High Country merchants are gaining valuable information through online weekly meetings as they navigate through their biggest challenge as business owners.
The Diamond Valley Chamber of Commerce is hosting Monday Mingle, weekly online sessions that have local stakeholders, merchants and other professionals providing support and advice, as well as bouncing ideas off one another, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
In its first month, participation grew from half a dozen to 16, said chamber president Andrea Glowatsky.
“The first two were just a networking event – a chance for people to ask questions of other business owners,” she said. “Last week RJ Sigurdson (Highwood MLA) answered questions about the business relaunch strategy and Max Property Restoration had biohazard specialists talking about sanitation and gave clarification on the different kinds of masks and sanitizers to use.”
Glowatsky said the idea behind Monday Mingle is to share resources and information ranging from the best place to buy directional stickers that promote physical distancing to who is opening their stores and what challenges they’re facing.
The meetings take place Mondays at 4 p.m. via Zoom.
Richard Brotherston, co-owner of Hard Knox Brewery and chamber past-president, said he’s enjoying the sessions and sees them as valuable for businesses.
“It’s pulled our region together where we’re talking to one another,” he said. “Everybody gets to benefit by knowing what others are doing and what helped.”
Brotherston said this type of collaboration is especially important when businesses are trying to return to a semblance of normalcy.
“It’s really important because we’re going to have a lot of traffic coming through here in the next little while – tourists and motorcycles - and with Calgary still being shut down we want to make sure that we keep people safe while trying to entertain people as well,” he said. “This is just Phase 1, and there will be Phase 2 and Phase 3. Any kind of knowledge we get from each phase will help us into the next phase, is how I look at it.”
Brotherston said each participant offers something different, including himself who has several years of experience in the hospitality industry.
“There’s been some really nice tidbits of information that are going to help everyone, like doing placards outside of businesses so, as people are walking along, they get to see what the services and specials of the day are, so there’s more of an interest for people street browsing before they enter an establishment,” he said. “There’s also the idea of using online as much as you can to give people an idea of what they’re going to expect in terms of change in the business community.”
Brotherston said he would like to see more merchants hop on board with Monday Mingle.
“It would definitely benefit everyone, but unfortunately trying to get people to the table is a challenge during this time,” he said. “Attendance has increased, but not as much as we would have liked or hoped for. It grew from six to more than a dozen people.”
Janice Giroux joined for the first time last week after learning about Monday Mingle through the Okotoks & District Chamber of Commerce, of which she’s on the board of directors.
“I wanted to see what they were doing,” she said. “There were some great questions and a lot of engagement.”
Giroux, a Sunlife Financial advisor, said she learned valuable information about protecting oneself from contracting COVID-19 from biohazard professionals.
“It’s always so great to get real life knowledge from people that do it all the time, not just the theory,” she said. “They had good tips and explained things like how masks work and cleaning agents that they use to sanitize, so that was really helpful.”
Kelly Tuck, Black Diamond’s marketing manager, agrees that Monday Mingle is a valuable tool for the region in building relationships and sharing information during such a challenging time for businesses.
“We have marketers offering their expertise for free to our businesses,” she said. “I would like to see more businesses partake in it because we’re all learning from each other. The more that’s there the better it is for all of us. Everyone who comes to the table brings value.”
The Chamber of Commerce hosts Monday Mingle in conjunction with the Diamond Valley Business Ecosystem, which was developed two months ago through the Foothills Business Recovery Task Force, established by Foothills MP John Barlow, and consists of representatives from nearby municipalities, the Diamond Valley Chamber of Commerce, Highwood Community Futures, Foothills Tourism Association, Bow Valley College and the Black Diamond and Turner Valley Inter-municipal Economic Development Committee, among others.
The ecosystem connects with High Country businesses to share funding options, mental health support and other resources needed to navigate through the pandemic.
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