'This bag helped a small business': Okanagan-designed cloth bag has raised enough money to start handing out grants

Bag biz ready to help others

An Okanagan non-profit called ‘This Bag Helps’ started less than two months ago but they have already raised enough funds to start giving out small business micro grants to those struggling through this pandemic.

“We are so thankful to all those who have bought a bag and supported the cause, and are elated to be able to start our grant program around the second week of June,” said Susie Gay who is the brainchild behind This Bag Helps.

“We hope to keep the momentum going so we can help more small businesses adapt, and possibly even thrive, amidst the pandemic. If just one per cent of Canadians purchased a bag, we could raise close to $10 million for small businesses and charities in these challenging times.”

Back in March, Gay was laying awake worrying about the impact COVID was going to have on her family’s seasonal tourism-based businesses, Antlers Surf lifestyle apparel and Penticton Paddle Surf rentals. She told Castanet at the time that she knew there were so many businesses facing the same concerns.

That’s when she came up with the idea of selling organic cotton tote bags with 100 per cent of proceeds to help local small businesses affected by COVID-19.

“We announced our grant program on Instagram, and almost immediately applications started flooding in, which I think speaks to the huge need,” Gay said.

“I was reading the applications with my daughter, who is eight years old, and I said to her ‘I just want to give grants to everyone, but what if we get hundreds of applications and have sold enough bags for just a handful of grants?'” she said.

“My daughter replied, ‘Can people just donate without buying a bag?’ I looked at her and thought ‘That’s brilliant, of course.’ So we added the option to donate on our site. We know this is a tough time for everyone, so now if people want to be a part of the cause, they can donate just $5 and still make a difference.”

Since starting this journey, the feedback from the community has been heartwarming, she said.

One local business who bought bags called the initiative “a beacon of hope for everyone.”

“I got a lovely message from a local business yesterday evening. It reads: ‘This is a wonderful project. I have made the difficult decision to close my business and it’s been heartbreaking. I’d love to support you, to help other small businesses weather the storm.’”

Gay noted that everyone is struggling and even then business owners want to help each other and are looking out for each other.

“This Bag Helps was started with one aim, to support small businesses that make up the framework of our communities,” she said.

The owners of a local optometry clinic bought a bunch of bags for their staff to carry their scrubs in.

"I was in search of canvas bags that they can bring their scrubs to and from work in. That’s when I came across your bags,” the email reads. “Love these and being a newly started small business ourselves, love the whole message and support behind them! Thank you for what you are doing and can’t wait for our team to use the bags.”

To keep the momentum of helping each other out going, Gay has now designed a This Shirt Helped A Small Business to add to the cause. Check out the designs on the website.

Nominate a deserving small business for the grants @thisbaghelps or email [email protected] Businesses can also apply directly here.

They are ready to start handing out grants in mid-June. 

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