A small business owner in Lytton says that Community Futures has helped her navigate through some difficult times, both after the Elephant Hill wildfire of 2017 and now during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meghan Fandrich is the owner-operator of Klowa Art Café in Lytton, which began life in 2014 as a yarn store where she could sell her knitting creations. “Klowa” means “light green” in the Nlaka’pamuxstn language, and comes from one of the mountains across the river from Lytton.
She began featuring a local artist at her store every month, and says she got a very positive response from locals.
“Because Lytton is a small community, everyone knows each other,” she explains. One featured artist is a former longtime teacher in the community, Bob Grahauer, who creates pottery. “People can buy something that was made by a person who taught them.”
She also realized how many local artists there were in the area, and now has a list of 75 artists who live in Lytton, are past residents of the community, or who are Nlaka’pamux.
Klowa soon moved to a larger space, and in 2017 Fandrich began operating a café as well.
“I was always asked two questions by people who weren’t from town: could they use my washroom, and where could they get a good cup of coffee in Lytton.” There was no one selling specialty coffee in the town, so Fandrich began getting coffee from Coquihalla Roasters; she eventually bought the company and now roasts her own coffee. She also has a baker on staff and features a variety of fresh-baked goods, and last month began focusing on a fresh, vegetarian lunch special every day, to address the lack of vegetarian options in town.
The 2017 wildfires had an effect on businesses throughout the region: the fires, smoke, highway closures, and huge drop-off in tourists to the region all took a toll. While there were grant opportunities and help available, Fandrich says it was Andre Kuerbis — one of the Community Futures business ambassadors — who helped her access some of the resources available for small business owners such as herself.
“Andre popped by unannounced in 2018, when he was stopping by all the businesses in Lytton and making them aware of the grants that were out there. We chatted, and set up an appointment.
“He was really helpful in helping me get grants I didn’t know I was eligible for, and he helped me with the applications. I had no idea, and it seemed totally beyond my scope, but Andre knew the rules and knew what I needed.”
Since then, Fandrich has been on the Community Futures mailing list, getting information about programs and assistance for small business. When the provincial government announced earlier this spring that “circuit breaker” grants would be available to assist businesses like Klowa, Kuerbis contacted her that day with the news.
“He said ‘Just a heads-up that this is available,’” says Fandrich. The Circuit Breaker Business Relief Grant provides fully funded grants to hospitality, fitness, and accommodation businesses impacted by recent orders about gatherings, events, food- and liquor-serving premises, and travel.
“The application was really simple, so I applied for it really quickly,” says Fandrich. The grant applies to a broad range of expenses incurred by impacted businesses, and Fandrich says one of the things it can be used for is payroll.
“We’re doing patio-only dining right now, so it makes sense to use it for payroll, which is my biggest expense. I have five great employees — all women, so we’re a female-run business — and they were expecting dine-in customers. I didn’t want to lay off employees all of a sudden.”
Fandrich says that despite the pandemic, Klowa has done well. “COVID-19 has brought an awareness of supporting local businesses. People did a lot of Christmas shopping here, and we’ve had a lot of tourists from the Lower Mainland who are staying closer to home. Thanks to them, and to my great employees, Klowa is a thriving business.
“Andre has helped me with applications for grants. I wouldn’t have applied for them without his help. Because of him I could get more grants to help my business recover, so I’m really grateful to him and Community Futures.”
For more information about Community Futures Sun Country and the assistance they can offer small businesses, call (250) 453-9165 (toll-free at 1-800-567-9911), email email@example.com, or visit the website at https://www.cfsun.ca/. For more information about the Circuit Breaker Business Relief Grant, go to https://bit.ly/2RtYAT4.