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Dameion Royes, one of the proprietors of Brimz Official, believes that small businesses are the lifeblood of the Canadian economy. Through COVID-19, this soulful, community-centric hat shop found a way to retool their business while stepping up to help others survive the storm.

In business, change is inevitable. But the COVID-19 pandemic brought about a level of change that businesses couldn’t foresee or plan for. Our #SmallBusinessRedefined series showcases small businesses that have found ways to reimagine their business through new opportunities – whether it’s through a new product, a new market, or a new way to fulfill. Learn how these Canadian businesses have pivoted to adapt, innovate and thrive in a changing and uncertain environment.

Like many Canadian retailers, Brimz Official felt the onset of COVID-19 acutely. Having recently moved to and renovated their shop in Kensington Market, they were barely in their new location before the shutdown. “We had been open only for a month and a half but had to deal with this onslaught where streets were empty, and we had a new place we were responsible for,” says Royes. “We had to figure out a way to do this.”

Fortunately, they had a successful web shop and had built rapport and trust with their audience online. “It almost became easier for us to sell to a different corner of the world than in our own backyard,” he says.

But the team wanted to stay relevant to their local base too, so they found a way to create interest, demand, and a few giggles along the way.

Thanks to an embroidery machine purchased about a year earlier (which Royes credits as being instrumental in their ability to stay in business), the creative minds at Brimz came up with fun, interactive designs that played with COVID memes and struck a chord with the Toronto market. “We put masks on our favourite characters, put designs on hats and struck up conversations,” says Royes. “People got involved, and we made them laugh.” Their toilet-paper themed “wipeout corona” hat was an especially big hit.

“If it wasn’t for us being able to pivot and create on the fly, we wouldn’t have been able to make it through,” says Royes.

Support For Other Businesses

The motto at Brimz is Learn, Earn and Return. “Life is a circle,” says Royes. “You receive and you give back. It’s fundamental and one of the pillars of our success.”

Brimz was able to re-open on May 19th, and felt fortunate and grateful that they were in a position to do so. When they opened their doors, a chance customer encounter brought about the opportunity for Royes and his team to expand on their motto, pay forward their success, and actively contribute to the well-being of Toronto businesses.

His customer, Jack Wilkinson of Shield Plex, brought in some of the hand sanitizing soap his company had pivoted to produce. Together, Royes and Wilkinson decided to give out the soap to other businesses in the Kensington area to help with their sanitizing efforts. “Businesses really appreciated the gesture,” Royes says.

Another great thing that came out of the encounter was that Royes was introduced to the Brick and Mortar Network, which was created by the team at Shield Plex. Offering services to small businesses, the network enables owners to come together and share best practices. Through the network, businesses also get access to legal and financial advice at no cost. Royes was so impressed by the organization that he joined the board.

“When you give service, it pays dividends. It gives back in so many ways. You find the energy to carry on, because when you’re assisting others, you’re not just thinking about yourself.”

Tips for Other Business Owners

The creative way in which Brimz was able to keep making hats and stay relevant is testament to the power and resilience of small business. Their flexibility enabled them to adjust.

Royes shares the following best practices to help other business owners get through tough times.

  • Have a self-sustaining solution in place. When supply chains are disrupted and many businesses closed, reliance on outside suppliers and services can affect your ability to survive a crisis. Because Brimz purchased their own embroidery machine – and got thoroughly trained on how to use, service and repair it as needed – they could rely on their own staff to produce product.
  • Maintain a robust web store. Being able to sell to anyone in the world helped Brimz keep sales going even when their doors were closed. By updating their site consistently with their most recently produced hats and goods enabled their customer base to acquire the latest styles.
  • Find creative solutions to problems. During the pandemic, many businesses have had to pivot to survive. With Brimz’ new line of lighthearted COVID-related gear, they were able to stay relevant and make people laugh, which translated to new sales.
  • Help out other businesses. When you step up to help others, your generosity will recognized and paid back. Maybe not immediately or tangibly, but in time your acts of kindness and service will be returned. Brimz’ motto of “Learn, Earn and Return” has contributed to their status as a beloved, local business that matters to the community.
  • What’s more, their strong sense of purpose is helping to create a healthy, energized, connected community that customers will be drawn to as the country continues to re-open.

Learn how other Canadian businesses pivoted to adapt, innovate and thrive in our current changing and uncertain times.