Canada | Small business

14 ways to help small businesses survive during COVID-19

By offering support during this time, you could literally save someone’s livelihood

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Man delivering food by bike in cityMany local restaurants that didn’t have takeout and delivery now offer those options allowing patrons to support them (Getty Images/mixetto)

As small enterprises struggle to stay the course during the coronavirus outbreak, many business groups and others are suggesting ways that patrons can help keep them afloat.

“If you’re a small hair or nail salon trying to hang on during this difficult time, the future of your business may be in jeopardy,” explains Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). So offering support can provide “a really helpful [signal] to the business owner that brighter days are around the corner and they should try to stick it out.” 

Here are some ideas.

1) Buy gift cards: As Jonathan Alward, director of provincial affairs at CFIB, explains, this could help a retailer or other small business stay alive and keep their staff working and paid as well. 

2) Make a reservation—and keep aapointments: Consider booking a dinner at a local restaurant for a few months down the road, says Kelly. You can also pay for cancelled appointments with hairdressers, cleaners and so on. 

3) Ask how you can help: Lending a hand to a small operator who is already grappling with the financial fallout of a closure or semi-closure can make a big difference.

4) Buy now, pick up later: If you were planning to buy a manufactured product such as an electronic device or book, call to see if you can pay for it now and pick it up at a later date, suggests the Burlington Chamber of Commerce.

5) Keep an earlier order: Kelly says he heard “a great example about a bar mitzvah that was cancelled, and the family that had booked the caterer still took delivery of all the food and then had it delivered to all of their friends.”

6) Get takeout: Many local restaurants that didn’t have takeout and delivery now offer those options—and some patrons are stepping up. “They need [us] to survive. I really want to help them,” explained one customer who picked up lunch at the downtown location of Edmonton’s Filistix. “I love this place.”

7) Consider other products for takeout or delivery: For example, Windsor’s Wagner Orchards & Estate Winery delivers not only wine but pies and other products. Other companies sell frozen meals, preserves, etc. that can be stored in your freezer.

8) Take credit, not a refund: As Adriano Ciotoli of WindsorEats points out, “If you’ve purchased tickets for an event, consider taking a credit instead of a refund while businesses work to put a solid plan in place.”

9) Pay with plastic: Bypass cash payment with debit or credit cards—and use the contactless “tap” feature whenever possible.

10) Share small business posts: This will help small businesses stay connected and maintain their visibility, even if have had to shut down temporarily.

11) Buy or renew a membership: If you have a subscription or a membership to a local business that provides a service (gyms/fitness studios, dance lessons, and so on), don’t cancel it because you aren’t attending at the moment, says Ciotoli. “Many businesses depend on that support to keep their doors open and pay their employees.” 

12) Subscribe to news publications: Some news organizations are lifting paywalls on content to make sure the public gets access to information about what is happening. As one article puts it, “By subscribing even to just one newspaper or media outlet that you trust, you can help support these people.”   

13) Take online lessons: As jazz singer Beverly Taft points out, musicians such as guitarist Nathan Hiltz offer online lessons as well as concerts, and some have merchandise and recordings for purchase.   

14) Donate to food banks: Food Banks Canada has made a special $150 million donation request as a direct result of COVID-19. Consider making a donation yourself. 

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