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Small Businesses Are Dying. Here's My 2022 Personal Pledge.

I walked along main street for the first time since the Holiday break. It’s a midtown stretch of Yonge Street, an economic artery of Toronto and a barometer of what’s happening to our main street restaurants and retailers across the city.

What I saw was more of the same, and worse:

  • Boarded-up storefronts. Both the travel agency and fashion store were early economic victims of the pandemic.

  • The corner restaurant is hiring for every position possible. While food costs are rising.

  • ‘Retirement sale’ signage in what's normally a carefully-curated window. You can shop the sale items on Instagram, which I’m sure is safer, easier and less depressing for the store owner.

  • 3 businesses had their front windows smashed and temporarily boarded up. Let’s hope insurance pays up quickly. The retailers are losing sales - and now heat - during cold weather alerts.

  • For some bizarre reason, the new cannabis shop (aren’t they all cannabis shops in Toronto these days?) is running a ‘submit your dog's photo’ contest.

Stats on small business closures are few and varied. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business reported last January that more than 200,000 Canadian businesses (or 1 in 6) could close permanently due to COVID in 2021. This is on top of the 58,000 businesses that became inactive in 2020.

1 in 6 Canadian businesses could close permanently due to COVID

On a personal note, Covid has decimated my formerly fast-growing tech-ed business, Codezilla Kids. We teach kids how to code at 40+ schools in Toronto and were forecast to hit a million in revenue by 2023. Although we quickly transitioned to online learning in the early days of the pandemic, parents have grown weary of screens, kids are yearning for in-person activities and schools are still off-limits to extracurriculars. As a result, sales that originally dropped by -70% have now dwindled to just a handful.

Yet I consider myself ‘lucky’ because I don't have a monthly lease and my staff are part-time university students. My small business didn’t qualify for CERB benefits -- and rightly so, as we had no fixed costs to absorb -- but it’s still a financially and emotionally tough time. I can only imagine the stress and anxiety of being a retailer or restaurant that’s financially committed to regular payroll and lease payments.

While much of this is beyond our control (except for getting triple vaxxed and wearing a mask indoors) I was raised to believe that if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. So as a fellow small business owner who's been painfully trying to survive - and forced to reinvent and rebrand myself in 2021 - here's my personal pledge to other small business owners in 2022.

My Personal Pledge To Small Business In 2022

  1. I pledge to purchase from a new small business every week, for the next 52 weeks. Online reviews and social media selfies are nice, but they're not the same as money in the bank.

  2. I pledge to support fledgling small business owners and new entrepreneurs with advice and mentorship. This includes workshops, training and mentoring programs.

I’m determined to start the year strong, so here’s my January round up for entrepreneurial support and mentoring:

  • 2-day Marketing Plan workshop to help small businesses get organized for the new year (free with PWYC donation to the Daily Bread Food Bank)

  • Monthly ‘Ask Me Anything’ Q&A session (free with PWYC donation to the Daily Bread Food Bank)

  • Monthly Mentoring via Enterprise Toronto, City of Toronto Small Business Centres: I just applied and submitted my application to be matched with new entrepreneurs via this City-run program

While the volunteer support comes naturally (I have a long history of teaching and community involvement) weekly shopping from a new retailer or service provider won’t be easy for me. (What?!? A woman who doesn't like shopping, shoes, spas or salons?).

As an award-winning marketer who's #1 goal is to make YOU go shopping, I can quickly rattle a list of reasons why I shouldn't do this...

  • I value experiences over stuff.

  • I’ve been trying to cut back on consumption, be it drink, food or material things - both for my wallet and my waistline.

  • My business savings have been steadily depleted by COVID while prices are rising -- this is the worst financial time for me to pledge a weekly shopping purchase.

However, my kids and I need to eat, drink, dress and be entertained -- and I’ll be damned if I’m going to rely on Amazon and big box stores for this.

This is my small business pledge for 2022. Maybe this resonates with you, too. If so, let’s commit to shopping more frequently at main street shops, restaurants and local small businesses. Health, happiness and prosperity for all in 2022.

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