by Andrew Lockhart, Economic Development Specialist, Ignite Fredericton
I am by no means an interviewer. But when a global COVID-19 pandemic was declared, our businesses were impacted, and I wanted to hear what they had to say. From day one, we’ve been bombarded with information – from government, businesses, and the general public – on new programs for businesses, updates on the pandemic, and other changes.
This wealth of information has made it difficult to know which businesses were still open. That is why I started Locked In with Lockhart, a web series where our local businesses can share how they’ve been impacted by COVID-19, and how they’ve adapted during the pandemic. During each interview, these businesses have shared the difficulties they are facing, as well as what they’ve done to overcome these challenges. For example, some businesses are facing significant revenue loss, but continue to get up every day and work to overcome during these unprecedented times.
While each entrepreneur had their own unique stories and challenges, they also share some commonalities:
- Community support: One of the biggest reasons I started this web series was to help spread the word about our businesses in the Fredericton community. I found that often, if I spoke with someone and asked, did you know this business is open and operating right now? they often had no idea. However, once I began speaking with business owners, many shared encouraging stories about customers and community members who reached out and offered to help. For example, Betty Blanchard of My Closet Consignment accidentally double sold the same product, and was told to “hold on to the money, I’ll eventually find something else.”
- Competition? Not now: Over the past few years, I’ve read many business plans and seen many presentations. All of them included a section about competition. Every business owner is aware of their direct and indirect competitors. However, during these interviews, I’ve noted that competition was not important to these business owners. In fact, many of them were working to help the competition. For example, Adam Clawson of Red Rover developed DrinkNB, a website that has brought together the province’s craft breweries, regardless of the fact that they were competitors. Another example is Chef Naz of Caribbean Flavas, who reached out to other restaurants to ask how they were doing, saying, “We are all in this together.” It has been quite impressive to see all of these businesses put their competition aside and work together to get through these unprecedented times.
- Perseverance and positivity: We often hear about entrepreneurial perseverance, and how business owners can work through difficult times. With COVID-19, we are seeing that on a massive scale, whether through lay-offs, revenue drops, and uncertain times. Despite this, every business owner I’ve spoken with has maintained determination and more importantly, positivity. This positivity was demonstrated through their ability to adapt their business models and plans. When I interviewed Silas Robinson of Lift Personal Fitness, he said “The effort that could go into trying to make something temporary, that effort could be better focused into working on your business and your business procedures”. Many business owners had that same positive attitude in that these changes, while difficult, will lead into more efficiencies and opportunities. I believe Adam Clawson said it best: “They say when you put enough pressure and heat on a stone, you make a diamond. I think COVID-19 is the heat and pressure and I think that every business has some part of their business that is a stone they can make a diamond out of.”