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Community Futures: Helping Businesses through the COVID-19 Pandemic

With businesses closing their doors in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the need for business supports is urgent. As a non-profit community economic development organization, Community Futures Central Kootenay is committed to helping businesses and communities through this crisis. Staff have been monitoring government announcements, curating business resources, hosting business round tables, expanding the business loans program, and providing free business advice to business owners.

"The impact to small businesses is hard to comprehend. At this point I think its safe to say many businesses will be severely disrupted, likely with longer term financial considerations," said Chris Bell, Chair of the Community Futures Central Kootenay Board of Directors. "Which is why we need to act quickly to support businesses. When this is over, we want to know that we did everything we could to help our communities."

With the sudden closures, business owners are grappling with difficult HR decisions, cash flow challenges, and moving their business online. The Basin Business Advisors, a team of knowledgeable business advisors located throughout the Columbia Basin, are available for free one-to-one business advice. Business owners can consult with an advisor and develop a plan specific to their business that will help them weather this pandemic.

"Business owners are overwhelmed. They don't have time to sort through the information pouring into their inboxes," said Alison Bjorkman, Basin Business Advisor Program Manager. "In the past week, we have been monitoring government announcements and getting up to speed on available resources so that we can answer questions and direct business owners to the relevant programs and services."

Community Futures is facilitating a Business Community Weekly Roundtable on COVID-19. These Zoom video conferences are open to business owners, managers, and business service providers in the Kootenay region. An accompanying Facebook group, COVID-19 Support for Kootenay Businesses, is a platform for business owners to ask questions and find resources. To attend the roundtable, email amacdonald@futures.bc.ca or visit futures.bc.ca/covid-19-support-for-businesses.

A survey conducted by Community Futures BC, the BC Chambers of Commerce, Small Business BC and the BC Economic Development Association showed that 86% of businesses surveyed in the Kootenay region had already been impacted by COVID-19. Of respondents, 73% in the Kootenay region indicated that their business has experienced significant negative impacts."

"As we learn more about the programs, subsidies, and funding streams being rolled out, we will identify the opportunities for local organizations to help fill the gaps," said Andrea Wilkey, Executive Director of Community Futures. "This is an evolving situation and we want to make sure that our region has the resources necessary for economic recovery."

The Community Futures Business Loans program is working closely with both new and existing clients to help them through this time of economic hardship. As an organization dedicated to helping communities, the Community Futures loans fund can adapt quickly to changes such as the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, visit futures.bc.ca/business-loans.

The Community Futures Small Business Training Centre continues to offer workshops, but is now delivering them online as webinars. Business owners looking to drive online sales and enhance their online presence may be interested in some upcoming workshops: Selling Online, Blog Like You Mean Business, Building Your Website with WordPress, Building Your Online Store with Shopify, Facebook for Business (beginner), and more. For a complete schedule, visit futures.bc.ca/workshop-schedule.

To find out how Community Futures can help your business, email: info@futures.bc.ca, sign-up for their newsletter, or connect on social media.