Close to 20 people sitted at tables listening to a speker

Cortes Island’s small business Conversation Cafe

Sixteen Cortes Island business people, plus board members from the  Cortes Community Economic Development Association (CCEDA), came out to the Conversation Cafe in Mansons Hall on Thursday September 14. They came from Whaletown, Cortes Bay and Mansons Landing. There were representatives from the construction sector, value added wood products, food production and cottage industries like cosmetics and jewelry. Some had been in business for years, and others were just starting out. 

Colin Funk, President of CCEDA, was the facilitator.

Screenshot of Kate Maddigan taken during our interview

Kate Madigan, CCEDA’s Economic Development Officer (EDO), explained:

“I think that’s an excellent turnout. It really shows that small businesses do need these opportunities and the LEAP report is really a way to help create momentum in the various focus areas that it tries to address such a small business.”

“The goal is to help us update our Local Economic Action Plan (LEAP) for Cortes Island, which is about six years out of date. This is also had an opportunity  for CCEDA to answer the question around what small businesses need to succeed on Cortes Island.”

“It was a comfortable sit down place in the Pioneer Room. We were serving coffee, tea and cookies.You do get a lot more participation in online surveys as opposed to an in person meeting, but  with an online survey you really lose opportunities to discuss complex ideas or facilitate group discussions. You just can’t really get to the heart of  things with an online survey.” 

“Overwhelmingly, what came out was that people want the opportunity to get together and start a business network or a guild with quarterly meetings.” 

“The big shortcoming that would be addressed is that everyone is in the dark about what everyone is doing. Rather than competing with each other, they want to get together and support each other and find out how they can cooperate with each other so that everyone can succeed.”

An example of how people can help each other:  one person said that they were the recipient of some grant money that helped  their business during COVID. That came at the complete surprise of another business person, who thought that all of the business supports and grants and things were for startups.”

“We really want to start some kind of  a network for all of the businesses so that they can get together and talk, like a chamber of commerce.”

CC: I understand there were also some Action Items from the old LEAP report.

KM: “Number two was work with the SRD to provide incentives to support small business. People thought that it should be expanded. It’s not just the SRD,  there’s a little bit of like,  ‘what does the SRD really do anyway?’ If anything, we should restate that, but also expand it to  other agencies that could help.”

“Another action item from the old LEAP report was the need for a business directory for Cortes Island. If you look in the Cortes phone book, there’s a business section, but it feels like it’s been shrinking. I have accessed where you register your business with the province. They can’t do geographic searches, so it’s really hard to find out how many businesses are in operation on Cortes.”

“I think I’m just going to have to do an advertisement on the Tideline and on Facebook saying, ‘Let’s start a business directory. Let me know what business you have and what your website is.’ I’m going to get people to list their businesses with a CCEDA business directory.” 

“Another one was the need for business marketing support. Someone wanted off-island exports to be supported a bit more and then the circular economy came up.  We don’t want to just encourage people to shop locally, but  to support local services as well.”

CC: Do you want to remind us of ways that the old LEAP report was influential in Cortes islands development?

KM: “Some of the things that the LEAP Report of 2018  helped advance is value added wood products, the Village Commons infrastructure, Rainbow Ridge housing development, the food bank, or food security.”

“If you want to help shape the future for small business over the next five years, an excellent way to do it is to participate in these Conversation Cafes that we’re having monthly on Cortes Island. The next one is on tourism, in October.” 

Top image credit: Colin Funk speaking at the Sep 14 Conversation Cafe – courtesy CCEDA

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