Entrepreneurs recognized through small business month 

Minister Yamamoto speaks at Chamber luncheon

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF THE WHISTLER CHAMBER - MINISTER SPEAKS  Minister of state for tourism and small business Naomi Yamamoto took the podium at a Whistler Chamber of Commerce luncheon last week.
  • photo courtesy of the Whistler chamber
  • MINISTER SPEAKS Minister of state for tourism and small business Naomi Yamamoto took the podium at a Whistler Chamber of Commerce luncheon last week.

For Louise Van Engelsdorp, co-founder of West Coast Float, running a small business means rolling with the punches.

"It teaches you to be able to juggle and manage a whole bunch of different things at one time," she said.

"It keeps you on your toes, that's for sure."

Van Engelsdorp and her husband Bob opened West Coast Float — Whistler's only floatation therapy business — last December.

Since then it's been "an amazing, adventurous roller coaster ride," she said.

Whether it's dealing with staff accommodations, shipping costs or repairs, the whole process has been a learning experience, Van Engelsdorp said.

"All those sort of little things that you don't anticipate when you first go into a business. Those are all things that you learn as you go along."

Sometimes it means coming up with "revolutionary" ideas to solve a problem, other times it just means biting the bullet on operational costs, Van Engelsdorp said — but it's all just part of doing business.

This month, small business owners like Van Engelsdorp are being recognized through small business month.

Last week, minister of state for tourism and small business Naomi Yamamoto took the podium at a Whistler Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

Yamamoto spoke to chamber members about the importance of small business in British Columbia, noting that 98 per cent of all B.C. businesses are classified as small businesses.

In Whistler, 93 per cent of businesses are small businesses, she said.

"You guys and girls are the heart and soul of your communities, so not only do you own and run your own business and hire people, but I know you're also volunteering for everything," Yamamoto said.

"You're coaching your kid's hockey team, you're out there in the pouring rain cutting oranges for soccer, you're raising money for the hospital foundation... you're doing all those things as well as running your businesses, and your community is stronger for that."

Yamamoto also spoke about the importance of the tourism sector, and encouraging statistics that have been released recently.

"The hotel occupancy rates and the average daily (room rates) for hotels was increased last year, and so far in 2014 we're actually seeing that trend continue," she said.

International overnight visits to the province have also been increasing, particularly from the Asia-Pacific region, which saw an 11 per cent increase from January to July of this year over the same time last year.

Increased tourism is always good news for the small businesses of Whistler, but Van Engelsdorp said West Coast Float has yet to feel the crunch of shoulder season.

"October has actually been better than June was, so that's interesting," she said.

"One of the advantages is that we're unique, so whether it's locals who are looking for another form of relaxation or healing, that's one aspect, but for tourists... it's great too."

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