February 2023 - Newsletter

In this issue

This month we’re all about food and festivals! Dig in and learn how we supported two food businesses through our Business Development programs.

Photo: Northern Fan Con via Facebook

Last month, Northern Fan Con Society was approved for a $5,000 Fabulous Festivals and Events grant to support their annual convention, taking place over three days in May. This event welcomes celebrities and influential people in film, books, animation and entertainment, drawing an average of 2,500 people a year to the Prince George venue.

With their first event hosted in 2015, Northern Fan Con has established itself as a key festival on Northern B.C.’s event calendar. Over the years, they have attracted more than 100 celebrity guests to Prince George, including William Shatner, Nichelle Nichols and Kevin Smith. These high-profile guests, along with workshops, competitions and activities, have attracted thousands of visitors to Prince George, benefiting the local economy year after year.

“Northern Fan Con has worked hard to establish itself a cornerstone festival for Northern B.C. and this grant funding will help us provide top-notch entertainment and educational opportunities for attendees,” Lonnie Eckardt, board president, Northern Fan Con Society. “Accessing grants and sponsorships goes a long way in helping our team provide programs that highlight literary, music, and film industry works of art and culture. Fan Con has generated millions of dollars in economic benefit for Prince George and provides residents with an opportunity to share their enthusiasm for film, books, animation, cosplay, entertainment, and all things pop culture.” 

Beyond providing a quality festival experience for guests, Northern Fan Con has developed and maintained an outreach program that provides access to the event to those who may not otherwise be able to attend.

In recent years, they have introduced a filmmaker workshop series that pairs high level industry leaders with their local, emerging counterparts. This investment in local talents provides opportunities for Northern B.C. residents and increases the number of skilled people available for work in local productions.

Northern Development’s $5,000 grant will be used to develop learning opportunities and provide entertainment for attendees. The Fabulous Festivals and Events program provides grants of $2,500 or $5,000 to unique Northern B.C. events with budgets of less than $50,000 and more than $50,000, respectively. Applications are accepted and reviewed on an on-going basis.

Photo: The Meat Doctor

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting health orders had a devastating effect on many local entrepreneurs, including The Meat Doctor in Dawson Creek.

Prior to the pandemic, this full-service catering and food truck operation was fully booked, however the loss of bookings and a non-operational food truck resulted in a drastic loss of revenue.

The Meat Doctor was able to pivot by offering a frozen meal program for seniors and partnering with a local café to offer gourmet meals, however, the owner Marsha Stewart knew she needed additional resources to sustain the business and applied to Northern Development for funding in 2021.

“The SBR program allowed us to develop and launch a professional website that now connects us to a broad customer base,” said Stewart. “Our customers can now find us online and connect with us directly through the website. Having this professional online presence has proven to be invaluable to our business.”

Through the Small Business Recovery (SBR) program, Stewart received an $8,330 rebate to work with a consultant to develop a website that allows customers to order and pay for meals online.

“We appreciate the hard work that the NDIT staff and directors do to make programs like this possible,” said Stewart. “They truly have an impact on small businesses and communities here in the north.”

The project included a market and brand analysis, the development of a brand identity and guideline document, visual assets, website development strategy and e-commerce website. The site allows The Meat Doctor to achieve online sales and book event tickets.

All photos: Walhaschindig

In June, Walhaschindig will return for its fifth year and first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The event aims to provide a platform for local musicians to share their talents with festival-goers for a fun, one-day event while also sharing the community’s history.

To assist with the costs, including paying musicians and advertising, the Friends of Walhachin Society successfully applied to Northern Development’s Fabulous Festivals and Events program for a $2,500 grant.

“Northern Development’s grant makes it possible for our small society to host this event,” said Assu Nydam, president, Friends of Walhachin Society. “Walhaschindig results in economic benefits to  accommodators and restaurateurs, supporting local jobs  and bringing visitors to our tiny community.”

Walhaschindig is synonymous with Walhachin through its uniqueness. The celebration brings tourists from across B.C. to appreciate the area’s rich history and honour its talent. Guided tours of the Walhachin Soldiers Memorial Hall and Museum and cenotaph are provided, allowing visitors to further understand the significance of the town’s early settlement.

Walhaschindig’s distinctive flair makes it a prime candidate for Northern Development’s Fabulous Festivals and Events program. The grant program was established to support unique festivals and events in central and northern B.C. that contribute to service sector revenues in the local economy and support tourism. Projects undertaken through this program aim to improve the sustainability and expansion of hosting capacity and improve quality of life in the community.

Photo: Lac La Hache Bakery via Facebook

In July 2019, Lac La Hache Bakery applied and was approved for an $11,025 rebate through Northern Development’s former Wildfire Recovery Rebate program (now included in the Small Business Recovery Consulting Rebate program).

The $14,700 project included working closely with a professional consultant to increase sales, optimize operations at the front-end of the bakery and develop a business strategy. Soon after the completion of the consulting project, Lac La Hache Bakery saw in increase in retail sales, which helped them weather the challenging economic climate at the time in the Cariboo.

“One of the longer term goals of the project was to help us improve and strengthen our business and to make us more resilient for future economic downturns,” said Yvette Betz, owner, Lac La Hache Bakery. “I really do believe with the information we have now we can move forward with confidence. We also know now where to turn when we need advice.”

Improvements made to the front-end of the bakery, including the introduction of new POS equipment, helped the bakery realize a 32 per cent increase in retail sales by the end of the year.

Receiving professional support for their decades-old business provided the husband-and-wife ownership team with the confidence to take a two-week vacation and staff with the tools to competently handle the bakery.

Small and medium sized businesses in an array of industries are eligible to apply to the Small Business Recovery Consulting Rebate program. Up to $30,000 is available to a maximum of 85 per cent of the eligible project business. Applications are accepted and reviewed on a continuous basis.

Through the Fabulous Festivals and Events funding program, Northern Development supports a number of unique events each year in its region. See below for a list of those who have received funding for 2023 and when their event is.