Even with the country in lockdown, a number of Canadian entrepreneurs are plunging ahead with new ventures.
Some are focusing their startup on issues related directly to the virus.
Others had begun to put business plans into action just before the pandemic hit, and it wasn’t possible to pull back.
Still others find that the new, challenging environment actually presents an advantage for their startup.
Here are some of their stories.
Virtual funeral services
Effie Anolik, 30, of Toronto doesn’t have a background in the funeral business. She worked for Shopify, the e-commerce platform, for four years. But when her father died two years ago, she was surprised that other than a website, the funeral home offered next-to-no online services.
“You have to go to the funeral home in person to plan a funeral,” said Anolik. “My family had to go there to process the credit card payment. It seemed like an interaction that could have happened online.”
She figured funeral homes needed new, consumer-friendly technology, and started a company to create back office software.
But this month she’s shifted gears, to go direct to consumers.
“Right now, families are really out of options, and don’t know how to move forward with some sort of gathering,” she said.
Her new company, PlanaFuneral.com, offers a free phone consultation to start, while other services range from $200 to $400. Those services include:
- Customized “virtual funerals” that include full event management, invites, and a recording of the online event.
- A slideshow or video of the deceased family member’s life.
- Hosting services for the gathering over Zoom, the conference platform.
- Consultation with family and friends who may want to give a eulogy or make a presentation.
- If there is to be a burial, it can be livestreamed so that family and friends can feel present.
In the few days since the company has been up and running, Anolik has heard from several potential clients — including someone in New York City who has been unable to arrange a cremation and wants help. She expects demand to increase and says her small team is ready to handle it.
She’ll have competition. Some Canadian funeral homes have started to organize virtual mourning services during the pandemic as well.
Nonetheless, Anolik is convinced her venture has a future, even when people are once again able to gather to pay respects.
“There will still be a need for virtual gatherings to bring everyone together,” she says. “Virtual gatherings can include guests who may have not been able to attend in the traditional sense, due to distance and cost.”
She intends to add other services to help bereaved families, such as assisting with the closure of bank accounts and social media profiles, as well as subscriptions and contracts that need to be cancelled.
“There’s a lot to navigate,” she said.
Telemedicine for pets
Toronto-based Kerri-Lynn McAllister is turning her love of animals into a new business. A founding member of Ratehub.ca, the popular financial product comparison website, last fall she started Pawzy, an online resource for pet health and wellness.
Now she’s launching Pawzy Telehealth, a new branch of the business that provides a teleconferencing system designed specifically for virtual visits to the veterinarian.
“A lot of vets have had to reduce their hours and services to emergency care,” said McAllister. “And as a result, pets don’t have access to the same level of care that they otherwise would.”
Pet owners don’t pay for the service. Instead, vet clinics sign up and pay a monthly fee, in order to continue seeing customers and their pets, and keep their revenue stream flowing.
“We’re doing a free COVID offer during the next two months, but afterwards there will be a subscription fee for the software of $99 a month per clinic,” she said.
In the next couple of weeks, McAllister plans to launch a more consumer-focused service, where Canadians anywhere can connect with a vet at any time. “It doesn’t have to be a service offered by their own vet, it will be enabled for any Canadian to use.”
Chef Eric Rogers of Toronto had been working with a partner prior to the COVID-19 crisis to open Riverside Kitchen, a so-called ghost kitchen, a delivery-only service that would offer four menus of food through apps such as UberEats, DoorDash and SkipTheDishes.
A ghost kitchen is basically a restaurant minus the tables, waiters and diners. It’s all about the back of house production of food for delivery.
“We did a lot of research, and the numbers coming out of the States showed the virtual or ghost kitchens were basically doubling their volume of business every year,” said Rogers. “It’s one of the fastest growing segments of the food industry.”
They were planning to launch in April, but that’s now been delayed a month due to the pandemic. Rogers and his partner had intended to rent an industrial kitchen, but he now suspects they’ll soon have other, less expensive options.
“There’s going to be a lot of restaurant failures,” he said. “We have approached two landlords to say what we might offer you is a bridge lease. If we commit to six months or a year, while they find a new restaurant tenant, we would pay to cover off their utilities. We won’t pay full pop, but they’ll get some income.”
Meanwhile, he and his partner, Josh Peace, have been making sample dishes of their food lines in order to photograph them for the app companies. Those lines include hand-crafted sandwiches, a BBQ smokehouse, a South American menu, and a family dinner project.
“We’ve certainly looked at each other every so often and asked each other, ‘Are we nuts?’ But delivery was already growing exponentially and now it’s the only trick in town. No one can go to a restaurant.”
He said he believes the home-delivery trend will keep growing, as it may take some time before people are eager to dine out again.
A brand new advertising agency
It’s fair to say there’s never an ideal time to launch a new advertising agency, given the industry is already crowded and fiercely competitive. But Beverley Hammond and her four Toronto-based co-founders had no idea a pandemic was coming when they banded together to form Broken Heart Love Affair, their unusually named firm.
“We started working on it in the fall,” she said. “And my partners, some of the top talent in the country, gave notice at their agencies.”
With chief creative officers from big-name agencies such as Cossette and BBDO on the founding team, it might have made sense to turn around and ask for their jobs back, once it became clear the pandemic was about to take a devastating toll on the economy.
But Hammond says that wasn’t possible — legal agreements had been signed.
“The train had left the station. We were off and running.”
By the time the company launched officially on March 27, the group had to wear gloves and masks, and bring disinfectant wipes to sign the Broken Heart Love Affair shareholder agreement.
The agency has already signed Kids Help Phone, Everest Insurance and Kruger, a paper product company, as clients.
“We are in the midst of eight new business opportunities right now. That’s a lot in normal times. It’s inexplicable now,” she said. The firm even signed a new client on Easter Sunday. “There doesn’t seem to be any delineation between weekdays and weekends right now.”
Despite that promising start, Hammond admits it’s a scary time. In addition to the five co-founders, four employees have been hired and salaries need to be paid.
But as a longtime entrepreneur, Hammond isn’t fazed.
“I’ve lived with that kind of pressure before, like anyone starting a business.”
Ontario, Quebec continue to account for majority of Canada’s new novel coronavirus cases – Globalnews.ca
Despite hundreds of new novel coronavirus cases still being reported in Ontario and Quebec, the number of overall cases across Canada continued to trend downward Friday.
More than 600 new lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported on Friday raised the national tally past 94,000 cases overall. More than 52,000 people are considered recovered, with more than 1.9 million tests conducted.
The national death toll went up by 66 deaths, for a total of 7,703.
Quebec accounted for the majority of the daily death toll once again. The province has been the hardest-hit region in Canada for the past few weeks, with 55 per cent of the national caseload and nearly 5,000 deaths (more than 60 per cent of Canada’s death toll).
Quebec reported 50 new deaths and 255 new cases on Friday. More than 17,700 people are deemed recovered in the province.
Ontario reported 344 new cases and 15 new deaths, leaving the province with nearly 30,000 cases and more than 2,300 deaths. More than 23,000 people have recovered from the virus.
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B.C. reported one new case and one new death, for a total of 2,628 cases and 167 deaths. The province has seen 2,272 people recover so far.
The Prairie provinces recorded new cases in the single digits. Alberta saw seven new cases — the lowest daily number recorded by the province since March 12.
All four Atlantic provinces reported no new cases or deaths on Friday. Prince Edward Island’s 27 cases have been resolved for weeks now, Newfoundland and Labrador has two active cases left out of 261 cases and three deaths, and Nova Scotia, where 61 people have died so far, saw bars and restaurants reopen.
New Brunswick reported its first COVID-19-related death on Thursday and has mandated face coverings in public buildings. Out of 136 cases, 121 are recovered.
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The Northwest Territories and the Yukon continue to see no new cases, having resolved all their cases for some time. Nunavut remain the only region in Canada that hasn’t reported a positive case of COVID-19 so far.
Worldwide, COVID-19 has resulted in more than 6.7 million cases and nearly 394,000 deaths, according to figures tallied by Johns Hopkins University.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
'Safe restart' of Canadian economy will take 6-8 months, Freeland says – CTV News
A ‘safe restart’ of the Canadian economy will likely take at least half a year, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said Friday, a day after Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam cautioned that relaxing current restrictions too much or too soon could result in an “explosive growth” of new cases.
“One other thing that we would like to really underscore is what we are talking about is the safe restart right now. So this is not a long-term plan,” Freeland told reporters when asked about the government’s plans for the $14 billion earmarked to help provinces and territories.
“This is for ensuring a safe restart over the next six to eight months. And I think it’s important for Canadians to understand that’s the timeframe that we are focused on.”
Canada is fast approaching 95,000 COVID-19 cases and has recorded more than 7,700 deaths across the country. Most provinces and territories have begun reporting no or very few cases and deaths and are beginning to look at how to restart the economy, but Ontario and Quebec are still reporting close to or morethan 300 new cases a day and numerous deaths. The two provinces now account for more than 90 percent of the cases, but have also begun plans for reopening.
Tam said Thursday that until an effective vaccine or treatment becomes available, Canada needsto remain vigilant with its containment efforts to prevent an “explosive” second wave, with the latest federal modelling showing that another peak was possible in October without sufficient prevention measures.
The last time the federal government made a projection was in late April, when it estimated that the country was on track to report between 53,196 and 66,835 cases of COVID-19, and between 3,277 and 3,883 deaths. In reality, there were 62,046 confirmed cases and 4,043 people had died by May 5.
Freeland said the government understands that the needs of each province and territory vary a great deal, and that it wanted to work collaboratively with them.
“We really are approaching this by saying to the provinces and territories, we understand that a safe restart is essential. And that it is expensive.”
With files from Ottawa news Bureau Online Producer Rachel Aiello
Feds to send $600 to some Canadians with disabilities – CTV News
Canadians with disabilities will be sent a one-time tax-free payment of up to $600, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Friday, in an effort to help offset the financial pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This new financial aid will go to all who are eligible for the Disability Tax Credit, as of June 1.
Canadians who have a valid certificate for the Disability Tax Credit will receive $600. Canadians with a valid Disability Tax Credit certificate and who are eligible for the Old Age Security (OAS) pension will receive $300. Canadians who are eligible for both of these programs and are also eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) will be receiving $100.
The government says that because of the special one-time payments going to seniors, the amount seniors with disabilities will receive through this stream will be less, but in the end will total the same amount of $600.
“People who are eligible for this special payment will receive it automatically,” the federal government has announced, meaning that eligible recipients of these new one-time payments will not need to apply. However, as announced with the seniors funding on Thursday, it could be weeks before the money lands in the hands of those eligible.
For those who are eligible and under the age of 18, the special payment will be sent to their primary caregiver and in cases of shared custody, each parent will receive $300.
“This payment will go to existing disability tax credit certificate holders, which includes parents with children or dependents with disabilities, seniors, veterans and many other Canadians that we know have costs associated with severe and prolonged disabilities,” Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough said on Friday.
Some Canadians with disabilities had been watching the various announcements for students, seniors, and other targeted demographics and have been left wondering why they appeared to have fallen through the cracks.
For many already living on a low income, they are facing more expenses due to the pandemic, such as increased costs for personal support workers, grocery delivery fees and prescription drug dispensing fees.
The government estimates that 1.2 million Canadians will be eligible for this one-time top-up, which will cost $548 million. Among working-age Canadians with disabilities, more than 1.5 million are unemployed or out of the labour market entirely.
NEW ACCESSIBILITY PROGRAMS
In addition to the one-time payments, the federal government is launching two new accessibility-focused programs.
One, focused on national workplace accessibility, will see $15 million go to community organizations to develop programs and expand current training opportunities to help Canadians with disabilities adapt to the realities of COVID-19, including helping set up effective work-from-home arrangements and training for in-demand jobs.
The second is a $1.8 million fund being shared between five projects to develop accessible technology such as accessible payment terminals for individuals with sight loss; arm supports that will allow Canadians with disabilities to use standard technology; systems to allow Canadians with neurological conditions to interact with technology for a longer period of time; and to develop software to expand expression and voice recognition.
“We know this pandemic has deeply affected the lives and health of all Canadians and disproportionately affected Canadians with disabilities in particular,” Qualtrough said. “We also recognize that persons with disabilities are at a higher risk of job loss during economic downturns.”
Asked more broadly whether the government has plans to extend or amend the $2,000 a-month Canada Emergency Response Benefit in light of the shifting economic situation and gradual reopening, the minister said that conversations are underway.
“Our thinking moving forward is how do we balance a need to continue to support workers while not disincentivizing work, and absolutely those conversations are happening right now.”
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