April 5, 2020
John Brassard, MP Barrie-Innisfil
Doug Shipley, MP Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte
Andrea Khanjin, MPP Barrie-Innisfil
Hon. Doug Downey, Attorney General, Ontario, MPP Barrie – Springwater – Oro-Medonte
You may know me as a past president of the Barrie Chamber of Commerce, and you may be aware I am a business coach. However you may not be aware that my business is entirely focused on small businesses in start-up or growth mode. Some of them are preparing to establish their businesses while they are all in the process of growing those businesses.
I don’t have to tell you that entrepreneurs are the backbone of the Canadian economy – nor to point out the high percentage of start-ups that have been incubated in Simcoe County.
Although we appreciate the fast and collaborative response that the federal and provincial governments have made to support us, there is a group of entrepreneurs who is being left out.
These are the early stage businesses with in-person or retail businesses who have taken on debt with insignificant revenue as they prepare or begin to operate their businesses (leasing space, buying equipment and scaling supplies) to grow awareness of their businesses and their client base.
I am hearing from colleagues, suppliers and those in our community that many of the people I serve (and for that matter that the Barrie Chamber, the Small Business Centre, CFDCs and the Henry Bernick Entrepreneurial Centre serve) have a limited time of viability for their businesses.
They may not qualify for recent aid, including the CERB benefit (if they have some revenue) or the Small Business Loan (without having had payroll as yet) to help them pay their rent for their business location, their loans or the equipment and systems they need for their business. They may have had a financial cushion to weather normal conditions and ramp up over their first months but of course this abrupt cessation of business is unprecedented.
Here are some examples:
- Retail stores and services who have made commitments to storefronts and have completed (or are completing expensive leaseholds, but whose revenue is significantly reduced or non-existent:
- g. Professional practitioners who have established retail locations and purchased equipment and leaseholds to assess patients, or manufacture medically-related products.
- Small food manufacturers who have leased space, bought equipment and prepared to be open to the public. They may be able to manage take-out or food delivery, however online solutions requiring different product forms (e.g. frozen alternatives) could be developed but require funds to purchase the supplies to launch this alternative.
- Retail services that are deemed non-essential may qualify for the CERB benefit, but their retail and loan costs are high, and early stage businesses do not qualify for the Small Business Loan.
- Other practitioners who provide hands-on services – who cannot be hands on and who are scrambling to maintain their practice in a different way, to obtain revenue. They also may need funding to make a shift to online or remote services possible.
- Entrepreneurs who receive a small income from their businesses, or support in the form of pensions or other minimal financial support – that now disqualify themselves from CERB:
- Retirees from full-time work who have started businesses and don’t qualify for CERB because they receive a pension. But a pension won’t cover business rent, or food.
- Entrepreneurs who are single parents who are trying to manage a business with small revenues.
Anyone who has committed to a business with leased space or equipment in the past year does not have the past revenue (or longevity) to qualify for loans through BDC. They are a poor risk for traditional banks to obtain additional credit and they don’t have the payroll qualification to apply for the Small Business Loan recently announced.
They were willing to take the risk to start-up a business – but they are about to fail. Some have estimated that they can hold out for a month, or two. No more.
I believe the number of entrepreneurs in this category is significant – but hidden. Their failure will have implications for their families, for their landlords, their suppliers and for their future. Especially since they will be personally paying for this failure for years.
Ultimately, I believe we will lose a generation of entrepreneurs who will be risk-averse in the future.
I urge that our provincial and federal governments adapt their support to allow these entrepreneurs to continue to operate, to pay their significant start-up debt and/or to help them pivot to online distribution.
On the federal level, I suggest that they could qualify for the small business loan by removing the payroll stipulation; and developing an alternative option for the CERB benefit (as happens with Employment Insurance) to scale payment and allow for entrepreneurs who can earn marginal revenue (without risking physical distancing) and keep their businesses alive for our recovery.
By allowing them to prevent absolute failure we not only contain a spillover effect to their suppliers, we can maintain a group of entrepreneurs who have made the investments and taken the initial risk to establish a business and who will employ many Canadians in the future.
Patricia Dent, Business Mentor, Grow Vantage Inc.