hand sanitizers
PIVOTING TO NEW SERVICES
Russ Salamon is a professional photographer who has been working with local businesses in Southwest Ontario, Woodstock, Tillsonburg, and London for more than 30 years. While his specialization is architectural and product photography, and business portraits, he has expanded his roster of services to meet the needs of his customers. For example, he is working with the Tillsonburg District Chamber of Commerce to visually showcase how local businesses are retooling and revamping their operations and product offerings to overcome the pandemic. Russ strictly adheres to social distancing norms while capturing the business portraits of his entrepreneur clients.
Radical Gardens is a Timmins-based restaurant that also manages a food truck and catering business. It also sells a variety of exotic and organic mushrooms online. With the pandemic breaking loose earlier this year, the company started providing customers with take-out and delivery options. CEO and owner Brianna Humphrey recognized the need for these services and has revamped the company’s app and website to allow customers to order products online. The ‘Apocalyptic Bodega’ offering on the company’s website allows customers to purchase products like cereal, sugar, butter, charcuterie boxes, and produce boxes in bulk.
GIVING BACK TO THE COMMUNITY
Inkblot Therapy happens to be an online Toronto-based video platform, which offers confidential and secure mental health support to people in urgent need of it. Founded back in 2015, it uses smart matching tech to connect clients with mental health experts, based on their individual preferences and needs. Numerous North American companies are using Inkblot’s services to support and strengthen their employees’ mental health. Ever since the coronavirus pandemic broke out, platform access charges have been completely waived off to make sure that every single person in need of assistance can access the help they need without any barriers.
Based out of Hamilton, the Other Bird is a hospitality group, which has been operational since 2010. It has over 6 restaurants spread out across Ontario along with a reputed boutique hotel. It delivered lunches to frontline workers and nurses in many local hospitals and food banks back when coronavirus first broke out. They have successfully delivered more than 300 meals while receiving grateful donations from numerous organizations, which have helped them reach more people who required their help.
Although COVID-19 seemed like an undefeatable monster at first, Ontario’s SMEs stepped up to the task and successfully fought back. Many of them have come up with new services and products and retooled existing facilities and operations to produce critical supplies. Aside from pivoting their company business models, a lot of them are also making efforts to help frontline workers combat the pandemic in their own way.
Canadian SMEs have also suffered a lot of damage over the last few months, which has left them exhausted and in need of help themselves. Given the crucial role they have to play in the healthy growth of the economy, the government must make every effort to help them out. Although no one’s really sure about whether we’re nearing the end of this crisis or not and how deep its impact is going to be on the economy, society, and the world at large, one point is crystal clear – this crisis has been an excellent learning opportunity for SMEs all over Canada.