KNBA helps Kanata North businesses go digital during pandemic with $200K fund

Jamie Petten
Jamie Petten is the executive director of the Kanata North Business Association. File photo

An organization that represents more than 500 companies in Kanata is offering its members a financial boost to help them acquire digital solutions to get through the COVID-19 crisis.

The Kanata North Business Association is providing $2,500 grants to members in the country’s largest tech park from a new $200,000 fund it launched last week. The money doesn’t have to be paid back and is being doled out on a first-come, first-serve basis to businesses with fewer than 20 employees.

KNBA executive director Jamie Petten said the grants are aimed at helping companies cover the cost of digital technology platforms they require to stay in business during the pandemic.  

Measures designed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus have forced many members to shut their doors and operate remotely, she said, while most brick-and-mortar stores have shifted solely to online sales. 

“For many business owners, that means the implementation of digital tools,” Petten said, adding the funds will help small enterprises offset the cost of technology such as Zoom and Slack or e-commerce platforms such as Skip the Dishes.

The KNBA, which is funded through annual levies charged to its 540 members, is paying for the program out of its own budget. Petten said the organization has “redirected” financial resources from other projects and is using money it would normally have spent on events to cover the costs of the grants.

Brenna Wyman, founder of Inner Revolution Yoga, said the grant money is helping her run online classes while her studio on March Road is closed during the pandemic.

“Jamie and the Kanata North BA team have encouraged our small business to think outside the box,” she said in a statement. “Helping Inner Revolution Yoga Studio move online through sharing, funding and collaborations has been a great support.”

Petten said more than $25,000 in grants has already been approved through the program, which launched April 16 and will remain open for applications until May 18. 

Although the association includes the likes of tech giants such as Ericsson, Mitel and Nokia, Petten said more than a third of its members employ fewer than 20 people. Those firms play a key role in driving the local economy, she said, adding many entrepreneurs are “working day and night” to keep their companies afloat during the crisis.

“I’m inspired by the stories of resilience that have come through in the applications,” Petten said. “We have a built-in resilience just based on our own history. Our tech community, we’ve been through some very challenging times, not just once but a few times over.”