How a Ryerson student has been able to create order from one of Canada’s most high-profile demonstrations.
by Michael Chu
As images of rioters, burning police cars, tense stand-offs and artificial lakes will forever be associated with the G20, the repercussions will be felt – at least for the near future by small businesses.
While not direct targets of extreme activists during the recent G20 protests overtaking the streets of downtown Toronto, many small businesses – relying more on seasonal customer traffic patterns and more walk-ins than large scale retailers – have felt the direct impact from any momentum and losing a busy weekend of sales, especially from tourists looking to shop and dine.
While multi-nationals and franchised businesses can easily pick themselves up from interruptions like the G20, for the mom and pop shops and budding entrepreneurs, a disruption to their business such as the G20 protests could prove detrimental to their businesses.
Laura Miller, a third year marketing student at the Ted Rogers School of Management, and current VP of Marketing for SIFE Ryerson, realized a potential opportunity through StartMeUp Ryerson to help these small businesses.
“A lot of small businesses had their windows smashed in,” says Miller.
The program, “Protests to Profits”, initiated by Miller and StartMeUp Ryerson aims to help those businesses impacted by the G20 by providing promotional support and exposure, in a holistic manner.
“What we saw was that the businesses needed awareness,” says Miller. “That’s where we created the idea for a map.”
This map outlines independent businesses wishing to recharge their businesses, by providing vital info – location, their product/service offering and customer incentives. These maps were given out to passing pedestrians in the areas affected by the G20 protest – most notably the Queen Street West corridor.
The program was met with enthusiasm by Miller’s counterparts at SIFE Ryerson and StartMeUp Ryerson, and Miller immediately started to work on this project the second her pitch was complete.
“Protests to Profits”, running for most of July, was well received not only because of its attractive price to businesses – free, but because it gave independent businesses a united voice to attract customers together.
“What it comes down to is that your business gets recognition,” says Kat McKeown, manager of Fashion Crimes. The store, located at Queen Street West is one a handful of independent clothing stores left between Spadina and University.
“[Foot traffic] was quieter leading up to and after the G20,” says McKeown. “People were scared to go to Queen Street. Your landlord doesn’t care that the G20 was going on, they just want the rent.”
Reiterating the fact that many families and individuals’ whole lives are made – or broken – based upon the success (or failure) of their business, McKeown shared what is every small business owner’s worst nightmares.
“Is there store going to be ok? Is it going to be there?” says McKeown. She rode her bike right into the middle of the demonstration to make sure that the business was structurally intact – which it was.
StartMeUp Ryerson, is an initiative of SIFE Ryerson, giving invaluable support to individuals that are in need of business consulting – financially of reach for many of the individuals they assist.
Pioneered by SIFE Ryerson, the program has already been adopted at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and at D’Youville College in Buffalo, New York, in a short time.
StartMeUp enables budding entrepreneurs opportunities to consult with industry professionals, obtain feasibility and viability feedback, and support from some of Canada’s brightest entrepreneurs.
“I’ve done a couple of sessions at the Covenant House with the project manager for our Financial Literacy
Program,” says Miller. “It was really exciting. This program showed people how to save money and how to budget.”
Not only has Miller learned the immense gratification received by giving back to the community through the many initiatives undertaken by StartMeUp Ryerson, but the application of what she has learned in her marketing classes, has also presented the enriching opportunity to become an entrepreneur.
“I’ve learned a lot,” says Miller. “I never considered entrepreneurship as a career before I came here and joined SIFE. Starting your own business, I would never have considered it before.”