Robert Vidra has been planning special events in Calgary since 1996. The pandemic has nearly flattened business, with upwards of 90 events postponed.
“My company took an 80 per cent drop in sales,” said Vidra, CEO and Owner of Simply Elegant.
Vidra operates Skyline, a venue located along Kensington Road N.W. He said mid-March when the pandemic hit, he was forced to lay off 65 employees.
“This is not a business to me where i go home from a nine to five, this is my life and the lives of my employees,” said Vidra.
Vidra is one of the Calgary businesses owners struggling to survive in a pandemic that has been brutal for many sectors of the city’s economy.
The resilience of entrepreneurs like Vidra is being recognized during Small Business Week.
“These times have challenged all of us in every possible way,” said Murray Sigler, interim CEO, Calgary Chamber of Commerce. “We know many challenges still lie ahead but we also know Calgary’s entrepreneurial spirit is unbeatable.”
Thursday the chamber hosted its small business week summit online.
“While 2020 has disrupted and cancelled a lot of things, it can’t cancel the grit and determination of small business owners,” said Sigler.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business estimates that one in five Alberta small business is at risk of closing before the end of the pandemic.
“The government right now has no idea what a small business is, you can not ask somebody that is dog walker, or whatever to go home and stay home and it is surprising how many of these businesses are out there,” said Doug Gablehaus, CPS Accounting Services.
Gablehaus is a small business consultant who says Ottawa is out of touch with how small some small businesses really are.
“When you look at the stats, its the vast majority over 50 per cent of our economy is made up of these small businesses – and for the government to come along and first of all tell them to go home and stay home, that’s just not sustainabel,” said Gablehaus.
“And then,” he added, “to come along and offer these subsidies and then come along to the vast majority of businesses of small businesses and say they don’t qualify!”
Gablehaus said subsidies aren’t sustainable and it’s difficult to find clear information on who qualifies for what. He said government needs a better plan to help small business owners than the one it’s got now.
“What they should have done is turned around and said we’ll refund a portion of the taxes you paid last year ‘cause now you’re looking at the people that have truly supported the economy and its got money quickly into their hands there’s no need for an application – they already know all the numbers,” said Gablehaus.
Vidra said he is receiving government support but it also brings stress.
“We qualify for subsidies at this point but its a constant threat,” he said. “It’s month by month, we don’t know whats going on . You’re left with massive anxieties as to what you’re going to do.”
He said he’s trying to stay optimistic knowing people are booking his venue for future dates.