The importance of small businesses to a community is not something it is easy to put a value on.
“I don’t think you can sum it up, I think it is of massive importance to our community and every community,” said Campbell Watt, president of the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce.
October is Small Business Month in B.C. and both the chamber and the Downtown Penticton Association are planning events to celebrate.
“Small business is community,” he continued. “If we don’t have the small businesses, we don’t have the big businesses, we don’t have the schools. It’s massive.”
Small businesses, according to Watt, account for about 90 per cent of B.C. businesses, and form a foundation for the economy.
“It’s the livelihood for many families, which helps put kids in our schools, which helps our grocery stores survive,” said Watt, noting that as he looks out his office window, he sees a street full of small business owners. Without them, he asked, what would the community look like and what would draw people here?
“We’re not a tourist town, but we have a lot of tourists. Small businesses help create that,” said Watt. “Small business is crucial, absolutely crucial.”
Next week, the chamber will be hosting a visit by Naomi Yamamoto, minister of state for small business in B.C. as part of small business month and later in October are holding an open house at their new offices above the Wine Country Tourism Centre on Railway Ave.
“We at the chamber are going to have an open house, showing off our new home,” he said. “We’re in there and we’re thriving.”
For their part, the DPA is also planning a special event to celebrate small business month.
Along with music and a party in Nanaimo Square, they’re holding a cash mob.
“Most people know what a flash mob is, where you show up somewhere and dance or sing or celebrate,” said Alison Markin, who is planning the event. She explains that a cash mob is a new phenomenon, based on the same concept. They’re becoming more common, she said, particularly in the U.S., where the economy is still struggling.
“A community chooses a business that they want to save or support and they have a cash mob where everyone shows up at that business and spends their money during a specific time or day,” said Markin, adding that she is expanding on the idea. “What we’re going to do on Oct. 20 is invite all the businesses in the downtown to participate in sort of a downtown cash mob.”
That might mean, she said, having special sales to celebrate or another event to celebrate and encourage people to come downtown to shop that day.
“It’s important for Penticton in general to celebrate small business week. We have so many small independent businesses that need our support, that need business, that need to have people coming through the doors,” said Markin. “And a lot of those businesses are located in the downtown core.”
Though there are small businesses spread throughout the community, having that core, she said, means the businesses help support each other.
It’s particularly important now, as we are looking to downtown revitalization to look at those businesses, have people interacting with them as we move forward with revitalization and creating a much more vibrant downtown.
“Definitely in the downtown, there is a spirit of collaboration,” she said. “When you come downtown to one business, you are probably going to visit three, four or five more as you walk up and down the street. Having that spirit of collaboration is a really positive thing.”