Seven grants are being given out in seven days to help local small businesses struggling through the pandemic.
That is what a new South Okanagan non-profit called ‘This Bag Helps’ has been able to kick off this week thanks to people across B.C. buying their canvas bags and sponsoring grants, said founders Susie and Bryan Gay who started their charity less than two months ago.
Grants between $500 and $1,000 are being handed out this week.
One of the small businesses to receive some funds is Penticton’s own Busy Beans Play Cafe.
“We are so excited and very appreciative. This grant could not have come at a better time,” said Busy Beans owner Tracey Greenwood.
“This year has been extremely difficult as new business owners. We have been pushed to the limit in so many ways. First the flood, which shut us down after just a day and half of opening, leaving us closed for over a three-month period,” she said.
“Then a break-in happened in November and now a pandemic [that shut us down.] Wow, who can say they’ve been through all that in the first year of business?”
But the Busy Beans team is hopeful.
“We would like our Busy Beans families to know we are trying to re open and get things back up and running. We are in such a tough spot with the COVID 19 protocols, but are doing our best to ensure everyone’s safety as well as our own,” said Greenwood.
Busy Beans hopes to re-open July 15.
“The grant will help us complete all the safety implements we need to run our businesses. We want to ensure our families that we will be running a very clean and sanitized play place with some different option available to our families.”
This Bag Helps has struck a chord with so many across B.C., with hundreds of bags purchased and others stepping up to sponsor a micro-grant.
Busy Beans’ grant is 100 per cent sponsored by Summerland Credit Union, which is a big supporter of small businesses and entrepreneurship.
Other businesses have stepped up to help too, added co-founder Susie Gray.
“Jeff Kruck from Investors Group in Penticton also sponsored a full grant. Our grant to Alpine Roots Farm is all because of his generous donation.”
Alpine Roots Farm, based in Kelowna, is a chemical and pesticide free farm selling microgreens, edible flowers and some other specialty crops direct to restaurants. They lost all their customers instantly when restaurants and bars closed. The grant money will help pay for expensive seed purchases made before COVID hit. It was also help diversify the farm, said Alpine Roots’ Eoin Carey.
“I can’t express the impact this is having. Between business sponsorships, and businesses buying one or 50 bags, we have been able to help four additional struggling businesses,” said Susie. “This makes us excited about the collective impact we could make as communities, standing together and supporting each other. We’re giving out seven grants this week, but perhaps we can keep it going, and give out 10 or 100. Dare to dream, right?”
The non-profit has become a real family cause, with her eight-year-old daughter helping every step of the way including talking to grant recipients and giving them words of encouragement. The positivity just keeps growing.
“McBain-Kootenay Insurance called saying they heard about the initiative and wanted to support the cause, and bought 50 bags to give out to their small business clients,” said Susie. “I was so blown away by the support.”
Another This Bag Helps grant recipient is Chickpeace Zero Waste Refillery in Kelowna. They were supposed to open their refillery in May.
Chickpeace is all about helping local and global communities to reduce packing waste through conscious consumerism. They offer bulk food and lifestyle products as well as a commercial kitchen for rent in the back of the refillery. They are now hoping to open at the end of June.
“As a zero waste bulk refill store, the pandemic has drastically changed our business model,” said founder Allisha Heidt.
She will use the grant funds to help more people learn about their business, and the ways they are trying to reduce single use plastics and remove barriers towards living a zero waste lifestyle.
When Susie asked for the community to nominate a business for a grant, they received more than 100 applications.
“That just shows the need out there and how important it is that we keep helping,” said Susie.
Businesses who want to make a larger contribution can sponsor full grants and can have the choice of selecting the recipient. For more information go to thisbag.ca.