Starting a business is hard. Launching one during a pandemic is a challenge. Building and sustaining growth during lockdowns is nearly impossible.
That is our story at The UPS Store in Brooklin.
After several years of thinking about going into business for ourselves, for me and my wife 2020 was the right time, despite it being the worst possible moment for the economy.
Enter the Whitby Chamber of Commerce.
Joining the Chamber was on our long “to-do” list in the early days of signing contracts, speaking with lawyers, approving store designs and so much more. It seemed like yet another necessary task, until we made the first call.
Before you start thinking the Chamber offered a magic wand to make business easy, that did not happen. After all, the Chamber was struggling through the pandemic as well. What Natalie, Lorna and the team offered was enthusiasm. They celebrated our decision to take a risk.
In those early days, focusing on expenses, documents and deadlines was gruelling and necessary. Cheerleaders were in short supply, except at the Chamber. The team welcomed us, provided an overview of the available services and supports for new members, and then said, “We’re here when you need us.”
Do not underestimate the value of a cheerleader, especially one boasting deep connections within the community, other businesses and political leaders. Imagine what it is like to be a new business owner joining a Chamber of Commerce event for the first time. It can feel daunting, even intimidating, until you are introduced to everyone by a Chamber representative. Suddenly, you are surrounded by new colleagues who want to know more about you and your new venture.
Business is competitive but entrepreneurism is collegial. Everyone knows what you are going through, even if their business is competing with yours to win customers. The Chamber fosters that positive atmosphere, which is simultaneously eye-opening and reassuring for new members.
Our Grand Opening ceremony was delayed by the pandemic. When the circumstances were right, we set a date and told Lorna “We’re ready.” By that time, we had joined a few Java Jolt and Chamber on Tap events, and had Natalie and others pay us little visits to say hello. We felt confident that the Chamber’s team knew us and “had our backs.”
We planned very few of the details for our Grand Opening as the Chamber’s team kicked into high gear to ensure the event’s success. It was a half-hour celebration where business owners and political leaders met with our family, along with senior leaders from The UPS Store Canada’s head office.
Our company’s vice president pulled me aside and asked, “Who organized this?”
“The Whitby Chamber of Commerce,” I replied.
“We don’t usually see this,” he remarked adding that “very few chambers in the country do this much for new members.”
Truthfully, that was just the beginning.
Starting a business is hard. Launching and growing one during a pandemic is even harder. But our cheerleader helped make it possible. Our cheerleader continues to make it possible.