As part of its Canadian Business Resilience Network campaign, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, through the generosity of Salesforce (NYSE:CRM), provided 62 small Canadian businesses with $10,000 grants to help their recovery efforts during these unprecedented times. What follows is the story of Rustic Mama Retreats from Warkworth, Ontario, one of the businesses that received a grant.
“It’s hard to put into words the effect COVID-19 has had on my business,” said Jennifer James. “Rustic Mama Retreats is a company that focuses on running women’s retreats across the province. We offer women who are stressed out, burned out, exhausted or just plain in need, the opportunity to get away and refresh themselves while connecting with other like-minded women and build relationships that support their life moving forward.”
Although Rustic Mama Retreats operates year-round, it relies on the summer and fall months for the bulk of its revenue.
“Each retreat attracts 150-200 women who come together for healing, reflection and fun,” explained James. “When the government imposed the ban on gatherings, we had to immediately shut down all of our operations. That meant losing ten retreats in the spring of 2020, which amounted to over $500,000 in lost sales and devastated our business. All full time, part-time and contract staff were laid off. Many of my team are local single mothers, and I begin operating the business out of my home, while also parenting and, additionally, I also became a teacher to my three young children at the same time.”
As COVID-19 related restrictions began to ease, Rustic Mama Retreats has had to pivot its business model to adjust its retreats to meet social distancing guidelines.
“This includes revamping our workshop offerings, adjusting our capacities at all venues and changing our entertainment options,” told James. “My front-line staff need personal protective equipment and cleaning protocols will have to be enhanced for the safety of employees and guests.”
Rustic Mama Retreats currently has 13 retreats scheduled between September and November. The majority of those attending these retreats are guests that transferred from spring retreats as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. Due to retreat capacities being cut in half, Rustic Mama Retreats will be able to add more events to accommodate the demand with the help of the CBRN grant.
“Canadians are dying for a chance to get out and be social after months and months of isolation,” expressed James. “We can provide that opportunity to them and want to do it with the utmost safety in mind.”
Rustic Mama Retreats has been an active member of the local community as well as a member of the Trent Hills Chamber of Commerce.
Ms. James also added, “Not only do we employ locally, we strive to provide opportunities for local single parents to have a work 9:00 a.m. -3 :00 p.m. while their children are in school so they can spend the rest of their time with their children without incurring child care costs.”
Rustic Mama Retreats provides free retreat opportunities to women in need through shelters and community support programs and it also holds parent and child retreats while working closely with families from Ontario Works and the Children’s Aid Society.
“We will be able to provide Canadians with an opportunity to reconnect with each other in a safe, and healthy social setting,” said James. “Something we are all in desperate need of right now.”
To learn more about the CBRN Small Business Relief Fund and see the full list of grant recipients, visit the Small Business Relief Fund page.