What you can do

Small businesses in Vernon, BC have been devastated by the COVID19 outbreak. To reduce the spread of the disease, many closed their doors.

“The decision to close has been a difficult one. But we want to do our part to protect our staff and customers and all members of our community.”

Carousel Consignments

Businesses are reducing hours, moving to takeout only, and closing down in accordance with provincial guidelines.

But they’re hurting. They still have to pay rent, utilities, staff, and invoices. Many can’t afford to be off work for a day, much less weeks.

Here’s another way you can help Vernon businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak

Yesterday, we talked about buying gift certificates, online, and takeout. These put immediate cash in business owners pockets! (So keep doing it)

But here’s something else you can do: write your elected officials.

Here’s a sample letter I just wrote to Mel Arnold (MP) and Eric Foster (MLA):

Can you take a few minutes and write your MP and MLA now? Feel free to use this text as a template for your email:

Hi Mel,

I’m glad the government has announced funding to help Canadian businesses in the midst of the COVID19 outbreak.

However, here in Vernon BC, small businesses have already closed their doors and are haemorrhaging cash. The new wage subsidy helps a bit, but most have already had to lay off staff.

The immediate problem is they need access to capital, just to keep the lights on.

The announcements about “saving the airline industry” and “helping the big banks” worry me.

The first people to receive assistance should be main street businesses: restaurants, cafes, pubs, main street shops.

They’ve been hit the hardest: many don’t have shareholders, investment accounts, or cash reserves.

They’re dying right now. They needed help yesterday.

Here’s what business owners need right now: grants and loans. They need operating capital.

Also: I’d like to see rent subsidies/forgiveness for shops who have had to shut down.

Your name

PS: I’m not in favour of an airline bailout unless there are lots of strings attached:

  1. We (the taxpayers) become the majority shareholders
    regular airline employees get assistance first (before execs)
  2. There’s a ban on share buybacks
  3. CEOs have their salaries and bonuses frozen

Contact information for elected officials in Vernon, BC:

Let’s make sure that government aid doesn’t just go to megacorps. Let’s advocate for our friends and neighbors who own businesses on main street.

Justin Jackson

More reading on this:


Coronavirus sucks

How are you doing?

I’m feeling… out of sorts. The rapid spread of coronavirus, and the resulting isolation measures, have taken a toll on many of us.

On one hand, I know that extreme social distancing is incredibly important (I wrote about this here).

On the other hand, I’m getting messages like this from local business owners:

Many local eateries are voluntarily moving to close dine-in (and do take-out) in order to flatten the curve and encourage social distancing.

Vernon restaurants, bars, cafes, and services are hurting. 💔

  • Daily revenues are already down 50% or more.  😳
  • Most will have to lay off their staff.
  • Many have decided to suspend operations.
  • Some likely won’t make it through this.

In the best of times, main street businesses operate on slim margins. They’re all scrambling to figure this out.

The government has promised some help, but none of them knows what that means.

We need to help!

Here’s what we can do right now to help:

  • Order gift cards online.
  • Order take-out as much as you can (if they’re still open).
  • Encourage them. Tell them you care.

Here are some businesses I’ve been in touch with, and ways they’re asking for help:

Andrew, at Ratio Coffee & Pastry

“Please, if you can, tell people to pre-order donuts for tomorrow (order form will be up shortly). Also, we’re going to try to do online pizza orders (for pickup). You can still take drinks to go right now!”

Pearl, at Marten Brewpub:

“Please tell folks to grab cans UnderGround Kombucha when they shop. We are in Askews, Butcher boys, Safeway, Nature’s Fare, Railtrail cafe, Quality Greens, Choices and Lakeview markets. Also, we will be selling bombers and new growler starting tomorrow by request for pickup in the afternoon.”

David, at The Fig:

“If you are in a position to order food to go or delivery, please do so not just from us, but from all the remaining restaurants in town! You can also buy gift cards now that you know you will use later. The government has announced funding to support businesses but no information on how to access this has been released as of yet, so we are all hoping to weather the storm.”

Kelly, Midtown Bistro:

“Starting tomorrow we will be offering a special takeout menu for family-style, healthy, local food. We will offer delivery or even pick up out the back door. We are taking so many extra precautions to keep everyone safe.”

If you can help, please do.

A few other items from our community:

  • Daryl Chymko is organizing an online hangout tomorrow at 15:30. Here’s the link.
  • Need a sign or digital graphic made for COVID-19? Lesia is doing work free for frontline health care workers. Contact her at:
  • Does anybody need a 3d printer? VO2 Master bought an Onyx One 3D printer in December. Used it maybe 5x times. They’re trying to sell it for 70% of what it’s worth – around CAD4,000.

Stay safe,
Justin Jackson
On behalf of Startup Vernon + Geek Beers

PS: naturally, Geek Beers won’t happen this month. Please come to Daryl’s hangout tomorrow at 15:30!


A makerspace for Vernon?

There’s a lot of interest in attracting tech talent and companies to Vernon. Truthfully, every municipality in the world is trying to do this right now. If Vernon wants to be successful, we have to focus on our uniqueness.

Vernon is a city of makers. We’re do-it-yourselfers, we’re people that create things from the ground up. We start small, and grow from there.

If we want to improve the local economy, we need to support the makers.

Here are some examples of the need:

  • There’s quite a few people who work in the film industry. This includes editors, voice-over talent, and videographers. I know a number of these people; they’re having a hard time finding studio space.
  • There are a number of local members interested in hardware technology, like the Raspberry Pi micro-computer. They’ve been looking for a meeting space, but haven’t found a venue.
  • Likewise, Startup Vernon has run a few programming workshops locally, but have always found the venues to be lacking. We need a regular “hack space” where we can meet every week.
  • 3D printing has become a global phenomena, with lots of local interest. But the equipment is expensive to purchase up-front.

Want to support makers? Give them a space.

I just came back from a visit to Edmonton. They have an awesome Makerspace that’s hosted by the downtown library. Here are some photos:

If Vernon wants to support the “maker economy” we could create a maker space. This would be a place where members could use a soldering iron, book a sound studio, rent equipment, or participate in a workshop.

It could become the central meeting place for people tech: software developers, hardware hackers, designers, and creatives.

The space would create economic activity by enabling members to bootstrap businesses, access equipment to make products, and empowering people to create partnerships.

What do you think? What would you like to see in a Vernon makerspace?


Looking for a co-working space in Vernon?

“Coworking is about making the personal choice to work along side other people instead of in isolation.” – Seattle Collaborative Space Alliance

“Coworking Spaces are places that can facilitate the act of coworking. I like to think of coworking as a kind of club, and a coworking space as the clubhouse. Without a club that people want to be a part of, the clubhouse doesn’t have a reason to exist.” – Alex Hillman

Are you interested in a permanent co-working space / community in Vernon?

Please fill out this survey


Metabridge 2014 final party

James and Justin attended the Metabridge finale party. There was a Great Gatsby 1920’s theme, and it was held at the Hotel Eldorado. The evening included champagne on arrival, entertainment, appies and lots of great conversations with people in tech here the Okanagan (and investors from other places who had flown in).

If you’re able to attend next year, we recommend it!


Photos: Geek Beers house party


Photos: co-working day downtown Vernon, BC

On May 20th, we decided to have a big group co-working session at Triumph Coffee (3401-A 30th Ave) downtown Vernon.

Industry Mailout generously sponsored the meeting room, food and drinks. We had about 12-13 people show up throughout the day. We worked, we had a great lunch, and we demoed different projects that we’ve been working on. Justin was also on hand to talk about Canada’s new Anti-Spam Legislation.

Here’s a few photos:

Want to join us next time? Get on our mailing list!


Vernon’s big co-working day

Are you a freelancer? Remote worker? Interested in co-working? Come for our “Big Co-Working Day Out” at Triumph Coffee, Tuesday, May 20th, from 10am-2pm.

We’ve done other co-working meetups before, but this one will be bigger: to help celebrate the grand opening of Triumph Coffee (3401-A 30th Ave) we’ve booked their gorgeous meeting room: it has great high speed internet (20 mbps down, 5 mbps up), awesome coffee, and great food.

Talking about food: Industry Mailout (an email newsletter company specifically focused on Canadian companies) is sponsoring this week’s meetup. This means you’ll enjoy amazing coffee and delicacies made by Triumph’s staff, for free. 😉 Justin will also be available for anyone that has questions about Canada’s new anti-spam legislation.

Co-working is about getting out of your home office, and enjoying the company of other people (in an environment with some energy) while you work. It’s a great way to collaborate, learn from others, and also (surprisingly) get a lot of work done.

Want to come? Get your free ticket here.

Get your free ticket

Get your free ticket


Co-working Mondays at the Bean Scene, Vernon, BC

Every Monday (except for holidays) join us upstairs at the Bean Scene, 2923-30th Avenue. Between 10am-2pm a bunch of us drop in and have an informal co-working session. This is a great opportunity for anyone who works from home, or works remotely: you get to see some human faces!

The purpose is to bring your laptop, get some work done, and hang out with other people (it’s not a networking event, but we make small chat).

See all the dates here.


Photos from Geek Beers at Sir. Winston’s