Small Business Week – October 2020 - Newsletter

In this issue

Northern Development at a glance


approved through Small Business Recovery Rebate program in 2020


approved through Northern Industries Innovation Fund in 2020


approved through Competitiveness Consulting Rebate Program in 2020


approved through Forestry Affected Business program in 2020


business development projects since 2008


granted through business development projects since 2008

Sugar Cane Archaeology receives $47,421 rebate to purchase a portable X-Ray Fluorescence machine

Northern Development’s Northern Industries Innovation Fund was established to increase the competitiveness of Northern B.C. businesses and to support diversification efforts. In 2020, Sugar Cane Archaeology applied for a $47,271 rebate through this program as they sought to expand their services by purchasing a portable X-Ray Fluorescence machine (pXRF) and renovating their existing archaeology space to accommodate the new service.

Sugar Cane Archaeology is owned by Williams Lake First Nation and they employ six members full time and 12 members part time. This project provides members of the Nation with more job opportunities and inspires technological innovation in the geological science field while responding to an industry need for geochemical services.

The pXRF machine resting on a table at the Williams Lake First Nation offices.
Photo: Northern Development

 “pXRF is a portable machine that provides a laboratory-like elemental analysis in the field,” said Whitney Spearing, archaeologist and project manager, Sugar Cane Archaeology.  “The machine uses a process that displaces electrons from their atomic orbital positions. This displacement releases an x-ray that is characteristic of a specific element; which returns to the detector. This characteristic x-ray is registered by the detector in the pXRF, and then the machine characterizes the energies by element. The entire process takes mere seconds, allowing for quick identification of the material being analyzed.”

Investing in pXRF allows Williams Lake First Nation to develop their services outside the forestry industry. It also provides innovative training opportunities for members and contributes to sustainable growth for the community by increasing revenue streams. This technology allows Sugarcane Archaeology to create comprehensive mineral maps which are sought after by those in resource management, mining, archaeology and local universities.

“The regional availability of a pXRF capable of such detailed analysis, is an incredible opportunity to explore facets of First Nations culture and heritage on the landscape,” explained Spearing. “With this equipment, we are able to conduct analysis in the field, instead of disrupting sensitive heritage sites.”

The project included the purchasing of the pXRF, three days of training and renovations to their existing laboratory space to accommodate the new equipment. Renovations included removing walls, relocating electrical, painting, bathroom upgrades and new flooring.

Funding for this recently completed project came from the Northern Industries Innovation Fund. This funding program provides small and medium sized businesses with a rebate of up to $50,000 to support innovative projects that increase competitiveness and/or lead to diversification. This fund has been fully allocated for 2020 and will resume accepting project applications in 2021.

$15,856 rebate from Northern Development provides strong start to Williams Lake brewery

On February 18, 2020 Northern Development received an application from Fox Mountain Brewing for $15,856 through its Competitiveness Consulting Rebate program to hire two professional consulting companies to help coordinate the brewery’s build, equipment placing for optimal production, training and the development of standard operating procedures. Nine days after receiving the application, Northern Development approved the project.

“We appreciated Northern Development’s timely response to our funding application, especially as we were working hard to finalize our business before opening our brewery and taproom to the public,” said David Reedman, president, Fox Mountain Brewing. “Receiving financial assistance to hire two professional consulting companies early in our operations helps set us up for success.”

Fox Mountain Brewing
Photo: Northern Development

Through their project application, Fox Mountain Brewing was able to hire two unique professional consultants to support their development, including a specialized consultant for craft breweries. This consultant developed standard operating procedures for a variety of tasks that the brewery regularly performs, including beer transfer and carbonation, cleaning and sanitizing and keg washing and filling. The other consultant supported them during startup and developed a preventative maintenance list and schedule. These guidelines and procedures allowed Fox Mountain Brewing to develop strong habits at the beginning of their operations to produce quality beer efficiently and to help prevent costly equipment failures in the future.

Attracting a brew pub to Williams Lake was a tactic identified in the Williams Lake Economic Strategy, developed in 2018. This report was prepared to identify opportunities for economic development that would reflect the city’s vision for future prosperity, including the attraction of residents, visitors and businesses. One of the actions suggested to help achieve this was to work on attracting agri-food wholesale and retail businesses to Williams Lake such as a brew pub.

“Fox Mountain Brewing is proud to be Williams Lake’s first brewery and we’re grateful for the incredible support we’ve received from residents and visitors,” continued Reedman. “We know Williams Lake is a great place to live and we’re pleased to be contributing to this community and adding to its appeal.”

Fox Mountain Brewing
Photo: Northern Development

Since opening in summer 2020, Fox Mountain Brewing has already made an economic difference in Williams Lake. They created and filled 16 new positions, up from a single employee before June, and revenues for the first month of operation exceeded projections. In addition, they have sold more beer than initially forecast.

Funding for this project came from Northern Development’s Competitiveness Consulting Rebate program. This program provides up to $30,000 as a rebate to small and medium sized businesses that are engaged in select industries for projects that focus on increased productivity, new or incremental revenues, profitability and/or job creation.

On June 18, 2020, Northern Development announced funding for 11 positions through the Regional Business Liaison program. This program encourages Community Futures Development Corporations, Chambers of Commerce, local governments, community economic development entities, or regional destination marketing organizations to hire local talent to provide business support services for the region.

Continue reading for a Q+A  about this program with Regional Business Liaisons, Erik Sagmoen (Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako) and Youness Bourhim (Fort Nelson & District Chamber of Commerce).

Question: Where are you currently based and what area are you serving in your current role?

ES: My name is Erik Sagmoen and I’m based in Burns Lake at the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako. I’m serving the District’s area from Smithers to Vanderhoof with a stronger focus on the eastern side. 

YB: My name is Youness Bourhim, I am currently the regional business liaison for the Fort Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce, representing the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality.

Q: As a Regional Business Liaison, what type of work do you do day-to-day?  

ES: I meet with small business owners and non-profit directors to see how I can help them navigate COVID-19 and find funding and business advice. I stay up-to-date on all the resources that are available. 

YB: Currently we are asking businesses a series of phone questions to diagnose their current economic state, to build relationships, and direct them to government grant programs or any other support.

Q: What are you hoping to achieve during your 12-month contract as a Regional Business Liaison?

ES: I hope that many of the businesses and non-profits I provide support to come out of COVID-19 stronger than they were before.

YB: From my first diagnosis of the businesses state in the region, I noticed that the support needs of businesses differ from one area to another. My goal is to act as a support for all businesses that are affected by COVID-19. I want to support any business that needs help in the Northern Rockies region. I use my 10 years of experience in the business development sector to support them during and after COVID-19.

Q: What unique challenges are businesses in your region facing?

ES: Many businesses in my area are having trouble finding and keeping employees. This was an issue before COVID-19.

YB: Even before COVID-19 there were many challenges for businesses. Business in the region already faced economic hardship due to a loss of the forest industry and decline in the natural gas industry. COVID-19 only made this worse and as in other parts of the province, tourism was drastically impacted. In addition we face unique challenges as a rural, remote community.

Q: Have you noticed any particular strengths that the business community demonstrated pre-COVID-19 that are serving entrepreneurs well now?

ES: The community has always been very supportive of local people which is a big strength that has been serving businesses very well through COVID-19.

YB: Well, I’m new to the Chamber of Commerce and to the Region as well, but the first thing I noticed since I’ve started working is that the Chamber and Local Government have been working together closely for a long time in terms of finding solutions for local businesses.  The biggest strength in the local business community is their dedication & resiliency. Working together to find solutions.

Q: What can businesses expect if they meet with you?

ES: An in-depth interview followed by referrals and recommendations to the appropriate resources for them.

YB: I am here to listen actively to all businesses owners in order to understand their needs and their challenges and then help them better to solve their problems.

Q: What kind of feedback are you receiving from the businesses you work with? Are there any resources that many people are finding particularly helpful?

ES: Many businesses I work with are doing well because of community support and CEBA/RRRF. But some small businesses that were hit hard by COVID-19 don’t meet the minimum eligibility criteria (e.g., revenue, employees, etc) for some programs and that is frustrating for all of us!

YB: Businesses during this time need support to understand and access government and provincial subsidies and keep up with the changes to the various programs. People have really appreciated the contact, knowing someone is trying to help and that we will do all we can to support them. 

Q: What are some successes you are seeing in the way businesses are adapting to the times?

ES: I’ve seen a lot of businesses have success going online. As a small step into the online world, maintaining a Facebook page can go a long way.

YB: I think that companies know that it is necessary to be flexible to adapt to this new generation which is based on technology and on an online presence.  We are seeing some innovative ideas and admire the creativity and strength of local business.  

Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of the work you do?

ES: It’s been very rewarding to travel the region and see the interesting work that people do. Whether that’s running a gym, operating a ski hill or launching an equine therapy program.

YB: I enjoy helping others and sharing my skills, so the most rewarding aspect for me is be turning a business problem into a solution.

Q: Do you have any suggestions for new and/or established businesses?

ES: For new and established businesses alike, keep in touch with your customers and make sure your employees feel safe in the workplace.

YB: I suggest for all new businesses to work hand-to-hand with all local stakeholders, this will help them grow together and build not only their business but also the economy of their communities.

In April 2020, Northern Development launched the Small Business Recovery (SBR) Consulting Rebate to support businesses that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The program is designed to help businesses in a wide array of industries access the professional support they need to weather the current economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

Sue Bertrand, owner, Sue’s Hair Upstairs.
Photo: Northern Development

Less than two months after SBR Consulting Rebate was announced, Sue’s Hair Upstairs, a Dawson Creek-based hair salon, successfully applied for a $9,690 rebate for an $11,400 project that would increase the online presence for the home-based business and allow them to sell products online.

“In essence, my business had gone from a growing operation that provided for myself and my family with a sustainable income stream to being an ever-growing financial burden,” said Sue Bertrand, owner, Sue’s Hair Upstairs. “As I operate my business out of my home, I had to defer my mortgage to cut operational costs. In addition, I had a large quantity of professional products with a limited shelf life, so I needed to reach a wider range of people so that the products didn’t expire and go to waste.”

The solution was for Sue’s Hair Upstairs to hire an expert creative agency to develop an e-commerce website for the company. This new platform enabled the business to generate some revenue through product sales while their doors were closed to the public. In addition, the sales system used on the website was integrated with the physical point of sale system in the salon to universalize payment processing and to save processing fees.

Sue with a client in the salon prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Photo: Northern Development

“Being able to reach a broader customer base that spreads across Canada, this new website has opened up new doors for product sales that will continue to grow over time,” explained Bertrand. “Now I’m able to connect not just in person but digitally to many others that don’t live in Dawson Creek that are not aware of not only my products but also my experience in the hair industry.”

It is expected that this project will help Sue’s Hair Upstairs create new full- and part-time positions and increase revenue generation by $51,000 over two years.

The SBR Consulting Rebate reimburses small and medium sized businesses for contracted consulting services. A rebate of up to 85 per cent, to a maximum of $25,000 can be recovered for the cost of hiring a consultant to assist with business efforts. This funding program supports projects that help transition businesses to e-commerce platforms, just as Sue’s Hair Upstairs did, alternative modes of operation, business repositioning for a long-term return to profitability or improvements to operations and systems.

Sue Bertrand
Photo: Northern Development

Finance, online presence and marketing top three topics

Northern Development’s partnership with Small Business BC has continued for another year. This collaboration allows Northern BC businesses that are part of Love Northern BC or connected with their local Community Futures office to access unlimited premier webinars at no cost through Small Business BC’s online platform.

Plaid Friday is November 27!

Every year, Love Northern BC takes part in a Plaid Friday campaign. This campaign is designed to support local independent business owners through a variety of Plaid Friday celebrations. The goal of Plaid Friday is  is to have consumers spend their dollars locally, to have some fun wearing plaid and to celebrate the diversity and creativity of local and independent businesses in their communities.

Plaid Friday 2020 will look different this year. To keep everyone safe and healthy, our community champions will not be able to hold the same tradeshows, parades and other public events that draw large groups. Instead, we will have to come up with creative solutions – keep an eye out for virtual Plaid Friday celebrations, contests and more in your community.