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Minister for small business to speak in Whistler

Naomi Yamamoto taking part in Chamber of Commerce open house on Oct. 25



British Columbia’s Minister of State for Small Business, Naomi Yamamoto, will speak at the Whistler Chamber of Commerce Small Business Open House on Thursday, Oct. 25.

Yamamoto will be speaking and taking part at the event, which is from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in the WCC’s boardroom. The event is free.

The small business pulse in Whistler, while not weak, still needs careful monitoring to maintain good health.

With October being Small Business Month, it is always worth the reminder of how important the entrepreneurial spirit is to the resort’s success. Seventy-six per cent of Whistler Chamber of Commerce members have fewer than 20 employees, with those between 21 and 59 staff making up 18 per cent of the chamber’s members.

With the ongoing economic doldrums impacting visitors and how they spend their money, Whistler’s small business owners have to be creative to keep things ticking over.

Fiona Famulak, the WCC’s executive director, said many of their members this summer had done well because of the volume of visitors at the resort and because of the various highly attended events.

“It’s rippled through to a number of sectors. Food and beverage, accommodation, not so much retail, we know that, and so it touched many though not all. We’re taking the month of October to host a variety of educational and networking events that help all of our members,” Famulak added.

“It’s the opportunity to communicate to them how the chamber can help support them in their endeavours, not only through what we do but through our partnerships such as Community Futures, Women’s Enterprise Centre, the Youth Business Foundation and so on.”

Staying on top of developments and trends in their own particular markets seems to be what has worked for Whistler business owners.

Tanya Ewasiuk, owner of Upper Village Market, says that while the company has been impacted by visitors bringing their own food with them, the company does not lose because they keep an eye on what customers want.

“I think we’d be right in there between not so great and terrific, in terms of how we’re doing. We are trending on par with last year a little ahead, and last year was definitely ahead of the year before,” she said.

The store relies a lot on American clientele, and for Ewasiuk this means understanding that while U.S. visitors may bring their food staples for their visits from home, where it is cheaper, they gain much business in anticipating what Americans may have left behind.

The owner of the Great Glass Elevator Candy Shop, Kennedy Raine, said she has been pleasantly surprised by her results so far for 2012, especially for September.

“We’re having a great year. Strangely enough, it hasn’t been a consistently good year, it has been up and down in spots, but we just finished our year end and overall it is up and I’m in a happy place,” said Raine.

“As a business owner in Whistler it can be hard to gauge September because it’s slow compared to the summer…. but we had a wonderful September and that’s what took us over.”

She believed other Whistler businesses had similar experiences in 2012.

“The months that I’ve been down, other people have been down. The months where I’ve been up, other people have been happy – though whether that is up or flat I don’t know. When I have a bad month I often talk about it and try to find out from whoever will tell me about their own experiences.”

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