Businesses across the board are counting on the Bradford Board of Trade to see them through the recovery.
The not-for-profit business-based economic driver of Bradford has had its share of woes during the COVID-19 pandemic. It has lost 15 per cent of its members during the last two years and even put a freeze on membership dues when the province’s shut-downs were at their worst.
“It was one of the many things we could do to sort of help some of these businesses through that time,” said newly-elected president Jennifer Harrison.
Seated with past-president and current public affairs and marketing manager Tina Morrison at the MiTek Grand Opening on Dec. 15 after a tour of the large new facility, the women spoke frankly about their efforts to advocate and raise awareness about local businesses during the pandemic.
One of their most successful ventures was the #BWG Takeout Challenge that spread on social media. Positioned to offer $100 gift certificates that were sponsored by businesses in the community, such as Steve Burton Contracting, diners were asked to post a picture of their food with the hashtag BWG Takeout Challenge for a chance to win the gift certificate.
Through a provincial grant, the BBT is running its Shop Local program that will end in January.
“So we’re hoping to give a final push for that,” said Morrison. Once again, shoppers are asked to share what they’ve bought locally online.
“It could be for anything. It could be for a retail store or restaurant, it could be a service, anything that you buy local. Just use the hashtag and you are entered to win in the weekly draw $100 gift certificate to a store of your choice,” she said.
The BBT has held a group event for home-based businesses to connect with other businesses in a meeting room at the Bradford West Gwillimbury Public Library and several golf tournaments at Bradford Highlands to help businesses network outside during the summer.
One of their biggest coups was to have two businesses – Uttara Khand and Hacienda Santa Teresa – on Main Street share their announcements of their grand openings together.
“Uttara Khand had a real struggle during COVID, as a lot of restaurants did, so they partnered with the restaurant two doors down from them – Hacienda Santa Teresa. Now they’re working together, they share staff and it’s a really innovative partnership between two restaurants,” Harrison said.
Another Main Street success story was that of Experience Toys and Games that took a big hit when the pandemic struck.
“It’s a physical store front, he’s got toys in there, has that downtown location. Yet he almost immediately was able to pivot to an online order and deliver locally (business). For him certainly, COVID was a challenge but there are some lessons there on how he was able to really maximize his adaptation to it,” Harrison said.
Morrison added that Addictive Design pivoted their marketing focus and began creating designs for signs and stickers for businesses.
With MiTek’s president David Cattapan offering the use of his facility for evening meetings, BBT president Harrison said it will help connect them with business owners to discuss what their challenges are and how the BBT can help.
“Those are the types of things we are really examining moving forward and saying what do we have to change and what can we bring back in the new year?” said Harrison.