COVID isn’t ravaging the spirits of new entrepreneurs in the Southern Interior | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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COVID isn’t ravaging the spirits of new entrepreneurs in the Southern Interior

Brian and Lauren McClelland with their year-old twin daughters in their newly-opened Smith Creek Cycle.
Image Credit: Submitted/Brian McClelland
November 21, 2020 - 6:30 AM

Neither COVID, stock shortages nor winter weather were enough to stop Brian and Lauren McClelland from opening their new Smith Creek Cycle shop in West Kelowna.

An avid cyclist, McClelland's friends have been encouraging him for years to open a bike shop and he opted to take the plunge — in the middle of a pandemic.

“When the opportunity presents itself, you jump on it,” Brian told iNFOnews.ca. “We saw that the opportunity here exists and thought, the timing is terrible but let’s do it anyways.”

Their story is one of hundreds playing out throughout the Okanagan and Thompson regions, where the number of new business licences has actually grown in many cities, despite the hit COVID-19 had on the economy as a whole.

In the region’s five largest cities, the total number of business licences issued this year is up by 127 out of a total of about 25,000 businesses.

That may seem like a tiny number but, even in a normal year, hundreds of businesses fold so hundreds more take their place. It's just that, this year, despite COVID, there has still been an overall growth in new businesses.

A report to Kelowna City council in October, for example, said business closures were up 32 per cent this year over last. That means 372 closed. But the number of business licences issued, at 10,067, is actually up by 55 over last year, meaning more than 400 new businesses started. And the year isn't over yet.

The growth in the total number of business licences is not consistent, being confined to the Central and South Okanagan.

Penticton is up by 80 licences, Kelowna by 55 and West Kelowna by 71. Vernon is down by 55 and Kamloops is down by 21.

Kamloops, on the other hand, has only had 331 businesses close this year versus 519 last year. That's good news for the existing businesses but also means more than 150 new businesses started this year.

Despite there being fewer business licence permits issued in Kamloops, that city is doing just fine during COVID, Dave Jones, the city’s business licence inspector said.

“In Kamloops, we haven’t really seen a slowdown,” he said. “Kamloops is in the middle of a growth spurt. It’s the last hidden gem in the Interior. We’ve really seen a huge increase in workers from out of town – contractors, subcontractors, a lot of that stuff.”

While many businesses remain open, they may have reduced their staffing, Jones said. Those people, in turn, may be venturing out on their own and contributing to a surge in home based businesses, of which there are about 1,800 in Kamloops and, Jones suspects, that number is growing. He won’t have final figures until the end of the year.

A layoff wasn’t the catalyst for the McClellands, who both have business degrees, new twin daughters and Brian worked in corporate sales before becoming self-employed.

READ MORE: Kamloops, Okanagan cycling companies see huge sales spike amid pandemic

While opening seemed like a good idea because of the COVID-inspired boom in cycling, that’s not what got them to open their shop this fall. In fact, their business plan is based on pre-COVID sales projections because there’s no way to tell if the love affair people are having with bikes will last.

Plus, they opened their Main Street shop on Oct. 1, heading into the slow days of winter for the bike business

But, as part of his shift away from the corporate world, McClelland started working online as the only North American distributor for Pipedream steel-framed bikes out of Scotland.

That keeps him busy while he fights the challenges COVID has created for the bicycle industry.

When COVID hit last spring, many manufacturers scaled back production, thinking the market was going to collapse. The opposite happened so, while production has ramped up, manufacturers are hesitant about expanding out of concern that the cycling urge will decline along with COVID next year.

By opening in October, in the middle of the COVID supply chain challenge, McClelland doesn’t have new bikes in stock yet and some parts are on backorder until next spring. But, by opening now, he’s got time to get those new bikes in-store for the spring rush.

His optimism, obviously, is shared by many others who see COVID as just one of many business challenge to overcome on the road to self-employment.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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