“Be kind to everyone. If someone doesn’t like you, it’s ok.” Oftentimes, folks who are unkind to others, are the ones who are struggling the most. It’s like the well known quote by Dalai Lama XIV: “Be kind to UNKIND people. They need it the most.”
Unfortunately, we came across a blog written back in March that was rather disheartening and frustrating to read. Perhaps it was because the blogger chose to write a negative and untruthful blog instead of contacting the BIA with his concerns. I won’t embarrass the gentleman by naming him or his business but will say he owns a small business in the mall which sadly is not part of the BIA district. The mall was a “cut out” of the BIA from the time the BIA was first created back in 2008.
The frustrating part of the blog written about our BIA was the inaccuracy of it. We strongly believe that if you are going to write something publicly about an organization, then it needs to be truthful. The blogger spoke about our BIA not allowing his business access to a Digital Main Street grant. Digital Main Street is a non-profit organization in Toronto created and first launched by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) in 2016 with direct support from the City of Toronto, and also supported by a group of strategic corporate sponsors, including Google, MasterCard, Microsoft and Shopify. To help Ontario’s main street small businesses enhance their digital capabilities and online presence, the Ontario BIA Association (OBIAA) and the Province of Ontario partnered to expand the program through a $12 million Digital Main Street initiative over two years. OBIAA was responsible for administering this program across the rest of Ontario recently by building on the Toronto-based program and expanding the services for small businesses across the entire province.
Unfortunately, The Heart of Orleans BIA doesn’t get to pick who receives a grant from the Digital Main Street program. If we did, we would be giving out grants to all our Orleans businesses! Wouldn’t that be fantastic?! We don’t run the program, nor do we even make up the eligibility criteria. Other than letting our members and the community know that the program exists and encouraging them to apply to the 3 different programs available, we really have nothing to do with it. This was simply another option for small businesses in addition to the help provided by our 3 levels of government during the pandemic.
Unfortunately, the blogger was not eligible for the Digital Main Street grant as his business is not located on a main street nor is it in a BIA. He only reached out to us through email once during at the beginning of this process to ask what the Heart of Orleans was, and never again.
Fast forward to our recent community photography contest. This is the disheartening part of the blog that was written – probably because we believe in lifting each other up and encouraging community success instead of putting people and/or organizations down. As you are well aware, folks are really getting “COVID tired” so our marketing team, made up of community volunteers, tried to come up with various ways to keep spirits up and at the same time encourage the community to come down to the BIA district. One of the lovely ladies on the team came up with a photo contest that was a “call out” to “professional and amateur – especially amateur photographers.” to submit photos of their favorite parts of the BIA district whether it be food they ordered through takeout, a purchase they made or simply the landscape. We encouraged families to get out during March (April) break safely for some exercise and it was meant to be a light, fun contest for any age group and for any level of talent. The winner would have their picture published on the cover of The Beat, our quarterly magazine, AND would also receive a free personal photoshoot with one of the professional photographers we work with. Sadly, the blogger decided that the “BIA was trying to get away with obtaining free work rather than pay a photographer for their advertising photography.” In fact, it was really quite the opposite. It was a fun contest that encouraged folks to be proud of our area and we received wonderful shots from various folks in the community.
Although the blog written about the BIA back in March was disappointing, unnecessary and unkind, we wish the blogger no ill will and every possible success with his small business moving forward. We also recognize that we are not everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s ok. (I like coffee better anyway!) We are very proud of the work we do in the BIA. We have an amazing and diverse Board of Directors made up of small business leaders as well as 5 teams of volunteers from all across Orleans.
We encourage the community to continue supporting favorite local small businesses – whether they are located in a BIA or not. You already do such a wonderful job at that and we are always so encouraged to see the wonderful pictures and reviews! Let’s continue to raise each other up, support one other and be positive. We will get through this pandemic much stronger together and on the same team.
Lastly, above all else, be kind, be happy and be awesome. Life is really too short to be anything less.