Lightning Rock Winery dedicated a portion of tasting room sales to help This Bag and raised enough to be able to give out one grant to a small business hurting from COVID. (Contributed)

Okanagan non-profit helps small businesses hurting under COVID-19

This Bag Helps is hoping to hand out even more micro-grants this round

Okanagan small business owners Susie and Bryan Gay were experiencing their own struggles due to COVID-19 and decided to focus their energy into creating a non-profit initiative to support others in the same position.

The concept they came up with is a locally-made and designed tote bag donning the words ‘This Bag Helped a Small Business’ with 100 per cent of the profits put into micro-grants for small businesses.

Their family’s seasonal tourism-based businesses, Antlers Surf lifestyle apparel and Penticton Paddle Surf rentals were put on hold because of COVID.

That’s when Susie chose to turn a negative into a positive and help others through this crisis.

READ MORE: Local family launch This Bag Helps

Since then, with the generous support of the community, they have been able to help a diverse array of small businesses both locally in the Okanagan, Vancouver and across the country. And they are gearing up to hand out their second round of micro-grants soon.

“It’s been amazing to see the impact of these small grants. So many businesses had us close to tears sharing how the grant would help and bring hope. Their stories are heartwarming and diverse,” said Susie. “Balilia, a family run restaurant who even though they were struggling, started a program to donate meals to health workers in their community. Sitti Soap, who employees refugee women, and is working hard to have no layoffs during the pandemic.”

They have been especially touched to see businesses supporting other businesses. Almost half of the funds raised came from small businesses buying bags, donating or sponsoring grants.

One of those local businesses is Summerland based Lightning Rock Winery, who supported the cause by donating a portion of proceeds from every bottle of Viognier wine sold in their tasting room this summer.

“They ended up raising enough funds for a full grant,” raved Susie.

Twelve businesses and organizations have been helped so far by This Bag.

“Whether the grant helps out with a rent payment or insurance, sometimes a little boost is all that is needed to keep your favourite small business alive,” said Susie.

Susie and Bryan have received close to 500 applications and keep receiving more applications every day.

“Sadly, the need is still great,” said Susie.

So they’ve decided to do a drive to raise even more funds to help more small businesses struggling through this pandemic.

Until Oct. 15, when you buy a Help a Small Business tote or T-shirt, they are including a bonus bag or shirt with the intention it will be gifted on, further spreading the message and giving help and support to struggling small businesses. Enter ‘BOGO’ in the order comments at thisbag.ca. A small bag is just $24 and comes in two colours.

Thanks to their daughter’s compassion, the project has evolved to support other causes that make an impact locally and globally: giving clean water, helping the bees, feeding a child and educating a girl – which has raised enough to sponsor education for two girls in Africa thus far, through B.C. based organization, One Girl Can. Susie and Bryan’s nine-year-old daughter has gotten right behind that cause, helping spread awareness and even packaging orders.

“I love school and think every girl should have the right to education,” said their daughter Sadie.

“The project was born out of a heart to support small businesses that make up the framework of our communities. They closed their doors to help keep everyone safe and well, and This Bag’s mission is to now offer the support they need as they reopen or adapt in this ever-changing marketplace,” said Susie.

If you would like to sponsor a grant or donate go to thisbag.ca/sponsor-or-donate.



monique.Tamminga@pentictonwesternnews.com

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