Left: Alanah with a Love Haida Gwaii banner.
Alanah Mountifield is the community champion for Love Haida Gwaii and the economic development manager with Misty Isles Economic Development Society. Through these roles, Alanah sees how supporting locally owned businesses benefits the entire community. In mid-December we took some time to learn more about Alanah’s experiences being the Love Haida Gwaii community champion.
Q: First, can you describe what you do as community champion for Love Haida Gwaii?
A: In a nutshell, I provide a service to our business community. As Love Haida Gwaii community champion I am the local point of contact for new and existing members of the program. I promote the program with local businesses (although that’s easy as the program sells itself) and I promote local business through the program. I offer in person assistance with profiles, follow up and trouble-shooting and I provide free ongoing marketing for member businesses.
Q: How long have you been involved with Love Haida Gwaii? What changes have you observed over that time?
A: I joined the Misty Isles Economic Development Society and took on the Love Haida Gwaii portfolio in the fall of 2017. The program was already very well used on Haida Gwaii when I took on the champion role and it has continued to grow steadily with approximately 10 new businesses in each of the following years.
Q: There are more than 170 unique Love Haida Gwaii businesses spread from Old Masset in the north to Sandspit, 125 kilometers to the south. This is an incredible amount of participation from Haida Gwaii businesses! Why do you think Love Haida Gwaii grew to be this big?
A: The success of the Love Haida Gwaii Program can be attributed to two important factors in my opinion. The first factor is that there was and is a need for this program here. It’s a way for Haida Gwaii business to be on the digital map and to have a presence on the World Wide Web. The value of the program was obvious to small business people on the islands; it’s a place to show the world all the great things we have and do here in Haida Gwaii. The second important factor of the early success of Love Haida Gwaii was the passion of my predecessors. Mary Lou Schroeder and Kathy James were instrumental in community outreach to spread the word about this program throughout Haida Gwaii. The lore is that these two passionate, community minded women went door-to-door to offer this program to our local businesses in all of the island communities.
Q: What kind of feedback have you received about visitors using Love Haida Gwaii to discover businesses they may not have visited otherwise?
A: Anecdotally, I’ve heard comments from visitors that the Love Haida Gwaii website was informative and helpful. I’ve also heard comments from visitors and local users like: “I didn’t know that business existed here”, and my favorite, “What a wonderful, heartwarming write-up”. The Love Haida Gwaii site is very well used as indicated by Google Analytics as well as a local exit survey project underway here on Haida Gwaii throughout 2019. Early data from the survey project show that Love Haida Gwaii is in the top three resources regularly used by visitors – that’s pretty good exposure for local business.
Q: What do you consider to be Love Haida Gwaii’s most valuable feature?
A: The most valuable feature of the Love Haida Gwaii program is its fee structure. It makes a presence on the web attainable for everyone. Many small business owners don’t have the time or resources to figure out how to create a stand-alone website for their business and for those folks, this program is invaluable. The other value that Love Haida Gwaii offers almost accidentally is community. The program offers many perks and benefits to its members but it also provides avenues for businesses to network and communicate with one-another.
Q: Why is it important for people (locals and visitors) on Haida Gwaii to support local businesses?
A: Local businesses are incredibly important to their home communities. A small business usually arises out of a need for access to a product or service or from the passion of a person with a vision. In any case, local businesses constantly give back to their communities by providing wares, offering employment, making donations to local causes and by shopping in and supporting other local businesses in their communities. If there was a question about the intangible value a local business brings to a community, simply imagine the community without the businesses in it; the picture then becomes quite clear. Businesses that have been operating for many years become fixtures in Haida Gwaii communities as do the owners and staff and very often know their clientele personally. My experience has been that local businesses often go above and beyond to help me out.