Burnaby Grade 12 student Linh Nguyen knows firsthand how important small businesses can be to a community – and not just to the local economy either.
When she moved here from Calgary in Grade 10, Sushi Q, a small bubble tea shop close to Burnaby Central Secondary, became a kind of sanctuary for her as she went through the difficult process of making new friends at a new school.
“I got to know the owners, and they were truly the most warm-hearted people you could meet, and they always treated me so well,” Nguyen says. “I don’t think they knew how much they meant to me, but it was nice in such an unfamiliar environment to have a place where I kind of felt like it was safe.”
She even painted them a poster that they had hung up in the shop for a year and a half.
So when she found out the shop had closed – one of thousands of small businesses across the country to go down because of the COVID-19 pandemic – Nguyen was devastated
She did some research and found lots of stories about small businesses that had been in families for years shutting down because of the pandemic.
“I realized it was a really big problem,” she says.
She had taken a marketing class at school and done an internship at a marketing firm, and she wondered if she could use those new skills to help.
Her idea was a novel one – a free, non-profit marketing agency and directory for small, local businesses.
She couldn’t find anything like it on the internet.
“I was terrified,” she says, “I was like, ‘Oh my god, no one’s really doing this. I don’t have a path that I can follow.’”
But with help from two close friends (Macy and David Lam – no relation to each other) she got Connect Media YVR up and running in April.
So far, the group has worked with four small, local businesses, providing free marketing services, including social media management, content creation and advertising management.
“I just figured, especially in the midst of a pandemic, businesses would not have the time or resources to invest in their social media or their marketing,” Nguyen says. “So we try to help with that. By growing their reach and their presence on social media, we help them connect to more customers.”
Connect Media YVR has also created a local directory, a website that gives small businesses a platform so community-conscious customers can find them more easily.
“I think there’s a lot of people who want to support small businesses but don’t really know how to,” Nguyen says.
The directory currently lists more than 60 small Metro Vancouver businesses.
Shaun Samuel is the founder and CEO of Bulldozer Bites, an energy bites company based out of YVR Prep, a commissary kitchen in Burnaby’s Still Creek Business Park.
His business is one of the four currently working with Connect Media YVR, and he says the non-profit has helped generate “business buzz” through increased social media content, likes and followers.
“I see a lot more engagement with the customers. I see a lot more customers buying through their increased awareness,” he says.
“I’m so impressed that these young students are doing such a big endeavour,” he says. “Two thumbs up on them. I totally encourage them. It’s amazing how bright these young individuals are.”
For more information about Connect Media YVR or to access their small business directory, visit www.connectmediayvr.ca.