Small businesses benefit from COVID-19 relief efforts

Thursday, February 11, 2021

The Windsor Star/Julie Kotsis


During her 31 years in business, Jackie McCreary had little need for technology, that is until the COVID-19 pandemic hit and in-person shopping became restricted.

McCreary is co-owner (with her sisters Geri Maisonneuve and Paulette Kupnicki) of From the Heart, an Ottawa Street card and gift shop and wig boutique. She credits the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation’s Small Business Centre with saving them from possible closure by helping to guide them towards a more sustainable business model.

The centre provided grant money as well as “comfort and direction (and) encouragement” she told an online panel Wednesday that included Mayor Drew Dilkens and Stephen MacKenzie, chief executive officer of the economic development corporation.

“Without that money, we had two choices,” McCreary said. “We had to go forward and get on board with technology or probably wrap it up.

“We were like deer in the headlights.” Over their 31 years in business, “we upgraded our cash register from a hundred-year-old cash register to a 75-year-old cash register,” she said with a laugh. “We had almost no technology going. We were hand-writing everything. We had binders and it sort of worked.”

The Small Business Centre helped McCreary and her sisters upgrade their computers, improve their website and start offering e-commerce — commercial transactions conducted electronically on the internet.

McCreary said they spent five months working on establishing the new e-commerce portion of the business, which paid off in over $6,000 in sales and more than 1,100 customers registering directly through the business’s website since November.

“It’s just given us a shot in the arm. It’s a breath of fresh air,” she said.

Small Business Centre executive director Sabrina DeMarco said the organization has worked to help ease the extra burdens COVID-19 has presented.

“A huge growth for our team at the Small Business Centre was being able to take on new projects that allowed us to deliver $1,244,383 in COVID-19 relief funding to businesses in Windsor-Essex and throughout southern Ontario,” DeMarco told the panel.

For example, the RE3: Rebuild, Reopen, Revive government-funded program provided 20 local women-led small businesses with non-repayable, performance-based contributions of up to $5,000, representing $94,400 in total investment.

And while some COVID-19 relief programs will end in March, the centre is launching a new grant program for small businesses Thursday called Jumpstart Recovery Program.

DeMarco said Jumpstart’s $5,000 grants can be used for technology, advertising costs, reconfiguration of commercial spaces to comply with new regulations, purchasing of personal protective equipment and to help offset payroll, utility and lease or mortgage expenses.

Applications are available on the centre’s website at Deadline to apply is Feb. 28.