Canadian small businesses surviving and thriving through COVID-19

Every single one of Canada’s 1.3m small businesses are facing challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic and every single owner has a story to tell about surviving and sometimes even thriving through the challenge. 

This fall, L3 met virtually with four Canadian entrepreneurs and produced this video to share the stories of history, family, dedication and perseverance at the heart of every Canadian small business. 

Bubbles and Balm is a New Brunswick-based natural skin care company, started by Judith and Justin Sweeney when they weren’t able to find products that catered to sensitive skin. Before COVID-19, Justin says they were hesitant to focus on their online presence, given the success of their brick-and-mortar store. However, when they were forced to shut down their storefront, the Sweeneys were able to pivot to online ordering and providing free community delivery within 48 hours. As a result, Bubbles and Balm sold more in April 2020 than they had in the month leading up to Christmas the year before, which they believe is a testament to their community’s support.  

To connect with Judith and Justin, visit their WebsiteFacebookInstagram or LinkedIn pages.  

How can you modify it, how can you change it? What do you need to change in order to keep the ball rolling? – Garry Geissberger 

Geissberger Farmhouse Cider is a third-generation apple cider producer in the Golden Horseshoe of Ontario. Garry Geissberger has been pressing apples and working in his family’s business since he was a teen. When COVID-19 hit, Garry says they saw “everywhere that we sell cider basically get obliterated right off the calendar”, so like many small business owners Garry and his brother Gord had to stop to look at their business model and ask themselves “How can you modify it, how can you change it? What do you need to change in order to keep the ball rolling?” For Geissberger Farmhouse Cider adapting to a remote world meant changing where and how they sell their products, including their new offerings of porch pickups and delivery. 

To connect with Garry, visit the WebsiteFacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn pages. 

ShaMaSha! is an immersive Indigenous cultural retreat in Newfoundland curated by founder Daphne March. Daphne shared that the disruption to her tourism-based business by COVID-19 actually offered her a moment of reflection to meditate and reconsider how to further align her business with her values and roots. Instead of creating a whole new site for her retreat, she has shifted her plans to focus on partnering with community organizations that already had the infrastructure she needed. Daphne says, “the culprit [COVID-19], has been devastating, but now I look at it as an opportunity for my business”. 

To connect with Daphne, visit this Website, or her LinkedIn page. 

SIFA Group Inc. is an accounting firm in downtown Toronto. CEO and founder, Spencer A. Macintyre and his team had to leave their offices and adjust to the world of working remotely.   Spencer is now working from his apartment, which he jokes was where his original office headquarters were. 

To connect with Spencer, visit his WebsiteFacebook or LinkedIn pages. 


While these businesses were able to survive and thrive, how many more like them won’t be able to? 

What can our communities do to support the recovery and sustainability of our Canadian small businesses and continue the legacies of the owners that built them?  

L3 is building capacity for more and better “social acquisitions” to support the sustainable transition of businesses that are essential to their communities.  


About Legacy Leadership Lab (L3) 

L3 is an 18-month initiative by the Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience, funded by the Government of Canada’s Investment Readiness program. We are leading online workshops and events to help build expert-driven solutions for Canada’s transitioning small business community. The L3 Community is developing and activating market interventions and prototypes that allow conventional and social finance players, business service providers, and community leaders to facilitate social acquisitions of existing businesses in their own towns and contexts.   

About Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience (WISIR)

WISIR is a research institute at the University of Waterloo’s School of Environment, Enterprise and Development committed to generating trans- and inter-disciplinary knowledge about social innovations and the social innovation process (the dynamics of learning, adaptation and resilience). Our approach is to pursue collaborative research and projects that bridge University of Waterloo departments, involve researchers from around the world, and engage those beyond academia. We seek to mobilize this knowledge through a range of new curriculum offerings and training opportunities - both within and outside of a university setting.