Canada’s small businesses are the backbone of the country’s local communities and as such will play a key role in driving economic recovery once the pandemic ends. But many have been hit hard and need support to adapt to the current provincial lockdowns and other restrictions and to rebuild for the future.
That’s why Canadian ICMIF member Desjardins is launching the GoodSpark Small Business Grants Program to support small businesses across the country. The CAD 1-million initiative is providing CAD 10,000 grants to 75 locally owned and operated small businesses, some of which will also receive local advertising support and customized business consulting services from MBA students at York University’s Schulich School of Business.
“Small businesses play a vital role in the economic health and vibrancy of our local communities and supporting communities is at the heart of Desjardins’ purpose as a financial cooperative. These communities need our support now more than ever. Helping small businesses to survive and get back on their feet will in turn help our communities recover from the pandemic, and we are proud to provide opportunities for MBA students to play an important role in this initiative,” said Benaaz Irani, Vice-President of the Desjardins Agent Network.
“The financial and other supports we are providing are designed to help the companies adapt to the current challenges by developing ecommerce capabilities and other digital solutions, maintaining and hiring staff, improving energy efficiency, taking measures to protect employees and customers, and transforming their operations in other ways,” said André Langlois, Vice-President of Growth and Industry Relations at Desjardins Group.
The 75 small businesses supported by the program represent a cross section of industries and include restaurants, retail outlets, cleaning firms, dance studios, dry cleaners, hair and nail salons, floral shops, and sports-related firms, among others. The firms, which must have 25 or fewer employees, were nominated by Desjardins Insurance Agents in Ontario, Alberta and New Brunswick and by Desjardins Financial Security Independent Network (DFSIN) Advisors across the country.
Three levels of support are being provided under the program:
Tier 1 – All 75 small businesses will receive a CAD 10,000 grant.
Tier 2 – 20 of the 75 firms will receive support for local advertising initiatives in addition to the CAD 10,000 grant.
Tier 3 – Another 21 of the 75 firms will receive the CAD 10,000 grant and support for local advertising, plus customized business consulting analysis and advice from MBA students at York University’s Schulich Business School.
“We are happy to partner with Desjardins to enable our very talented MBA students to help these small businesses to transform their operations to meet the challenges of the pandemic. The students will also benefit through the real-world experience they gain and through compensation from Desjardins for their work. For many of our students, this is also a difficult economic time and the compensation will help them to continue funding their studies,” said Kostas Tsambourlianos, Professor of Strategic Field Studies, Schulich School of Business.
The GoodSpark Small Business Grants Program is just one component of the extensive support Desjardins is providing to clients and communities across Canada during the pandemic. The cooperative has granted over 600,000 requests for payment relief and deferral in all its business sectors, refunded over CAD 155 million in premiums to its auto insurance customers, reduced the interest rate to personal credit card holders, and provided emergency CAD 3,000 loans to customers in need, among other measures.
In addition, it has contributed millions of dollars to support local businesses, entrepreneurs, social organizations and communities. Because of these measures, Desjardins is proud to be one of three financial institutions in North America recognized by the United Nations as a responsible institution during the COVID-19 pandemic.