Times are tough for many people amid the global Covid-19 pandemic, but small businesses have been hit especially hard during these challenging times. Economies around the world are being devastated by the fallout of the health crisis, and although countless businesses are struggling to survive or being forced to close their doors permanently, some business owners have found the strength and opportunity to weather the storm. 

Taryn Cass and Kristen Riphagen are the owners of one of these small businesses. They own and operate Uptown Animal Hospital, a small-town veterinary clinic partnering with Tsuts’weye, that is based out of Salmon Arm, British Columbia. 

Cass and Riphagen were half-way through renovations on their new brick and mortar animal hospital when COVID-19 hit British Columbia in March of this year. While it can be challenging enough to launch a business at the best of times, let alone during such uncertainty, they have risen to the challenge and are navigating the terrain with careful purpose. 

Their biggest battle has been staying on schedule, as delays or shortages in the supply chain have made obtaining construction equipment and supplies challenging. There have been several instances where construction has been delayed due to the restricted movement of goods and services needed in order to keep renovations progressing. 

“We try to find the humor and fun in every day, while taking things in stride and being flexible,” Cass explained when asked how she remains optimistic despite the setbacks. “We were already committed to building and providing services to the local area; stopping was not an option so we continue to press on!” 

These two women realized quickly that while life in Canada was about to change in an unparalleled way, and were uncertain how it would affect their own business, that they had to stay focused on their dream of opening up the animal hospital. Their faith never wavered, and instead of considering delaying construction, they have continued to keep pushing toward opening the animal hospital as soon as possible. 

“It just never even occurred to us. Stopping was not an option as we were already progressing well through our build. We are committed to the community as well as their pets,” Cass says happily.

While Cass and Riphagen are looking forward to opening their doors and getting to know the local community, they both acknowledge that COVID-19 has made it difficult to connect with pet owners on a personal level; developing trust and connection without direct interaction is challenging, especially if you are new to the community. They hope to find creative ways to provide safe, socially distant services to their clients while also adding humor, value, and the personal connection that they know their customers will be looking for.

Partnering with Tsuts’weye has provided unexpected benefits to Cass and Riphagen given the current economic climate and its associated challenges for small businesses trying to open their doors, whether for the first time or for post-pandemic reopening. It is reassuring to have a program supporting the decision making and task delegation process, while also having someone that is just as invested in the business when times get tough.   

“I am so proud of us and our decision to come to the community, but also to keep moving forward in the face of adversity,” Cass exclaimed. “We have had problems, but with hindsight as 20/20, overall I think we have done well given the circumstances and will continue to learn!”

Uptown Animal Hospital is on track to open its doors in Summer 2020.