High costs of supplies and shipping limit growth for a number of Inuvik businesses, but some local businesspersons do not seem to mind keeping their operations small.
Inuvik is host to a number of local service industry businesses, providing services such as local cuisine and photography services, but a lot of local entrepreneurs are treating their business as a fun side-gig more than their livelihood.
“We run only once a week, mostly every Friday,” said Raquel Mendoza-Sudsudan, who operates Combo in Town. “After people pick up our food, they’ll text us right away and say thank you or great or something like that. That’s really inspiring, so we have more energy like this.”
Mendoza-Sudsudan said she puts together a menu on Wednesdays and compiles orders for food until Friday when customers pick up a plate of rice, vegetables and meat.
Contrary to the “grow or perish” mantra of many small businesses, Mendoza-Sudsudan said she was quite happy with the current pace and is not looking to expand her operation.
Lower food prices would not be a bad thing, however.
“Especially at wintertime, we find vegetables are very expensive. We try our best to make sure the customer is happy with a serving, so we try to keep our portions even in both summer and wintertime.”
Focus on what you love
While some entrepreneurs would be setting their hair on fire over the challenges of running a business in the far north, Kristian Binder of Eighty One Images takes it in stride.
Like Mendoza-Sudsudan, he also works a full-time job during the week. Also, like his counterpart, he says that’s just fine.
“I don’t take on much contract work — that way if I don’t feel like doing it I don’t have to. I prefer to have the luxury of being able to do what I want when I want,” he said. “It’s definitely more of a fun casual thing, though there’s a lot of logistical work that goes into making sure I’ve got enough stuff for the summer and Christmas markets for the tourist season.
“But my family helps me with that. It’s a shared thing we do together.”
One major benefit of keeping the business small is being able to choose work instead of taking every job that comes one’s way. So while Binder enjoys doing family portraits for friends and the like, he’s able to focus more on his landscape and Aurora photography.
And his work gets around. Binder noted a lot of people buy his work for gifts for friends across the planet.
“I do online sales for some things and I’ve gotten products to people in various places all over the world,” he said. “A lot of the stuff people buy from me in person ends up as gifts to other people too, so that’s kind of an indirect export. People like to tell me they’re giving something to someone in Australia, or England or Japan. So that’s really cool.”
He notes the cost of bringing in supplies can be daunting but he works to keep his prices reasonable by taking advantage of bulk shipping and low season specials. Though he noted his customers have yet to complain about his prices.
“The biggest hurdle I have is just making sure everything gets here on time,” he said. “It’s one of those things you just have to live with and I have to build the shipping costs into the prices.
“I mean, I would love to charge less for everything, but people understand what you get when you’re living up here.”