As small businesses across Canada continue to be impacted by unexpected challenges presented by the coronavirus (COVID-19), we reached out to Ann-Marie Fleming, a Canadian small business owner and founder & CEO of Dog Quality, to understand how she has been navigating these unprecedented times. In our short interview with Ann-Marie, we asked some important questions to find out how her experience and key learnings can inspire other small business owners during COVID-19.
Ann-Marie FlemingFounder & CEO
An e-commerce business that provides essential assistive products to help senior dogs and their families.
Years in operation: 11
Number of employees: 10
How has the coronavirus (COVID-19) impacted your business?
The biggest impact came in the form of production delays on parts, materials and inventory coming from out of the country. Our orders were all delayed due to factory closures in an attempt to control the spread of COVID-19. Fortunately, we have been able to take backorders on many of our products, which helped considerably. We were also very well-positioned because our fulfillment is diversified. We use warehouses in the U.S., UK and Canada, so we have been able to keep shipments of the products we had in stock moving.
From a logistical point of view, have your business operations changed?
Fortunately, since we already operate through multiple warehouses in different countries, we have been able to keep things moving quite smoothly during COVID-19. We learned a lot from the B.C. wildfires and the resulting evacuations. Since then, we changed from one central shipping location to three, which has helped us a great deal during these difficult times.
What kind of support has helped during this phase?
I am incredibly proud of Canada and the support that the Canadian government has been providing businesses as well as individuals. The financial support that has become available through our bank and the upcoming wage subsidy will be a significant help as we wait out the delays and revenue loss caused by COVID-19. We are very grateful that we have this support which will not only help us to recover from the impact of delayed productions, but it will help us to keep our team working.
How do you and your team stay motivated?
Our customers keep us going. Every single day we are so fortunate to hear from customers who share with us how our products have improved the quality of life for their senior dog and their family. Seeing the difference our products are making and how much they are needed, especially during these challenging times, reminds us every day that we are doing something important and we are so grateful for the opportunity to help. It is the best feel-good business I could ever imagine being a part of.
Your customers are senior dog owners. What advice would you give them during this unprecedented time?
The advice I would give to families caring for senior dogs is to use this time to embrace the little moments. Our products are designed to improve their quality of life, and through that, we hope we can help families continue to find joy with their senior dogs. Now that so many people are at home, they have the opportunity to enjoy many special moments they may have missed otherwise. Time is so short and our dogs teach us that we need to live in the present and with all the scariness in the world today, I hope people find comfort in staying in the present and appreciating the amazing life you have right at your fingertips with your dogs and family.
When do you predict things will get back to the “new normal”?
For us, the new normal will likely begin in May to early June since that is when we expect to have received all the production orders that have been delayed due to the pandemic.
What resources have you found helpful?
The most useful resource has been the prime minister’s daily speeches where he announces the evolving support being made available. I have also found a lot of support and helpful information through our contact with EDC (Export Development Canada) and our amazing Commercial Bank Account Manager.
What advice do you have for other small business owners?
I have always believed that every business needs an online revenue-generating channel. Being able to provide goods and online gives you access to the world and the need for an online generated revenue is vital during this pandemic. I believe that the businesses that have embraced e-commerce and digital acquisition prior to the pandemic will have the strongest chance for survival, but I also believe that it is never too late to evolve. My hope is that any business that relies solely on a brick and mortar presence will open their mind and their business to creating an online business model to complement the offline model they currently have.
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