“Are we crazy? Meet Canadians who started a business during the pandemic

"Are we crazy? Meet Canadians who started a business during the pandemic

Even while the country is frozen, a number of Canadian entrepreneurs are embarking on new businesses.

Some focus their startup on issues directly related to the virus.

Others had started implementing business plans just before the pandemic, and it was not possible to withdraw.

Still others find that the difficult new environment actually presents an advantage for their start-up.

Here are some of their stories.

Virtual funeral services

Effie Anolik, 30, of Toronto, has no experience in the funeral industry. She worked for Shopify, the e-commerce platform, for four years. But when her father died two years ago, she was surprised to find that apart from a website, the funeral home offered almost no online service.

“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 thought funeral homes needed new, user-friendly technology and started a business to create back-office software.

But this month, it changed gears to go directly to consumers.

“Right now, families really have no choice and don’t know how to move forward with some sort of gathering,” she said.

His new business, PlanaFuneral.com, offers a free phone consultation to get started, while other services range from $ 200 to $ 400. These services include:

  • Personalized “virtual funerals” which include full event management, invitations and online event registration.
  • A slideshow or video of the life of the deceased family member.
  • Hosting services for the gathering on Zoom, the conference platform.
  • Consultation with family and friends who may wish to give a eulogy or make a presentation.
  • If there is to be a funeral, it can be broadcast live so that family and friends can feel present.

Over the next few days after the company was founded, Anolik heard from several potential customers – including someone in New York who could not arrange a cremation and wants help. She expects demand to increase and says her small team is ready to handle it.

She will have competition. Some Canadian funeral homes also began to organize virtual bereavement services during the pandemic.

Nevertheless, Anolik believes that his business has a future, even when people are able to come together again to pay tribute.

“It will still take virtual gatherings to bring everyone together,” she said. “Virtual gatherings can include guests who may not have been able to attend in the traditional sense, due to the distance and cost.”

She plans to add other services to help bereaved families, such as helping to close bank accounts and social media profiles, as well as subscriptions and contracts that need to be canceled.

“There are a lot of things to navigate,” she said.

Telemedicine for pets

Kerri-Lynn McAllister launched a telehealth service so that pet owners can get virtual appointments for their pets. (Photography Jillian Lorraine)

Kerri-Lynn McAllister of Toronto turns 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 the health and well-being of pets.

Now she launches Pawzy Telehealth, a new branch of the company that provides a teleconferencing system specially designed for virtual visits to the veterinarian.

“Many veterinarians have had to cut back on their hours and emergency care services,” said McAllister. “And as a result, pets do not have the same level of care as they would otherwise.”

Pet owners do not pay for the service. Instead, veterinary clinics register and pay monthly fees to continue to see clients and their pets and maintain their income stream.

“We are making a free COVID offer over the next two months, but thereafter there will be a software subscription fee of $ 99 per month per clinic,” she said.

Over the next two weeks, McAllister plans to launch a more consumer-focused service, where Canadians everywhere can contact a veterinarian at any time. “It does not have to be a service offered by their own veterinarian, it will be allowed to any Canadian.”

Food delivery

Chef Eric Rogers, left, and his partner Josh Peace show the type of food they will be offering with their new business. (Submitted by Eric Rogers)

Chef Eric Rogers of Toronto had worked with a partner before the COVID-19 crisis to open Riverside Kitchen, a so-called ghost kitchen, a delivery only service that would offer four menus of food via applications such as UberEats, DoorDash and SkipTheDishes .

A ghost kitchen is essentially a restaurant without the tables, the waiters and the guests. This is the production of food to be delivered to the back of the house.

“We have done a lot of research and figures from the United States have shown that virtual or ghost kitchens almost double their business volume each year,” said Rogers. “It is one of the fastest growing segments of the food industry.”

They planned to launch in April, but this has now been delayed by a month due to the pandemic. Rogers and his partner intended to rent an industrial kitchen, but he now suspects that they will soon have other, less expensive options.

“There are going to be a lot of failures in restaurants,” he said. “We approached two owners to tell them what we could offer you is a bridge lease. If we commit to six months or a year, when they find a new restaurant tenant, we would pay to cover their utilities . We will not pay full pop, but they will get an income. “

A sample of culinary chef Eric Rogers will create with his new business, Riverside Kitchen. (Submitted by Eric Rogers)

Meanwhile, he and his partner, Josh Peace, have prepared samples of dishes from their food lines to photograph for application companies. These lines include handmade sandwiches, a barbecue smoker, a South American menu and a family dinner project.

“We certainly looked at each other from time to time and we asked ourselves:” Are we crazy? “But the delivery was already increasing exponentially and it’s now the only thing in town. No one can go to a restaurant.”

He said he thought the trend for home deliveries would continue to grow as it could take some time before people were impatient to eat dinner again.

A brand new advertising agency

Beverley Hammond, pictured here, had disinfectant wipes on hand when she met partners Denise Rossetto and Carlos Moreno to sign the shareholders’ agreement for their new advertising agency. (Submitted by Broken Heart Love Affair)

It is fair to say that there is never a perfect time to start a new advertising agency, given that the industry is already crowded and extremely competitive. But Beverley Hammond and her four Toronto-based co-founders didn’t know that a pandemic was coming when they banded together to form Broken Heart Love Affair, their unusual company.

“We started working on it in the fall,” she said. “And my partners, among the best talents in the country, warned their agencies.”

With creative heads from renowned agencies such as Cossette and BBDO in the founding team, it might have been wise to turn around and ask for the return of their jobs once it became clear that the pandemic was about to wreak havoc on the economy. .

But Hammond says it was not possible – legal agreements had been signed.

“The train had left the station. We were gone and driving.”

When the company was officially launched on March 27, the group had to wear gloves and masks and bring disinfectant wipes to sign the Broken Heart Love Affair shareholders agreement.

The agency has already signed Kids Help Phone, Everest Insurance and Kruger, a paper products company, as clients.

“We are currently in the midst of eight new business opportunities. This is a lot in normal times. It is inexplicable now,” she said. The firm even signed a new client on Easter Sunday. “There does not seem to be any demarcation between weekdays and weekends at this time.”

Despite this promising start, Hammond admits it’s a scary time. In addition to the five co-founders, four employees have been hired and wages must be paid.

But as a longtime entrepreneur, Hammond is not taken aback.

“I have experienced this kind of pressure before, like anyone starting a business.”

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