Toronto cannabis retail store Forever Buds opened in January while the city was under lockdown.
“We could have stopped and waited until this was all over but with no end in sight, we decided to roll with the punches and move forward,” said Vish Joshi, the CEO of Forever Buds.
“It’s a bit of a downer that we couldn’t actually open our doors to customers for a grand opening. But we worked hard to create a buzz online.”
In Nova Scotia, Chanoey's Pasta opened in June while COVID-19 restrictions were in place.
Catherine Paulino, co-owner of the Dartmouth restaurant along with her husband and chef Carl Mangali, said they had already leased a space and taken out loans and “couldn’t turn back.”
But the entrepreneurs had come up with a nearly pandemic-proof business, she said.
“We hit the jackpot with our business plan because we were focused on takeout anyways,” Paulino said. “We pay all our bills on time and we even take a day off a week now.”
While there are challenges to opening a business during a pandemic, she added that there are benefits too.
“We found some of the rates lower than we expected and we received some discounts on our (point-of-sale) system.”
Indeed, some real estate lease prices have dipped during the pandemic as sublets flood the market, while e-commerce and online ordering has thrived.
Yet the startup surge over the last year could be followed by a wave of closures post-pandemic, Bowen said.
“The failure rate is probably going to be higher for two reasons,” he said. “One is that there's going to be people starting companies that don't have the background.”
“The other is second-mover advantage and that is when somebody starts a business and demonstrates that there's a market for something new, maybe it's a niche market or an emerging market, and then an established big player … takes over.”