Local businesses are suffering as the province shuts down due to COVID-19

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Due to the latest public health recommendations surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak, many companies, both small and large are seeing the need to engage in significant business changes. 

On March 23, Ontario Premier Doug Ford ordered that all non-essential businesses close their doors in an effort to stop the spread of the virus, effective on March 24, at 11:59 pm. 

Despite this important update, many local business owners and employers still face immense instability. 

“We’ve been closed since the seventeenth, today is the 24th but I think the fact that the government yesterday sort of made it mandatory that non-essential businesses close we were already closed but I feel like that was a heavy blow to me … I think it made it a little bit more real,” said Jennifer Freitas, CEO of The Truth Beauty Company. 

With storefront locations in both Guelph and Uptown Waterloo, The Truth Beauty Company is seeing a profound impact from these mandatory closures. 

“It’s major and obviously unprecedented — nothing that I factored into my business plan or day-to-day operations or worst-case scenarios. I think we’re all taken off guard,” Freitas said. 

“My expenses don’t stop. So my rent is still due, my employees’ payroll is still due, my internet is still running … my business processing fees, my account fees, all of that is going to be due on their respective due dates and with the doors closed, there’s obviously no money going in that way. So, to have all those expenses still due and owing and no revenue stream, it’s essentially a math equation that doesn’t work.” 

On March 24, Premier Ford announced that for the next six weeks, peak hydro rates will be reduced to off-peak rates to help citizens cut costs. The savings will show up automatically on the next hydro bill.

This announcement not only helps Ontarians who are working from home save more than $20 per month, but small businesses will see about $150 in savings as well. 

Even with her storefronts closed, Freitas said she has had some success from The Truth Beauty Company’s online shop despite online sales not being the nature of her business. 

“I’m not a tech expert, I’m not a website person — that’s not the job I had before. So within the last week I’ve tried to figure out how to run that and maintain that just to, I guess, sustain operations — I still have accounts due and I’m just trying to make it all work.” 

Small businesses are seeing more than just their income and employees being affected by the pandemic. Their supply chains are being impacted as well. 

“My orders have reduced. So that means the manufacturers, their orders are getting smaller. And then even in terms of their purchasing powers, the bottles and the labels and even the raw ingredients they’re on restricted teams, [there are] lag times because of delivery, it’s just kind of a really big mess…” Freitas said. 

“I’m still doing some orders but I’m really, really keeping those to a minimum. So, certain suppliers if they’re able to waive minimums, that’s really beneficial. Also, because my platform is completely changed, I’m still paying rent but my shipping charges have now gone through the roof because that’s all that I’m doing, so it’s a bit tricky.”

Freitas mentioned that while big corporations like Starbucks can afford to send their staff home with pay, many small businesses run quite lean and cannot afford to do the same. 

“This is just really profound, and tough, and has so many intersecting implications that I don’t think we really understand and it’s still unfolding.” 

Freitas said that despite these uncertain times, she received word from a fellow friend in business that Chinese suppliers are back up and running. 

“It was like a little brief peace of mind that there will be sort of like a normalcy that will return. I think it’s a bit far off, but to know that the world’s not completely over felt a little reassuring.” 

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