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Managing your Small Business during COVID-19


Small businesses form the backbone of our economy in BC, representing 98 per cent of all businesses and employing 57 per cent of all private sector employees.  These businesses have a significant impact on the overall Canadian economy.

In 2020 small businesses were forced to discard their long-term plans and quickly shift to accommodate an unprecedented landscape. Business models were cast aside and companies pivoted in so many ways.  By the end of 2020, the Canadian economy had experienced nearly a full year of COVID-19, and businesses were adapting to the new reality by shifting to online sales, reducing hours, laying off staff, applying for government funding or seeking rent relief.

A 2021 Statistics Canada survey of small businesses across Canada identified these major changes:

Impact of COVID-19 on small businesses in Canada, first quarter of 2021
[StatCan COVID-19: data to insights for a Better Canada]

  • Small businesses shift to increase online sales capabilities
  • Small businesses expect a decrease in sales and profitability
  • Small businesses more likely to have experienced a drop in revenue in 2020
  • Smaller businesses less likely to adopt technologies such as collaboration tools and cloud solutions
  • Smaller businesses less likely to be able to take on more debt
  • Smaller businesses less likely to provide employee support such as sick leave and additional time off during COVID-19

Operating your Small Business in BC during COVID-19

Small Business BC has resources, tools and services to support your small business during COVID-19.
Restart Planning & Strategies including
market research, strategy planning and more resources:

  • customer habits have changed during covid-19
    • Canadian Ecommerce sales have doubled during the pandemic – Businesses should look to increase their online presence, bolster delivery options and make it easier for customers to shop online
    • More consumers are embracing frugality as a choice — More effort, in the form of discounts, deals and payment plans, should be made
  • brand marketing through the Covid-19 pandemic
    consumer habits have profoundly changed, with customers staying home, and obeying social distancing directives — customers will appreciate businesses who take current events into account, and match their product offering/messaging to reflect the new normal – empathy is valued, along with transparent messaging

Health and Safety Information for Businesses Operating during COVID-19

WorkSafe BC – Small Business

Protocols that provide guidance to employers in small businesses, COVID-19 safety plans and additional resources that explain: understanding COVID-19, controlling the risk of COVID-19 transmission, resolving concerns about unsafe work

  • Assistance preparing COVID-19 Safety Plan
    This tool will guide you through a six-step process to help you create your plan including the policies, guidelines, and procedures you have put in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Provincial Health Officer – Orders & Notices

How to Safely Reopen your Business

Buying and selling personal protective equipment during COVID-19

Information on the main types of PPE, Considerations when buying personal protective equipment, Finding personal protective equipment

Financial Support for your Small Business

Federal Government of Canada Financial Support

Managing your business during COVID-19: Financial support, loans and access to credit (Industry Canada, Government of Canada)
Financial support, loans and access to credit, including:

  • CEBA (Canada Emergency Business Account)
    Interest-free loans for small businesses and not-for-profits
  • HASCAP (Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program)
    Low-interest loans to cover operational needs for hard-hit businesses
  • CERS (Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy)
    Rent and mortgage support for qualifying organizations affected by COVID‑19
  • CEWS (Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy)
    Help for businesses to keep or rehire employees
  • BCAP (Business Credit Availability Program)
    Credit to help cover operating costs due to COVID‑19
  • RRRF (Regional Relief and Recovery Fund – Community Futures Stream) fund supports small and medium size businesses that have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic: loans of up to $60,000. RRRF includes three streams:

Province of British Columbia Financial Support

Economic supports for businesses (Province of British Columbia)

  • Launch Online Grant Program
    funding to B.C.-based business to create an online shop and/or improve their e-commerce experience to attract new local customers and expand to new markets. The grant will pay for up to 75% of eligible expenses, up to a maximum of $7,500 per business.

Bill relief

Flexible payment plans and other supports for businesses:

  • BC Hydro is providing residential and commercial customers the option to arrange flexible payment plans
  • FortisBC is offering bill deferrals and interest free repayment schedules to impacted business clients
  • ICBC customers on a monthly Autoplan payment plan, who are facing financial challenges due to COVID-19, can defer their payment for up to 90 days with no penalty

Support for Entrepreneurs in Canada

  • Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) Government of Canadathe only bank dedicated to entrepreneurs in Canada:
    EDC Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) Guarantee
    Up to $6.25 million to cover rent, payroll and other operating costs caused by the current crisis; available until or before June 2021

Looking to learn from successful technology entrepreneurs? See these programs from InnovateBC:

Digital Economy: Rapid Response + Resiliency Program (DER3)

For small-medium sized businesses that are considering entering or expanding in the digital economy -DER3 provides:

  • personalized advisory services to assess needs, recommend tools and solutions toward appropriate technology adoption, and guidance on the implementation.
  • resource materials, best practices and tools needed to increase business capacity, expand into new markets or opportunities, and respond to physical restrictions associated with COVID-19 workplace requirements.

Eligibility: less than 500 employees and based in one of these six regions:

  • Greater Victoria
  • Central Island, Northern Island, Sunshine Coast & Gulf Islands
  • Okanagan Valley
  • Kootenays
  • Central Interior B.C.
  • North Central B.C.

Tech Resiliency Program

Support to navigate through the impacts of COVID-19 – for small and medium sized tech business; connects you to advisors, mentors, best practices, and tools dedicated to help you maintain and grow operations, build resiliency, and prepare for a successful recovery.

Industry and Sector Resources for dealing with COVID-19

Tourism, Restaurants, Breweries, Wineries and Distillers, Hotels, BC Tech Association, Apparel & Textile Industry and more.

Some examples include:

Additional Resources

2021 Small Business Trends in BC

  • Long Term Work from Home: 2021 will likely be the year it becomes a long-term option for most businesses. Look for companies to develop policies that support staff who want to retain a work from home option. Staff will transition from temporary to more permanent work from home setups, and Zoom meetings look like they’re here to stay
  • Emergence of eCommerce: Consumers now expect businesses to serve their needs online, fueling further growth in eCommerce in 2021 and beyond
  • Increased Virtual Services: As budgets remain tight in 2021, look for this trend to continue, with business travel and in-person meetings staying online. For local businesses, the trend of offering services online will flourish with a mature marketplace of savvy consumers used to navigating the technical side of things
  • Local Focus: move toward shopping local and supporting small businesses as COVID-19 interrupted international supply chains and more people began to see the value in keeping money within their communities.  When possible, offer “Made in Canada” products and promote this offering with your community.


Franchise business during COVID-19

Want to know what is happening in BC businesses now?  Look at these business news sources: