The numbers are still coming about how many businesses have been shuttered as a result of COVID-19, and considering the financial pain many firms are experiencing, a true tally won’t be known for quite a while.
But evidence of the tens of thousands of businesses that have closed can be found in shopping malls and on main streets across Canada.
Behind the figures and bordered-up businesses is the human toll the closures had on the entrepreneurs who saw their passions, dreams and financial lifeblood disappear.
These are the stories of three entrepreneurs from different industries who faced that arduous reality and agreed to share details about their businesses’ downfall, the emotions they’ve felt and how they’re trying to keep their chin up through the heartbreak.
‘I knew we couldn’t weather that storm’
It only took a few days after the Alberta government forced Scott McDermott to close down his fitness gym that he realized the ultimate fate of his business.
Leading up to the coronavirus lockdown in March, he had already cancelled group workouts and child-minding services as fears grew about the coronavirus pandemic. He and his staff were busy preparing online workouts, meal plans and programs for members.
Two days after Best Body Fitness in Sylvan Lake, a resort town in central Alberta, was told to close its doors, McDermott had his weekly meeting with his bookkeeper.
As they looked over the numbers, it hit him. No matter how successful the online offerings were, there was no financial path to overcoming how deep of a hit COVID-19 was going to have on his gym.
“I just had to stop and go, ‘You know what, this isn’t gonna work.'”
Even if gyms would reopen quickly, there would be restrictions, and he knew some members wouldn’t feel comfortable returning for quite a while, regardless of the health and safety protocols introduced.
“I knew we couldn’t weather that storm,” he said.
“It was crystal clear. There was not a cell in my body that didn’t know that was the right decision.”
That March night he wept at his desk until 2 a.m. After 18 years in business, it was over.
“We put so much into it, and we helped so many lives, and we made such a difference, and it was just gone.”
WATCH | How this fitness gym owner realized his business would have to close:
After he informed the staff, customers who had prepaid memberships were invited back to take some of the fitness equipment as a trade.
Now, months later, McDermott is trying to stay positive. Instead of working upwards of 100 hours a week as an entrepreneur, his stress levels are noticeably down.
Part of the reason is because the gym was open 24 hours a day, so he always felt like he was working. In addition, the last five years were difficult financially with a struggling Alberta economy and rising business costs.
We stole from our RRSP, and we took from our savings account, and we borrowed money from our parents because you kept believing it’s going to get better. It’s going to turn the corner. When COVID hit, it’s like, no. That’s it.– Scott McDermott
“We stole from our RRSP, and we took from our savings account, and we borrowed money from our parents because you kept believing it’s going to get better. It’s going to turn the corner. When COVID hit, it’s like, no. That’s it.”
As painful as it was to shutter his business, he’s trying to enjoy this transition in life. He’s active with public speaking, online fitness coaching and writing two books. He’s also promoting a documentary about his recovery from a horrific cycling crash in 2015 during an ultra-endurance race.
He isn’t sure if any of these ventures will flourish enough to pay the bills, but he’s excited to find out.
“It’s like a blank slate,” he said. “I’m just trying to be creative and find a way.”
‘Telling the team was really, really hard’
Unlike McDermott, Brianna Hallet was able to reopen her hair salon after the lockdown began in March. However, as the summer wore on, it became clear SwizzleSticks Salon Spa in Calgary was no longer viable.
Adhering to health restrictions meant operating at less than half capacity with up to seven stylists working at one time, even though there are 16 chairs.
The spa side of her business never did reopen to offer massages, facials and other services.
Meanwhile, she said her landlord wouldn’t budge on providing any relief, and the business struggled to pay the rent that was still owed for the spring months when the shop was closed.
Hallet also didn’t qualify for the federal government’s Canada Emergency Business Account, which provides small businesses with interest-free loans of up to $40,000.
“It just seemed like there were too many blockades, and we really didn’t know what the rest of the year would also hold. So even if we got through the next month, what would the next month bring? Would we have to be closed again?”
When the decision was made to permanently close, Hallet had her accountant in the room to help explain the situation to staff and help with the transition.
“Oh my gosh, telling the team was really, really hard. I had the PricewaterhouseCoopers team with me. So that was really nice to have some support on site, but that was an emotional day. Lots of tears.”
WATCH | It wasn’t just one financial obstacle to overcome:
The end of SwizzleSticks is still a painful reality for Hallet who worked there 14 years and was the owner for the last six years.
“It’s been hard. It’s been a really tough identity thing. I didn’t realize how much of my identity I placed within SwizzleSticks. Even last night, I was journaling some thoughts, and it’s still — it’s the identity,” she said, along with grief and mourning.
Hallet is thankful she kept up her skills behind the chair after becoming the salon owner, as she’s been able to find work at a different salon.
While her first experience as a business owner didn’t end the way she would have liked, it hasn’t diminished her entrepreneurial spirit.
“Absolutely, it’s just a part of me. There are too many opportunities not to do it again.”
‘It feels like a huge loss of yourself’
At the beginning of the year, business was actually pretty good at Enzo Energy Services. The oilpatch has had many struggles since the severe price crash began in 2014, but in the early months of 2020, Casey Johnson’s shop in Red Deer, Alta., was pretty active, and crews were busy.
The trucking company hauled chemicals and other fluids for the oil and gas industry.
Still, he clearly remembers March 9. Saudi Arabia and Russia had begun flooding the market with oil as part of a price war and — coupled with growing coronavirus fears beginning to hurt demand for fuel — sent crude prices spiralling to their lowest levels in several years.
Enzo qualified for multiple government aid programs, but it didn’t make an impact.
“For the size of company we were, it was like firing a paintball gun at a tank. It just wasn’t enough,” he said. “The core issue was such a drop in demand for our services.”
In August, the business shutdown, and two auction companies were called to sell off everything from large trucks to office desks and chairs. Johnson always thought his business would eventually be sold or merged with a larger company.
“It was excruciating,” he said. “It was probably the hardest decision I’ve ever made in my life.”
At its height, the firm had 25 employees.
“To tell them and their families that their paycheque will not be coming from the business any longer was really hard.”
WATCH | The tough transition after closing your business:
Johnson himself has been able to find work at an environmental company, which he described as a relief to keep him busy while this part of his life winds down. There’s still more work ahead to be done with creditors, and finding a new tenant for the building won’t be easy.
Still, he’s optimistic about the future. When he does reflect on the business, he tries to focus on the many high points of the 10-year journey.
“When a business closes down, it feels like a huge loss of yourself,” he said. “[But] we’re more than the job we do or the business that we own. And there’s more value to life than the business, even though when you’re in the middle of it, it can be hard to make that distinction.”
Canada doubles Moderna vaccine order, daily COVID-19 cases could top 10,000 by January – Reuters
OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada has doubled the number of doses of Moderna Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine it has on firm order, Procurement Minister Anita Anand said on Friday, while the country’s top doctor warned that daily new cases could top 10,000 by January.
“Canada is exercising options for an additional 20 million doses of the Moderna vaccine candidate. This will bring Canada’s total allotment of this vaccine to 40 million doses to be delivered in 2021,” Anand said at a health briefing.
A regulatory review of the Moderna vaccine is ongoing. Canadian health authorities are expected to approve Pfizer Inc’s competing vaccine candidate within the next week. The country has signed supply deals with seven manufacturers.
Canada reported 6,495 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, as infections surge across the country. Ontario, one of the worst-hit provinces, tightened restrictions in three areas on Friday, but did not expand lockdowns.
“If we stay on the same trajectory, we could reach 10,000 cases daily by January,” Canada’s chief public health officer, Theresa Tam, said, edging back earlier estimates that Canada would hit that landmark by mid-December.
Officials warned that Canadians will need to remain vigilant to slow the spread of the virus, even as vaccines begin to be rolled out. Canada is readying a plan to distribute the first six million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in early 2021.
Anand said she is hopeful Canada will start getting vaccine shipments as soon as January and downplayed comments by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who earlier this week said his province had been assured shipments would start arriving by Jan. 4.
“We are working with a timeframe … of Q1 2021,” she said. “We are very hopeful it will be within the January timeframe,” she added.
Anand also said FedEx Corp and Innomar Strategies, a Canada-based division of AmerisourceBergen, had been contracted by the federal government to provide logistical support on vaccine delivery.
Reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Editing by Leslie Adler and Grant McCool
2 TSX Stocks That Can TRIPLE in a Year – The Motley Fool Canada
The S&P/TSX Composite Index rose 39 points on December 3. Canadian stocks have gained considerable momentum in the late fall after stuttering a little to start this season. Moreover, investors have reason to celebrate, as vaccines are coming down the pipe in early 2021. With luck, we will see a return to normalcy. Today, I want to look at two TSX stocks that can still offer explosive growth in the near term. Let’s dive in.
Why I’m still bullish on this TSX stock
Casinos and hotels across North America took a massive hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Great Canadian Gaming (TSX:GC) is a Richmond-based company that operates gaming and entertainment facilities across the country. Back in the summer, I’d suggested that investors should be ready to jump on this TSX stock. Its shares have climbed 40% over the past three months as of close on December 3.
The stock surged on news that the private equity firm Apollo Global Management offered $3.3 billion for the casino firm. However, this has received pushback from shareholders.
Great Canadian Gaming released its third-quarter 2020 results on November 10. Predictably, the suspension of operations for most of the third quarter resulted in a major pullback in revenues, profit, and EBITDA. However, the company reiterated that it was moving forward with its GTA capital-development programs.
This TSX stock is still positioned for big things once this subsector gets back into operation. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that most Canadians will be vaccinated by September 2021. That is good news for the casino industry, even if it must deal wit headwinds in the next few months.
This technology stock erupted over the past week
Earlier this week, I’d discussed the surge for BlackBerry (TSX:BB)(NYSE:BB). The TSX stock soared on news of a collaboration with Amazon that will forward BlackBerry’s automotive software reach. Its shares have climbed 24% week over week as of close on December 3.
Investors can expect to see BlackBerry’s third-quarter fiscal 2021 results on December 17. BlackBerry has been inconsistent for investors looking for an explosive technology stock. However, this collaboration with Amazon has huge potential. The cloud software, called IVY, will allow automakers to read vehicle sensor data and improve systems and performance. BlackBerry’s automotive software QNX is already used in 75 million vehicles around the world.
Its promising footprint in automotive software isn’t the only reason to snag this TSX stock. The company has also made huge strides in cybersecurity. Its $1.4 billion acquisition of Cylance added a dynamic presence to its cyber security stable. The company should continue to boost BlackBerry’s artificial intelligence and IoT capabilities. This is great news for investors.
Shares of BlackBerry last had a solid price-to-book value of 2.1. A better-than-expected Q3 FY2021 could push the TSX stock to have an even more impressive December. I’m targeting BlackBerry in late 2020 and early 2021.
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John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Fool contributor Ambrose O’Callaghan has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. David Gardner owns shares of Amazon. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon. The Motley Fool recommends BlackBerry and BlackBerry and recommends the following options: long January 2022 $1920 calls on Amazon and short January 2022 $1940 calls on Amazon.
'A grim milestone': Alta. positivity rate climbs to 10.5 per cent as Hinshaw reports 1828 cases – CTV Edmonton
After setting new records for daily and active cases and hospitalizations multiple times this week, Alberta broke yet another COVID-19 milestone on Friday.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported 1,828 cases of the disease from more than 17,200, equalling Alberta’s highest positivity rate of the pandemic so far: 10.5 per cent.
“This positivity rate is a grim milestone and one that should concern us all,” the chief medical officer said.
“I want to stress the seriousness of the rise in cases numbers we are seeing, and how crucial it is that we reduce the spread and bend the curve back down.”
There are now 18,243 coronavirus cases in Alberta, with 99 of 533 hospital patients in ICU.
The province also reported 15 more COVID-19 deaths, raising the fatal count to 590.
Hinshaw encouraged Albertans to behave this weekend, avoid crowds and opt for curbside pickup, if possible.
“By resisting the urge to socialize this weekend and limiting your close contact with others, you are not only protecting yourself and those closest to you from the virus, but you are playing a critical role in helping to break chains of transmission, which can save lives.”
FIELD HOSPITALS AND CONTACT TRACERS
Alberta Health Services is hiring more contact tracers and planning for the scenario of having to open field hospitals in Edmonton and Calgary in case they need more bed space as cases and hospitalizations see a sharp rise.
AHS president and CEO Dr. Verna Yiu, who joined Dr. Hinshaw in Friday’s briefing, said there isn’t a current need for these pop-up hospitals and called it a contingency plan.
“It is clear that Alberta’s healthcare system is under significant stress, given the increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases in the province and AHS must prepare for all scenarios. This plan is part of our ongoing proactive pandemic response planning and is one of several initiatives that will ensure our healthcare system can meet increased demand caused by COVID-19.”
AHS is also still looking to hire more contact tracers to keep up with new cases. It currently employs 900 and wants to double up that number by the end of the year.
When new infections saw a large increase in recent weeks, Hinshaw did away with contact tracers calling every new case and asked them to prioritize vulnerable Albertans.
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