We are all hopeful that the new year will bring some much-needed relief — relief from public health restrictions, from non-stop discussions of the personal and professional impact of COVID-19, and from the constant adaptations that the pandemic has forced upon us. But, we need to keep pushing as the vaccine is rolling out.

As we move into 2021, the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce encourages business owners/operators to:

1) Explore all possible streams of COVID-19 emergency financial relief. If you examined the federal programs early on, look at them again, since many eligibility requirements have changed and deadlines have been extended. This coming Thursday, January 14, 2021, alongside our partners at Vexxit, we’re hosting a free expert session to help demystify the federal Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (now available directly to tenants, also known as CERS), the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA), and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS). Click here to register for this webinar now, and be sure to share the link with your friends and colleagues (you don’t need to be a chamber member to participate).

2) Think restart, recovery, and re-invention, and be present and active online. With vaccinations underway, we all want to focus on ways to safely restore some in-person aspects of our previous lives. But, the reality is that some things will never go back to the way they were. When we talk about restart and recovery, we are really talking about new business models, meeting customers in new ways and in new places, and critical digital enhancements. The reality is that longer the pandemic goes on, the more accustomed consumers become to searching for and utilizing online capabilities. Be as convenient as you can be — no matter what industry you’re in. If you haven’t already done so:

  • Launch a website or add e-commerce capabilities to an existing site. Move forward with those actions NOW. Even if you can’t offer everything online, you may be able to offer a portion of products for sale there. Even though you may incur website hosting and transaction fees, you’ll likely also be capturing transactions that you may never have had.
  • Launch a curbside pickup program or re-deploy a staff member to handle local deliveries.
  • Be creative, bold, and brave. Put yourself (and even your willing staff members!) out there online. Think about unique ways that you can add value to your clients’ lives by delivering quality content and showcasing your authentic self and your expertise. For instance, if you’re a stylist, consider implementing an online booking application for your services (to put into place upon re-opening) if you don’t yet have one. Create educational tutorials or product recommendation videos to elevate your personal brand and promote product brands you represent and sell in your salon. The more regularly you create original and meaningful content and share it, the better it will be for your website’s rankings when searchers are looking for providers in your space.
  • Learn how to leverage social media for good. Share positive messaging that reflects your business personality and style. If your new to social media, get started with the simplest approach. Share updates about your business or plans you’re making, post your hours of operation, or details about ways to buy from you. Feature new products, introduce staff members, acknowledge your suppliers, thank your customers for their support — the sky’s the limit!
  • If you don’t know where to start, consult a professional. Consider onboarding a digital marketing/social media staff member to manage posting, comment monitoring, and replies. Although the investment may seem difficult to make right now, if you’re experiencing a decline in revenues, you may be eligible for the CEWS to help you cover a portion of that employee’s wages. Or, maybe your industry is faring very well amid COVID-19 — consider re-investing in your continued success by engaging a creative agency or consultancy to take your online presence to the next level.

3) Stay informed – You may be fatigued by pandemic news (as most of us are), but relief dollars and recovery stimulus are still flowing, both from our provincial government and from the federal government. From the recently announced $5M Dine-in Restaurant Relief Program and $1.5M support local funding to the MCC’s upcoming Coronavirus Survival Guide for Business, made possible by Western Economic Diversification Canada, support dollars for Manitoba’s business community are still in play. Stay tuned so you don’t miss anything, as we’ll keep you informed as new initiatives are launched.

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