Covid Chronicles - Aligned Collective
What is the name of your business?
Tell us about your business pre-COVID-19.
Aligned Collective was a collaborative, open space coworking facility. We opened as a response to 3 local economic development studies that said this was a needed asset for small business development. We (had) 60 members, all working across sectors and offered space to local not for profits for board meetings and gatherings in our large gathering room.
Tell us about the impact COVID-19 has had on your business.
COVID-19 has reduced our income by 33% in one month with membership cancellations and small businesses struggling to remain open in Squamish. We have lost 3 permanent office rentals, and seen our small business community shutter amongst the reduction in their incomes and models.
Do you think your business will make it through this? How long can you hold on for?
Maybe. Most likely not. We have a 2-month runway. If taxation increases this year, we will have to close. Without a reduction in operating expenses across the Municipal budget, small businesses in the BIA catchment area will be closing due to our increased assessments and raising taxes. Our rent is 3k a month. Our triple net is over 4.5k with taxes in DT Squamish. Hiring more staff, implementing water meter programs all have to be reassessed for this year's COVID-19 budget.
What was the hardest part of temporarily closing your business? OR, if you managed to remain open, what has been the hardest part so far, for your business?
Losing membership. Paying for automation. Increased taxation. Cleaning bills doubled. All of our costs increased to manage the space, while our taxes also increased by 2.57% above residential with a massive increase in our assessments. We have had great communication from the Chamber and Tourism Squamish. We have had an unresponsive landlord who is not local and not interested in helping local businesses.
How has COVID-19 affected you personally?
The stress of a massive new investment with no clarity as to how much our overhead will be increasing with taxes. Personally, this has been incredibly stressful watching small businesses in Squamish fall apart under the pressure to maintain our income and memberships with the entire economic situation already stressful. There is no place to open if we lose our facility.
How has your business innovated or pivoted to during this time?
We have pivoted our model and automated our system. We now offer private, clean, bleached office space. Members can buy a 5-pass, 10-pass, or 24/7 pass and can reserve one of 10 different spaces for their daily work. It allows a great opportunity to get out of the house and have a full, productive day of work with high-speed internet. Podcasts, zoom meetings are all now working models of business. Aligned allows us to pivot to this new, sanitized model of working together, apart.
Do you have any tips that you can share that could help other Squamish businesses with the focus of keeping their staff and customers safe while delivering their products or services?
Yes. Use automation and online integrations to your advantage. If you had a fear of online retail, now is the time to learn. Online ordering, pickup at the store, online fitting rooms, there are amazing technology tools to make safe distancing possible. We remain fully open to memberships through automation of our doors, PPE in every room, and safe distancing measures.
How can the community of Squamish support you and your business as we move through this unprecedented time?
The community can shop locally, use local resources, and demand that taxes be reduced to residential rates. Promote other businesses. Use each other's businesses. Don't shop at massive out of town retailers. The town has to re-open the budget before the 15th deadline. Take ALL the fat out of the budget. Not just traffic studies that can't happen due to reduced services. No more weeding of lawns. No more mowing of parks that are closed. Water metering implementation push to next year. Reduce staff. Keep essential services, running: Water, sewer. Take out all climate action items until next year. No new hires. This is an economic development EMERGENCY. No new bylaw officers for Air BnB. No contractor hiring. No new studies. We must act together to save our small business community.