Home Regular Contributors John Liston Supporting our Entrepreneurs – Why it Matters More than Ever

Supporting our Entrepreneurs – Why it Matters More than Ever

John Liston.

Alberta’s entrepreneurs have been sponsoring local events, charities and associations for generations. As we work through 2021, we must remember to help them out where we can.

As we approach the first anniversary of the arrival of COVID-19 into Alberta on March 5, the changes it has wrought on us are still visible. Edmonton’s Whyte Ave, typically busy regardless of the season, lies bare. The restaurants that have re-opened are still at a limited capacity. Doan’s Vietnamese is gone, as is the Army & Navy. Lillo’s Music and the Avenue Clothing both shut down after 32 and 56 years respectively on the iconic avenue. Countless franchises owned by local entrepreneurs are closed or gone. They are not alone. Something similar could be written about most cities and towns in our province.

At the start of 2021 Main Street in Edmonton is hurting.

Obviously, businesses understand why some restrictions had to be done. As Edmontonians we came together, and to really get out of this we must do so again.

The vast majority of businesses who have survived this far have seen massive reductions in revenue and may have had to make the difficult decision to let go of staff, cancel planned expansion, or expose themselves to further risk by changing and restructuring their business.

These are not changes most entrepreneurs want to make. Every business owner in the province is doing all they can to prevent it. Hiring an employee is a point of pride and having to let them go knowing the uncertainty that it creates for that individual is heartbreaking. Amazingly, the business owners we talk to may be hurting, but they first talk about their people and the concern for their financial and mental wellbeing.

As a result, business owners across Alberta are struggling to scrape together any cash they can to keep as many of their employees as possible while lockdown measures benefit big-box stores and online juggernauts like Amazon.

All of this paints a very bleak picture; but, from the challenges before us, opportunity to strengthen our community abounds. Support local, whether that be in your groceries, clothes, or anything else.

Local business owners have had a rough year, and there is still a lot of tunnel before we reach the light at the end. Help them in their quest to retain workers and support their communities by supporting their business over the Waltons and Bezos’ of the world.

In 2016, Whitbie’s Fish and Chips in Lethbridge had its back against the wall with the owner about to sell the shop when a hungover customer came in for some fries and halibut. As a result of that customer’s review, the line up out of the door to get some of owner Ernie McMillan’s halibut took well over an hour for multiple weeks. He quickly ramped up staffing, and nearly five years later Whitbie’s is still a popular spot in Lethbridge.

Local franchises are very similar. Because of our entrepreneurs, restaurants like Boston Pizzas or Jugo Juice have become staples in our province for years. These local business leaders are hurting too.

As Albertans and Edmontonians, we can change that.

Buying local, supporting local, and promoting local is something every one of us has the capacity to do, and when life returns to normal, Alberta’s business owners will be happy to resume supporting their communities.