Glass half-full: 5 tips for starting a small business in BC.

                       

Shayan Keshvadi learned two things from his mother, Soheila Jamalian: cooking and business.

The mother-son duo are co-owners of Chop & Chew, a North Vancouver restaurant that launched less than a year into the pandemic. The locally sourced, sausage-based eatery has been serving up delectable platters, burgers, and poutine ever since. It was Jamalian’s idea to open during the pandemic. “As a young buck entrepreneur, I thought [it was a wild idea],” he said.  

The journey has been as challenging as you’d expect. Even today, small businesses are still feeling the effects of the pandemic. Industries face a cocktail of supply chain issues, labour shortages, rising costs and inflation — all on top of recovering from the revenue losses sustained during the pandemic. 

Keshvadi built financial resilience for his business by seeing things with a “glass half-full” mindset. Here are a few of his lessons learned — and a few of ours — about starting a small business in BC during a challenging time.

1. Lead with your values to help you win.

From the beer you stock on tap to your banking partner, build relationships with those aligned with your values. It just might help you get ahead. 

The key is making sure these relationships aren’t just transactional. To do that, Keshvadi’s approach is to “Take care of everyone as though you’re taking care of yourself,” Keshvadi says. Building a community can help your bottom line too. When cash flow has gotten tricky for Chop & Chew in the past, it was the goodwill and trust that Keshvadi built that helped him through it. “It becomes less corporate and more like, ‘You’re helping me, I’m gonna help you.’” 

Keshvadi has a long-standing relationship with Vancity too, first as an employee and now as a client. “Each time I walk into the branch, the love is there, the support is there, whether it’s having to borrow extra chairs from them to host an event at my restaurant or seeing a familiar face with a smile. No other financial institution offers that.” 

2. Go local to avoid global supply chain issues.

Chop & Chew opened at the height of global supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic. To sidestep the headaches of importing goods and support the local economy, Keshvadi turned to homegrown vendors. And when he says local, he means local — his nearest supplier being the cafe next door. 

“It’s nice to know that your neighbors are the ones directly getting paid [by you],” says Keshvadi.  

3. Focus on getting the basics right.

Health restrictions forced Chop & Chew to start small. In its earliest days, it could only offer outdoor dining and a set menu to minimize costs. This helped Keshvadi get the basics right by imposing a focus on retaining customers, hiring slowly, and perfecting its essential dishes. “Starting a small business during the pandemic was like having training wheels,” he says, giving a glimpse into his “glass half-full” mindset.

Keshvadi admits that it felt more like a nuisance than a gift at the time, because “you just want to be going full tilt but looking back, it was a nice, slow, steady growth that allowed us to connect with each and every single customer that did come in.” 

4. Track your numbers.

You can’t manage what you don’t track. Keshvadi runs his numbers one or two times a month to stay on top of things. He advises accounting for every last detail in the books — even if it’s one bottle breaking. For small businesses, this sort of thing adds up in a way that might not affect larger chains. 

 “Back in the day, you could be off by 5-6% and you’d be okay. But today, everything has to be perfect,” Keshvadi says about the razor-thin profit margins of a small business restaurant.  

Most businesses can likely find some expenses to cut too, and every little bit counts. When an employee quits, can you wait to fill their spot? Do you need to go all out on upgrading your patio furniture this season?  

5. Bridge the gap with a small business loan.

The reality is that you do sometimes need to spend money to make money, and a small business loan can help you do that without affecting your cashflow. 

Ensure you have access to funding when you need it by getting a small business loan, like one of Vancity’s Operating Loans. Vancity’s Operating Loans work more like a line of credit, so you can apply today but not be charged any interest on the loan until you actually borrow it.  

Running a small business with Vancity at your side.

Whether you’re starting a small business soon or already running one, we’d love to help you on the journey. Our small business advisors are equipped to offer business owners financial advice on topics from cash flow management to getting a small business loan to choosing the right type of bank account.

“Our team is so excited be here on Central Lonsdale continuing to support our local businesses in becoming more financially resilient,” says Vancity Branch Manager, Sadey O’Neill. “It’s a strong, vibrant community here on the North Shore and we’re thrilled to be right in the middle of it.”   

Interested in banking where 30% of profits go back to your community? Book an appointment with one of our business specialists for tailored financial advice and solutions for your unique business. 

Plus, get a 10% discount on your next visit to Chop & Chew using the promo code LOVELOCAL. 

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