Small Businesses Pivot to Join the Fight Against COVID-19

Small Businesses Pivot to Join the Fight Against COVID-19

Small businesses in Vancouver are demonstrating hope, compassion and resilience in the face of COVID-19 by rallying to support each other, and to protect the public and slow the spread of the pandemic.

While weathering COVID-19’s effects on their own revenues, small businesses are activating tight-knit networks, collaborating with competitors, sharing insights and supporting one other through one of the most difficult times in recent history.

Vancouver distilleries and breweries like Odd Society Spirits, Parallel 49 Brewing, Long Table Distillery and others have shifted focus from spirits to sanitizers, leveraging their facilities to produce medical-grade hand sanitizers to non-profits and the public. Odd Society Spirits’ WHO-approved recipe, for example, incorporates 70% ethanol, aloe vera, glycerin and botanicals, though shortages of aloe and glycerin threaten to impede future batches. Despite financial and supply concerns, they are forging ahead, with requests for like-minded community supporters to donate personal-sized spray bottles and glycerin.

“We had the means to do something right now that could positively impact our community,” said Gordon Glanz, founder and head distiller at Odd Society Spirits. “We’ve already produced 100 [litres] of sanitizer allocated for donation to not-for-profit and frontline organizations, and are keen to ramp up production.”

In the design sector, circular economy business Novo Textiles has also pivoted from its usual production of cushions, dog beds and other products made from second-use textiles. The company has now begun manufacturing surgical masks, wipeable medical pillows and respirator masks with the goal of helping to meet increased demands for these crucial supplies. Though the company has never made respirator masks, they rapidly leveraged overseas contacts to order a machine that can make 100,000 N95 respirator masks per day and restructured their zero-waste factory to accommodate the new addition. With its arrival and the procurement of a Class One Medical Device license, they’re positioned to be the first Canadian company to manufacture N95 masks.

Meanwhile, cleantech company Portable Electric is shifting the use of its VOLTstack electric power stations to provide life-saving battery electric power for healthcare and emergency services. The company’s clean energy products  are typically used by the film industry and outdoor events like farmers markets and music festivals, which have demanding energy requirements. These specs make them well-suited to supporting emergency medical requirements — a single VOLTstack is capable of powering multiple ventilators for 24 hours. By providing energy for critical medical appliances, Portable Electric is helping the medical community power hospital operations in temporary triage centres, pop-up clinics and mobile testing clinics.

The restaurant industry has also come to the table to support one another and the broader community. Independent public relations agency owner Shelley McArthur Everett worked with her restaurant clients to launch Breaking Bread, a grassroots initiative that has rapidly expanded Canada-wide with more than 370 participating eateries (read about the impetus behind this national program in our interview with Shelley).

Forced to shut its doors due to COVID-19 and acting on the knowledge that fellow restauranteurs and servers may lose income for the foreseeable future, Fraserhood restaurant Say Mercy! initiated the Staff Meal program to retain and feed its staff. Under this program, the restaurant offers a menu of $10-and-under meals for order or pickup, with an additional $2 donation to the Vancouver Food Bank tagged onto each order.

The news blog Vancouver is Awesome also joined the cause with Take Home Vancouver, a comprehensive guide to restaurant takeout, delivery and curbside pickup options throughout the city.

All these examples exemplify resilience in action, and these businesses are doing us all proud. Let’s support by spending at local businesses!

Is your business is also looking for opportunities to pivot or provide supplies to the COVID-19 effort?

The City of Vancouver has just debuted Give a Hand Vancouver, an initiative dedicated to assess and streamline the offers it is receiving from businesses and other organizations.

The Government of British Columbia has also launched the COVID-19 Supply Hub, where businesses may donate or supply the priority products listed on the site, or offer other services and products. The COVID-19 Supply Hub is another example of a swift public–private collaboration, this time between the BC health authorities and the tech community.