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What 3 Saskatchewan Businesses Learned From Navigating COVID-19

To say that this past year has led to financial uncertainty for many businesses and individuals would be an immense understatement. We virtually sat down with three local Saskatchewan businesses (22Fresh, Zu and Stone’s Throw) to learn how they are navigating COVID-19 and what they’ve learned through it all. After all, understanding your finances is the first step to gaining financial confidence and taking back control. 


A lot of stigma exists around talking about finances, specifically financial struggle. In fact, in a recent study we conducted, 63% of Saskatchewanians (it’s a technical term) say they aren’t comfortable talking about money with friends, family or co-workers. This past year disrupted everything we thought we knew leading to financial uncertainty for many. During times of struggle is when we need to rely on the support of others most, but this often isn’t the case with financial struggleIn the same study, we found that 29% of individuals say they find it embarrassing to ask for help with their finances which further enables the stigma.  

Before we jump in, I first want to introduce you to these three amazing businesses and their leaders: 

  1. Kip Simon, President & CEO of 22Fresh, a branded clothing and apparel manufacturer based in Saskatchewan.
  2. Albert Jame, Strategy Director of Zu, a Saskatoon based digital consultancy company focused on tech innovation and digital solutions.
  3. Kim Zacaruk, Owner of Stone’s Throw Coffee Collective, a local Regina coffee shop and café (or how Kim put it: “WHAT we do is community, kindness and making people feel welcome and part of something; coffee and food is just HOW we do that.”) 

At first glance, you might think these businesses have nothing in common, but when I sat down to talk with each of them I found there were a lot of similarities. No, not in the products they sell or services they offer, but in their experiences, emotions and fears of navigating uncertainty and how they responded. We took what we heard from each of them – the challenges, stories of resilience, learnings and success, and summarized it into four things you should know during times of financial certainty. Let’s get into it! 

Keep track of your money

Budgeting is a great tool for keeping track of your money. It empowers you to be in control by guiding your spending so you can understand where your money is coming and going. In times of financial uncertainty, this is especially important because where your money was once coming and going from may not be true anymore.  

 This was the case for 22Fresh:   

 “Right off the bat we knew we were going to be losing a few streams of revenue, so it was a matter of how we are going to survive off just one stream,” said Kip. Much of their business relied on wholesaling products to local storesmany of which were now closing, and custom team apparel, which was also no longer happeningThis meant a lot of budgeting and going over different scenarios to understand what they might look like two or three months down the road 

Kip continues, “… we had to pay attention not on a month-to-month basis, but day-to-day in order to weather this storm. But, if there is a silver lining, it was forcing us to get out of cruise control and really start doing a deep dive into our expenses, cost of goods sold and what amount of revenue we can survive off of in our current landscape.”

Minimize your expenses as much as possible

This can be easier said than done and often means the “fun stuff” gets put aside. However, COVID-19 made some of the decisions easier on us. With social gatherings restrictedthis meant saved costs from no events or parties (especially the ones we didn’t even want to go to in the first place). With people working from home, some businesses were able to save on operational costs of office spaces and are now realizing maybe they don’t need office space at all anymore.  

When we think about how this translates into personal finances, the decisions become a little more difficult. Albert shared perspective that really hit home for me, which was that we all need to learn to “accept our finances and love the things we have.”  

COVID-19 forced us to slow down, which although difficult, had positive impacts. When we are moving at full speed all the time, we don’t necessarily take the time to stop and think. This leads to impulse shopping and over-consumption. I like buying clothes (okay, I LOVE buying clothes) but our new reality has helped me realize that I often buy things just to buy them and not because I need them.  

So, I want to challenge you to stop and think: “Where could I minimize my expenses?” Take five minutes (after reading this blog, of course) and jot down 3-5 things you currently spend money on that you could likely live without. I challenge you to go one month without buying these things and see if this was a need or a habitual want. You might be surprised with your results! 

Don’t forget to focus on your mental well-being

COVID-19 disrupted our lives in many ways, both personally and professionally. Kip mentioned “I never had to think so deeply about whether or not this was the end of our company” which was likely the case for many other businesses. On top of the stress of trying to keep your business afloat, many people were working from home while also trying to homeschool or care for kids and were feeling isolated and anxious about not connecting with people in the ways we were used to. Heavy stuff. 

Kim shared “Our 24-year-old daughter had just moved to New Zealand and couldn’t get home. My parents were in the United States and I felt (and still do) a huge responsibility to staff and public safety, both physically and mentally and I wanted to lead with kindness and empathy.”  

That is a lot for one person to carry alone. A common response I heard from all three businesses was the importance of leaning on others for support: “It’s impossible to be everything, and there is no shame in reaching out and asking for help.” said Kip. It’s important to recognize what your strengths are and when you need to rely on the strengths and experience of others 

Build good financial habits

 It’s never too early or too late to start. As humans we seek gratification, but when building new habits, we don’t get gratification right away.” said Albert. “It’s progress and progress often looks like a bunch of little failures overtime, until one day when we get it right. But what’s important is that you start.” Ain’t that the truth.  

But building good financial habits starts with understanding. “It really is amazing if you take the time to dig in to understand your finances.” said Kip. For Kim and her team at Stone’s Throw, they have also learned a lot from their internal introspection: “We now have a better idea of revenue levels, customer eating and drinking habits, traffic patterns, and where we can save time to focus on other things.”  

Being comfortable is a scary place to be. Understanding and staying on top of your finances is what can make all the difference during challenging time. “Keep it simple, educate yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask for help” says Albert.  

Let’s talk

Understanding your finances is so much more than just knowing your income and expenses. It’s messy. There are emotions intertwined with every decision because it impacts our relationships. Now throw in a pandemic and it just became a whole lot messier. If there is one message you take from reading this blog, let it be this – start talking. Kip, Kim and Albert all made mention about the positive impact that asking for help and talking about their financial stress had on them. We all have our differences but this past year has taught us that we’re stronger together and are united by this shared struggle of the pandemic. Share your experiences, talk about money with your kids, ask for help from your financial advisor and don’t be afraid to rely on the support of others When you do this, it opens the door to understanding and taking the first step to improving your financial well-being.  

More COVID-19 Scams to Monitor

During this pandemic, it’s not just your physical health at risk, your financial health may be as well. Throughout times of uncertainty we are seeing fraudsters launch sophisticated scams, exploiting public fears for targeted attacks – and we’re definitely in uncertain times.  In addition to the scams we went over earlier, here are five more of the most prevalent COVID-19 scams we’re seeing used to attack people’s financial health and how you can protect yourself from being a victim.


You don’t think it can happen to you, until it does. We often think we will never fall victim to a scam, but it can happen to anyone. Fraud scams are under reported because victims are too embarrassed to admit they were exploited, and this perpetuates these crimes.

Fraud doesn’t discriminate and the tactics become more predatorial and sophisticated in health and economical crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic. More than one million Canadians applied for Employment Insurance between March 16 – 22, 2020 because of COVID-19 job losses. The Government of Saskatchewan started introducing public health orders on March 17 that restricts social gatherings and business closure for non-essential services. People are more isolated than they’ve ever experienced, they’re feeling financially insecure, and their sense of normalcy has been disrupted. Criminals target these feelings and with the increase of information about COVID-19 in media coverage, on social media, and direct email, it can be difficult to know what is trustworthy. Let’s make sure you are aware and protected from the following scams:

Social Media Questionnaires

Have you ever used your first car or your pet’s name as the answers to security questions? I know I have. Although harmless at first glance, these questionnaires are an easy way for a fraudster to gain access to your personal information to either answer your security questions or even pose as you to gain financial access.

You might be thinking, “I would never post this”, but someone you care about might or maybe has already. You may also think “I trust everyone in my friend list to not share my information.” They may be trustworthy, but it just takes one of them to get hacked and all of a sudden your personal information is in the hands of a fraudster.

Here’s how you can protect yourself:

  • DO NOT participate in these questionnaires and delete any old ones that you’ve posted. Spread the word to your friends and family as well.
  • Do not accept any friend requests from people you do not know and remove anyone that somehow slipped through the cracks.
  • Restrict the privacy settings on your social media accounts
  • Use secure passwords that include letters, numbers, and characters. Change your password routinely
  • Avoid security questions that could be easily guessed

CRA Text Scam

Do you know the warning signs of a scam? With all the uncertainty in the world right now, it’s easy to want to believe the best in people. This is what fraudsters are thriving off – vulnerability. This news story from CBC, warns Canadians of a text scam exploiting the new emergency relief program.

However, this isn’t the only scam going around. Some other scams to be alert for are text messages or emails from fraudsters impersonating the Canada Revenue Agency. This article outlines what to actually expect when the Canada Revenue Agency contacts you.

Here’s how you can protect yourself:

  • If it’s an unfamiliar phone number or email, don’t automatically trust the source
  • Look for spelling and grammatical errors in the text
  • Ask yourself “Does the URL look credible?” If you have ANY doubt, contact the company and fact check the message.

For more information on how to protect yourself, here the CRA outlines how to ‘Slam the Scam’.

Work From Home Scams

The provincial government recently warned against a work from home scam during the COVID-19 crisis. Fraudulent ads by companies offering opportunities to work from home as securities traders are appearing on social media. These ads promise that traders can keep a large percentage of the profits and they don’t need experience or a license. They only need to pay fees to the would-be traders.

If you’ve experienced job loss from COVID-19 and you’ve lost childcare, this would seem like a good way to replace your income – which is exactly why this tactic is being used. In Saskatchewan, anyone in the business of trading securities must be registered with Financial and Consumer Affairs Authority (FCAA), unless an exemption applies. The FCAA expects that similar scams will continue to increase during the COVID-19 crisis.

Fraudsters Posing as Financial Institutions

In times of uncertainty or struggle is often when individuals turn to their financial institution for advice, services or products to help them navigate their financial situation.

A text message scam has been circling around where fraudsters are posing as a financial institution, using scare tactics to try and gain access to your information.

 

 

As seen in this message below, someone impersonating Scotiabank has used a scare tactic to make you think your access has been disabled to get you to click the link. As we touched on before, here are some things you want to look out for:

  • Unfamiliar phone number
  • Spelling and grammatical errors
  • Unusual links

Here’s how you can protect yourself:

  • Don’t click any of the links in the message – go directly to your financial institution’s website through your web browser
  • Always log in to your account directly online or through your mobile app
  • Double check the source of the text – when using scare tactics people often just react, but in reality, you may not even have an account with Scotiabank
  • If something serious was happening to your account, your financial institution would definitely call you, not text you.

Exploiting Grocery Delivery for seniors

As we all take measures to social and physical distance ourselves, common tasks such as grocery shopping have become difficult, especially for some of the most vulnerable in our communities. Unfortunately, fraudsters are posing as helpful citizens offering to deliver groceries to seniors who are socially isolated or are physically unable. These scams ask for e-transfers or credit card numbers in advance with the grocery list. They’ll also ask for your address – not so they know where to deliver the groceries, but so that they can list it as the billing address when they charge the card. Disgusting, right?

Here’s how you can protect yourself:

  • Utilize delivery services offered directly through grocery stores/business in your community. Many grocery stores have started offering special shopping hours for seniors
  • Rely on friends and family to shop for you
  • Be alert and aware of other scams that exist right now
  • Have conversations with your parents and grandparents to educate them on how they can protect themselves

Remember, fraud does not start and end here – it’s important that you remain alert even as the COVID-19 pandemic comes to an end. If you have been targeted or have fallen victim to an attack, it’s nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. It can happen to anyone.

For more information about protecting yourself from fraud and to learn about different scams out there right now, visit https://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/features-vedette/2020/covid-19-eng.htm.

Breaking Down the Emergency Support for COVID-19: Non-Profits & Charities

Managing a non-profit or charitable organization is very overwhelming right now. These services are needed more than ever but fundraising is difficult to access with physical distancing and the economic downturn.  Let’s break down the different federal and provincial emergency supports available to help you navigate these unsettling times. 

Updated: April 30, 2020


Non-profit and charity organizations are among those who have been most severely affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Necessary physical and social distancing measures to contain the infection and protect communities has created significant job loss for Canadians. This means these organizations are depended on more than ever to deliver basic human needs to vulnerable populations who depend on them, especially in a public health crisis and economic downturn. Non-profit and charitable organizations have lost major event fundraising streams, putting a strain on budget while the need for their support continues to rise. 

We’ve done our best to compile and simplify the financial support and professional resources for non-profit and charitable organizations. We’ve also included resources for professional fundraisers to help ease their financial burdens and continue helping our vulnerable neighbors and communities. 

Relief for Non-Profit and Charity Organizations 

Temporary Wage Subsidy for Not-for-Profit Organizations, Charities, and Small Businesses

Government of Canada
The federal government’s temporary wage subsidy is providing not-for-profit organizations and charities a 75% wage subsidy for up to twelve weeks, retroactive from March 15, 2020 – June 6, 2020 if their March revenues are down by at least 15% compared to January and February, from COVID-19. For the months of April and May, businesses will need to demonstrate a 30% loss. Employers will also be allowed to measure their revenues either based on as they are earned or as they are received. Charities are being granted the ability to choose whether or not to include government revenues in their calculations of lost revenue when applying. Applicants can use this wage calculator to understand the amount you would be able to claim under the temporary wage subsidy program.

This subsidy will be on the first $58,700 earned, meaning up a maximum of $847 per employee per week, retroactive to March 15, 2020. Employers benefiting from this measure would include corporations eligible for the small business deduction, not-for-profit organizations and charities. This replaces the 10% wage subsidy that was announced early in the COVID-19 Economic Response Plan.

Applications for the temporary wage subsidy are now open.

Canada Summer Jobs Program

Government of Canada

Temporary changes to the Canada Summer Jobs Program will see an increase to the wage subsidy, so that private and public sector employers can also receive up to 100 per cent of the provincial or territorial minimum hourly wage for each employee. This will continue to allow students to find meaningful employment during the summer and develop critical skills to transition into the labour market.

Additional ways the 2020 program has been adjusted to allow flexibility to both applicants and employers include:

  • end date for employment is now February 28, 2021;
  • employers can adapt their projects and job activities to support essential services; and
  • hiring can now include part-time positions.

Youth will be able to search for jobs available in their communities through the Job Bank website and app.

More Time to Pay Income Taxes

Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has extended the income tax filing and payments for charities to December 31, 2020, for all charities with a Form T3010, Registered Charity Information Return due between March 18, 2020 and December 31, 2020. This relief applies to tax balances due, as well as installments, under Part I of the Income Tax Act. No interest or penalties will accumulate on these amounts during this period. 

Bill-Deferral Program on Provincial Utilities

Saskatchewan Crown Corporations that operate utilities in the province will offer a zero-interest deferral on all utility payments for a period of 6 months. 

SaskTel – waiving data overage charges, offering news and family channels for free 

SaskPower – stopped active collections and won’t be limiting power supply to customers 

SaskEnergy – deferring payments and not limiting natural gas supply 

ISC Suspension Order for Strike Off Provisions

The Information Services Corporation (ISC) has suspended the strike off provisions for non-profit corporations, co-operatives, and new generation co-operative entities. The suspension is meant to assist organizations that are not in a position to file annual returns and financial statements at the Corporate Registry due to delays in annual meetings caused by the restrictions and recommendations on public gatherings. To further lessen the impact of being unable to file in a timely manner, annual return late filing fees for not-for-profit corporations and co-operatives will be suspended. 

Relief for Human Services  

Emergency Shelters

Government of Canada

The federal government is directing $350 million to charity and non-profit organizations who deliver basic human needs, through the Emergency Community Support Fund. The fund will flow through national organizations that have the ability to distribute funds quickly to local organizations that serve vulnerable populations. Some of the services the Fund will support include:

  • increasing volunteer-based home deliveries of groceries and medications;
  • transportation services, like accompanying or driving seniors or persons with disabilities to appointments;
  • expanding capacity for help-lines to manage call volumes and wait times for information and support;
  • training, supplies, and other required supports to volunteers; and
  • replacing in-person, one-on-one contact and social gatherings with virtual contact through phone calls, texts, teleconferences, and the Internet.

Emergency Shelters

Government of Canada
The Reaching Home program will provide $157.5 million to continue supporting those who are homeless. The funds can be used for needs such as purchasing beds and physical barriers to improve social distancing in shelters. It’s also available to secure accommodations during the outbreak to reduce overcrowding in shelters.  

Government of Saskatchewan
The Government of Saskatchewan is providing one-time additional funding of $171,000 targeted to meet the extra cost pressure emergency shelters are experiencing as they continue to serve those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.  These organizations currently provide more than 300 beds for individuals who need emergency shelter and supports. Organizations receiving the increase are: Lloydminster Men’s Shelter; YWCA Regina – My Aunt’s Place; YWCA Prince Albert; YWCA Saskatoon; Lighthouse Saskatoon; Lighthouse North Battleford; Salvation Army Saskatoon; Salvation Army Regina; Soul’s Harbour Regina and Soul’s Harbour Moose Jaw.   

Modified Emergency Shelter Response

Government of Saskatchewan
When emergency shelters are unable to meet the needs of an individual or family because of capacity pressures, Social Services will support those in need with funds for emergency hotel stays and will work to transition clients to permanent housing. 

If an individual is required by Public Health to self-isolate due to COVID-19 symptoms or exposure, that person will be transitioned to a safe accommodation such as a hotel or an individual housing unit. 

There are approximately 1,700 vacant Saskatchewan Housing Corporation units located in 29 larger communities that will be leveraged to ensure those impacted by COVID-19 are able to access housing or an individualized space to self isolate.  An additional 1,200 units are available in smaller communities across Saskatchewan. 

Support for Children, Youth & Families

Government of Saskatchewan
Transitions to independence for young people will be delayed, so that any youth that “ages out of care” during the COVID-19 pandemic will not be transitioned out of their current housing.   

Child Care Subsidy

Government of Saskatchewan
To help families receiving the Child Care Subsidy (CCS), any families who were receiving part-time benefits because their children were attending school will receive full-time benefits, retroactive to March 1, 2020.  The CCS helps parents with low to moderate incomes with the costs of licensed child care. 

Income Assistance (IA)

Government of Saskatchewan
All Income Assistance clients will continue to receive their benefits even if a client is late reporting, effective March 19, 2020.

Social Services Physical Distancing and Eased Reporting Measures

Government of Saskatchewan
Social Services offices remain open with the first hour of the day reserved for more vulnerable individuals, including those with a disability or health issues such as a compromised immune system. Clients are asked not to visit the offices unless it’s an emergency and you’re unable to call your social worker or you are asked to visit an office. 

Saskatchewan residents who may need income support can apply here or call the Client Service Centre at 1-866-221-5200.  More staff have been shifted to the Call Centre to help serve those in need.

Domestic & Family Violence

Government of Canada
$50 million will be given to women’s shelters and sexual assault centers to help ease capacity and prevent outbreaks among women and children fleeing interpersonal and domestic violence. This funding will also support facilities in Indigenous communities.  

Youth Mental Health Care

Government of Canada
Kids Help Phone is experiencing increased demand for its 24/7 confidential online, telephone, and text counselling services across Canadaas a result of school closures and reduced access to community resources. The Government of Canada is giving $7.5 million in funding to Kids Help Phone to provide young people with the mental health confidential support. 

Caring for Vulnerable Seniors

Government of Canada
Canadian seniors are among the most impacted by COVID-19, and often rely on caregiving support from people who live outside of their homes. The Government of Canada will contribute $9 million through United Way Canada for local organizations to support practical services to Canadian seniors. These services could include the delivery of groceries, medications, or other needed items, or personal outreach to assess individuals’ needs and connect them to community supports. If you are planning to donate to these charities, be careful as there are a lot of scams pretending to be these reputable organizations. Visit this MONEYTALK blog on COVID-19 scams to monitor and how to ensure you are contributing to a valid organization.

Resources for Fundraising Professionals 

LINK: COVID-19 resource guide for fundraising professionals

The Association of Fundraising Professionals has gathered educations and resources to help non-profit and charitable organizations navigate fundraising, donor communicationsand what it means to engage with donors during a time in which social distancing and staying home is more important than ever. 

Conexus Member Support for Non-Profit Organizations and Charities

Conexus can help assess your situation and determine the best options to provide some relief including working with you to activate a skip-payment plan, to defer monthly payments, or to create an interest only payment plan to help your business navigate the economic downturn. 

 This relief is available to members, non-profit and charity organizations, small business members, commercial members, and agricultural members in good standing who are feeling a financial impact and are looking for a temporary relief from mortgage, line of credit and loan payments.  Please avoid coming into a branch and call your financial advisor or our Member Contact Centre at 1-800-667-7477.  

Conexus Business Accelerator

In partnership with Meyers Norris Penny, Conexus Credit Union offers free business webinar courses for non-profit and charitable organizations and business owners in Saskatchewan. Protecting Your Business and Employees, Managing Cash Flow and Stress Management are just a few of the courses that are relevant to this time. 

 Do you work or volunteer in the non-profit and charity sector and are looking to view the complete action plans from both governments? Visit the following:

FEDERAL   |   PROVINCIAL