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Calgary small businesses join forces to launch online sales, delivery portal amid coronavirus

It’s almost like a mini-Amazon to get Calgary products into people’s hands during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Calgary businesses are struggling; they’re scrambling to pivot and find ways to survive during a time of isolation. Emily Baadsvik and Brigette Freel of Calgary’s Wild Tea Kombucha, contacted other small local businesses and joined forces with them to sell their products in their online store and offer free contact-free deliveries in the city of Calgary.

“So, on a whim, I reached out through our network, and just sent a text to 10 other local businesses and eight of them wrote back and said, Oh, my God, this is great,” said Baadsvik.

“And then it kind of just snowballed from there.”

Building a small business community in hard times

Baadsvik, a former Canadian national team bobsledder, and Freel, a health inspector, wanted to build their own online community but also support local businesses that didn’t have the means.

For Baasvik and Freel, collaborating with local businesses had always been a dream, but the COVID-19 crisis accelerated this process.

Wild Tea Kombucha’s online store had already launched before the pandemic. They had planned to have guest pages of other Calgary small businesses. The COVID-19 pushed the idea forward.

Most of the businesses selling their products on the Wild Tea Kombucha online store, don’t have their own platform. Sales have dried up for a lot of these Calgary businesses and they’re all looking for ways to keep revenue flowing.

Most of the distribution for local businesses was shut down because of COVID-19, so Baadsvik and Freel’s idea works really well because they are offering an avenue to these local businesses’ products within the city.

“There’s a lot of their points of distribution that are now closed. So, it was just another way to have them try to make some revenue during this time because the emergency isolation benefits – a lot of us don’t qualify,” said Freel.

Freel mentioned that the more businesses they can bring together, the better. Many are connected through investor Arlene Dickinson, “so, we kind of all have a lot of history with each other,” she said.

A strong team in challenging times

Baadsvik and Freel’s objective is to their small business community. With this new portal, they can all benefit and emerge stronger together.

It’s not possible without their team.

Baadsvik said that they have a very dedicated team: Calina Ko, Operations Manager, Beth Allison, VP of Marketing and Jonathan Wolfe, Assistant Brewer. They all have been a crucial part of their network.

“So we’re very lucky to have people who are loyal and supportive of Wild Tea Kombucha. The individuals that we have collaborated with… every single one of them is equally as energetic and passionate and creative,” she said. 

United we are stronger

Wild Tea Kombucha wanted to use their platform to tell the story to each of their collaborators.

“Everyone’s really unique and different and we kind of have a very multi-faceted approach,” said Baadsvik.

Baasvik and Freel also said that it’s important to support local because that’s what drives our economy.

But during this time, it’s the small businesses that facing the prospect of shutting down. A lot of them are not eligible for the income support programs that the government has put in place.

Keeping that entrepreneurial spirit is critical to moving forward, said Baasvik.

“Without having strong pillars of businesses that are innovative and creative, then the spirit of business just becomes monopolies and big companies. And that’s pretty boring,” said Baasvik.