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Overcoming challenges through collaboration
Despite being physically separated due to safety measures and social-distancing practices, Nova Scotians have proven that collaboration is key to facing COVID-19. Numerous research teams have adjusted their focus to work on potential vaccinations and treatments, and neighborhoods are coming together to support one another as we face this challenge as a unit. When it comes to collaboration, the business community in Atlantic Canada is no different. Though day-to-day operations may look different for many organizations these days, local businesses are showing the importance of teamwork as they adjust to this new landscape.
Expanding on a history of community partnership
One organization leading the charge in collaboration is the Wolfville Farmer’s Market (WFM). Established in 1992, WFM has grown from a tiny parking-lot operation to a year-round market with more than 65 farmers, chefs, and artisan vendors. Manager Kelly Marie Redcliffe has been working at the market for twenty years and says the foundation of all farmer’s markets is collaboration. “Every strategic decision, every process or system of operation has a driving force of collaboration behind it,” she explains. “It is something we know how to do well, and something we cherish.”
This experience has allowed WFM to successfully transition to an online model of operations following the March announcement of a State of Emergency in Nova Scotia. Before COVID-19, the WFM team operated three weekly markets year-round, including WFM2GO, their online market. When restrictions were put into place, Redcliffe and her team quickly jumped into action, shifting their energy to hold set-up days, pack days, and promotion days in order to run things solely out of the WFM2GO platform. Now, customers can shop from over 350 products from the safety of their homes and pick up their orders at one of WFM’s community hubs.
“As a cooperative, our vendors, board, staff, and customers have all been spectacular and there is a deep sense that we are in this together,” says Redcliffe. “Our community and customers have shifted their support to the online market quickly and enthusiastically, expressing their gratitude for the ability to still get fresh and local products.”
Redcliffe says the idea of community support and teamwork goes beyond the connection between vendor and consumer. “If we want our farmers to be there for us, we need to be there for them as well,” she explains. “Farmers need people to feed, people need food. The market, be it in person or online is there to pave the way for that connection.”
Although the shift has come with its own set of challenges, Redcliffe says she is grateful for the care, kindness, and skill of all those involved in the process. “In this State of Emergency we have come together to problem solve and make decisions. I am immensely proud of our community and how we’ve worked together.”
Delivering creativity to your door
In Cape Breton the small business landscape thrives on mutual support and collaboration, so during a time when it’s easy to feel isolated and alone small business owners on the Island are facing COVID-19 setbacks together. Tara Parsons-Donovan, owner of Not Just Cakes Sweet Studio, says COVID-19 hit her business hard, taking order numbers from more than 60 a week down to around eight or nine. Because much of her business is centered around custom cakes for weddings, parties, and other special events, cancellations and social-distancing requirements have caused a serious decline for Parsons-Donovan. Despite this, the small business owner is keeping her spirits high, and says she is proud to be part of a community that supports each other through the good times and the bad.
“Before I started my business I had no idea how much small business owners supported one another in Cape Breton,” says Parsons-Donovan. “There’s always someone to talk to, and that support has only increased as we face this challenge together.” A recent collaboration with two other Cape Breton businesses has put a smile on Parsons-Donovan’s face, and cheered up many Islanders facing isolation and boredom as well.
Katie Hodder, owner and floral designer at Family HeirBlooms, had come up with the idea to offer “Bloomer Boxes,” take-home kits filled with fun activities such as themed build-your-own terrarium kits. She reached out to Parsons-Donovan who had often sold cookie-decorating kits around the holidays as well as Megan MacKenzie, owner of Brew and Bubble, to see if the fellow small-business owners were interested in working together to add even more fun to the boxes. Soon, Hodder was accepting orders for boxes filled with plant activities, baked goods, and bubble tea making kits and customers couldn’t get enough.
Parsons-Donovan says she was thrilled to be part of the project because of the joy and entertainment it brought to the community. “People want to keep busy and occupied,” she explains. “We want to do the right thing by staying inside but no one wants to sit in front of the TV for 12 hours a day. These kits give people a creative outlet and something fun to do with their family.”
The response from the community has been incredible, and the team is already releasing new orders featuring themes from mermaids and Lion King to Star Wars and Harry Potter. To check out the current available kits, visit Family Heirblooms on Facebook.
Spread the love
Looking for ways to support local businesses in your area? Check out their websites and social media pages to see if products or services are being offered remotely. Consider purchasing gift cards for future use, or even simply show them a little love on social media. Making your support known during times like goes a long way.
JILL ELLSWORTH: A lover of handwritten letters, bottomless tea, and contributing to the chaos.