For Mary Bradshaw, the pandemic meant shutting down her 23-year-old business that makes and sells cookies to big companies like Second Cup and Chapters. They weren’t open, so they no longer needed its cooking.
Bradshaw turned his love of business and cooking into Nightingale Pie Co., launched in May 2021, which makes pies from scratch.
Another entrepreneur, Catrina Coppolino, saw the opportunity to enter the frozen meal delivery business, with a focus on local ingredients, eco-friendly practices and return to the community. Some of the proceeds from each sale go to organizations such as SafeSpace, Anova, and Ark Aid Mission.
These are just two of the companies that are working with the London Small Business Center this year, looking to get help as another year of pandemic inspires entrepreneurs to turn their passions into profits.
Each January, the London Small Business Center prepares for an influx of entrepreneurs and aspiring small businesses who turn to it for advice and help, looking for a fresh start as the new year approaches.
This year is no different, despite a surge in COVID-19 cases and two years of continuing uncertainty, said Steve Pellarin, the center’s executive director.
Help with ‘business optimization’
“Every January we see a slight increase in the number of people who come in, try to start a new business and try to set up their existing business,” Pellarin said.
“It could be anything from someone wanting to revisit their entire marketing strategy, or crunching their numbers at the end of the calendar year and realized profitability wasn’t what they hoped it would be. Or people come in and They want a sounding board, a second opinion. It boils down to, they want to make more money and they’re trying to figure out how. ”
COVID has led people who already have companies seeking help to pivot towards something that could work in the midst of closures and remote work.
“Many people are also looking for more clarity about what some of the government’s services and programs are, they’re not sure what their next step is, and they’re coming to ask us for assistance,” Pellarin said.
People are being pushed or pulled into entrepreneurship, he said. In good times, they are drawn to the promise of more money, fueled by ambition. In downturns – or, apparently, global pandemics – they are being pushed to start businesses out of necessity.
“These are people trying to improve their position in life and looking for new opportunities. They want to have more control over their work-life balance, a little more control over their financial destiny.”
The pandemic, and things that are rapidly changing online, have made it easy for people to consider taking a secondary hobbies or hobby and consider making it a primary income, Pellarin said, although he adds that it’s more. difficult than it seems.
“We see many people who may have been temporarily out of place or downsized and see an opportunity to increase the hours they are getting from their employer or to replace them completely.”
Food-related activities are also strong, he said. “It was strong before COVID and it has remained strong the whole time.”
“Trying to change the narrative”
For Coppolino, whose Umbrella Kitchen offers home-delivered, locally sourced frozen meals, customizable and in compostable and recyclable packaging, the pandemic has led her into a grocery-related business because it is “pandemic-proof. “.
“I’m trying to change the narrative. Home-cooked food doesn’t have to be difficult. I want to make things easier for everyone and I want to help people the way I know I can,” she said.
To those wishing to start a new business, especially during the pandemic, Coppolino recommends “a lot of research” and knowing the regulations that accompany the sector in which you want to enter. The Small Business Center helped her overcome some of these obstacles.
“When it comes to starting a new business, there are a lot more hurdles you have to overcome. In terms of New Year’s resolutions, be flexible. The world is changing so much. Literally, every two weeks, there is a new restriction. , a new variant, a new change coming. If you’re too stuck on “this is how it will be”, you won’t get far, “Coppolino said.
Bradshaw, who has been running his own business for 23 years, is getting help with a loan application, as well as marketing and payroll.
“Even if you know some of these things, it’s nice that you remember it,” she said. “As a small business owner, you can get so busy with daily work that you forget that the other parts are so important too.”