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Small business caught between a rock and vision place The football-sized rock sits on the counter at Evolution Cycles and Snowboards. There is nothing special about the blue-grey piece of stone other than the fact that it broke the window that almost broke Evolution. Situated about 200 metres across Village Gate Boulevard from the Whistler RCMP detachment, Evolution’s front door offers a good view of the latest in trick bike parts and snowboards. On Monday, Nov. 13, the door (after a sneak attack by rock wielding thieves) allowed a thief or thieves to enter and make off with 15 snowboards worth $10,000. As a new business run by two young partners flexing their entrepreneurial muscles, Evolution is an example of the fine line many small businesses walk in Whistler. While the franchization of Whistler continues at a frantic pace, small businesses are finding it harder to deal with high lease rates, an increased cost of doing business and a vigorous group of thieves who don’t care whether you’re running a small business or an international company. There’s only one difference. The international company probably has enough cash flow to pay insurance premiums and the hydro bill in one month. Ian Ritz and Jenine Bourbonnais of Evolution do not. "When you are a small business you have to pay the hydro bill because you know the hydro is going to be cut off," says Bourbonnais after taking a couple weeks to digest the theft and carry on. "It also may be necessary to take the insurance costs out of your budget and put them off for a month because you can’t afford it… you can guarantee the hydro is going to get cut off, but you never think you’re going to get broken into." When the 15 snowboards went out the door so too did half of Evolution’s snowboard stock and any ability the company had to offer potential customers different snowboard options. Ritz says they don’t want to be looked at as hard cases who need help. What they are, in fact, is an example of the young, energetic, entrepreneurial spirit that breathed life into the former garbage dump which is now the Number One ski resort in North America. Undaunted by their misfortune, Bourbonnais and Ritz have secured a small loan, ordered some new stock and are waiting for the snow — and their sales season — to arrive. While larger (even uninsured) companies may not be too affected by something like a break-in, fire, flood or rent increase, small businesses spend the money one week they are hoping to make the next. One small glitch can upset the tenuous fiscal balancing act performed by many small businesses. "When you are just getting a business going, the business is your lifestyle," Bourbonnais says. "So this may look like a snowboard theft but it is actually somebody ripping off our lifestyle." In the meantime, Ritz and Bourbonnais are not going to let thieves derail their entrepreneurial engine which was steaming along at a great pace. In fact, they have changed alarm companies, installed bars on the windows of the store and used the energy gained while recuperating from the break-in to move ahead — building their dream all the while. "That’s the sole thing that keeps the small business owner going… that drive to make a dream real," Bourbonnais says with an entrepreneurial glint in her eye. "That vision of what we want our business to become is why you started it, so it would really suck to have a break-in alter that. We are going to continue doing our thing… we’ll make it."

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