From contactless curbside pick-up to record spikes in online shopping, the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed how businesses operate and consumers spend.
This holiday season, the BCIT Alumni Association is encouraging shoppers to use their buying power to support alumni businesses. Introducing the BCIT Alumni Holiday Market, a website featuring exclusive offers and unique gifts from more than 20 local BCIT alumni-owned online stores. From handcrafted chocolates and fine wines to modern home décor and wellness products, the market is live from November 1 – December 31 and caters to everyone on your list.
“These are challenging times for so many business owners,” says Emil Bosnjak, President of the BCIT Alumni Association. “The Association is here to support our alumni at every step of their journey. The support of your community can make a world of difference, in good times and the not-so-good times. On behalf of the Alumni Association, I am proud to announce this market to promote alumni businesses, and further build pride in BCIT. As an entrepreneur and business owner myself, I know running your own enterprise comes with its challenges but I also know BCIT alumni are uniquely poised to overcome them.”
The inspiration behind the business
Four Holiday Market alumni business owners share their stories, inspirations, and insights for thriving during COVID-19.
Quails’ Gate Winery
Independently operated and family-owned, Quails’ Gate Winery was established in 1989 and is led by BCIT alumnus and CEO Tony Stewart. Tony takes pride in his family’s wine-making history.
“Quails’ Gate is proud to have planted and pioneered some of the first Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes in the Okanagan Valley,” he explains.
When asked about the impact of COVID-19, he says, “Quails’ Gate has taken great measures to offer a safe and enjoyable experience under the provincial health regulations.”
The Okanagan winery has made significant changes to continue servicing its community in the wake of COVID-19, including installing plexiglass dividers, offering curbside pick-up, and replacing large events with virtual ones.
A graduate of the Financial Management diploma program (1989), Tony says BCIT gave him a distinct advantage: “BCIT prepared me for real-work settings, so that upon entering the work force, I was able to immediately implement innovative ideas and business processes. This has provided me with the advantage of continually realizing a constant need for innovation in whatever I am involved in.”
For BCIT alumna Sarah Sangha, deciding to start Vellum Wellness in 2018 was about helping others cope with life’s daily demands.
“I was inspired to start Vellum Wellness after seeing how busy lifestyles are contributing to elevated stress levels,” she says. “Our products are tools in a self-care process and are multipurpose for mind and body.”
She adds that the products are vegan and designed to address skincare concerns. Designed by mood, the products are made to uplift energy or relax the mind, for example.
When asked how her business has been impacted by COVID-19, Sarah says, “We’re seeing a sharp increase in online traffic through our website and retail partners.”
Sarah is focused on enhancing the online experience for her customers with more wellness content to help meet changing customer expectations and adapt to the new normal.
Sarah graduated from the Broadcast and Online Journalism program in 2014. She says her experience at BCIT gave her skills like media relations, public speaking, photography, and videography, which she uses in her business every day.
The concept for Naked Snacks originated from the pursuit of the perfect snack: one that is equally healthy and delicious. BCIT alumna Ryley Humphry and her husband Neil started the company in 2014 in an effort to improve Neil’s snacking habits.
“Neil’s diet looked a lot like that of a four-year-old and his favourite food group was chips,” Ryley shares. “He believed that healthy food didn’t taste good.”
They thought that if Neil felt this way, there must be others. Thus, Naked Snacks was born.
Ryley and Neil give back to the community by donating a portion of all the company’s proceeds to help feed children in need through a partnership with Breakfast Club of Canada.
When COVID-19 hit, Ryley says that Naked Snacks responded early on, helping the company adjust quickly and move forward.
After completing various Non-profit Management courses between 2015 and 2018, Ryley advocates for her BCIT education: “BCIT provides its students with relevant and practical knowledge that prepares them for the challenges of the real world.”
SHOP THE BCIT Alumni Holiday Market: Exclusively featuring BCIT alumni-owned businesses with offers and unique gift ideas to please everyone on your list.
Glory Juice Co.
Co-founder and BCIT alumnus Michael Drever used his tenacity for scouting trending opportunities to start Vancouver-based Glory Juice Co. He knew he wanted to target the millennial market with a specialty business. That led him to help form the concept of Glory Juice Co.
The company produces and distributes organic, vegan, and gluten-free food and cold-pressed juice through its branded cafés, home-delivery service, and retailers.
“The purpose of Glory Juice Co. is nourishing our communities,” Michael adds.
As a result of the pandemic, the Glory Juice Co. cafés were forced to close, but Michael says they swiftly adapted: “Glory Juice was able to pivot and focus on home delivery and our grocery partners. Growing these areas is part of our strategic plan, and COVID-19 has caused this to be a higher priority. We are pleased that we were able to reopen three of our five cafés to serve our customers personally.”
Michael was inspired to enrol at BCIT after reading the book Mega Trends by John Naisbitt. He graduated from the Marketing Management program in 1986.
A gift for everyone by BCIT alumni
The BCIT Alumni Association is proud to feature the following alumni-owned businesses in the Holiday Market, open November 1 – December 31, listed in alphabetical order:
Cocoa West Chocolatier
Free Lion Bodycare
Glory Juice Co.
Good Boy Collective
Hudson and Oak
Jones Baby Company
Karen Cooper Gallery
La Petite Souris Chocolate
Mila + Paige
Quails’ Gate Winery
Tempea Natural Foods
The Jilly Digital Store
Tout de Sweet