Created By Nana has been busy crafting homemade meals and knitted wares during the pandemic, but the two person outlet has also been creating its own good fortune.
The food and knitted clothing maker is among the few Yellowknife businesses that have experienced steady activity and revenue flows while the pandemic forced many others to slow down.
“I’ve been an entrepreneur for many years with my husband. You have to take what you’ve got and make something good of it. If you’ve got lemons you can make lemonade,” said Donna McLeod, who has owned and operated Created By Nana with her husband Victor since 2016.
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When Covid-19 arrived in the NWT in March, McLeod had to stop setting up her sales tables around Yellowknife and shifted to online sales of her baby and toddler apparel, pies, baked goods and frozen meals. She makes all of her wares herself at home.
Between March and June, the strictest Covid lockdown period, online sales doubled from their usual level.
Shepherd’s pie and chicken and beef pie were the most popular items during those months.
“They’re healthy comfort foods. I think people needed those foods,” McLeod said.
McLeod said the only business problem she encountered in the lockdown phase was occasional shortages of some food items and containers in local stores.
“When you’re looking for certain types of products they weren’t always available but they came available eventually,” she said.
“My husband does all the logistics. He just made extra trips to the grocery store and Walmart where we buy the things that I need. Instead of going once a week he would go two or three times a week so he could pick up the things we needed. It caused a bit of extra work but for us it’s OK because we’re just a two-person entity. But for other companies with more employees I’m sure it was much more difficult.”
She managed the shortages by switching around her culinary offerings.
“The premise I went on is that if I couldn’t make one thing I would make something else and introduce it so there was always something to be purchased. For instance, if I couldn’t get cabbage for cabbage rolls I wouldn’t promote it. I would promote something else like lasagna if I had those products to make it.”
When the weather warmed up and the NWT entered Phase 2 of the recovery plan in mid-June, she started setting up pop up shops outside Walmart and at the Yellowknife Farmer’s Market in Somba K’e Civic Plaza.
Online orders decreased and sales at her pop up booths rose.
Being out in public again also benefited her personally, since the social isolation of the pandemic was tougher to manage than any material shortages.
“I kept myself away from people until about the beginning of July when I started doing the sales in person. That was hard because I like people and I like being with people. I think a lot of people felt that way and they want the social contact,” she said.
Throughout the summer, business has been consistent and at a level that her two-person operation can handle. That consistency also meant she didn’t feel the need to apply for any territorial or federal Covid assistance programs.
As the weather begins to cool down in several weeks, McLeod will take her pop up shop back inside when she can find a place to set up. She expects her sales activity to remain the same and isn’t concerned about any slowdown.
Flexibility helped her survive the slowest months of the lockdown and she thinks the same is true for other companies in town.
“All the food businesses in Yellowknife ought to be complimented on their ingenious ways of doing things during Covid.”