New health restrictions introduced earlier this month in Manitoba have meant new complications for businesses, but a local group is working together to prevent the COVID blues.
For the second week in a row, the organizers of the Brandon and Area Small Business Town Hall Facebook group held a town hall over online networking platform Zoom to connect business owners facing challenges with representatives of government and other advocacy groups.
Among the 20 participants on this week’s town hall were Mayor Rick Chrest, Brandon Chamber of Commerce president Spencer Day and Jordan Sisson, representing the government of Manitoba.
According to organizers Jamie Willey, Heather Day, Amber White, Kori Gordon and Carmen Fisher, the group’s purpose is to facilitate open and positive discussion between local businesses and elected officials during the pandemic as well as to provide a support network where business owners can call upon their colleagues for support, advice and knowledge.
The inclusion of people like Chrest and Day shows the more than 330 members of the Facebook group that they’re being listened to, said White, who co-owns the local Anytime Fitness franchise as well as Champion Digital Photography.
"What we wanted to do with these officials, here, is to let them know as business owners we understand the health complications as well as the economic complications and we’re more looking for an active plan for what reopening looks like," said Willey, who owns Studio 78 Lofts and Mint Magazine. "Are we looking at two weeks (of shutdowns), are we looking at a month, are we looking at four months? That makes a big difference for when we can reopen or if we can reopen."
While these business owners know the COVID-19 situation is fluid and ever-changing, they’re looking to get whatever answers they can because the uncertainty hanging in the air is difficult to deal with.
"That’s why we invited those gentlemen to attend, so they can post directly on our Facebook site," said Heather Day, who owns Daydreams Esthetics Spa and H & Co. Academy. "Not everyone has a million resources. We’re looking for one common place that people can find answers or support."
"We don’t want to be part of the problem, we want to be part of the solution," said Gordon, who owns Natural Elements Wellness Centre. "Both from the perspective of people’s mental health and the economy. Basically, what we were wanting is ... some kind of indication from the government that they’re looking at something to prevent this from happening again so we’re not doing a yo-yo thing where we’re closed for a month, back open again and then closed again in two weeks."
The group encourages other local business owners to join and participate, but White stressed that they want the group to be a place of respectful and positive discussion.
More than just a place to find answers, the women have also found a network of like-minded people going through similar challenges.
"We’re kind of our own little support in a way because we connected with each other on a regular basis throughout the day and if we’re having a down time, we usually send that out to the group, have our little meltdown and then the others step up and support and get us through it," Heather said.
While the group isn’t sure on what schedule the town halls will continue, they intend to keep holding them and to rotate through a variety of guests to help answer questions.
» Twitter: @ColinSlark