We love helping entrepreneurs make their dreams come true. The Waterloo Region Small Business Centre builds success through programs and inspires ideas through training opportunities.
Queen of Hearts, a local coffee and tea house in Kitchener is celebrating its success in pivoting its business strategy during the COVID-19 pandemic. With some wise marketing and continuous support from the community, the business was able to surpass 2,000 “Afternoon Teas To-Go” since the beginning of lockdown. Only six months into operations, Queen of Hearts found itself needing to completely re-think its business strategy as the province locked down businesses on March 17th. Entrepreneur and owner, Alyshia Bestard, pivoted the following day to offer “Afternoon Teas” by pick-up or delivery. An e-commerce website was created overnight and online orders began to flow in immediately.
With communities across the province now adjusting to a “new normal” the need for safe social activities is more crucial than ever. Bestard explained that Queen of Hearts has no plans to re-open as a traditional coffee shop but rather to focus on its original plan of being a high tea venue. It serves its “Afternoon Tea” 5 days a week, by reservation, in its location at 1151 Victoria Street North, Kitchener. The same tea experience continues to be available for take-away through either pick-up or delivery and will be for as long as the demand is there from the community.
“Many of our customers are ordering our teas and enjoying a virtual tea party with friends or family over Zoom” exclaimed, Bestard. “I love seeing how people are using our tea parties to take their minds off the pandemic and as a way to reconnect with their social circles from a distance. I am so grateful for the community support of my business dream!”
Potamus Design is an original fusion between art, handmade jewelry, & design, based in Waterloo. It was created last year by a couple who was looking to express themselves & bring joy to their lives through art & jewelry. For them, starting a business at the same time as the pandemic was a completely new adventure & a big challenge. They knew if they wanted to survive as a small business, they needed to act faster, which led them to focus on:
- Increasing social media presence & building community involvement including participating in virtual markets
- Receiving consulting & mentoring through the Waterloo Region Small Business Centre & attending their webinars
- Taking courses about small business
- Registering their business name ⠀
- Creating an e-commerce website ⠀
- Developing & launching new products
They are still growing & learning about their business, & can confidently say that with all that is happening around the world, they made a great decision to continue working towards their dream & are thankful for all the people around them, who believe & support their work everyday!
Due to the impact of the pandemic and being shutdown for three months, Cafe du Monde Creperie knew they had to reinvent themselves. A few things they did were:⠀
- Creating an e-commerce website through Digital Main Street⠀
- Creating a space in their Café to feature local makers/entrepreneurs through sourcing items that complimented their business while adding value to the overall customer experience. They are currently looking to add more local vendors/products both online at www.cafedumondecreperie.ca and at the Café!
- Developing and launching a frozen pizza/ crepe line of products by this winter.
"It is my hope that this is successful enough to allow us to create employment. We are eternally grateful for all the support that we have received and continue to receive and want to give back to our community through job creation." - Nadia, Café du Monde Owner
Anna and Ekaterina, cofounders and owners of Colouroid Inc, offer interior design and renovation services - helping people to create their dream space and colour their own story.
The pandemic did not only bring challenges, but also offered Anna & Ekaterina the most valuable resource – the possibility to slow down and reflect. They took this temporary halt as an opportunity to start their own business and become entrepreneurs, something they have always dreamed of trying!
To begin, they were focused on marketing research and business plan writing. To understand their risks, strengths and skills, they attended several online webinars and workshops hosted by the Waterloo Region Small Business Centre including: Start Up Business Basics, Marketing 101, Corporate Taxation and Corporate Structures, Business Plan Essentials and Social Media. Looking for more guidance, they booked an individual consultation with one of the WRSBC's Advisors, during which they received the guidance and information they were looking for. Feeling supported and inspired, Anna & Ekaterina set up Colouroid Inc, created a professional web-site and launched their social media platforms to promote their services and build connections with the community.
While having their own business may not be easy or without stress, for Anna & Ekaterina, it gives them the freedom, autonomy and excitement they were looking for!
In her previous life, Elya Style & Fashion owner, Elvira Sakara, worked as a Marketing Supervisor. When the pandemic started, it was difficult for her to take care of her kids and have meetings all day. She realized that it was too stressful to combine corporate and personal life, so she started thinking about how she could earn a living while staying home with her kids. As a mother of two young boys, Elvira knows how important it is to look chic and put-together at any given time, and that’s how she came up with sportswear and street style outfits! If you’re heading out to pick up your kids, do a quick grocery run, or simply wanting to meet your friends for a girl's night out, Elya Style & Fashion offers quality clothing options from Italy.
It was tricky for Elvira because when she launched her business and received all the clothes, she didn't know how to sell them. That’s when she reached out to Ksenia at the Waterloo Region Small Business Centre and received a consultation where she explained about the Digital Main Street ShopHere program and their support for small businesses. She started to work with the ShopHere team right away and her website was ready very quickly! "I was very surprised at the very professional team and everything was done in a timely manner. I am very appreciated for having my website done in such short period of time and for FREE. They supported me through the whole process and even after it was done".
Elvira is still growing and learning a lot, including taking courses to understand social media, but her passion for her business, doing what she loves, and being able to take care of her kids makes it all worth it!
Counterpoint Brewing Company made the proactive decision to develop their e-commerce infrastructure, which made sure they stayed one step ahead when COVID-19 hit. They utilized their online retail platform to keep their customers, and themselves, safe.
As a brewery, they are lucky that beer is traditionally something both enjoyed in their taproom and purchased for home consumption. Albeit, they did lose out on taproom traffic, they were fully supported by their community who adapted to their new system. To help adapt and focus on this new business model, Counterpoint Brewing attended Digital Main Street webinars, peer-to-peer discussions at the WRSBC, and had a personal consultation with Vaibhav, a Digital Service Squad member, who was instrumental in helping see the big picture on how to use not only the tools they were accustomed to, but all online resources.
Kasper Skinner of K Skinner Designs moved to Canada this past March, during the height of the pandemic. Having worked as a craftsman back in Ireland, Kasper was keen to bring his work to Canada, but found the task daunting. There were a lot of key differences to how things were done between the two countries. Kasper needed advice on concrete steps needed to set up a business legally and logistically in Canada, and that is where the webinars from the Small Business Centre really helped. He booked a one-to-one online session with one of the Small Business Advisors, who had given the webinar. Kasper has received the guidance he needed and his questions were answered. Kasper recommends the WRSBC team to people looking to start up or grow their small business.
Kasper used the time given to him from the lockdown to research, develop and prototype products which he then streamlined, costed, photographed, and advertised on the website provided by ShopHere. The Digital Main Street ShopHere team provided Kasper a tailored service, and with their help he had a functioning and professional website within a month!
The ShopHere service would appeal both to those who want to design their website themselves, or to those who would rather describe their vision and have the professional team create one for them.
In the few months since setting up his business, Kasper has met other like-minded individuals who are running interesting and vibrant businesses and are welcoming and supportive of newcomers starting their own ventures.