Calgary Businesses Expertly Adapting and Pivoting to Support Community
Written by: Margie Grace
The current pandemic is having a drastic impact on the working world, which will undoubtedly be felt for many years to come. While many current economic indicators look bleak, there are a wealth of inspiring business stories to relish in. There have been a number of stories that reflect the inventive ways businesses have leveraged their resources to assist in addressing this pervasive pandemic.
One interesting (even surprising) aspect of this business relief has been the growing number of businesses who have radically shifted their priorities to adapt to serving the immediate needs of their communities. Institutions ranging from microbreweries to multinationals have pivoted their operations to help provide relief to those around them. Many have begun producing a product completely unrelated to their usual line of business, while others are working within their usual wheelhouse, but have swiftly shifted priorities or are making special accommodations to assist in making our communities safe.
There are a number of local examples I would like to highlight here in the Calgary area that we should recognize, celebrate, and continue to empower as time goes on.
A selection of 6 local businesses who have pivoted their operations or have shifted priorities and or made considerable accommodations:
Two alcohol producers now focusing efforts on hand sanitizer production:
1. Skunkworks distilleries.
Premium engineered moonshine creators
In mid-March, Skunkworks started producing small batches of sanitizer. Originally reported by CTV news, Lastiwka explains, “For our moonshine, we pick just the best parts of the cut, the parts that taste good. The parts that don’t taste so good we can use for hand sanitizer.1” To make the sanitizer, other key ingredients are added like hydrogen peroxide, xanthan gum to make it easier on the hands and some lime juice for the smell. There were immediate requests from workers in various professions with customer-facing roles. Amazingly, Skunkworks is giving away their hand sanitizer for free. Check their website to check their hours to go collect.
2. Annex Ale
Craft beer and soda creators
After Annex Ale closed their doors on March 16th, they saw a 60% decrease in revenue of their craft soda and beer. After consulting with Raft Beer labs, they decided to craft crisis grade hand sanitizer to help keep their business operational and help out their community. The product is created in line with the WHO guidelines, and they are calling it “Hand Sanitizer Refill”, as the product needs to be transferred into another sealable container after opening. (Talk about an opportunity to be sustainable and reuse a container you already have sitting at home!) Owner Andrew Bullied told the Calgary Herald, “I had no intention of ever doing this. But we have people that we need to keep employed and we’ve got a bigger purpose that we can serve here in the Calgary community.2”They are donating 10% of all products made to charities and nonprofits in the Calgary area. Check out their website for more details.
3. Little Rock Printing
Signage and Label Printing
Little Rock is known for being a top printer in Calgary, specializing in cards, posters, and other commercial printing and signage jobs. They have now pivoted to fabricating acrylic protective screens for client facing business operations, in addition to custom stickers “social distancing stickers” to indicate sections of 2 metres for grocery stores. Like other small businesses, their pivot has been critical for their survival and helping maintain job security. Owner Brian Kroeke told the Calgary Herald they have heard many encouraging and heartwarming stories as a result of their work. One of them being that the plastic shields have provided a sense of relief for many workers who now feel much more comfortable perform their duties at work with the plastic shields in place. They print a wide variety of marketing materials, so keep them in mind for your future business printing needs!
4. Alberta Garment
Established in 1988, this Calgary-based company has built up their business and clientele for manufacturing quality coveralls for workwear used on oil and gas and construction worksites. However, since the pandemic, they have pivoted to medical PPE including hospital-grade masks and gowns. On April 11th, they reported to have been making 10,000 items a week. President Adrian Bussoli spoke to the Calgary Herald about the fact that, traditionally, many of Canada’s garment manufacturing has been outsourced overseas, however he is expecting the pandemic will breathe a new life into a preference for locally made goods of all kinds.3 Businesses will be re-examining their supply chain dependency on overseas production, which will likely increase Canadian production long-term.
5. Rocky Mountain Soap Company
Handmade natural sustainable soaps.
Like many other businesses mentioned above, Rocky Mountain saw a sharp decrease in sales the moment they had to close their physical retail locations (80% to be exact.) CEO Karina Birch and team have been focusing on reacting to the soaring demand in online sales of soap and cleaning products. They dug-up a recipe of a naturally derived hand sanitizer that was previously developed but never put into production. Their “Nomad Hand Sanitizer” is Health Canada and NHP certified, has ethyl alcohol, and is an all-natural lemongrass moisturizer, available now.
6. Hippo Hug Inc.
Customized weighted blankets
Founded in 2011, Leslie Brooks founded Hippo Hug, creating weighted blankets, to fulfill a demand for products and solutions that help those with anxiety and insomnia solving sleeping difficulties. The pandemic has inspired a pivot to focus on cotton-mask production instead. Brooks’ key chief concern when the pandemic started was to keep her staff able to stay working, profits aside. They have also recently developed a wipeable weighted blanket for hospital use.
Sustainable Grocery delivery
Founded in Vancouver in 1997, Spud is an online grocery delivery service that curates the best in local, organic, and sustainable groceries by working directly with farmers and other producers. They are also a certified B-Corp, so you can rest assured that they are also a business that uphold the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance.4
Not only are they hiring, but they have announced they will be prioritizing the elderly and those who are shut-in isolation for other health-related reasons. According to CEO Van Stolk, they are adding a button to self-identify as vulnerable, on an honour system, and they will make you a priority.5
8. Sprung Structures:
Calgary-area structure fabricator
This global company was founded in Calgary and has now celebrated over 130 years of operation. Sprung has acted quickly to build temporary hospital structures locally and in the United States since the beginning of the North American wave of COVID-19, as a reaction to the staggering projections of infected patients, with China and Italy in mind. The company is donating the $235,000 cost of the Calgary project that will supply space for about 70 beds, a nursing station and break rooms, vice-president Tim Sprung told Calgary Herald.6 Their structures were made with the intent for them to be reused again in the future, as they can be disassembled, packed away and set up again as needed. This is not the first time the company has put their innovations to a social cause. Corporate social responsibility is a pillar of their business, and their website has documented examples dating back to 1991 of previous charitable initiatives the company has put in motion using their fabrications.
I hope anyone reading this will take note of these businesses and think of them the next time they are grabbing a drink, buying a gift, or simply repeating their names to a friend. These sure are the kinds of businesses I want to stick around in my community!
2. Calgary herald source – Annex ale story
3. Calgary herald list of Alberta Businesses https://calgaryherald.com/business/local-business/alberta-businesses-do-their-bit-in-war-against-covid-19/
5. Spud Source