In April 2020, Northern Development launched the Small Business Recovery Consulting Rebate (SBR) program in response to the impacts of the forestry sector downturn and COVID-19 pandemic on businesses in the Trust’s service region. In less than three months, Northern Development committed more than $700,000 to 42 businesses through the program.
SBR was introduced to help businesses reduce the barrier to accessing professional expertise and recover the costs of third-party consulting projects that focused on ways to sustain the business during the current economic downturn. Eligible businesses were encouraged to apply for a rebate of up to 85 per cent of their project, to a yearly maximum of $25,000 per business.
Above: A breakdown of the project types approved through SBR.
As the Trust’s business development team reviewed applications and spoke with clients, three major project themes quickly emerged. The SBR intake closed on June 18, 2020 and 31 per cent of applicants were pursing projects regarding e-commerce and website development. Marketing strategies/market development and increasing operational efficiencies rounded out the top three themes with 26 and 21 per cent of applications falling into each respective category.
For Rebel Fit Nutrition, a Dawson Creek-based vitamin and supplement retailer, the COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact on their business’s cash flow and inventory. Sales uncertainty was at an all-time high and forced them to reduce their product order size, which subsequently increased wholesale prices and led to significantly reduced margins. Through Northern Development’s SBR program, they are developing an active online storefront to serve existing customers and gain new clientele.
“We’re so grateful to utilize Northern Development’s rebate program to help our business weather these extremely challenging economic times,” said Tyler Ollenberger, owner of Rebel Fit Nutrition. “Receiving 85 per cent of the cost of implementing an online store to serve people across Canada is a significant help that will benefit our business for years to come and help us reach our future goals. Northern Development realizes the challenges facing Northern B.C. businesses and is ready to promptly help – we were approved one week after submitting our application. This timeliness allows us to begin on our road to economic recovery.”
In Valemount, Robson Design Build is utilizing a $25,000 rebate from Northern Development to hire a business consulting firm to train and mentor Andreas Thoni, owner and chief executive officer. The economic downturn and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 has caused projects they were contracted to complete to be postponed, reducing revenue and employment opportunities for people in the Robson Valley.
“We are planning on growing and pivoting the company to do much more than building trails and bridges,” said Thoni. “After completing a $1.4 million bridge contract for Parks Canada this spring, we realized that in order to continue doing these larger scale jobs we need training in business management and contract management. There are many large construction projects coming to Valemount over the next few years that currently no local construction business has the capacity to bid on. The skills we will receive from our consultant will enable us to bid on large construction projects that would otherwise typically get awarded to companies from Edmonton, Vancouver or Kamloops.”
The introduction of SBR is just one of the ways that the Trust responded to the needs of businesses in their service region during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Learn more about SBR: https://www.northerndevelopment.bc.ca/funding-programs/business-development/small-business-recovery-consulting-rebate/